Knowing when and how to use a fictional language, whether it be a logical Vulcan exchange or an elegant Sindarin parting, can be difficult. This is especially true when your fluency in the language is nonexistent, but your love for the culture surrounding it is boundless. I am also one of those poor lost souls, but let me tell you a secret. You can find anything on the internet. Yes, as ludicrous as it seems, there are other nerds out there that are more than ecstatic to teach you the art of fictional linguistics. The trick is to find them, and verify that they understand what they are talking about. Yet once that has been successfully accomplished, the writer is faced with the task of implementing their new-found knowledge in a way that is both canon and plot sensitive.
Impossible as it may seem, if you follow these guidelines, you should be able to effortlessly assimilate whatever language you require into your story, greatly enriching the culture you are trying to convey in your fanfic.
Finding a Reliable Source
This may become a long and tedious search depending on how obscure your desired language is, but there are some shortcuts you can use to cut down on the search time.
My first word of advice is to stay away from translators. You know you have found one of these sketchy sites when there is a box where you can type in a phrase, and a button that says translate. Stay away from these at all costs.
In my experience, translators prove a quick and easy escape rout that leads only to jumbled, nonsense phrases with a smattering of English thrown in for good measure. I found this out the hard way while co-writing a LotR fanfiction with a couple of friends. I used an elvish translator for that fanfiction, and it was only after it was finished, and I went back to read it again that I realized how many mistakes there were within my elvish. (Example: "I hope to see you again someday" became "Im estel im see cin ad- somedaui")
Using a translator is like buying that one-dollar plastic gadget from the mall that has 'Made in China' etched on the bottom. It was a low price for a low value product. You spent nothing, so you got nothing. Basically, when you are trying to use a fictional language, you want it to sound as real as possible. To do that, there is going to have to be some research on your part, and that is the bottom line.
Now, not all translators are going to be terrible, but they should be used with caution. Besides, the real way to learn any language, not just the fictional ones, is to practice using it. Using a translator robs you of this knowledge, and if you love your fandom enough to be writing a fanfic about it in a made-up language, you probably want to learn said language anyway.
After the LotR fanfic disaster, I promised myself that the next fanfiction I would write would use elvish in a comprehensive, fluid, and correct manner. So, when I started my Silmarillion fanfiction, To Follow the Stars, I set out to do just that.
One of the first things I stumbled across was a website that listed useful elvish phrases. For me, this was an unexpected goldmine, a quick cheat sheet of everything from simple greetings to amusing insults (my favorite one being 'Go French-kiss an orc').
Better yet, I was certain the creator of this site knew exactly what they were doing since they stated things like, "These phrases are in the style of the Noldor" and "The asterisks mark reconstructed or not-attested words", which are all signs that the author has done their research.
This was extraordinarily valuable when I wanted characters to greet one another in their native tongue, but it proved unhelpful for complex, day to day conversations. For that, I needed a dictionary.
The dictionary was surprisingly easy to find, all I had to type was 'elvish dictionary', and in moments I had found a website that surpassed my wildest dreams. Parf Edhellen, a database dedicated to Tolkien's languages.
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How to Write Fanfiction is a writing resource that contains tips and tricks on crafting fanfiction stories - by the community, for the community. This guide will serve as a helpful point of reference for fanfiction writers both old and new. We ultim...