• Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us!

Should I invent a language for stories like Life on Kepler Bb?

caters

Sage
I know that inventing a language takes a lot of time and determination. I also know that for readers to understand what the characters mean in that language I would probably have to publish a translation book from the language of my characters to English(since I always aim for English readers and speak in English).

But that isn't the only problem I can see with inventing a new language.

For one the language might spread across the world and become a native language somewhere.

Also I might not understand why I invented the language, even if the readers understand the language.

Lots of critiquers and editors and beta readers would probably say "This is bad English, rewrite the whole thing" when it is really a different language than english."

The English readers might not understand why I didn't use English, even if they understand the language itself.

So there are a lot of problems to face when inventing a language. Should I do it or not?
 

DeathtoTrite

Troubadour
Short: No.

Long: No. I can honestly say the only made up languages that contribute to the book are nadsat and newspeak. This includes Tolkein. Unless you have a stunningly compelling reason why the difference in language is a major theme of the piece itself, creating a new language is useless, largely unwanted fluff.
 

Svrtnsse

Staff
Article Team
The main reason that I can see for creating a new language is if you really enjoy doing it. There may be other reasons as well of course, but the way I tend to look at these things is: if you don't enjoy it, it's hard to do it well. Making up a language and not doing it well, is not going to improve your story or your reader's enjoyment of the story.

Still, it can be done, and it can be done well, but keep in mind you don't have unlimited time and resources and it may be your time is better spent on other aspects of the world/story.
 
If you aren't a conlanger, then no. Now, a "naming" language is fine. For instance, if you've got two town's, one named after a red rock and another named after a black rock, it's good to have consistency in what means "rock" but language in general... no.
 

TheKillerBs

Inkling
It's not necessary. It is perfectly possible to make a world with stories set in it without defining any single language. Svrtnsse hit the nail on the head. If you like conlanging, then do it. If not, then your time and effort is best spent elsewhere. Building a language takes up a lot of that, akin to learning one.

If you do decide to make up a language, one thing that's helped me a lot is to look into linguistics and especially into the languages that are not related to English or any other language you might speak.
 
Last edited:
Creating a new language can add a lot of depth to your imaginary world.

But you don't need to create a whole language in order to add depth. Certain important phrases, curse words, names for places, names for philosophical or religious or social or scientific concepts that veer from our own, and so forth, can add depth even while you use standard English for the majority of the book. Actually, you can help readers fall into that language and understand that language by using those neologisms in context with the rest of the fully-English text.

Otherwise, I agree with everyone above. Unless you love creating new languages and the whole fictional language is very important to the story you are telling, it can be a major waste of time.
 

TWErvin2

Auror
Maybe focus on some words or phrases that would add some depth and meaning to the story and the characters it contains, rather than an entire language.
 

Britannicus

Acolyte
I agree strongly with the last two posts. And as a writer do you want to make your text more comprehensible, or less? I think it's a bit different, though, when it comes to film or TV versions (think Tolkien and George Martin), where - if it's done well - the sounds of the invented languages can create an instant feeling of what the cultures are like.
 
Unless you are really passionate about linguistics in general I would say no.

Tolkien didn't just come up with languages on a whim, it was his bread and butter.
 

Vaporo

Inkling
Probably not. You might develop an basic set of rules so that names of people/places have some consistency, but unless you're going to have segments with one character speaking a languages and another not understanding it, then you can probably just write everything in English. And even if you do have a section like that, you can just say something like "Uthgerd said something sharp to her tribe's leader, who barked an apparent order in return." If you're characters are being introduced to a foreign language, you could just describe it as being "rough" or "flowing" rather than actually writing out the words being said. If you really want to make up languages, though, go for it.
 
If there is a phonetic similarity in how you name things, such as people from certain regions, name places, etc., you can give the audience something to work with.

That's basically what I've done with my first world map. If you see a surname you should be able to place it at a certain geographical origin, though of course there are always exceptions.

The biggest challenge for me is when the location shifts to a place where the languages of the human portion of the world become absent and anybody from that area that goes to this new place is not going to know the native tongue. Then I have to decide if I want to spend time depicting them learning the language, and the amount of time that needs to be spent. For me it's kind of cheating if they just know the language without any explanation of why. On the other hand I'm not going to slow the story to a snail's pace just to make things super realistic.
 
Last edited:
Top