Watch Smarter

How to Tell a Realistic Fictional Language From a Terrible One

Game of Thrones has one of the best. Star Wars has some of the worst.

Watch Smarter is Slate’s series that teaches you to spot hidden tropes in pop culture and beyond. Watch all episodes.

Huttese, Klingon, Dothraki—it’s all Greek to me. Just a bunch of sounds. Right? Not if you listen closely. Some of these constructed languages, or “conlangs,” pass as real languages much better than others.

What separates a convincing conlang from a bad one? In this episode of Watch Smarter, we examine how movies and TV shows create custom languages, and how the best—or at least the most realistic—evolve like real human speech.

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