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alien language

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Mia, Apr 29, 2021.

  1. Mia

    Mia Troubadour

    Hi so i would like to write an alien language for my world.
    I a writing in English and was thinking of writing backwards. i can do that in either english or french very easily, its actually my go to way of writing with a pen and paper. do that looks alien enough?
    what improvements would you suggest?
    thanks for your time.

    ruojnob ej xuev erirce nu egagnal ertserretartxe ruop nom ednom.
    j'sirce ne sialgna te em siadnamed is erirce a l'srevne siarehcram.

    ih i saw gnikniht fo gnitirw gnihtyreve sdrawkcab ot etaerc ym neila egaugnal, tahw od uoy syug kniht?
  2. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Sage

    Honestly I do not recommend doing that. If it is TRULY an alien language, made by a species that is so radically different from H. sapiens sapiens, then there'll be little, if any, relation to our Earth languages (unless your aliens are humans stolen from earth a la Stargate, but even then linguistic drift over tens of thousands of years would make things too different anyways). You should read Story of Your Life (or watch the movie adaptation, Arrival) to get an understanding of the true alienness of such a language and the difficulty to translate it. So just taking English and making it backwards doesn't make sense in any way. That would be like if the Na'Vi spoke Esperanto for some reason.

    Plus, when would you actually show this in the text? You are not JRR Tollkein, no one is expecting you to make up a whole conlang, so there will never be a conversation that will only be in the alien language. Even if there was, it is unrealistic to expect your reader to learn another language just to read your story. It's understandable to have them pick up a few words/common phrases (like how we all know what "no habla englais" means), but if your character learns [alien] and speaks to an alien in [alien], you're going to be writing that down in English and your reader will be reading it in English. We all understand and accept that the language you read is not literally what is being spoken (no Japanese student reading The Great Gatsby is thinking that they're speaking modern Japanese in 1920s New York City).
    Mia likes this.
  3. Mia

    Mia Troubadour


    interesting points. Only need a few sentencs here and there for when MC learns it. Also it is supposed to be pretty similar to human language to some sort... basically alien specy having lived on earth for a few millennia and inadvertently influenced it a bit. o the language has to be somewhat oh i know this but at the same time.. what the heck am i reading
  4. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    This is interesting.

    There is the conundrum of time, then. I mean, why wouldn't the backward writing be backward Old English or backward Anglo-Saxon ... or backward something-spoken-in-prehistory?

    Another issue is that there will be "code breakers." Maybe your goal only involves having small numbers of readers....but if not, and if you are fortunate enough or talented enough to draw a lot of readers, then there will be someone who deciphers the fact this is backwards English or French. Once the cat is out of the bag, your method might seem quite facile.

    That said, if I wasn't looking for it, I'm sure I wouldn't have recognized the backwards French from just a handful of uses.

    One thing you could do is run your sentences through Google Translate but pick up some rarer language, a language less common to Western readers, and then write those results backwards. You could even mix up the word order also, to hide what you are doing.


    English: Hello human. Prepare to die.
    Xhosa: Molweni bantu. Lungiselela ukufa.

    Xhosa Backwards: Afuku alelesignul. Utnab inewlom.
    Xhosa Backwards, scrambled: Utnab afuku. Inewlom alelesignul.

    —and then you can say the alien word for human, when feeling hostile, is Utnab, and the second sentence literally translates to, "These moments are your most precious." But what they mean is, "Prepare to die."
    LAG and Mia like this.
  5. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Maester

    Both work for me if you want to write something which looks like it's a real language (as in, size of words and sentences etc), without being immediately clear. Some readers will figure it out (fans probably will). The more obscure the language you use is, the fewer readers will figure it out (and the smarter they will feel when they do...). Most people will get the english at some point. French is less likely, simply because fewer people read in english and are fluent enough in french to do so. Pick a smaller language and it will be fewer people still. Of course, if you pick a language closer to english, you will have people recognize the occasional word, which could be a fun teaser.

    As for people's reaction to it. Some people when they figure it out will feel it's silly or cheating. Others will like the easter egg and might go back through your book to figure them out. How many of each? No idea. You can only know that by putting it out there.

    A small side note on it. When I come across such a section of writing, I simply skip over it. I'll assume that the writer will either tell me what it means or that it's not relevant to the plot and just some flavoring to the world building. For instance, the elven language in Eragon is apparently an actual, invented language. To me, it's simply a collection of random letters and apostrophes where a character is saying something I don't need to know. Throughout the series I picked up a few of the words, simply because they are plot relevant, explained to the reader and used over and over again. I don't care about the rest and don't spend my time trying to figure it out.
    Mia likes this.
  6. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    Mia likes this.
  7. Ban

    Ban Sir Laserface Article Team

    I'd find it a bit cheesy and would wonder why these aliens are speaking French, but if the book you're working on happens to be a comedy, that cheesiness just adds to the charm. My advice would be:

    If Comedy = Go for it, this is fun.
    If not Comedy = Find another way to write/hint at a conlang.

    A simple way to write a coherent "conlang" (as in a conlang that looks like a language, but has no real grammar or vocabulary to it) is by picking a number of key consonants and vowels and building your language around those. For example let's pick "Z" "O" "A" and "P".

    "Oza Pishoan Ziwok Ozoaz?"

    "Ipa zahan ozua pai!"

    "...Izwa Piu Pish Zinnagu"

    Do those three sentences have any meaning to them? Nope, but as Simlish as they are, they give the illusion of an alien language through repetition, which should be enough in most cases.
    Prince of Spires likes this.
  8. Mia

    Mia Troubadour

    you know what now i want to write a comedy jut so i can use it :p

    thanks everyone, that was vry helpful. decided not to go with french or english and will definitely check the link provided Lowan!
    Ban and A. E. Lowan like this.
  9. LAG

    LAG Minstrel

    My strategy would be a generalized description of the language, either with dialogue being described by a translator/device, or with the aliens speaking in broken english among themselves, with the humans none the wiser as to what they are saying, or maybe the translator engages with them, or maybe the feed from the device comes out in that broken tongue.

    "Water flesh-ball sound-emanate much but no give greet-gift. Maybe slice waterball open and see inside?"

    But: FifthView has a grand idea, and totally implementable.

    Just watch out for Xhosa, it is a very consonant-rich language both verbally and grammatically, with the tongue playing a central part in expressing sounds that are both consonants and verbs. Visually it's ok though, verbally it becomes complex. Xhosa language - Wikipedia


    "I went down to the river and ate some porridge."

    "Ndiye ndehla ndaya emlanjeni ndatya isidudu."

    Approximately Pronounced: "Ndeeyeah ndeshlaa ndaayaah emlaanjenny ndaahtyah eeseedoodoo."

    backwards: "Eyidn ududisi ayadn inejnalme alhedn aytadn

    If that's what you're going for, cool.

    If you wanna just make a language up, note down each word as you create it. It may not be on the level of Klingon or Esperanto, but with a few basic grammar rules and words, and more location-and-person-specific words, you'll have a unique language that you completely control.

    "Hurgh arak ikit fak gortach!"
    "What's he saying, Jim?"
    "He says he needs about three fiddy, Frank."
    "Shor! Fak gortach!"

    Also, remember that most modern human languages have a visual component, consider if your alien lingo will as well. All languages will depend on the biology of your alien, a mouthless alien with vibrating wings will not talk the same as one with eight tentacles and a sack of gas on its back that produces sounds as the gas is channeled over the fine, bony ridges that run all the way down the tentacles, which also act as the alien's tactile organs.
    Last edited: May 5, 2021 at 5:26 AM

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