Learning how to speak the Tengwar language (a.k.a. Elvish)

Elf?

Ok, first of all: NO! You won’t be able to learn how to speak the Tengwar language. No one will. Why???? Read below…

This post is a guide designed for all the people who are getting their very first contact with the languages developed by Tolkien.

So, below you’ll find quick facts for the beginners who honestly wants to learn more (and also for the geeks & nerds who brag about how expert they are and how fluently they can speak Tengwar)

Fact 1

Tengwar is not a language

This is such a basic thing. Something must be very wrong in Wikipedia, because lately so many people have popped up everywhere saying Tengwar IS a language. I got heavily cursed some days ago by unos cabrones when I corrected the later statement. It was so surreal their talk that a lot of my Twitter followers started to reply or retweet what we were writing on the matter.

What do you see in the picture? In which language is that written?

Above you’ll have an example of Roman alphabet. Roman is not a language. People definitely don’t say “I speak Roman, I speak Cyrillic”. Nonsense! That’s exactly the case with Tengwar. It’s just the alphabet, not the language itself. How can one speak an alphabet? (i.e. a set of symbols arranged in any particular order or set and used for writing a language)

Fact 2

Elvish is not a language

This conception mistake is more common and less horrible than the “Tengwar language”. Actually, you must be wondering: “What? Elvish is a language! That’s what elves speak in the movies, right?” So, bear with me! Let’s think harder for a bit!

Elvish: the word that shows you are not versed in Tolkien lore.

How many elvish languages are there? Only one? When someone says “I want to learn Elvish” which language is one referring? Quenya, Sindarin, Telerin, Vanyarin, Common Eldarin, Primitive Quendian…? You see: Tolkien didn’t create one language. He created a multitude! The term “Elvish” says NOTHING! It’s actually an adjective.

If you are lay to the subject, if you are new, you will definitely use “Elvish”, but after you stop and think for a moment…there’s no sense keeping such an inaccurate term which defines and determines no language after all. Ex.: “He speaks Chinese…Wait…Mandarin? Cantonese? What?”

Fact 3

Tengwar is not a code

So true! The name is Tengwar Alphabet, not Tengwar Code. There’s a famous search engine result called Starchamber that could not be worst to teach Tengwar alphabet. It lacks depth. It shows a shallow surface and only contributes to people writing wrongly with no awareness whatsoever how Tengwar really works.

Tengwar is a PHONETIC alphabet, not a code for Roman alphabet.

Perhaps by its simplicity, this site has become famous and people really like it. I don’t know what happens. Kids are strange these days. They don’t put up with being corrected and they rather have something easy and wrong than enhancing their brain’s level a little bit.

Tengwar alphabet was developed phonetically! What really matters are the sounds and not the letters. That’s where this simple approach of Tengwar as a code, fails completely.

Well…

There are so many things that can be added to this guide. Those above are what I can come up with right now. When something weird, wrong and new comes up (oooo and I’m sure it will) I’m  gonna add to make this post a 1st step to getting to know the basic concepts about Tolkien wonderful creations!

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23 Comments

Filed under Elvish, Tengwar

23 responses to “Learning how to speak the Tengwar language (a.k.a. Elvish)

  1. Haley

    If someone wants to have a bit of fun and say they speak Tengwar, then let them. Stop raining on people’s parades. People can make languages, so why not Tengwar.? Honestly. How would you like it if someone antagonized you for the way you breathe? Shut up.

    • You are right! If someone wants to say something nonsensical as you just did, they may!

      People can make languages and still they are NOT able to speak an alphabet, because that’s a whole completely different thing with a different nature.

      Frankly and most funny of all…I have someone who antagonizes me for the way I breathe! It’s my good friend Lana and I love her deeply. She says I breathe like a fat pig, you know,,…I’m skinny but I have many breathing problems…so funny.

      Well, anyway…breathe out, dude! Don’t shut up!

  2. Chris

    Very interesting posts here.

    While it is not really wrong when someone says “I speak Elvish”, in truth they have only got it half right. Grammatically, they would be wrong as it should be spoken as “I speak Elven” or “I speak the Elven tongue”. In the many books and scripts of Tolkien, the elves do not say “you speak Elvish”. They would normally say “You speak the elven tongue”. The word “elvish” was a word created by Humans/Man more as a degrading term to encompass their feelings of disgust at the race who feel they are above all races and envy for being who they were (devil-ish=Elvish). This word caught on to other races. The elves themselves forbid the use of the word “elvish” as it is considered foul word that degrades them. The elves consider their race a pure race and will not tolerate any evil or “dirty” sinuations to mar their proud race.

    So, the next time someone says “I speak Elvish”, we need to correct them in the proper use of the sentence. Probably the next two questions we should be asking the person next is “Which elven tongue (dialect) to you speak, Quenya, Sindarin, Telerin, Primitive Quendian, etc;..?” and “Which elven alphabet structure do you write, Tengwar, Cirth, Valmaric, Rumil, etc.?”.

    That would really sift out the real elven speakers from the “elvish ones”.

    • Anyhow, you’re still using an adjective (elven) instead of another adjective (elvish) and not giving the correct approach to the language’s name. I speak Elven is as wrong as I speak Elvish, no matter what culturally accurate you are about the demeaning aspect of the word you mention above.

  3. TaliaBeth

    Why would a fan of Tolkein’s work say they could speak Tengwar? Is someone an idiot? That’s absurd.
    Anyway, I can write in Cirth and I was curious if he had any speakable languages. Which one does anyone reccomend and where is the best place to learn it? Aside from the COMPLETLY unrealiable Internet.
    Which one would be the most fun?

