The world of Dungeons and Dragons is absolutely filled with different creatures, races, and languages. Talking an enemy out of a fight or persuading an NPC for safe passage or information adds extra layers to the game we all know and love, but that is only possible if you both share the same language.
With limited opportunities to actually learn new languages after character creation, some players spend too much time agonizing over what extra language(s) to take. That’s why we put together this quick and easy guide on how you can learn extra languages in your D&D campaign and the best languages for you to pick up either before your campaign starts or during it.
How To Learn Extra Languages In D&D
First things first, let’s cover how you can learn extra languages in D&D. When creating your character, you’re often going to have the option to take languages based on your character’s race, class, and even background. There is also a heavily underutilized feat that allows players to learn a bunch of languages all at once.
Your race immediately determines what languages your character will speak. Every race in the Player’s Handbook speaks Common and one additional language, usually related to the race. Half-orcs, for example, can speak Common and Orc. Some races, like Humans, speak Common and one extra language of their choice.
There are even races that can speak three languages by default. The half-elf can speak Common, Elvish, and an extra language of the player’s choice. Some subraces can also speak extra languages. High Elves can speak Common and Elvish, like an Elf, but also get to pick up an extra language of their choice.
Some classes learn languages automatically. All Druids learn Druidic, a secret language that is often used to leave hidden messages. Clerics that pick the Knowledge Domain automatically learn two additional languages of their choice at 1st level. This means that a Half-Elf Knowledge Cleric can know five different languages at level 1.
Monks at the 13th level gain the awesome ability to understand all spoken languages and can be understood by any creature that can understand a language. Rangers start the game with a favored enemy. Rangers can choose a type of enemy, such as beasts or celestials, and learn a language that their favored enemies speak. They can choose another favored enemy at 6th and 14th level, for a total of 3 additional languages.
Players can also choose a background that describes more about their character and their life in the world of D&D. Some backgrounds come with additional languages that players can learn or pick. A great example is the Acolyte and Sage backgrounds, which learn two additional languages of the player’s choice. The Guild Artisan, Hermit, Noble, and Outlander backgrounds also learn one additional language.
Backgrounds can be a great way to learn additional languages if you need to but don’t pick a background just for the language bonus. Your background should tie into your character’s story and be more than just an excuse to pick up an additional language.
The Linguist Feat
The Linguist feat is the easiest way to learn languages but isn’t always the best option. If you are playing a campaign with a bunch of exotic languages and no one will be close to being a 13th-level monk or know a spell that allows you to talk to other people despite the language barrier, then maybe Linguist would be a good idea. Otherwise, you’re better off relying on one of the other ways to learn a language or forgoing additional languages altogether.
The feat itself increases your intelligence by one point up to a maximum of 20, lets you learn three new languages of your choice, and gives you the ability to create ciphers that can only be cracked by an intelligence check or if you’ve taught them how. All-in-all, not the most useful feat, but can still be fun to have.
You can also just learn a new language during your campaign. This is pretty time-consuming and is often not advised, but it is possible. The Player’s Handbook states that you can spend time between adventures learning a language so long as you can find an instructor willing to teach you. This can be another member of the party or even an NPC.
You’ll have to train for about 250 days, and it will cost 1 gp per day. Your DM ultimately has the final say on how you can go about learning a new language, but this is generally how it’s handled. Most players don’t go down this route because of the time it takes and the fact that learning a new language isn’t all too common of a goal for PCs.
Best Languages To Take In D&D
This is a tough question because it depends so heavily on your campaign and the makeup of your party. If you have spell-casters that you know will actively seek out spells that let them understand and speak languages, like Comprehend Languages or Tongues, then maybe it’s not the best idea to focus so hard on learning extra languages.
That said, if you’re just looking to pick an extra language given to you based on your race, class, or background, there are quite a few contenders that you might find useful in any campaign or one-shot. Ideally, you should talk to your Dungeon Master (DM) and ask them what languages you might expect to encounter in the campaign you’re playing. If your DM doesn’t want to give away any secrets, here are a few languages that you might find useful, no matter the scenario.
Draconic isn’t extremely useful, but it’s not always a bad idea. Kobolds and Dragons are common enemies you may come across in a campaign, but they will typically speak Common anyways, making it easy to converse with them or read any material.
Troglodytes and Lizardfolk do not speak Common, making Draconic a decent choice if you know you’re playing a campaign filled with these two reptilian-humanoids. There are a few other types of beings you might encounter that speak Draconic, but this one isn’t as useful as some of the others on this list.
Goblins are some of the most iconic enemies in D&D and fantasy in general. They’re perfect for starter parties, and everyone has come across them at some point in time. Goblins are part of a group called Goblinoids, which includes Hobgoblins, Bugbears, and a few other miscellaneous critters.
That said, the majority of Goblinoids you’ll come across will speak Common, but any Goblins will almost certainly speak Ghukliak. This means that if your campaign is about stopping a Goblin invasion or something of the sort, Goblin might not be a bad idea to have in your back pocket.
Picking up Dwarven is only recommended if your campaign deals with an entire civilization of Dwarves. Dwarves do speak Common, so Dwarven will only come in handy if you constantly find yourself surrounded by Dwarves, their creations, and any writings. Speaking Dwarven is an easy way to put a Dwarf at ease since they tend to be untrusting of other races.
Planning on spending some time in the Underdark? Might be a good idea to pick up Undercommon. Undercommon is spoken by the majority of races native to the Underdark, which includes Mind Flayers, Beholders, Drow, and many other creatures and races. The majority of the beings found in the Underdark aren’t going to speak Common, so it’s helpful to have a language you can use to communicate with almost anyone you come across while there.
If your campaign doesn’t take place in the Underdark or has no chance of going there, it might be a good idea to pick up another language on this list. If you are going to spend time in the Underdark, definitely take Undercommon, as it will be invaluable.
Demons are the chaotic evil beings that inhabit the Abyss. They’re not the nicest living things to have a conversation with and are the embodiment of pure chaos, but if you’re playing a sort of Lovecraftian-horror campaign, you might find it will come in handy. Fiends, demons, and any sort of cultist followers they may have will speak Abyssal.
Infernal is the language of Devils and of the Nine Hells. Devils, hell hounds, nightmares, imps, and others that inhabit this plane all speak Infernal, and almost none of them will know Common. Since these beings are lawful evil, you might have an easier time talking to them than if you were trying to reason with a lesser being from the Underdark. Tieflings automatically know Infernal, so avoid taking this one if you already have a Tiefling in your crew.
Giant is a nice language to have because almost any giant you come across isn’t going to speak Common. Giants are also commonly found throughout the world and inhabit almost every region. Most True Giants don’t speak Common. These include Ettin, Fire Giants, Frost Giants, and the like.
There are also Giant-kin and other Giant-related beings, but depending on which ones you come across, they might speak Common or another language. Nonetheless, it’s always nice to have Giant tucked away so you can weasel your way out of a potentially dangerous situation.
Okay, we already mentioned that every race in the Player’s Handbook knows Common, but if, for some reason, you decided to play a homebrew character or a race from the Monster Manual, you absolutely need to know Common. This is not up for debate, and it will only make your campaign that much harder. Unless you have some really, really good reason for not knowing Common, you should learn Common.
To sum it up, the best extra language to take in D&D depends on a bunch of different factors. You’re usually only limited to a couple of languages depending on your race, class, background, and feats, so it’s important to think about your campaign, your party members, and where you fit in. Did we miss a language you think is vital to succeeding in D&D? Let us know below and we will try and squeeze it in on our list.