If you like your sci-fi with a good dose of mystery, then you'll love The Expanse. Arguably one of the best shows to hit the Syfy channel in a long time, it's absolutely loaded with drama, tension and intrigue.
One of the show's more subtle puzzling aspects isn't the narrative, but the language spoken by the residents of the Asteroid Belt, or "Belters". Their accents sound like a strange mixture of Chinese, South African and something else that's very hard to place. They're not speaking a recognizable language, and the show often doesn't provide subtitles.
So what language are they speaking, and what's up with their strange accents?
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What Language Do They Speak On 'The Expanse'?
The language spoken by the Belters is called — you guessed it — Belter. Well, Belter creole, to be specific; or as the outer-space dwellers say, lang Belta. It's a complex mixture of Haitian creole, English, Chinese, French, Persian, German, Hindi, Hebrew and even Zulu— which makes it obvious to see why their accents sound both familiar and unplaceable at the same time.
Belter was first used in #TheExpanse novels, but is different to the version spoken on the show. The TV version of Belter has gained a massive following; it has its own subreddit, real-life meet-ups and even a Beltalowda punk band called Xetamangz. For a show that's only halfway through its second season, it's gained quite the fandom.
Who Invented Belter?
Belter creole is the invention of linguist Nick Farmer. Farmer told ARS Technica that he knows at least 1,000 words so far, and is always adding to his self-made Belter vocabulary.
According to an interview with QZ, Farmer randomly ran into George R. R. Martin at a bar, who later introduced him to Ty Franck, one half of the author team behind The Expanse novels. Farmer was then recruited by Syfy to construct the show's Belter language over the next 3 months, and the rest is history.
Farmer's a dedicated Belter speaker, and even tweets in Belter each week, providing phrases and translations for diehard fans:
In fact, Farmer's language-creation abilities are so impressive that Daniel Abraham — Franck's writing partner for The Expanse novels — recommends Farmer's version of the language over the one introduced in his own books:
Now You Can Learn Belter, Too!
Interested in becoming fluent in a fictional language that's only slightly less nerdy than Klingon? Well you're in luck! There's a wealth of resources available online for prospective Belter students, from this Tumblr master-post to the Belter Wiki. Oh, and don't forget to tune in to Farmer's regular Twitter lessons.
Maybe you could eventually test your skills at a Belter meet-up in Oakland, California with Belter inventor Nick Farmer himself and get a private lesson amongst your fellow beltalowda!
Still haven't managed to check out The Expanse? Take a look at the trailer for Season 1: