How to learn quenya

Last Updated on August 30, 2023

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How to Speak Elvish

Elvish almost always refers to the specific set of languages invented by J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings books. He invented several Elvish languages, complete with their own vocabulary, grammar, and syntax. There are 2 major versions of Elvish—Quenya and Sindarin. Quenya is a more formal, ancient form of Elvish, while Sindarin is the most commonly-spoken version among the everyday people of Middle Earth. To learn either language, start by memorizing the vowel sounds. Then, practice the consonants, which are much easier since most of them sound like English. Finally, practice stressing the words in Elvish before learning some phrases. Even if you only pick a few things up, knowing some Elvish can impress new friends or simply make a neat party trick.

Method1Pronouncing Quenya

  1. 1Sound out the Elvish vowels to memorize them. Vowels in Quenya are fixed, and their pronunciations do not change based on their location in the word. The diacritic (small mark over a letter) over a vowel indicates that you hold the vowel sound for longer. Memorize the vowel sounds and practice pronouncing them.[1]
    • “Y” is never a vowel in Quenya. It is always a vowel in Sindarin though.
    • The written form of Quenya is Tengwar. You speak Quenya, but you write Tengwar.Vowel Sounds:
      á – long a (pronounced “aah”}
      a – short a (pronounced “ah”)
      é – long e (pronounced “eeh”)
      e – short e (pronounced “eh”)
      í – long i (pronounced “ee”)
      i – short i (pronounced “ih”)
      ó – long o (pronounced “ooh”)
      o – short o (pronounced “ah”)
      ú – long u (pronounced “oo”)
      u – short u (pronounced “uh”)
  2. 2Identify which consonants differ from English and practice them. Most of the consonants in Quenya are pronounced the same way they would sound in English. There are a few unique rules though which are specific to Quenya though. Learn these rules and practice using them to get used to speaking Elvish.[2]
    • There is no difference between “c” and “k” in Quenya. It is always pronounced like the hard c in “cup.” This can get confusing because both letters are used in Tengwar even though they’re pronounced the same way.
    • Every “r” is rolled (or trilled), like a Spanish speaker saying “correo.”
    • The sounds “n,” “ny,” and “m” are always soft, like an American English speaker pronouncing “nose” or “month.” These are called nasal constants, since they’re spoken while allowing air to flow through the nose.
    • The letter “y” is always a consonant. Pronounce it with a harder sound, like and American English speaker saying “why.”
  3. 3Stress the beginning of words that start in a vowel. If the word you’re reading in Quenya starts with a vowel, stress the first syllable by making it a little louder and pronouncing it more thoroughly. Let the other syllables roll off your tongue more softly. The stress patterns in Quenya are universal, so if the word starts with “a,” “e,” “i,” “o,” or “u,” stress the first syllable.[3]
    • When there are only two syllables, always stress the first syllable even if there isn’t a vowel.
    • So a word like “umin” is pronounced “UHM-en,” not “oo-MIN.”
  4. 4Stress the third syllable in words that don’t start with a vowel. For words that don’t start in a vowel and have more than 2 syllables, always stress the third syllable. This means that elvish words like “hyarmen” would sound like “haram-YN,” with the voice inflecting upwards on the end of the word.[4]
    • A lot of Middle Eastern languages have a similar pattern. This may sound kind of like Arabic or Aramaic at first.
    • You may notice that there seems to always be a vowel sound in the third syllable of every word in Quenya. This is a pattern that is near-universal in Elvish, and is the main reason that Elvish languages have such elegant flows.
  5. 5Use an Italian accent to pull off Quenya speech patterns. In general, you can kind of sound Elvish—even without following the rules of the language—by applying an Italian accent when pronouncing Quenyan words. Native Italian speakers tend to use speech patterns from their native tongues to interpret English words, which can make your Elvish sound practiced even when it isn’t.[5]
    • For example, if you were using an Italian accent, you would automatically dampen the second syllable in the Elvish words “ando” and “vala,” which would be correct.
    • In Tolkein’s world, Quenya was spoken mainly by the High Elves, academics, and nobles. It is a sort of classical version of Elvish.

