In my opinion, one of the best parts of Dungeons and Dragons is getting to interact with NPCs. The more experienced your DM is, the more fun these interactions can get, making you feel as if you’re playing the world’s best video game.
Just like with any other good cast of characters, NPCs have won my heart, drove me insane, gotten on my nerves, or even intimidated me. But in order to have fulfilling interactions with them, you’ll need to speak their language.
So which languages will be most useful for your journeys? Honestly, that depends on your campaign, but I’ve gathered what I feel are a handful of the best languages to know in DnD. I’ll also give you some reasons as to why I think they’re helpful.
How to Learn Languages in DnD
All this discussion of languages gives us one question to be answered: how do you learn them? To answer that question, I’ll be looking at the rules as according to fifth edition, as that’s the one played more often these days. It is also the edition I’ve played more recently.
For the most part, you get your languages during character creation. Your character’s race will indicate the languages you start off with automatically; elves, for instance, will know Elvish. Choosing certain backgrounds may also give you additional languages to select.
Particular classes sometimes grant you access to languages, too. As an example, Druids learn Druidic, a language that is initially restricted only to Druids. Rogues may also learn the Thieves’ Cant, a language that combines the dialects and terms from other languages.
Additionally, there’s a feat that may help you with learning languages if your goal is to learn as many as possible. It’s called Linguist, and it will allow you to learn three additional languages. If you’re wondering how to get feats, we’ve written a guide for how to get feats in DnD that you can check out.
Once you’ve finished creating your character and started playing, learning languages becomes a process. Assuming your DM permits it, you can seek out a speaker of the language you wish to learn and ask them to train you in your downtime.
Just like in real life, learning a language in-game takes time, though. Expect to spend several weeks or more in-game (depending on your Intelligence stat) learning the language.
Best Languages to Know in DnD
Understanding the languages of your enemies will come in handy. True to its name, dragons are a possible enemy you’ll encounter in Dungeons and Dragons.
Of course, not all dragons are prone to attack you. Many will be equally as content to talk to you, whether it’s for helpful or manipulative reasons. Either way, knowing Draconic will benefit you when it comes to interacting with these scaly behemoths.
However, Draconic isn’t spoken only by dragons. Dragonborn, lizardfolk, and kobolds also speak this language.
I’m recommending Giant for the same reason I’d recommend Draconic: enemies you might potentially encounter, giants, speak this language. Giants are found in most regions of the game, so being prepared to communicate with them or listen in on them could be beneficial to you.
Of course, this one also largely depends on your campaign and if you’re playing particularly giant-heavy published scenarios. Additionally, if you’re going to be on-plane a lot, being able to reason with groups of giants could just save your skin.
You can think of Celestial as essentially the holy language. In fact, a cleric character’s prayers are written in Celestial, so it’s perfect for those who will at some point be confronting heavenly entities.
I really like this one from a roleplaying standpoint. Those who hear you speaking Celestial will assume you’re in some way involved with good forces, and that you’re someone to be trusted…whether or not that’s actually true.
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Learning Elvish is just logical. You’ll probably meet a lot of elves along the way, or you may even have a few in your party.
It’s a pretty basic language to know. Nothing particularly impressive about it, and just about everyone should know it.
Like Elvish, Dwarven is essentially another utility language. You’ll probably encounter your share of dwarves during your journey. Given their notoriously short tempers, speaking their language could be a boon to you.
Plus, you’ll probably have a dwarf in your party. While you’ll both have the ability to speak Common, wouldn’t it just be nicer to be able to communicate with your resident dwarf in their own native tongue?
A good DM won’t throw enemies at you that are too difficult for you early on in the game, unless everyone has agreed to a Dark Souls-esque campaign. One of the earliest beginner-friendly enemies is a goblin.
Since there’s a good chance you’ll run into goblins early on, you may as well speak their lingo. You’d be able to eavesdrop on their conversations, threaten them, or even interrogate them.
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I’m combining Abyssal and Infernal into one suggestion, but they’re two different languages spoken by two different types of entities. Abyssal is spoken by demons and Infernal is spoken by devils.
The former is especially good for communicating with cultists or demons. If you’re playing a Lovecraftian horror-themed campaign, it’s a wise one to pick up.
Infernal, on the other hand, is great for speaking with devils. Unlike demons, devils are lawful evil, which means they’re capable of being reasoned with. You’ll probably get more out of a conversation with one of them than with a demon.
One thing to keep in mind with either of these languages, though, is that speaking them makes you instantly suspicious to anyone who doesn’t already know you speak them. It would be like if you knew Latin and started chanting ominous phrases in it in front of strangers.
In other words, you’ll want to reign in your use of Abyssal or Infernal in front of NPCs.
Those are just several languages I think would be particularly useful to know. Remember, what will truly be the best for you is hard to predict because each campaign is different.
Some campaigns may have you confronting or working alongside dragons. Others may pit you against demons. The point is, you’ll be experiencing unique situations that you could benefit most from by knowing specific languages.
If you’re still not sure which languages will be most beneficial, don’t forget to ask your best resource: your DM. They should have an idea of what kind of campaign you’ll be playing, so their recommendations will be precisely tailored to your story.