“What do you say to embarrass a polar bear? How might an underwater society write? Can a creature without teeth say “tooth”? How many verbs for “to pray” does an angel need? These are some of the questions students have pondered in ‘Invented Languages’ at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Tex., as they create languages of their own.” A. Winchester NewYork Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: Create Your Own Language, for Credit by Ashley Winchester NewYork Times
“The tongue spoken by the nomadic Dothraki warriors of HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones has entered the pop-culture lexicon, and so sparked new interest in constructed languages, or conlangs.
Thanks to the popularity of G.O.T., Avatar, etc., more people the world over know what language creation is, says David J. Peterson, the linguist behind spoken Dothraki and alien-speak on the Syfy network’s Defiance.
At schools like S.F.A., Wellesley College in Massachusetts and Truman State in Missouri, students take apart the words, sounds, writing and patterns of such conlangs as Dothraki, Na’vi (Avatar), Elvish (Lord of the Rings) and Klingon (Star Trek) to get a sense of how languages evolve to meet the needs of their speakers. Coursework marries the principles of linguistics with the creativity of speculative fiction genres and pop culture.
So how do you create a language? First, think about your speaker’s anatomy, and therefore what sounds he can create, says Jessica Sams, whose conlang course at S.F.A. has grown from minimum to maximum capacity.
Then, she says, build on elements of grammar, culture and habits (and, in the case of bears, growling patterns).
Hash yer tihoe jin, hash yer shili Dothraki (translation: If you understand this, you know Dothraki).”
To Those we lost in 2016:
REST IN PEACE
“It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.” Harper Lee
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos
Directions: Have students examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of words and ideas that they think might be related to this article.
II. While Reading Tasks
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- This is the tongue spoken by the nomadic Dothraki.
- The series has sparked new interest in constructed languages.
- Thanks to the popularity of these shows new languages are created.
- Coursework marries the principles of linguistics.
- Students take apart the words, sounds, writing and patterns.
- Students learn how languages evolve.
- Students can create new fiction genres.
- First, think about your speaker’s anatomy.
- Next, think about their culture.
- A savvy bear might hide its snout to blend in with snow.
Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.
At schools like/look S.F.A., Wellesley College in Massachusetts and Truman State in Missouri, studies/students take apart/part the words, signs/sounds, writing and patterns of such/songs conlangs as Dothraki, Na’vi (“Avatar”), Elvish (“Lord of the Rings”) and Klingon (“Star Trek”) to get a sense/cents of how languages evolve to meat/meet the needs of their/there speakers. Coursework marries the principles of linguistics with the creativity/create of speculative fiction genres and pop/pip culture.
Grammar Focus: Prepositions
Prepositions: in, for, of, with, by, on, at, to, as, into, across, around, over, through, from, during, up, off, with,
Directions: The following sentences are from the news article. For each sentence choose the correct preposition from the choices listed above. Note that not all prepositions listed are in the article.
The tongue spoken___ the nomadic Dothraki warriors___ HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones.
Students need___ get a sense___how languages evolve___ meet the needs___their speakers.
A savvy bear might hide its snout___blend___ ___snow when hunting.
Eight verbs are needed___Brandi Woodstock’s New Jeruslanic, including one___ ask___ something, one___intercede___someone’s behalf and one___plead.
III. Post Reading Tasks
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Directions: Place students in groups and have them restate the following statement in their own words. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class.
“So how do you create a language? First, think about your speaker’s anatomy, and therefore what sounds he can create… Then build on elements of grammar, culture and habits (and, in the case of bears, growling patterns).”
Group Activity: Create Your Own Language
Directions: In groups, have students reread the instructions from the article for how to begin creating a language. After, groups will share their new languages with the class!
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.