Conlang/Beginner/Learning your conlang
If you're creating a language then there's a good chance that you'll want to learn to speak it with relative fluency once it's complete. In general, the keys to learning to speak your conlang are the same as when you're trying to learn a natural language. We'll take you through some simple techniques in this section.
A good way to learn any language is to use example sentences that show the grammar you're learning, in addition to a list of words and explanation of the grammar. You can review these sentences — hopefully a sequence of sentences that gradually increase in complexity and build on one another in the vocabulary used — over and over again until you are reading them directly in the language rather than mentally translating each one as you read it.
So, a good way to learn your conlang is to create such example sentences in your own conlang, and then review them regularly. This can be quite easy or rather a pain in the glutes, depending on the type of language. If your conlang barely morphs its words, this task will probably be quite straightforward. If your conlang morphs words for every minute difference in meaning, especially if your native language does not, this will be a painstaking task, though still useful in the end.
Here we want to give you some tips on how to create the example sentences, and point you to some sources for test sentences to translate which may challenge you and make sure you have covered all the grammatical and semantic bases.
Example sentences are a good way to learn a language, but then again, you have to use even more techniques. These techniques include ways that language learners typically use to memorize words and phrases, and match them against the ones in their own language. There are a few ways to do this:
Probably the best and most effective way to memorize any word or phrase. For example, if you wanted to learn what the word "dog" meant, and remember what it is, you might link it to a picture, or a key word from your native language. Another good idea (if your conlang is somewhat regular) would be to include on the flashcard the grammar needed to form that word or phrase. For example, "the cat jumps over the dog, article + noun + verb (conjugated) + article + noun". This is an easy way to do things, because you can include as many facets of grammar as you want, if you happen to have different cases, more complex conjugations, etc.
If you have a sound-recording device, write down a few simple sentences in your conlang and then speak them aloud. Once they're recorded, you can load these sentences into your mp3 player and have samples of your conlang on the go.
In the beginning, you can offer glosses after each sentence in order to remind yourself of what's being said. As you progress, however, try to leave these glosses out.
A fun project to try is to write a short story in your conlang. Stories like The North Wind and the Sun and portions of the Babel Text are short enough to be do-able, but long enough and complex enough to be a real challenge.
If you're going to teach a language to yourself, why not get some others involved too? It is a lot easier to learn when you are immersed into the language, and if other people speak it too, your language skills will improve. Also, teaching the language helps internalize it in the teacher, because they have to know the information in order to teach it. Devise a curriculum guide, verb charts, vocabulary charts, flashcard, worksheets, or anything else that might be required to learn your language in the classroom. Who knows, somebody might come along one day and decide to learn it for themselves.
It is easier to learn a language with a partner than alone. To that end some conlangers have formed partnerships to use and learn each other's languages by, e.g., email correspondence.
Regular use of the language
To become fluent in a language you must use it regularly. Once you have worked out enough of the basic phonology and grammar, it is a good idea to write at least one new sentence in your language every day (more on some days than others, probably), coining some new words as necessary, and also re-read some sentences you've previously written in the language every day. Once you've familiarized yourself with the basics using example sentences, it is a good idea to start doing some more extensive writing in the language, perhaps not every day, but one or more times per week; for instance, keeping a journal in the language, and sometimes re-reading your old journal entries. Or you can respond to the various translation challenges that are regularly posted in places like the CONLANG mailing list and the Zompist Bulletin Board.
- set of test sentences re: ambiguity
- Aidan Nichols' weekly vocabulary series
- McGuffey Reader