Building Communities – One Language At A Time

Building Communities - One Language At A Time

Dr. Alexander Waibel (2012) believes that it isn’t the lack of connectivity or the tools used to link one another but rather the absence of other forms, such as language and culture, which negatively affects the growing phenomenon of globalization and hinders the interdependence that is supposed to bring people across the world together.

The world today realizes the importance of accepting a diverse culture, but this isn’t possible without accepting multilinguism first.

“Cultures are transmitted through languages and languages also reflect the history of the people who have used them. Linguistic diversity is not less important than ecological diversity.” (Durk Gorter)

Learning a new language not only gives one the opportunity to converse in that language but also to understand a new culture and become part of a new community. It isn’t hard to grasp the fact that learning a new language enables people to socialize with people of another country or ethnicity, be more at ease in a new country and sail their way through time without being ‘lost in translation’. Moreover, people who have migrated to other countries find a sense of comfort when addressed in their native language.

Many 2nd or 3rd generation immigrants in the US and various other parts of the world have English as a first language instead of their native language, consequently leading their parents to reinforce the need to know their native tongue in order to still remain a part of their community and stay true to their roots. Just learning one’s mother tongue can help them feel more connected to not only their family but also the culture they belong to and the country of their origin. Often they may learn to speak but not to read or write in the language of their heritage.

Today, even the entertainment industry has mastered the art of developing a massive fandom by incorporating a new, fictional language in their products; a language that has the power to build connections from one end of the world to another. One of the most famous fictional languages is Kilngon from the Star Trek universe, created by Marc Okrand. Over the course of time, Klingon not only gained huge amounts of popularity among the film’s fans, it also led them to form communities and groups around the globe with people who spoke the language. The Klingon Learning Institute (KLI), a not-for-profit organization aimed at encouraging the intellectual learning of the language, was founded in 1992 by its current Director, Lawrence M. Schoen, who is also the co-creator of the Klingon song.

Elvish, another popular fictional language thanks to the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchise, was actually developed before J.R.R Tolkien, the creator of the language and author, wrote any of the books. Today, for those passionate about learning Elvish, various books and dictionaries are available online, and otherwise, to polish their skills.

Another highly known constructed language is Na’avi, from the 2009 Avatar fame, directed by James Cameron. He enlisted the help of Paul Frommer, an expert linguist, to help develop a language different from any human language but be easily pronounced by human. Despite having a limited vocabulary and grammar compared to Elvish and Klingon, the fans took it upon themselves to develop the language and provide online translations and group forums for enthusiasts.

More recent and upcoming constructed languages are Dothraki and Valyrian from the Game of Thrones books and TV show. George R.R. Martin used very few words of both the languages in the books but HBO, when creating the TV series, hired a professional to develop them into full-fledged languages.

The above are just a few examples from the growing world of fictional languages. The fact that fictional languages, thanks to the fandom of various movies, books and television series, can be categorized as official languages in many places, help people connect with one another and build a whole community as well as a novel culture, only goes to prove the power of a language.

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Nelson Mandela



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