Can You Actually Learn The Elvish Language?


Ever since Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings, many have been fascinated by the world he created, along with the languages within it. When the movie adaptations came, so to the questions of whether the Elvish language featured in the films were a real language. This leads many to ask the question: Can you actually learn the Elvish language?

You can learn the Elvish language to a certain extent. However, the language remains largely unfinished and with no sizeable speaking population this is unlikely to change. For those who are truly taken with Elvish, they can still learn a fraction of a language.

Like with most things, there is more to it than that. For starters, trying to learn the language can be an extreme challenge due to the lack of resources. Along with that many consider Elvish to be complex to learn in of itself. Then since it is a fictional language, some wonder if you can really learn it at all. Can you actually learn Elvish?

How To Speak Elvish

If Elvish interests you, then how do you learn it? For any aspiring language learner, it starts with trying to speak the language. Other facets of language learning come after because speaking a language is the most essential factor. Since speaking is the most crucial aspect of acquiring language, how do you learn to speak the Elvish language?

To effectively learn to speak Elvish, one must both have a speaking partner and viable resources to help educate one with the language’s vocabulary. One without the other makes learning to speak Elvish nearly impossible, and as such these two factors are paramount to speaking Elvish.

As it is with learning any language, speaking the language is how you actively use the language as a whole. Speaking Elvish requires determination and fortitude since the resources for learning that language are scarce. Yet, some videos and programs can still be found despite the scarcity overall.

Along with this Elvish is incomplete, thus only allowing it to be learned to a specific degree.

If you would like to listen to the first of Tolkien’s masterpieces on Audible then click here to view it on Amazon.

How To Learn To Speak Any Language

The way anyone learns to speak a language requires two very important factors that makes a minority language like Elvish more difficult to learn. These two factors are:

  1. One must have a speaking partner or companion, to effectively learn to communicate.
  2. It is essential that language learners have the proper tools available, like the popular options Duolingo or Rosetta Stone as well as others resources.

Yet, why are these so paramount to speaking a language?

First, speaking with someone that either is trying to learn the same language, or fluent already, gives real life application and experience needed to hold a conversation. You can study all you want, but it will mean nothing if you don’t then try and apply what you’ve learned to a real-time discussion.

Though it might seem silly or redundant to say, the best way to learn to speak a particular language is to (funnily enough) speak that language.

This then points back to the reason why you need to have resources. You need them to be able to have something to try out in a conversations.

To hear the second volume of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy on Audible, check it out here on Amazon.

Where To Learn Elvish

With many different languages in the world, there are all sorts of programs to help learn them. From vocabulary books, YouTube videos, and other courses you can learn a language in a variety of ways.

The problem with languages that are in the minority, as pointed out before, is it becomes harder to find these helpful tools as opposed to other popular languages. So, where can you (both figuratively and literally) go to learn Elvish?

With most traditional language learning sites or programs you will not find Elvish as an option to be learn. Even Duolingo, with Klingon as a choice to learn in their program, does not have Elvish. This is due to the fringe and incomplete nature of Elvish.

Unfortunately, for those trying to learn Elvish, the usual suspects to help with language learning are not applicable. To try and learn the language, one will have to use less conventual means.

For the final instalment of the Lord Of The Rings series on Audible, get it here on Amazon.

Is Elvish Easy To Learn?

For any language to be considered “easy” it must be so only in comparison to other languages. Since languages in general are hard to learn, saying one language is easier than another is relative. Keeping all that in mind, “Is Elvish easy to learn?”

Elvish is not easy to learn, for numerous reasons. The chief reason being their are so few resources at your disposal to learn the language. Furthermore, the language is not finished and has been changed many times over the years. Elvish for these reasons is difficult to learn.

This is just scratching the surface of the difficulties one will face when trying to learn Elvish. The other honorable mention regarding why Elvish is so hard to learn is that no one practically speaks it. This in turn makes it hard to learn to speak any language, Elvish is no exception.

Is Any Language Easy To Learn?

If Elvish is so hard to learn, is their anyway to make easier? Or, are all languages this difficult to learn?

No language is easy to learn, however with languages being “harder”, it is merely that some require more effort to learn than others. The concept of a language being “harder” or “easier” stems from certain language having uniquely complex rules for grammar, vocabulary etc. as it pertains to English.

Another common factor relating to the difficultly of a language would be the difference between cultures. Culture and language are linked, even Tolkien took this idea to heart (will go into how later) when making his Elvish language. Thus the cultures of a language can be a cause for the language to be seen as “harder” or “easier”.

The difficulty of a language is dependent on the language one is coming from. This in turn leads some to wonder if coming from certain languages can make it easier to learn Elvish.

If you want to know more about language learning, then check out my other articles!

Will Speaking Certain Languages Make Learning Elvish Easier?

If languages can be harder or easier to learn depending on the language one speaks, then what does this mean for Elvish? Will speaking certain languages make learning Elvish easier?

Elvish, and within it Quenya and Sindarin, are based on numerous languages. The most significant language that influenced Elvish and specifically Quenya, that is also said to have been a personal favorite of Tolkien, is the Finnish language.

Tolkien loved languages and spoke a great deal of them. Among the languages under his belt so-to speak, Finnish was one he admired greatly. Since Tolkien was both a brilliant linguist and a lover of old tales (notably Norse) he grew to enjoy Finnish due to it’s unique attributes and Norse origins.

