Watching Sci-Fi and Fantasy Helps Us Learn about Other Cultures

Ever heard of “Conlangs”? If you think you haven’t, you have, you just didn’t know the term. “Conlangs” are just constructed languages, and we have all heard a few in our time.

Conlangs have become increasingly popular in books, movies, and television over the years. Some are created more in-depth, while others really just consist of a few words. Regardless of how diverse the conlang is, it is appreciated as a rich detail that allows viewers and readers to explore another side of a story and culture.

WIRED brought in a dialect coach, Erik Singer, to explain the real language inspirations behind six of the most popular conlangs (watch the full video below): Parseltongue (Harry Potter), Dothraki and High Valyrian (Game of Thrones), Klingon (Star Trek), Na’vi (Avatar), and Sindarin (Lord of the Rings). Singer also briefly explores some lesser-known conlangs: Ewokese (Star Wars), the odd squeaks of Furbies, as well as heptapod language (Arrival).


Klingon has been in the spotlight for many years, however recent conlangs like High Valyrian are starting to be dissected and learned by fans who now know that the tapped and trilled sounds in this conlang are akin to Spanish.

All of those conlangs listed above, from Parseltongue in Harry Potter to Sindarin from Lord of the Rings have real world language influences and take linguists or philologists (as J. R. Tolkien was) to build them. In fact, the creator of Dothraki will be giving a summer course on language building at U.C. Berkeley!

As we watch more things – yes, we’re giving you permission to binge Netflix this weekend – and become accustomed to different sounds outside of our mother tongues, we have have more opportunity to learn about other cultures and peoples.

The more we understand another, and respect different languages, the better we can build media and communicate on a level that represents us all – and all of this is learn-able because we have social media and the technology to share it!

Check out Erik Singer talk about the different inspirations for your favourite conlangs and maybe pick up a word or two below!


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