For most people, the constructed languages spoken in fictional universes sort of flit by, an element that adds to the overall immersion of the experience, but that’s all. A lot of work goes into those moments of immersion, though, and some people invest deeply in them, learning languages like Star Trek’s Klingon and Lord Of The Ring’s Sindarin well enough to speak them conversationally. An in-depth video from Wired breaks down those two languages along with Harry Potter’s Parseltongue, Na’Vi from Avatar, and Game Of Thrones’ Dothraki and High Valyrian, parsing the real-world languages used to create each and analyzing individual sounds used to create them. While it’s all fascinating and full of interesting tidbits about these beloved fictional universes, one thing rings loud and clear: All of these would be a huge pain in the fucking ass to learn.
If you’re going to beef up on Parseltongue, you’ll need to grapple with the fact that snakes can’t make many of the sounds that humans do. Klingon was intended to feel strange and has a weird, Yoda-like word order that puts objects at the beginning of the sentence (the linguist here uses the example “The book to him gave I”). Even the performers on Star Trek: The Next Generation couldn’t quite keep up with the pronunciations of many of these words; Worf himself phones it in occasionally.
On the other end of the spectrum, Daenerys from Game Of Thrones actually gets better at speaking Dothraki over the course of the series, just as her character did, and Viggo Mortensen, who is fluent in six languages in real life, has an organic grasp of Sindarin that comes through on screen. This is no small feat: Dialect coach Erik Singer calls it the “grandaddy of the conlangs,” thanks in no small part to the fact that J.R.R. Tolkien himself was a linguist. Oh, also capable of speaking in a faithful Klingon: Frasier Crane, apparently.
Singer then moves on through a bunch of less ornately constructed languages, like Ewokese, Malkovich Malkovich (from Being John Malkovich), the heptapod language from Arrival, and, chillingly, Furbish. Many linguists believe that everything they say translates to “kill me.”