Frequently Asked Questions

Topics:


Which Elvish language should I study?

It depends on what you want to do with it.

If you just want to speak an Elvish language with friends on the internet, if you want your translations to not easily become obsolete, if you want a language that is more complete, if you want a language that’s easy to pick up (at first), then you’ll want Quenya.

If you want to do roleplay or fanfic set in Middle-earth, if you want a language that is more challenging and has a lot more interesting research happening as more of Tolkien’s notes on the language are published, then you want Sindarin.


How do I get the most out of the Neo-Elvish courses?

Learning a language is hard. It takes a lot of dedication, a lot of time, and a lot of practice. Your coursework should definitely not be the only thing you do to learn. Basically, you have two main skills you need to learn – passive and active language use. Passive skills have to do with being able to understand the language, and active skills have to do with communicating your own thoughts using the language. The free lessons, which aren’t led by a teacher, only help you with active skills in a very narrow section of grammar at a time. To make these little lessons stick, you’ll need some extra practice.

Here are some other ways to practice the languages on your own.

Listening/Speaking Skills

These aren’t very important for most of us because the vast majority of communication in Tolkien’s languages is done entirely through text. But, being able to recite Tolkien’s Elvish poetry is a great party trick. I use it often. The best way I’ve found for improving your pronunciation is to just practice it a lot. At first you’ll be very analytical, but slowly you’ll get a feel for the rhythm of the languages, and it’ll start to come more naturally. One method I’ve found helpful is to record myself speaking the language with Audacity (a free sound-recording app) and play it back. Listening to others speak the lines then echoing them is a good method too. I have the Recorded Scripts for this purpose, and another great source of recordings is Glǽmscrafu.

Tengwar/Cirth Skills

These are important if you are an artist or craftsman of some sort, but other than that, the vast majority of using Tolkien’s languages is done with the Latin Alphabet online. Getting Tengwar or Cirth fonts to work on websites is VERY difficult, and impossible for the most part when you don’t have access to the CSS of the website, like with social media websites. That means it’s relegated to the slow, clumsy uploading of images.

But, you DO want to learn these scripts and become a fluent calligrapher. Start small at first. Practice getting the forms of the letters right, making the symbols readable and beautiful. Make flashcards for yourself using your new calligraphic skills and memorize the symbols a few at a time. Once you have a decent handle of the symbols, start working on little lines of text in the relevant language, doing your best to not stop and look up any symbols. As you gain speed, do more and more lines, until you can do an entire page’s worth of transliterating with ease.

AFTER you have learned the writing systems, you can start with the fonts. The reason you’re doing this after learning how to do the writing by hand is several-fold. It’ll be much easier to use the fonts, none of which have a truly QWERTY keyboard. You’ll be constantly referencing keymaps, so not needing to also reference symbol-charts will make it go much easier. The second is that you’ll just learn the symbols faster and more completely if you learn to make them by hand first. You’ve probably heard before of the wonders of “learning by doing.” You get a lot more of that learning when you’re forming the letters with your own fingers instead of just typing them.

Learning vocabulary

To start with, you’ll want to focus on phrases instead of individual words. Go to the Phrasebooks and start with simple topics like Greetings, Farewells, Exclamations, Please, Sorry, Questions, and Curses. Though, don’t try to do all at once. Take the set of phrases, turn them into flashcards, and memorize them. Then make short conversations with those phrases, without looking the phrases up.

As you learn more grammar, you can move on to themed Phrasebooks like Rescue Mission, At the Inn Eating Dinner, Bartering, Weather, War, and Journey Phrases. This time, using Elfdict and/or Eldamo, construct lists of vocabulary dealing with these topics. Make your flashcards; memorize the vocabulary, then write little essays, narratives, or conversations using the vocabulary you just learned.

Retaining the vocabulary you’ve learned is a matter of daily practice. You have your notecards from earlier topics, so go through not just your current one, but also one of the older ones, switching it up daily.

Communication Skills

This one will take some courage. A lot of these exercises have been solitary. Now you’ll need to talk to real people. You can find these real people who are willing to chat in the languages in several places: Vinyë Lambengolmor, Quenya Chat, and Sindarin Chat. Of these three, I suggest the Vinyë Lambengolmor Discord server the most because it is the most active.

Start with basic introductions and let the conversations flow from there. Answer questions and ask questions of your own. And, don’t worry too much about mistakes. Focus more on communicating what you’re trying to get across than making perfect sentences. You’ll improve with time. Try to spend a little time every week chatting with people. Don’t be afraid to reference your dictionary or use a phrasebook, especially at first. If you can’t understand something, it’s fine to ask for clarification. Everyone had to start at the beginning, so everyone will be (should be) understanding as you get more comfortable communicating.