Method2Understanding Sindarin

  1. 1Keep the English pronunciation of consonants with a few exceptions. Consonant pronunciation for Sindarin is largely the same as it is in English (and Quenya). There are a few common rules to keep in mind though. Learn the exceptions by practicing them in a variety of Elvish words to internalize them.[6]
    • Like Quenya, the “c” and “k” sound are always hard and sound identical. The “r” is always rolled as well, like a Spanish speaker saying “correo.”
    • ”Dh” and “wh” are usually pronounced like “th” in English. So a word like “bedhyr” is pronounced “beth-earr.”
    • ”V” is silent when it’s at the end of the word. “G” is always a hard “g,” like in “hang.” It is never pronounced softly or like a “j.”
    • The vowel pronunciation is near-identical to Quenya with the exception of the letter “y.” This is treated as a vowel in Sindarin, but a consonant in Quenya.
  2. 2Stress the first syllable when pronouncing most words in Sindarin. If a word in Sindarin has 3 syllables or fewer, emphasize the first syllable regardless of what letters are at the beginning of the word. This gives Sindarin a front-loaded sound, comparable to speakers of Portuguese, Welsh, or Gaelic.[7]
    • Take the famous character Legolas, for example. The first syllable in his name is pronounced loudly and sharply; it sounds like an American English speaker saying “leg.” The “o” and “las” are soft, and make the rest of the word sound vaguely Spanish or Italian.
    • Sindarin is the more commonly-spoken version of Elvish in Middle Earth. When you hear Elves speak in the Lord of the Rings films, pay attention to the way the characters speak and look out for these stresses.
  3. 3Emphasize the third syllable if the word has more than 3 syllables. This rule is pretty straightforward—only stress the third syllable in a word if there are 4 or more syllables in the word. Every other word is pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable.[8]
    • For example, “Sindarin” is pronounced “SEEN-dar-in,” not “sin-DAR-in.” If there were a fourth syllable on the end of the word, it might become “sin-dar-IN-oh.”
    • In Quenya, “Sindarin” would be pronounced “seen-dair-IN.”
  4. 4Speak with an Irish or Scottish accent to pull off a natural Sindarin accent. Irish and Scottish speakers tend to speak English by emphasizing sounds in the front of a word regardless of the standard pronunciation. This is a pretty good method for pronouncing Sindarin words, since the vast majority of them stress the first syllable. Speak Sindarin with an Irish or Scottish accent to pull off a basic Sindarin pronunciation.[9]
    • For example, an Irish or Scottish accent would pronounce “ai” (which means “hail”) as “eye” instead of “aye,” which is pretty close to the proper pronunciation in Sindarin.
    Tip: British speakers tend to soften their “A” sounds and drop them. This makes it a less desirable option for speaking Sindarin.

Method3Learning Common Phrases in Both Languages

  1. 1Greet and thank people in using some formal phrases. Elves tend to be excessively formal and friendly, and have several ways to greet or thank people. “Mae g’ovannen!” means “well met!” in Sindarin and is commonly used to greet people. “Ni ‘lassui” is the most common form of thanks in Sindarin, and literally translates to “I am glad.”[10]
    • A fun elaborate greeting is, “Êl síla erin lû e-govaned vîn,” which means “a star shines on the hour of our meeting” in Sindarin. If you’re speaking Quenya, say “Elen síla lúmenn’ omentielvo” to say the same thing.
    • In Quenya, general greetings and thanks include “namárië” (be well), “aiya” (hello), and “hara máriessë” (stay in happiness).[11]
  2. 2Introduce yourself in Elvish when meeting someone for the first time. Introduce yourself in Sindarin by saying “I eneth nin” to say “my name is,” followed by your name. This is a fun way to introduce yourself, even if the person you’re talking to doesn’t understand Elvish. Simply put your name at the end of the phrase to introduce yourself. For example, “I eneth nin Sarah” means “my name is Sarah.”[12]
    • Say “Nánye” in Quenya for “my name is.” For example, “Nánye Elmer” translates to “my name is Elmer.”[13]
  3. 3Learn a few unique and colorful phrases to pull out during conversation. Elvish languages are expressive and have some fun idioms and euphemisms that you can learn. For example, you can be romantic in Sindarin and say, “Gellon ned i galar i chent gîn ned i gladhog” to say, “I love to see your eyes shine when you laugh.” You could be rude in Quenya and say, “Súrë túla cendeletyallo,” which means, “Wind pours from your mouth.”[14]
    • In Quenya, raise your fist in the air while shaking it and shout “Úcarnet nin!” This means, “You have betrayed me!”
    • In Sindarin, hold your hand up to someone that’s being annoying and say “Heca,” which means, “Scram!”
  4. 4Get an Elvish dictionary to help you look up individual words. While Tolkien never included translations for every single word, he did compose thousands of definitions that you can access for free. You can access a Sindarin dictionary online at You can find a Quenya dictionary at[15]Tip: There are plenty of paperback or hardcover versions of Elvish dictionaries if you want a physical copy. You can pick them up from some bookstores or online retailers.
  5. 5Complete a free online class in Quenya or Sindarin. There are a lot of resources online to help you learn Elvish. The community of people interested in learning Elvish tend to be friendly, helpful, and charitable. Look online to see if you can find a self-guided or fully-taught course on the Elvish language of your choosing.[16]
    • One great course for learning Quenya can be found at
    • You can find charts, lessons, and practice games for learning Sindarin at—sentence-structure.html.