If one speaks Finnish then it can help them to learn Elvish. Yet, what is it like for someone who speaks English?

Even though the meaning of this is very limited, Finnish is consider to be a hard language to learn for English speakers by the United States Department of State in their language learning research. So extrapolating that to Elvish, though not perfect, we get a idea of the difficulty in store for those English speakers that attempt to learn Elvish.

Is Elvish A Real Language?

For some language learners, the difficulty of a language is not what scares them off. Instead whether the language will have any use in the world, or the legitimacy of the language is what makes them rethink learning.

So, starting with the obvious objection thrown against Elvish, is Elvish a real language?

Elvish from the traditional sense is not a real language, since it was created by Tolkien for a fantasy world due to his love of languages rather than a desire for introducing a new language to be spoken. A legitimate Language must be usable for communication in some way by actual people.

Although Elvish is beautiful, and created by a amazing linguist, it remains a language that is both not useful and more importantly not a real language. This does not mean it is not worth learning, but what it does mean is that it should be learned for personal enjoyment.

Elvish was created by someone in his writer’s study, and was never meant to become a language that we speak. It actually was created as a hobby of sorts. Tolkien just did it so well that it grew a following.

Why Did Tolkien Create Elvish?

It bears repeating that Tolkien loved languages, so much so that he created his own. Yet, people often wonder if this was the only factor that lead him to create his famous books, “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of The Rings”. First things first, we need to know a little about him.

J. R. R. Tolkien was professor at Oxford University, and focused mainly on teaching the old languages. He loved poetry, language, philosophy, and what is less known about him but nevertheless true was his love for theology. He fought in the World War I, and as such saw the horrors of war.

Though at first glance it might unlikely, Tolkien lead a very unique life accomplishing many different things.

So, why did he create Elvish? For the average person it might seem odd, but Tolkien created Elvish for the fun of it. With Tolkien, it was like creating a complex and in-depth poem (he did in fact write poetry).

One interesting thing that many might not know, is that the Elvish language was one of the reasons that lead him to start with “The Hobbit”, and then “The Lord of The Rings”. Tolkien knew how languages worked and that they are linked to culture. As such he created a people (the Elves), but that was not enough, since his people needed a place to live.

He then created Middle Earth and the mythology behind this unique world of his. He was so creative, that in his hobby of making his language, he ended up created making one of the most beloved series of books in the past centuries.

Can You Speak A Fictional Language?

If Elvish is a fictional language, does that still mean you can learn it? Or, is it not worth learning?

Elvish is not a practical language by any means. In fact, Elvish is not useful whatsoever (not to be harsh on those who learned it). These harsh truths don’t mean you shouldn’t learn the language. It all depends on why you would want to learn it. If you’re just wanting to learn it for fun, then Elvish can be learned.

Yet, Elvish cannot be learned for pretty much any other reason relating to travel, career, or cultural reasons (i.e. experiencing and learning a different culture). Since no one really speaks the language, the usual reasons for learning language do not apply.

According to this article, from Cambridge University Press, language requires two things. First a language needs both spoken and written symbols, along with grammar rules. Secondly, a language equally needs a culture or society to be used in, whatever form that might take.

As discussed before, Tolkien knew this when creating Elvish. This lead him (among other reasons) to create the books that he is known for.

So, Elvish does not have culture around it that makes it practical for people to learn. Though you can speak a fictional language like Elvish, it must be done for reason related to enjoyment purposes rather than for any typical reasoning.

How Many Elvish Languages Are Their?

Many might wonder if Tolkien was the only one to make a Elvish language. There has been many fantasy books over the years. Have any of these made a Elvish language, or one that is well known enough to talk about? How many Elvish language are their?

Elvish is not just a creation of Tolkien. Their are other writers who made similar languages for Elves. However, Tolkien is by far the most well known (and arguably talented) with his version. Within his Elvish language, two prominent differing dialects are Sindarin and Quenya.

Their are two main dialects in the Tolkien Elvish language.

  • Sindarin
  • Quenya

Sindarin was the language that was spoken in the popular Lord of The Rings adaptation films. You could say that is was the common tongue of Tolkien’s Elves at the time his books were set in the timeline of Middle Earth.

Quenya was not spoken in the films, and for the most part wasn’t featured at all. This particular dialect was used mainly in “The Silmarillion”, and not in Tolkien more well known and popular titles.

On whether there are other Elvish languages, I have no doubt that there are some. Yet, they did not got the attention that Tolkien’s language enjoys, and as such are not known enough to mention specifics.

The Final Talking Point On Actually Learning The Elvish Language…

Elvish can be learned, but only to a certain degree. It remains unfinished, and barely spoken. Tolkien never envisioned people attempting to learn the language. It was made merely for his own enjoyment. Yet, that proved to be for many others enjoyment as well, since the popularity of his works still are apparent today.

You can learn Elvish, but it mostly will be done as a past time. Namely, learning Elvish because you just want to have fun rather than a serious commitment

Interested in language learning? If so, read some of my other articles!

Jackie Booe

Jackie Booe is a licensed teacher for elementary through high school in 3 states. She is a former adjunct professor at the undergraduate level and certified to teach elementary, secondary English, and English Language Learners. She was a mentor for many education interns, has taught and coordinated professional development for teachers and educators, and professionally tutored in a multitude of subjects.

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