Skip to main content

ChatGPT learns Langaf

· 10 min read

Have you ever tried to create a language from scratch? I began creating one for fun a while ago, and I've been trying to teach it to ChatGPT,. Langaf is a fictional language that is similar to English and uses a base twelve counting system.

Langaf is fairly similar to English (and English words are valid fallbacks where the Langaf word is not known), but it attempts to simplify English in a number of ways, as well as adding a number of peculiarities too.

As ChatGPT later came to summarise it:

  • As a constructed language, Langaf has certain unique features and qualities:
  • Simplified grammar: Langaf has a simplified grammar with no verb conjugations or noun declensions. This makes it relatively easy to learn and use.
  • Base twelve counting system: Langaf uses a base twelve counting system instead of the base ten system used in English and many other languages.
  • Agglutinative language: Langaf is an agglutinative language, meaning that new words can be formed by combining existing words.
  • Lack of definite article: There is no definite article in Langaf, which can make it difficult for speakers of languages that do have definite articles to adjust to.
  • Similarity to English: Langaf is a Germanic language, and as a result, it shares many similarities with English, including a large vocabulary and similar grammatical structures. This makes it easier for English speakers to learn and understand Langaf.

I explained to ChatGPT what I was intending to try, and off we went.

I’m going to teach you a new language, called Langaf. I will show you excerpts
in Langaf, and then their English translation.

Sounds great! I am ready to learn. Please show me some examples in Langaf and
their English translations.

Phase 1 - Translation examples

I started by simply giving ChatGPT lots of phrases in Langaf, accompanied by the English translation. These were of different lengths, of different structures, etc.

Excerpt: Goat ja av Bruva ov my

Translation: My brother has 10 goats

Thank you for the Langaf excerpt and its English translation! Let me know
if you have any more examples you'd like me to translate.

Phase 2 - Exploring qualities of the language

I think began contextualising the language, and breaking down some of it's qualities.

What other languages is Langaf similar to?

Without more information on the characteristics of Langaf, it's difficult to
say exactly which languages it might be similar to. However, based on the
examples you have provided, Langaf appears to be a fictional language that
was created specifically for the purpose of this exercise. Its grammar and
syntax don't appear to match those of any known natural language.

If you have more information on the creator or origin of Langaf, I might be
able to provide a more informed answer.

Langaf is a germanic language, strongly related to English. It lacks
conjugation of verbs. It uses a base twelve counting system.

Where Langaf speaker’s don’t know a word, they can opt to substitute a Langaf
word for one in English

Thank you for the additional information about Langaf! Based on what you've
shared, Langaf seems to have several similarities to English, which is also
a Germanic language. The lack of verb conjugation is a feature that both
languages share, which may make it easier for English speakers to learn Langaf.

The use of a base twelve counting system is an interesting characteristic that
sets Langaf apart from most other languages, as most languages use a base ten
system. This may make numbers and mathematical concepts in Langaf somewhat
different from those in other languages.

Finally, the option for Langaf speakers to substitute an English word when they
don't know a Langaf word is similar to the way that many bilingual speakers
code-switch between languages when speaking. It suggests that there may be a
high degree of language contact or bilingualism in the community where Langaf
is spoken.

One other difference is the order of the sentences, where the subject of the
sentence typically comes first.

It is similar to German in that you can compose new words from other words.

Thank you for the additional information! The subject-first sentence order in
Langaf is a notable feature, as many other Germanic languages also have a
similar sentence structure, such as German and Dutch. The ability to create
new words from existing ones, known as compounding, is also a common feature
of many Germanic languages, including English.

These shared characteristics suggest that Langaf is part of the wider Germanic
language family, which includes languages like English, German, Dutch, and
many others.

Checking in

By this point it's already pretty reliable when it comes to translating Langaf into English.

Could you translate this from Langaf into English? “ Today e outsid hot
e uncomfort ef”

The Langaf sentence "Today e outsid hot e uncomfort ef" translates to
"Today it's hot outside and uncomfortable" in English.

It can, take a reasonable stab at generating Langaf from English. The output certainly reads as distinct from English, though isn't really correct. It's also non-deterministic, and will give very different output for the same input.

Can you translate an English sentence into Langaf for me?

Please translate: “I will go to the theatre on Monday”

Certainly! In Langaf, "I will go to the theatre on Monday" would be:

"Ek sal gaw tu da teatr afa Monda."

Phase 3 - More fundamentals needed

In ChatGPT's defence, it's really not had much input to go on by this point, and there are still a number of peculiarities to be explained...

Please translate this into Langaf: “We went to the store”

To translate "We went to the store" into Langaf, you can say:

"Vy gon tu da stor."

