February 18, 2021
If you are a fan of Star Trek, at least once in your lifetime you have wanted to learn the Klingon language. It is no surprise that the Star Trek franchise’s popularity made it one of the most widespread artificial languages designed specifically for a media franchise with a huge community globally.
Originally Klingon language was designed to create the realism effect about a race of fictional aliens inhabiting the Star Trek universe, that originally started as a TV show back in the 1960s. Nowadays it’s a real language that has transcended Star Trek realm and now is used by many all over the world. For example, one can watch in several episodes of the Big Bang Theory how Sheldon and his friends communicate using Klingon language.
At first, characters in the franchise would speak only English until Star Trek: The Motion Picture released in 1979. In this movie, guttural shouts made by the Klingons were accompanied by subtitles, which was the only way for audience to understand what they were saying. There were no specific words behind the sounds pronounced by actors, however, it was the emergence of this language.
In the next two movies, situation was the same as script would contain some chaotic sound sequences that were presented as Klingon. However, later producers of this show decided to expand and standardize it. They hired professional linguist Dr. Marc Okrand to create some sort of small part of an original language for Klingons consistent with exclamations made by actors in previous parts. Dr. Okrand designed this alien language from scratch, not based on world’s tongues, rather with professional help of theoretical knowledge on language construction. He combined different features and speech sounds from many world languages and came up with wholly original sounding and syntax. He also trained actors on how to speak Klingon correctly during filming process. Dr. Okrand was tasked with making subsequent corrections in language itself, scripts, subtitles to match errors and mispronunciation.
Later on, he created The Klingon Dictionary and described its language features. Since then community of enthusiasts who desired to learn Klingon gradually started growing. In 1992 the Klingon Language Institute was established by Dr. Lawrence Schoen. The members of KLI since then have translated some literary works including Hamlet, Tao Te Ching, and Gilgamesh into Klingon language. The same year the second edition of dictionary was released. If you imagine KLI as something extraterrestrial and wonder if you can major in Klingon there, institute is just an organization, and they do not offer any formal education or classes.
Original creator of this tongue spoken by aliens in Star Trek Dr. Okrand still supports language, amends dictionaries, attends conferences. KLI also have their own website where one can start learning. Many other dictionaries, Klingon word translator website, even tool for translation of phrases and texts have emerged since then on the internet. Now one can also look through scripts of Star Trek franchise containing Klingon and listen to original pronunciation.
It is hard to imagine that one could take up traditional in-class course in Klingon with textbooks, blackboard, homework. Although some free language learning services such as DuoLingo offer programs and there is even Klingon dictionary, there’s no particular comprehensive teaching plan composed for this tongue. So if one is enthusiastic enough to master this alien language, this person would have to learn this language without any guidebooks or designed lessons. However, the learning strategy would still be the same as for any natural world language. If you are wondering how to learn Klingon, here is a simple solution for you. There are the 7 steps to follow in order to speak as a Star Trek alien:
In an episode of The Big Bang Theory, it is mentioned that Bernadette and Howard have Klingon on the backside of their wedding invitations. If you would like to make a similar surprise to your close ones or would like to impress a crush who is a Star Trek fan you might need an English Klingon translator to help you. Yes, it might be hard to find such a person as only a few Klingonists have mastered the language at a decent level.
If you need only a few plain phrases, such resources as Omniglot, KLI, or Glosbe may be sufficient. However, if you need some extensive translation, it is necessary to find professional linguist. So far no educational institution has yet offered a course to major in Klingon so the quest to find one might not be easy. The best way would probably be to try one’s luck at KLI, or maybe ask language creator, Dr. Okrand;)
It is unbelievable how from a few growling sounds in a movie Klingon has developed into a whole original language and became popular all over the world. To learn Klingon may be very fun and educational. If you are up to something unusual, or even alien, Klingon might be the best language for you. bIDo’ ‘e’ vIneH (Good luck) with learning!
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