Elvish (Quenya and Sindarin) on Duolingo: an explanation

I have posted on this before in several of the Elvish/Quenya/Sindarin threads but so many people continue to hope for an Elvish course on Duolingo that I thought I would repost my explanations here.

First of all, some people are confused about what the languages are. “Elvish” is not a language but rather can be thought of as a language family (like the Romance languages, Germanic languages, Slavic languages, etc) created by JRR Tolkien for his fantasy setting. The two most well-known and most developed are Quenya (high Elvish, or Latin-Elvish) and Sindarin (Grey Elvish, the every-day language of the elves in LOTR).

First off I want to clarify that I am a huge LOTR fan (of course) and I really encourage everyone to learn more about Quenya and Sindarin. But after diving into Quenya and studying the language quite extensively, I am convinced that a Quenya course for Duolingo would be very difficult and would need to be done with much care. In the end, I just don’t think Duolingo is a very good platform for teaching these languages and I give several reasons below.

The problem is that Tolkien’s languages were made for his own amusement and not for practical use. Not only does this mean that the vocabulary is limited, it also means that we know nothing about discourse in these languages and furthermore because it was Tolkien’s private hobby for decades before Quenya and Sindarin were used in the LOTR, there are many different versions of these languages and even the publication of the LOTR did not stop him from tinkering with them. Even the iconic greeting that Frodo uses “Elen sila lumenn’ omentielvo” was changed in later editions. The earlier form was “Elen sila lumenn’ omentielmo.”

Which brings up the point of why it would be so difficult (perhaps not impossible, but extremely tricky) to create a Duolingo course on Quenya. The ending -vo/-mo in the above phrase is a first person plural pronominal ending (“our”). So which ending should be used in the course? The original or the one Tolkien used later? Indeed, the pronouns in Quenya tend to be quite slippery and Tolkien changed his mind about them (and many other things) just about every time he sat down to write something! Mixing and matching from different documents and different periods of Tolkien’s life does not accurately represent Quenya, it creates a new language based on Quenya (“Neo-Quenya”) which might derive from Tokien’s language but is emphatically not the language that Tolkien created. And there are several different competing forms of “Neo-Quenya” from different people depending on which choices that person made regarding grammar points like the pronouns mentioned above.

And the problems only start there. Many aspects of Quenya grammar are fraught with this type of fluctuation in Tolkien’s many conceptions of the language. Any website out there claiming that it can teach you to write or speak Quenya is actually teaching you that author’s particular amalgamation of the language, a “Neo-Quenya” version created by them and based on Tolkien but definitively not Tolkien.

In my opinion, the problem is even worse for Sindarin. Quenya generally has much better documentation and a much longer history. If you go to the Duolingo Incubator, you will see that you can apply as a Sindarin course contributor. I fear that if such a course were made, though, it would actually (necessarily) be a form of Neo-Sindarin. Indeed, if the course were based on David Salo’s Sindarin that is used in the movies, I would have to decry it as something wholly different from Tolkien’s Sindarin. For a view on Salo’s book on Sindarin and why it is not a particularly thoughtful or scholarly recreation of “Neo-Sindarin”, see

If you want an even more comprehensive explanation of the several points I have made above about why Duolingo is not a good platform for a course in Quenya (and even more so in Sindarin), the following article is a must read:

In short, I think Quenya and Sindarin can be used for composition in interesting ways if the writer is careful and has a deep understanding of the histories of the languages and is able to take that into account in their composition. But I am not convinced that this can be taught effectively through a Duolingo course. The course would end up being overly simplistic to avoid errors or to constrain itself to only the most basic and consistent aspects of grammar (and therefore not of much help to the aspiring elvish student) or it would be a full language course that necessarily deviates from Tolkien’s Quenya and instead uses a form of Neo-Quenya that does not necessarily conform to Tolkien’s conception of the language. And as I mentioned before, Quenya is generally much better documented and we are much more confident about the grammar and workings of Quenya than Sindarin so the problems outlined above are even more severe for a proposed Sindarin course.

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