The Fictional Languages Used in the Movie: District 9

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In the realm of science fiction movies, language plays a crucial role in shaping the authenticity and immersive experience for the audience. The movie District 9, directed by Neill Blomkamp, not only captivated viewers with its thought-provoking storyline and stunning visuals but also showcased a fascinating array of fictional languages. These languages added a layer of depth to the movie's narrative, elevating the overall cinematic experience. In this article, we delve into the fictional languages used in District 9, exploring their origins, significance, and impact on the film.


District 9 is a science fiction film that takes place in a dystopian world where extraterrestrial beings, derogatorily referred to as "prawns," find themselves stranded in South Africa. The movie explores themes of segregation, discrimination, and humanity's response to the arrival of extraterrestrial life. Within this richly crafted universe, the use of fictional languages serves as a means to enhance the realism and cultural depth of the prawns' existence.

Background of the movie: District 9

Before delving into the fictional languages used in District 9, it is important to understand the movie's background. The film, released in 2009, was the brainchild of director Neill Blomkamp and produced by Peter Jackson. District 9 cleverly combines documentary-style footage with traditional narrative storytelling, offering a unique perspective on the human-alien relationship.

Importance of fictional languages in movies

Fictional languages hold immense importance in the world of filmmaking, particularly in science fiction and fantasy genres. These languages contribute to world-building, adding a layer of believability and cultural diversity to the cinematic universe. When used effectively, fictional languages have the power to immerse audiences in the story, making the movie-watching experience more captivating and memorable.

Creation of fictional languages in District 9

In District 9, the creators recognized the significance of developing distinct fictional languages to accurately portray the prawn community and their culture. Three fictional languages were utilized in the movie, each contributing to the overall authenticity and depth of the narrative.

The Alien Language: Click Language

One of the primary fictional languages featured in District 9 is a variant of the "Click language." Click languages are a group of languages predominantly spoken in Southern Africa, characterized by the use of click consonants. The incorporation of this real-world language into the film adds a sense of realism and connects the extraterrestrial beings to an existing linguistic tradition.

Background of the Click Language

The Click language, or more precisely, the Khoisan language family, is known for its unique click sounds produced by the mouth. These clicks are represented by specific symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) and are found in various Southern African languages. By integrating this linguistic feature into the prawn's language, the creators of District 9 aimed to create a sense of familiarity and cultural context.

Incorporation of Click Language in District 9

The click language, adapted for the prawns' communication, is used throughout District 9 to depict their distinctive vocalization. The clicks, combined with other alien sounds, contribute to the otherworldly nature of the prawn language, immersing viewers in their culture and further emphasizing the contrast between the human and alien characters.

The Alien Language: IsiXhosa

Another fictional language prominently featured in District 9 is IsiXhosa, a real language spoken by the Xhosa people in South Africa. IsiXhosa serves as a means to create cultural resonance between the prawns and the local human population.

Background of IsiXhosa

IsiXhosa is one of the official languages of South Africa and is known for its distinctive click sounds, similar to the Click language. It is spoken by millions of people, primarily in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, and has a rich cultural heritage.

Use of IsiXhosa in District 9

By incorporating IsiXhosa into the prawn language, District 9 establishes a connection between the extraterrestrial beings and the local culture. This choice of language reinforces the movie's setting in South Africa and provides a recognizable link between the prawns and the human characters. The use of IsiXhosa also enables the prawns to convey emotions, intentions, and establish deeper connections with the audience.

The Alien Language: Pig Latin

While Pig Latin is not a real-world language, it is widely recognized as a playful and cryptic way of transforming English words. In District 9, Pig Latin is employed to convey the prawns' dialogue in a manner that both intrigues and perplexes the audience.

Background of Pig Latin

Pig Latin is a language game that involves altering the letters of English words by moving the first consonant or consonant cluster to the end of the word and adding the suffix "ay." This transformation creates a secret code-like language that requires familiarity or deciphering to understand.

Utilization of Pig Latin in District 9

In District 9, Pig Latin is used to portray the prawns' speech in a manner that sounds unfamiliar and distinct from human languages. This choice adds an air of mystery and otherness to the prawns' communication, accentuating their alien nature. By utilizing Pig Latin, the movie further immerses the viewers into the unique linguistic world of the prawns.

Impact of fictional languages on the movie

The incorporation of fictional languages in District 9 has a profound impact on the overall movie experience. These languages not only add layers of authenticity and cultural depth but also serve as a narrative device to highlight the prawns' struggle and their alien identity. By providing distinct means of communication, the fictional languages contribute to the movie's world-building and emphasize the differences and similarities between humans and the prawns.

Cultural significance of fictional languages

Fictional languages in movies often carry cultural significance, reflecting the values, history, and identity of the communities portrayed. In the case of District 9, the use of IsiXhosa and the Click language showcases the cultural diversity of South Africa and fosters a sense of shared heritage between humans and prawns. These languages serve as symbols of cultural exchange and contribute to the exploration of themes such as discrimination, identity, and coexistence.

Reception and recognition of fictional languages in District 9

The fictional languages used in District 9 garnered attention and acclaim from both audiences and language enthusiasts. The creators' meticulous attention to detail in crafting these languages contributed to the movie's immersive world-building. The use of real-world languages like IsiXhosa and the Click language resonated with viewers familiar with these linguistic traditions, while the inclusion of Pig Latin added an intriguing layer of complexity to the prawns' communication.


In conclusion, the fictional languages used in District 9 play a vital role in shaping the movie's narrative, cultural depth, and audience engagement. The incorporation of the Click language, IsiXhosa, and Pig Latin brings the extra-terrestrial beings to life, providing insight into their culture and facilitating a deeper connection with the audience. By embracing linguistic diversity and creativity, District 9 showcases the power of fictional languages in enhancing storytelling and immersing viewers in a rich and captivating cinematic experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are the fictional languages in District 9 based on real languages?

Yes, the fictional languages used in District 9 draw inspiration from real languages such as the Click language and IsiXhosa. This integration adds authenticity and cultural significance to the movie's narrative.

Who created the fictional languages for District 9?

The fictional languages for District 9 were created by a team of language experts and linguists in collaboration with the film's director, Neill Blomkamp.

How were the fictional languages integrated into the movie?

The fictional languages were seamlessly integrated into the movie through the dialogue and communication of the prawn characters. The languages were designed to reflect the prawns' culture, emotions, and interactions with the human characters.

Were the actors fluent in the fictional languages?

While the actors in District 9 had to learn and perform dialogue in the fictional languages, they were not expected to be fluent speakers. The focus was on delivering convincing performances that captured the essence of the prawn characters' communication.

Can viewers learn and understand the fictional languages used in District 9?

While the fictional languages used in District 9 may not have complete grammar or vocabulary systems developed for public learning, language enthusiasts and fans of the movie have created resources and guides to help understand and appreciate the languages to some extent. However, it is important to remember that these languages were primarily created for storytelling purposes within the movie's fictional universe.