13 Mar/18

The Art of Constructed Languages

The Art of Constructed Languages - EVS Translations
The Art of Constructed Languages – EVS Translations

Regardless of whether you are learning a new language for travel, for business, or just for fun, there will inevitably come a time when some aspect of a foreign language just won’t make sense. Sometimes, even in our own native languages, we encounter instances where we logically think, “why do we say this instead of that?” The answer is rather simple: we use natural languages, not constructed languages. In other words, our languages are a product of natural evolution and contact with other languages (meaning they don’t have to make sense), instead of being formed solely for simplicity of use or for a specific purpose.

On the other hand, there are languages which have been constructed logically and can be used along with natural languages. These controlled languages are more widespread and applicable than you may think at first sight. For example, Esperanto, the most common constructed language, has been around for 140 years, can be found in 120+ countries, and works by using phonetics and eliminating linguistic stumbling blocks like irregular tenses, verb conjugations, and grammar. Outside of creating an independent linguistic system, there are also languages like Lojban, which is 30 years old, found in 20+ countries, and has a vocabulary derived from major natural languages, like Hindi, English, Mandarin, and Spanish.

Still, there is another classification of constructed language: the artistic languages. Unlike constructed languages that are meant to work conjunctively with natural languages, these languages, typically centred in science-fiction and fantasy, are purely artistic and meant to be enjoyed by followers of a particular genre. First mentioned in a 1967 episode and first appearing on screen in 1979 is the most notable – and often derided – example of Klingon from the Star Trek franchise, which was made to sound completely foreign to human language, counts thousands of students worldwide, and even has its own Google page. Another example, which has been increasingly popular, is the Elvish language, Sindarin, first developed by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1944 and similar in sound to Welsh.

In terms of translation, controlled languages are relatively simple, because of their standing as a developed language or their relatability to natural languages; however, artistic languages present more of a challenge. Looking at the immense global following for Game of Thrones, for example, the issue lies in how to take artistic languages – Dothraki and the Valyrian – and effectively translate them into a natural language. While both languages were created with the help of the Language Creation Society, founded back in 2007, running a contest where the linguist David Peterson came ahead as the winner with his 80-page proposal to be hired by the producers to enlarge the already existing fictional language vocabulary, meaning that the artistic languages come along with linguistic rules, dictionaries, and audio files to guide the work of the translators during the processes of dubbing and subtitling, those are still incomplete languages, making them a challenge for effective transcreation.

With natural languages constantly being updated and others falling out of use, and expectations that the artificial intelligence advancements will further enhance the development of colanging (the creation of constructed languages), the language landscape of the near future might be heavier penetrated by constructed languages than most of us can currently imagine.

One is for certain, the global audience seems fascinated by entertainment productions that feature fictional characters, and naturally more and more productions are expected to feature fictional constructed languages, and in order to maximize appeal and revenue, global entertainment companies cannot afford to be left behind the new artificial language tendency.

In order to plug in to new trends and allow for an optimal experience, developing a proper and effective translation scheme for all languages – natural and constructed – is a winning strategy in the global entertainment marketplace and EVS Translations is the ideal partner for the global entertainment industry. Having worked with media and entertainment companies around the globe for over 20 years, the international translation company has an extensive portfolio covering multilingual voice-overs and subtitling services for visual media and video games. EVS Translations is specifically set up to complete complex, high-volume media translations into any language, whether natural or constructed.

-> Find out how EVS Translations can help with your upcoming media translation project or artificial language terminology management.