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On TikTok, “Orlophe Vauchertres” introduces millions of people to Interlingua, a so-called “constructed” language, which can be easily understood by Spaniards, French and Italians as well as Romanians and Portuguese. For the editorial staff of France 24 Observers, the linguistics enthusiast explains what makes the “magic” of interlingua.
“La lengua que io parla es extremelyuse pro me”: it is in this strange language which can sound like Italian to French ears that “Orlophe Vauchertres” made himself known on TikTok. The majority of his 430,000 subscribers and millions of people who have watched his videos cannot speak this language. And yet they can understand it, because Interlingua was created to be understood by people who speak a Romance language. That is to say, among others, Italian, French, Spanish, Romanian or even Portuguese.
Interlingua was created by linguists in 1951 from the vocabulary and simplified grammar of the Romance languages as well as English to a certain extent. It is estimated to be spoken by around 2,000 people. Originally, it was a niche language used mainly by researchers and linguistic enthusiasts. At least, before Orlophe makes it rediscover on TikTok.
Real name Carlos Valcárcel, Orlophe is a researcher in Romance language and professor of French as a foreign language (FLE) at the University of Vigo in Galicia. When he posts his first videos on Tiktok, it is above all for educational purposes for his students. But against all odds, his videos are very successful on the social network.
“The strength of Interlingua is its intelligibility”
Interlingua was originally inspired by Esperanto, the universal language spoken by three to nine million people and which borrows, like Interlingua, from the grammar and vocabulary of several existing languages. But unlike Esperanto, which is difficult to understand if you haven’t learned to speak it, Interlingua is intelligible to anyone who speaks a Romance language. This represents, in all, almost a billion people, thanks in particular to the Spanish, which has nearly 500 million speakers. Being understood is the whole point of interlingua, as “Orlophe” explains to our editors:
The strength of Interlingua is its intelligibility. The fact that we can understand it without prior studies.
Many people tell me in comments that they have trouble with English, that they thought they were bad at foreign languages, and could never communicate with other people, other cultures.
On TikTok, I was also able to see new potential for Interlingua. The fact of seeing people commenting from Romania, Brazil, Peru, or even French speakers from Quebec… each in their own language… In linguistics, we call this a translingual experience. It was the first time I experienced this and, as a linguist, I thought it was great.
Interlingua was not created to replace a language. On the contrary, it feeds and evolves with other languages. The objective of Interlingua is to remedy a communication problem, to address speakers of different languages at the same time and without having recourse to English, which nevertheless requires a certain amount of learning.
“Interlingua gives a taste for language learning”
The objective of “Orlophe” is not necessarily for everyone to learn Interlingua, but rather to give a taste for foreign languages, whether major languages such as Spanish or French, or regional languages and much lesser-known European patois, which also have common Romance roots. The majority of the content of his TikTok channel consists of sharing knowledge about more or less known languages.
Interlingua gives a taste for language learning, it’s a kind of bridge to other Romance languages. Many French people, for example, have told me that they have better understood certain points of Spanish grammar thanks to Interlingua.
I use this channel a lot to promote the different Romance languages, especially regional languages, such as Béarnais, Picard, Neapolitan… And thanks to Interlingua, all speakers from the countries where these languages are spoken can understand me.
Interlingua is derived from Latin, the source of all Romance languages. Very often, the words or grammar are very similar to those of so-called regional languages. And for example, the adjectives “fantastica” and “logica” coincide exactly with Occitan and Catalan. In other cases, it is with Romanian, or even Portuguese Galician. All the Romance languages are somewhat represented. And it’s also a way to connect with my audience, because they recognize words from their language.
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Like Interlingua, so-called “constructed” languages are popular on TikTok. Whether they are those invented for the purpose of cross-linguistic communication, such asinterslave or thehopeful, or those from works of fiction, such as the Klingon spoken in the “Star Trek” series or the Elvish used in the movie “The Lord of the Rings”. Not to mention the hundreds of accounts that highlight more or less forgotten regional languages.