Conlanging In Webnovels

#1
As I am trying to figure out how to go about continuing my first Novel, Dragon Rises, I am, and have, begun my own Conlang.

For those of you unaware of what Conlanging is, here's a really bad explanation: Making your own language.
Example! The Na'vi language in the movie Avatar by James Cameron

While I have begun to start it, I am merely going with the flow and adding words following rules I've made for it as I go along.


Onto the main topic of this thread: How would y'all find the idea of learning a language alongside the character while she tries to make her way through the world? I've found that most, if not all but one isekai I've read involve the character somehow either:
  • Being given a handicap where they know any/all languages
  • Are given a shortcut to learning (Skills, Magic, etc.)
  • Are speaking their own language because that world also speaks it.
This, to me, makes no sense, and I've always wanted  the character to struggle to learn. Having to use context clues, body language and the like to learn a language slowly but surely. The novel I'm writing next (I've written ~19k words in drafts so far (yay me!)) involves this. How many of are like me, or aren't and want to offer constructive criticism, about this idea?

Also, I'm not trying to get hundreds of views or reviews. If I post it and people like it, awesome. If not, oh well.


Resident Squeesh Mama is here,
Resident Squeesh Mama is gone!

Re: Conlanging In Webnovels

#3
I've got nothing to comment, but will mention some relevant resources:

There is a thread about Conlangs in the "Guides" subforum, maybe take a look at that. 

Also maybe check out this story: https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/41591/a-journey-in-darkness

Here the MC learns a language exactly in the way you described, little by little, experimenting, without any Skills helping, over a long time. (Slight spoiler: this doesn't happen until about halway into the story. It's not right away. But it's worth reading, the story is lovely, about harsh survival and biology.)

Another story where this (sort of) happens is "Delve" but there the character gets a stupid high "Wisdom" stat, so at some point he starts learning with insane speed. That's not quite what you're describing, but close.

Re: Conlanging In Webnovels

#4
That's a slippery slope. For in-story realism it is good. The problem is that:

1. You lose the ability to character-built and/or infodump important information naturally through dialogue.
2. If it drags for multiple chapters, it might become tedious for the reader.

My advice, but please have in mind that I'm not an expert, would be to have 1-3 chapters of detailed language learning/language barrier description, followed by a time-condensed narration ("That was his/her routine for the next x-months. With time, his/her language skills improved, etc., etc.). Then you start writing normal conversations where the "learning" character sounds a bit off in sentence structure or word-choice (don't drag the "neanderthal" speech for too long either). In the and, have your language-learner speak fluently until they get to some missing/difficult words, or hear a new word that they don't know.

Re: Conlanging In Webnovels

#5

Ariana Wrote: That's a slippery slope. For in-story realism it is good. The problem is that:

1. You lose the ability to character-built and/or infodump important information naturally through dialogue.
2. If it drags for multiple chapters, it might become tedious for the reader.

My advice, but please have in mind that I'm not an expert, would be to have 1-3 chapters of detailed language learning/language barrier description, followed by a time-condensed narration ("That was his/her routine for the next x-months. With time, his/her language skills improved, etc., etc.). Then you start writing normal conversations where the "learning" character sounds a bit off in sentence structure or word-choice (don't drag the "neanderthal" speech for too long either). In the and, have your language-learner speak fluently until they get to some missing/difficult words, or hear a new word that they don't know.
Exactly! Thats the thing. Due to how the story is, (this part will be in the synopsis), there was 50 people brought to this new location. And 3 of them understand the language completely due to... We'll say some powers intervention. The main characters goal at the moment is to attempt to find these 3, and learn. I was already planning on having those 3-4 chapters of just straight LANGUAGING, but I'm not there yet in the drafts.


She's learnt some basic things like "getting food" at this chapter, and she picks up tiny things here and there, so she's kind of like a baby at this pointnin her language skill. But, yes, I know what you mean and I sid plan om doing it!

Re: Conlanging In Webnovels

#6
I mean, I'd likely check it out. But at the same time, am I willing to put in the energy to learn a language just so I can read a single novel? Probably not. So it really depends on how conlang-heavy your story is going to be. As a spice, it'd be just fine, and I might very much enjoy that. But if it's too much, I might as well learn some of the IRL languages I've been eyeing, y'know? Those have the added benefits of presenting me with brand new cultural viewpoints, generations-vast libraries of already written materials, new ways to write rhythm and poetry and other stuff that'd be an extremely tall order for a one-person conlang to fill. 

That said, if you're able to use a conlang to highlight the blank points of English-speakers as a culture? If you can do that, you'll grab me hook, line, and sinker. Culture and language are on some level indistinguishable, and a lot of concepts that are trying to emerge right now don't have English words. Historically, English has been very heavily influenced by a lot of things that doesn't apply the same way anymore. For example, historically, the English-speaking world (and the languages that it has borrowed from) has been almost entirely Christian. As a result, a lot of concepts we need today don't have words, like words for LGBTQ identities that are slowly emerging, or words for different kinds of gods (because in Christianity, there's just one God, and then there's a few prophets and some angels but if you compare that to the many, many terms for divine beings that other languages have, English is incredibly poor). Language is an IMMENSELY powerful tool to make people shift their mindsets, y'know? Play with that. Youll get something really cool. You could potentially convey ideas you wouldn't even be able to in English. But again... massive undertaking. 

So yeah. For me, it depends on what you aim to do with your conlang. If you just want to write a language for an isekai and are transliterating an English dictionary, I would probably be interested as long as you're going easy on the conlang. 

Re: Conlanging In Webnovels

#7
A word here and there is fine, but nobody(*) is going to want to go back to school just to try to read a story. And certainly for a web serial, nobody is going to want the added cognitive load of trying to remember an invented language from week to week so they can continue to read the updates.

Try to show learning the language in other ways, like "She babbled something, but Bob couldn't understand what she was saying. He shook his head." or "'Me, uh, go now?' he said in broken [name of language]." (after reading through the thread more closely, it looks like Ariana Vivoni has some other good recommendations above)

There are a bunch of languages in my story, and they can get in the characters' way, but I make sure they don't get in the readers' way. For the readers, they exist as flavor and realism, but no one has to learn anything to follow along.

Consider this: Tolkien invented entire languages for The Lord of the Rings ... but you'd never know it by reading the books. There are a few easy-to-remember words sprinkled in for flavor, and that's it.

I hope that helps!

* "nobody" = very few people

Re: Conlanging In Webnovels

#9
Everyones posts have been very helpful and have given me an idea of what I need to fix, change, and continue doing. Thankfully, the Conlang will only be extremely present in the first 10 chapters, but then they will be able to relax for a bit.

I don't expect people to remember everything that the character learns, so I would post under every chapter what they have learned. Every 5 chapters will be a recap (in an author note at the bottom, in a spoiler) of all that she has learned, with some examples. Its, again, more of a project for me to try, which is why I'm not as mindful of people reading my story or not, however pleasant it would be.

Learning a language is hard, surviving in a place that doesn't speak your language is hard, being thrust into a new world is hard. These are what I want to convey to the reader. Learning words as soon as possible, being able to understand basic phrases like: "are you hungry?" and the like, even with only context, is something I want to let the reader experience. I hope I don't go too heavy with it, but I hope its not too light either. I've also thought to allow the readers to guess what words mean, although this is only for those who are immensely into it. If its right they're added to the word bank of things the MC knows.

But, again, thank you all for your advice and kind words!