  4. Pingback: The Children of Starchamber | quenya101

  5. baylee burger

    I’ve looked up many tengwar alphabet things ( sorry don’t know what they are called…. where it shows you the symbols for letters) and most of them are different. Where can I find the right one? Oh and does Elena sila lumenn omentilmo mean a star shine on the hour of our meeting? That what I’ve always thought its meant…

    • The name of the “things” is tengwa. Tengwa means “letter”. Tengwar is the plural form and also the name of the alphabet.

      The “right one” depends on which language you’d like to write using the Tengwar Alphabet. There are different modes. Please read more about it here: https://quenya101.com/2011/10/19/for-tengwar-writers-only/

      No it doesn’t. Elena is wrong. It’s Elen. Sila misses the long í. Lúmenn’ misses the ú too and the apostrophe. Omentilmo is an archaic form abandoned by Tolkien. The correct one is: omentielvo.

  6. Pingback: The Elvish Tree of Languages | quenya101

  7. Starchamber’s author makes it clear in the end that this is his own simplistic approach*. Of course it lacks depth, but I doubt that someone searching “how to write your name in Elvish”, will really care to study tengwar. I believe The Grey Combany phrasebook (aka Grelvish) is worst than that, since it misleads you in thinking that you’re learning Elvish* (with Elvish I’m referring to Tolkien languages in general, since those are what most people think as Elvish and look to learn), while (as I see you wrote above) in truth it’s just what some RPG players made up.

    * That doesn’t mean is wrong though. What he did is called “orthographic spelling” and it’s a pretty accepted way of writing the English language using the tengwar alphabet.

    * Not strange, as many phrases (even though mis-written) are actually taken from Quenya (e.g. Elen sila lumenn omentilmo – the correct is omentielvo, plus accent marks) or Sindarin (e.g. Mae govannen!). Damn, this site is a trap.

    // also, I don’t think ‘geeks & nerds’ will ever say they can speak tengwar

    • As Tolkien is the sole inventor of his elvish languages as well as his elvish alphabets, he is the one who should be appointed to show how his own creations should be explained. Tolkien was not a simplistic creator. Au contraire, he wanted depth! He went for depth! He did everything he could during his whole life to achieve an astonishing depth!

      Now WHY would someone ruin that by teaching tweens these days “how to write your name in elvish in 10 minutes”? That’s heresy beyond measure. That’s why I read everyday “geeks and nerds” boasting on Twitter about “elvish this elvish that”, “speaking Tengwar here and there” when they have no idea of what they’re talking about!

      Concerning, Grey Company site (https://quenya101.com/2012/11/06/do-i-want-useful-elvish-sentences-sure/) …well the ruinous nature is there, it’s only different. It’s like “let’s not be simple, but let’s pretend this is THE elvish language”

      Both suck in different levels and aspects!

  8. Angharad

    An interesting summery of J. R. R. Tolkein’s work. I’m trying to learn the Quenya style alphabet, but I’m struggling to work out the pronunciation. If you could perhaps explain a bit about how to say the words. Very good though, I’m impressed at your knowledge.

  9. Ethrin

    I would like to ask though, could Elvish not be seen as a term similar to “Romance Language” in that it may refer to several Tolkien languages, Quenya, Telerin, Sindarin etc, in the same way Romance covers French, Spanish, Italian etc? Then again, I’m not a linguist and my only long term experience with a foreign language was with German, so if there is a glaring flaw in this theory forgive me.

    • Yes and no.

      Why yes? Because it may work as you propose here. A term that refer to the general picture: Quenya, Sindarin, Telerin, Primitive Quendian, etc;….

      Why no? Because there are MORE “Elvish” out there and they were NOT created by Tolkien. Some sites even teach “Elvish” without even telling the origin of their teachings. When you realize, you are NOT learning something Tolkien created, but a “creole” language designed by RPG players. Damn, huh?!

      So, that’s why one should avoid using Elvish here, Elvish there. It’s an indefinite term that is prone to error, confusion and mistake, designed only for lay people and the ones without previous knowledge of the whole nine yards!

      • Ethrin

        Perhaps then I would argue that condemning the word for fear of mistake alone is unwise; people learn through mistake and correction (which in this case may include simply distinction) and any serious student of a language will come in time to more reliable resources through curiosity and want. Those who aren’t very interested in learning something in depth may remain ignorant, but no matter how strict one is with rules and terminology that will be the case. I do agree that it is very vague and potentially very misleading, I’m afraid I’ve a habit of playing devil’s advocate, but I believe I have a bit of room to do so here. If your intention is simply to save people the time and agravation of relearning then I can certainly appreciate that.

        • Very fair! Nice point!

          I don’t condemn the word though, I condemn the erroneous use of a mere adjective to establish A language when clearly there is not A language called Elvish (as there is not a language called Human). It makes little sense.

          But you are definitely right here!! The ones who want to remain ignorant, simply will! I have seen through the years that the use of the word Elvish is the main indicator to see when one knows what one is talking about or not. And believe me: There are SO MANY people who talk “Elvish”!!!!

          • Come to think of it, is there even a universally accepted formal definition of an “elf”? How many traits must the “elves” in a given piece of literature share with the elves of Germanic and Norse mythology? Do they have to be called “elves” by the author in order to be “elves”; indeed, does the author’s word have bearing either way?

            Having taken several fictiverses of varying nature into account, I cannot help but think that the only all-encompassing definition which could be made is “elf, n: Any race of creatures offsetting humans; a compensating equivalent”.

  10. Pingback: High technology + low knowledge = Elvish (cr)app | quenya101

  11. That was the first site I found when I wanted to learn the Tengwar Alphabet. I at first did not know how to write it, then I found this site and it opened my eyes.

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