Your character’s ancestry section states which languages she speaks at 1st level. Having an Intelligence score of 14 or higher also grants one additional language, which you can choose from the list presented in your character’s ancestry entry and from those available from your region or ethnicity.
The languages presented in this section are grouped according to how commonly they are found. Languages that are common are regularly found in most places, even among those who aren’t native speakers. Languages that are uncommon are most frequently spoken by native speakers, but they are also spoken by certain scholars and others interested in those associated cultures.
Pathfinder also includes Druidic, which is a secret language. Druidic is not available to characters who are not druids, and druids are prohibited from teaching the language to nondruids.
It is, of course, possible for your character to learn languages later in her adventuring career. The Multilingual feat, for example, grants two new languages that can be chosen from the languages listed in the common and uncommon tables below. Other abilities and effects might grant access to common or uncommon languages as detailed in their descriptions.
|Common||Humans, dwarves, elves, halflings, and other common ancestries|
|Draconic||Dragons, reptilian humanoids|
|Goblin||Goblins, hobgoblins, bugbears|
|Jotun||Giants, ogres, trolls, ettins, cyclopes|
|Sylvan||Fey, centaurs, plant creatures|
|Undercommon||Drow, duergar, morlocks|
|Aklo||Derros, otherworldly monsters, evil fey|
|Aquan||Aquatic creatures, water elemental creatures|
|Auran||Flying creatures, air elemental creatures|
|Necril||Ghouls, intelligent undead|
|Shadowtongue||Shadow Plane creatures|
Your character might use sign language instead of spoken language. This is especially common for a character who is deaf or hard of hearing or who can’t speak. In this case, your character can communicate using the sign languages associated with the languages she selects, as well as being able to read and write the written forms of those languages.
When you first choose your character’s languages, you must decide whether she knows the sign language versions of all of her languages or their spoken versions. If you choose sign language instead of spoken language, your character receives Read Lips as a bonus feat. However, if your character is unable to speak, that feat may not convey the ability to speak. A deaf or hard of hearing character can’t use hearing as an imprecise sense. Should your character lose or gain her sense of hearing during the game, she can spend downtime retraining her languages from spoken to signed or vice versa. If you’re playing a hearing character who would know one or more sign languages as a result of her backstory (for example, a hearing character with a deaf parent), you may get Sign Language as a bonus feat at the GM’s discretion.
Sign languages typically require both hands to convey more than basic concepts, and they require direct visual attention to understand. Since they are quiet, they are ideal for infiltrations in exploration mode, but the required attention makes them extremely difficult to understand in combat. Much as a character can’t engage in complex spoken dialog while swinging a sword, a character can’t communicate a hefty amount of information in sign language during combat, but simple concepts such as designating a target, mocking a foe, or signaling an ally to look out can be conveyed through signs as easily as shouted words. Using sign language in some situations, such as areas of low visibility, can be tricky—just as it can be difficult to communicate verbally in a noisy environment.
Languages in the Game
Learning a new language affords your character opportunities, particularly if you choose a language to fit the adventure, such as learning Undercommon before an adventure underground. While in most cases you can eventually find an NPC who also speaks Common, knowing the language yourself allows you to hear what the NPCs are saying to each other and appeal to NPCs other than your translator. Your whole party could even learn a little-known language that you use for secret communications!