How To Learn To Speak Tolkien Elvish (LOTR + The Hobbit)

  • Donovan Nagel
    Written byDonovan Nagel
    Donovan NagelTeacher, translator, polyglot
    🎓 B.A., Theology, Australian College of Theology, NSW
    🎓 M.A., Applied Linguistics, University of New England, NSW

    Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator. Founder of The Mezzofanti Guild and Talk In Arabic.
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How To Learn To Speak Tolkien Elvish (LOTR + The Hobbit)

Like a lot of people I’m a huge fan of Tolkien’s books and Peter Jackson’s films, and I think their huge success is due in part to the mammoth effort that Tolkien put into creating all of the intricacies of Middle Earth lore and languages.

As a linguist I’ve always been impressed by the detail of his Elvish dialects with the beautiful Tengwar alphabet (resembling a mishmash of several Eastern alphabets such as Sanskrit and Georgian with vowel diacritics) and a complete grammar (from what I understand Quenya and Sindarin were heavily influenced by his knowledge of Welsh).

It leads me to ask the question:

Do you think it’s feasible that a purely fictional language like Tolkien Elvish could ever be made to become a spoken, living language?

That is, if a group of people attempted to teach their children Elvish as a native language and to communicate solely in Elvish could it be successful in vitalizing the fictional language?

UPDATE: One of the best books I’ve seen that actually teaches you Elvish (Sindarin) in great detail is A Gateway To Sindarin: A Grammar Of An Elvish Language from JRR Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings (David Salo).

Speaking Elvish (or any conlang) from birth: Can a child be taught Elvish?

There’s an interesting example of this being attempted with Klingon.

Did you ever hear about d’Armond Speers, the guy who spoke only Klingon to his son for the first three years of his life to see if he’d acquire it as a first language?

There doesn’t seem to be any published data from the experiment which ultimately ended in failure (the child, Alec, never retained Klingon), though Speers made this remark which would suggest the feasibility of a successful outcome if it was done differently:

Alec very rarely spoke back to me in Klingon, although when he did, his pronunciation was excellent and he never confused English words with Klingon words.

Despite what some would consider to be borderlining child abuse (it’s not the nicest language to listen to!), it was an interesting experiment that I wish had of been documented more thoroughly.

A few adult enthusiasts have also learned Klingon and Elvish to some degree of usability (check out Benny Lewis’ Klingon video or read about David Salo and Tolkien Elvish), however it’s not for the purpose of engaging with a community of real-life speakers but more for fun or interest.

I think the real determining factors in whether or not a fictional or invented language can succeed depend on a genuine need for it (Esperanto was invented and has achieved a degree of success due to a perceived need for a truly international language) or if it’s ideologically motivated (Modern Hebrew, though not fictional or invented per se, had a successful and rapid revival because of its religious significance).

What are your thoughts?

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Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Greek


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Michael s.

Michael s.

Hey, the thought crossed my mine some years ago when I first watched the hobbit and lord of the rings, I was so hooked on the idea of the language that I actually started studying as much of the langauge as I could to learn the language, I myself plan to learn and speak this language in every day use even if others dont, to those interested in learning it and those who aren’t dont give up on your dreams and Hopes guys everything is impossible until you make it possible, once it’s possible make it real.

lillian paulwiks

lillian paulwiks

I love the lord of the rings and the hobbit so much🥰



i wish i could have been born and learn elvish and be able to talk in this language and find other people that love Sindarin . I’ve loved writing it too i write in the language every day and i love doing it.



It would be awesome to have a language that you learned all by yourself and really enjoyed, and without anyone teaching you or you hearing before. :)



Let us make it a thing pleaseee
Ye Elders, let’s make this a thing, an actual language, in this world... please



I wish elvish language can be used alot. It’s a fun language to learn and speak in everyday life. Alot of people could learn it too.



Damn, it would be cool to learn a language that no one knows and communicate with a friend in the presence of a teacher.

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."
- Ludwig Wittgenstein
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