Learning and Retaining a Language in General

It takes a lot of work. Expect an hour or two a day, especially at first. And keep it up. Every day. After a year of practice, you can bring it down to 15 minutes a day, as long as you also spend a few hours once a week on bigger translation projects. If you keep this up, eventually you’ll have pieces of work you can be really proud of. Maybe you’ll translate a chapter of The Silmarillion into Quenya, then turn it into an illuminated manuscript. One guy translated chunks of the Torah into Quenya. Another is making a Sindarin translation of The Hobbit. One gal made the RealElvish websites. The point is, now that you have the language in your heart, enjoy it.


Why no Duolingo Neo-Sindarin or Neo-Quenya course?

I’ve been asked multiple times to make Neo-Elvish Duolingo courses, and after inspecting Duolingo, I’ve decided against it. There are two major reasons.

Firstly, Neo-Sindarin and Neo-Quenya change a lot faster than regular languages do. Major chunks of the course would have to be redone yearly as new pieces of Tolkien’s notes are published and overturn old theories, and new theories are always coming out. Keeping up with those and updating my website and my own lessons keeps me very busy already, and I just don’t have the time to spend keeping a Duolingo course updated.

The second reason has to do with the way that Duolingo advertises itself versus how it actually works. Duolingo is a flashcard game with a linguistic twist. That’s fine… but they don’t market it that way. They talk about it as if you can learn a language just using flashcards, and the truth is, you can’t. Flashcards are useful for review and memorizing vocabulary, but as a teacher and student of many languages, flashcards are only one small piece of language learning.

Besides, flashcards are far more effective if you make them yourself, with good old-fashioned slips of paper. I suggest going to Elfdict or Eldamo and finding words having to do with specific topics. Memorize the words with your flashcards, then write little essays or stories using the vocab you just learned, without consulting a dictionary. This will be far more helpful than any fancy automated program or app.


How do I register for this semester?

Registration is now open all year ’round.

  1. Complete the Gelio Edhellen! course.
  2. Go to the Available Courses page.
  3. There will be a button next too the Nevio Edhellen! course labeled “Click to Enroll.” Click it.
  4. That’s it! Then you just have to wait for me to accept your registration.


How much do the lessons cost?

The lessons are free, on their own. To access the teacher-led course you’ll need to have a Paid Membership, which is $20 a month.


How to turn homework in:

When you open up an assignment, it’ll have a way to submit your answers – either through uploading a file or copy+pasting the text into the submission box. I prefer PDFs, because I can comment and annotate those easily. If you need a way to make them, here is a freeware program that I use: CutePDF.


Weekly Schedule:

Before Monday: Study, practice, do the exercises, chat with fellow students or with me if you have questions, and finish your homework. If you will be late turning in your homework, let me know through a PM.

Monday-Wednesday: Turn in the first draft of your homework. I’ll be correcting it and sending it back to you soon after you submit it. Unless things go really wrong on my end, you can expect to get your corrected homework back within a day.

Tuesday-Sunday: Redo the questions that you got wrong, and turn in them in as soon as possible. Then I will correct your homework again, and send it back to you. You will redo the remaining questions and send it back to me. This process continues until you have all of the questions 100 percent correct.

Wednesday: If you can’t turn in your homework yet, please let me know. I may be able to help with any blocks you’re struggling with.


Semester Schedule:

Barring conventions and other events, they will always start on the first Monday of the month, and end on the last Sunday of the month. Odd-numbered months class will be in session, and Even number months  will be vacation!

January: New semester starts!
February: Class is on vacation
March: Class is in session
April: Class is on vacation
May: Class is in session
June
: Class is on vacation
July
: Class is in session
August-December: Class is on vacation


Schedule for Carpho Edhellen!, Teitho Edhellen!, and Gelio Edhellen!

The Carpho Edhellen!Teitho Edhellen!, and Gelio Edhellen! courses can be done at any time, on your own schedule. None of them requires input from me.


Student Advancement

You must complete the Carpho Edhellen! course before you can advance to any other course. Gelio Edhellen! is required to enter the teacher-led Nevio Edhellen! course.

The Nevio Edhellen! course takes 7 months  to complete, January-July.


Stuff happened, and now I know I won’t be able to keep up with the class. What do I do?

Click the “Un-enroll from this course” link on the courses page. Then send me a message letting me know you’re dropping out of the class. Include in the message whether or not you’ll be returning for the next semester to try again. If you’re returning to try again, I won’t purge your records, and you can start on the course you had left off on. If not, or if you’d like to start again from the beginning, I’ll purge your records, giving you a clean slate to start over again.

Returning students don’t have to worry about taking a place from a newly registering person or ending up on the wait-list.


How do I join the Discord chatroom for the class?

Click this link. Login to your Discord account. Done! Now you can chat with your fellow students, get real-time help, and learn about the developments happening to the website while they’re being dreamed up.