How to learn a fake language

This article is inspired by a google search someone did to discover my blog.

Step one, pick a goal.
Do you want to read a reference grammar and peruse a dictionary for amusement? In that case, read all sorts of reference grammars. The ones that are reasonably complete are the best to read, such as gzb, Ithkuil, toki pona, Sindarin, Klingon, Esperanto (the reference grammars, not the 16 rules) etc

Do you want to use the language? Pick a language with not only a complete grammar, but a creator and fanbase that you feel comfortable with. If the fanbase doesn’t exist, you’ll have to create it as you learn your language of choice.

Do you want to participate in creating a language? First make conlang or two one your own, and get a feel for the scale and typical challenges of the project. Try creating conlang derivatives using those conlangs that are open to derivatives, such as the very old (public domain), or conlang writers who’ve release their works under a permissive license.

After that, everything that applies to regular languages applies to learning fake languages. Get a good flashcard application. Write as much as you can, proof read and read other’s work as much as you can (or until you run out of reading material, a sad problem with most conlangs)

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2 Responses to How to learn a fake language

  1. Bill Chapman says:

    I hope you don’t mind if I comment on Esperanto being included as a “fake language”. It is a relatively young languages (125 years old next year), but is a usable language of a self-perpetuating international population. Its creation deate is known but it is far from fake. In February I was in Naples, being taken around the backstreets and to the old churches by Nicolino with whom I have only Esperanto in common. I’m confident that there is no one alive who has read everything published in Esperanto, or even read most of the oriiginal literature – there’s just so much.

    You are right to point out that the “16 rules” do not in fact describe Esperanto. They are largely of historic interest, although I’ve heard refererence to them on the radio and seen reference to them in print.

  2. matthewdeanmartin says:

    I like Esperanto, I’ve studied it a bit and hope to someday acquire some competency at it. When I chose the name of my blog, I was trying to make the point that I’m not taking myself too seriously, I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade. When I am denigrating a language, it creators or fans, I try to make it very clear by calling it a crackpotlang, e.g aUi, the language of space, and even crackpot langs have their merits, i.e. they tend to be fun to read about.

    As a vegetarian, for me, all the good items on the menu have the word fake, and the crap I won’t eat says 100% authentic beef.

    There isn’t really a good taxonomy for languages that everyone agrees on and that no one thinks is lacking in negative connotations. Worse, most taxonomies tend to be ill fitted to the real world of non-natural languages. If I say pidgin, someone jumps on me because I used it as a structural thing instead of a contact, slavery and colonialism thing. If I say auxlang, I get jumped on because it’s more of a local lingua franca than a universal one. If I say conlang, people seem to expect there to be a fictional culture and feign complete lack of understanding when I call lojban a conlang. And so on.

    Here a good response I got about x-lang taxonomy on the toki pona forums recently

    which is one of the better discussions on how many more words & categories we need to describe the continuum of non-natural languages.