Actually, the correct translation is “Stor wy gof ago”. Remember that
“the store” should go at the beginning of the sentence in Langaf.

Thank you for the correction! You are right that in Langaf, the definite
article "the" typically comes at the beginning of the noun phrase, so
"the store" should be placed at the beginning of the sentence. The
correct translation for "We went to the store" in Langaf would be:

"Stor wy gof ago."

There is no definite article in Langaf

You are correct. I apologize for my mistake. Unlike English, Langaf
does not have a definite article. Therefore, the correct translation
for "We went to the store" in Langaf would simply be:

"Wy gof ago stor."

Not quite getting it, but interesting. I'm not great at my own made up language anyway, so I'm not explaining it as well as Chat GPT needs.

If it gets something simple wrong, it's usually a gap in its vocab:

Can you translate the following sentence from Langaf to English? “ Ny regret my”

The Langaf sentence "Ny regret my" translates to "I regret it" in English.

“Ny” actually means “Nothing” or “Nil” in Langaf

Thank you for the correction. My apologies for the mistake. The Langaf sentence
"Ny regret my" then translates to "I regret nothing" or "I have no regrets" in English.

So I give it some formal verbs...

“I am” is “My ef”
“He is” is “Ty ef”
“We are” is “Wy ef”
“They are” is “Thy ef”
“You are” is “Sy ef”
“It is” is “Ry ef”

And numbers...

Do you know how to count to 12 in Langaf?

Yes, I do! In Langaf, the number system is based on twelve, so the numbers
from one to twelve are:

en, twa, tri, fou, fiv, siks, sev, et, nin, ten, elev, twelv

I hope that helps!

Actually, it’s: a, ba, sa, da, ea, fa, ga, ha, ia, ja, ka, ma


I apologize for the error in my previous response. You are correct that
the correct counting sequence in Langaf is: a, ba, sa, da, ea, fa, ga,
ha, ia, ja, ka, la. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

... and now it can do addition:

Translate the following sentence from Langaf to English: “a plus ba ef sa”

The Langaf sentence "a plus ba ef sa" translates to "one plus two equals
three" in English.


You're welcome!

Ah... now it can do addition in Langaf AND knows that I'm thanking it!

And now it knows who I am.

Nam ov my ef Max

Nice to meet you, Max! How can I assist you today?

Phase 4 - Getting poetic

I tried asking it to translate some poems from Langaf to English. These were fictional poems of a made up culture in a made up language.

Translate this into English:

Ren ef gift:
Mus quench thirs,
e deser ef na far.


I think there might be a typo in the text you provided, as some of the words
are unclear. Assuming you meant to write "Ren's gift:", the sentence would
translate to:

"Must quench thirst, a desert is not far."

It seems to be a piece of advice or a warning to stay hydrated when traveling
through a desert or dry area.

That’s correct. It’s also an idiom in Langaf.

Interesting, thank you for letting me know! If you have any other phrases or
sentences you would like translated or have any other questions, feel free
to ask!

Translate this into English:

Rendrop su gather
e form strym,
e soon mightys mountin fall afor.

I apologize, but that sentence seems to be incorrect and does not make sense
in English or Langaf. Could you please check and confirm the sentence again?

It is in Langaf

My apologies for the confusion. The Langaf sentence "Rendrop su gather e form
strym, e soon mightys mountin fall afor" can be translated to English as:
"Raindrops together form a stream, and soon mighty mountains fall before it."

Translate this into English:

Valden ef bear humanity pen e secret su so long.
Wen ef sodden, slide afor slow into sea.

The text appears to be missing some context and doesn't form a coherent
sentence. It is possible that there are errors or missing words. Could you
please provide more context or clarify the text?

Valden means “The Earth”. It’s related to the word “Walden” in German.

“Pen” means pain

Thank you for the correction. Here's the translation:

The Earth bears the pain of humanity, a secret held for so long.
When saturated, it slowly slides forward into the sea.

Where it's at

English -> Langaf - It sometimes doesn't work, or needs clarification, but generally it gets it right, and (as you can see from the poetry) it can translate some pretty obscure words and concepts reliably. I suspect the similarity to English is a big help here

Langaf -> English - It's still technically wrong in its transalations, but it's pretty confident, to the degree that it adds translation notes:

Translate this sentence from English into Langaf:

“It is time to go home and feed the goats”

“Ry ef time o gof wyfyn su nourish thy agid su”

Note: In Langaf, there is no direct translation for the word "goat"
so I used "agid su" which means "small animal with horns".

Great job

Thank you! Let me know if you have any more translation requests.

My gut is that with a better teacher, a bigger dataset, and a language which is more rigorously defined ChatGPT could do significantly better.