I versus l

I've been struggling a lot with the differences between a lower case L, and an uppercase i. For quite a few of the lessons, I was constantly arguing with it because I couldn't see a difference.

I versus l

The only difference is the little hook at the bottom of the L. This is almost impossible to see on a phone, and really difficult on a computer.

Would it be possible to change the Font used, so that these letters stand out from each other more?


July 26, 2019


It is not possible to change the font. We tried to get Duolingo to do it. They consider the font to be a part of their brand and won't change it. The good news is that as you get used to Klingon, you will find that the places where an I or l can appear in a word are quite distinct and your brain will get used to seeing the correct one just based on the letters around it. The basic rules that your brain will begin to just apply naturally are:

  1. All syllables begin with a consonant, so all words begin with a consonant.
  2. Two vowels may never be next to each other.
  3. Every consonant must have at least one vowel next to it.

The syllable -oy causes some exceptions to the above rules and a few syllables can actually end with the consonant clusters -rgh, -w', or -y', but none of that has any effect on I or l.

These rules are very simple and can be easily internalized by your brain. Your brain will quickly learn to treat syllables as consonant-vowel-consonant and so it will recognize whether the mark is in a consonant position or a vowel position. But it does take a little practice to teach your brain to treat Klingon word patterns differently than English word patterns.

Just to show you how these rules break down (though your brain will learn to do it much faster and simpler than this), you can apply these rules to a sentence like:
lIngwI'lIj vIleghlI'
which would translate as, "I am accomplishing seeing your generator." (Alright, it's not a great sentence on it's own, but it works great for this exercise.)

The first letter of the sentence can't be an i, because a word can't start with a vowel. Then each consonant must have a vowel next to it, so the second letter must be an i. The letter after the w is actually between two consonants (the apostrophe counts as a consonant in Klingon) and so must be the vowel i. The apostrophe already has a vowel next to it (the preceding i) so the one after it could be either another vowel or a consonant belonging to the next syllable. But we know the symbol after that has to be an i because it is the only vowel next to the j at the end of that word. Thus the one before that must be an L because you can't have two vowels next to each other. Are you following this so far? I promise that as your brain internalizes these rules, it can do this instantaneously and without thought.

Now let's look at the second word in that sentence. The v must have a vowel next to it, so the second letter must be an i. Then, you can't have two vowels in a row, so the third letter must be an L. At the end, the letter after the gh could be either an i or an L, since the gh already has at least one vowel next to it (the e in front of it). But the letter next to the apostrophe must be an i again because the apostrophe (which counts as a consonant in Klingon) must have a vowel next to it. And so the letter before that must be an L because you can't have two vowels in a row.

For now, it's probably simpler to try to look for the little curl, but if you just can't figure it out, you can always check these rules again. Make sure to practice saying each of the words to help your brain learn where each sound goes and you'll quickly get the hang of it.

Jeremy's explanation may sound bizarre at first, but it's absolutely true. If I am writing Klingon out by hand, I often won't even make a distinction between the l and I, because it's obvious which is which. I'm glad you figured out the l/I distinction. I see so many reports from people who haven't, and I want to reach through the screen and help them. (Reports are completely anonymous, so we have no means of helping people if they don't come to the forums and ask).

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