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Klingon

A few issues back, I had written an article on the concept of constructed languages, or conlangs, which are languages created with the sounds, words and grammar which have been developed for human communication, rather than having developed naturally. Mostly used in fiction stories and shows, they are a fine example of the depths of detail and creativity to which creators are willing to plumb to make their works seem more authentic. The best example of one such language is the topic of this article for this issue, which I am sure most TV show watchers are at least familiar with: Klingon, a major legacy of the show Star Trek. And without further ado, maHvaD ghu’vam tagh!

Klingon, isn’t that made up stuff for kids?

I wouldn’t be surprised if many people reading this article react this way, since it was what I thought at first too. But after researching the language, I changed my mind. Let me put it this way, Klingon is not a “made-up” language, it is a real language spoken by “made-up” people (the Klingons, who are aliens), and that’s a significant difference. The language has been taken up by hardcore Star Trek fans and also language hobbyists to a whole new level, even going so far as to translate literary works into Klingon, like Hamlet, the Epic of Gilgamesh and Much Ado About Nothing. So you see, Klingon is not a language only for kids, rather it is being studied and translated almost exclusively by adults.

As for the facts

Across the world, there are about 20 to 30 estimated fluent Klingon speakers. However, since the bulk of the language’s original vocabulary has to do with the show Star Trek, it had only about 3000 words and mainly concerned space travel and warfare, making it difficult to have day-to-day conversations in the language. However, new words are being invented and added to the Klingon dictionaries (yes, they exist!) very frequently. The most proficient speakers are able to have normal, mundane conversations in Klingon. It has now become one of the favourite topics for literature and linguistics enthusiasts, who are showing quite an interest in studying the language and even writing essays on it and its speakers.

Tracing back this links

Linguist Marc Okrand was tasked with developing the language in 1984 for the show Star Trek, and he had to make it deliberately sound alien, since it was developed for an Alien race. That is why many of the pronunciations are guttural and may seem unnatural for humans to pronounce. As languages go, Klingon is in it’s infancy, being only about 30 years old. However, it is being developed and is taking root in current pop culture and society.

Cultural impact

The Klingon Christmas Carol play was the first production that is mainly in Klingon, and the narrator is the only one who speaks English. It is based on Charles Dickens’ work, A Christmas Carol. Then we have the opera, ‘u’, which is entirely in Klingon.

In May 2009, Simon & Schuster, one of the biggest publishers in the world, announced that it was releasing a Klingon language software suite for computer platforms in collaboration with Ultralingua Inc., a developer of electronic dictionary applications. This suite was to include a phrasebook, an audio learning program and a dictionary.

The famous Talk Now! Series from Eurotalk released its “Learn Klingon” course in September 2011. In August 2016, a company in the United Kingdom called Bidvine started offering Klingon Lessons as one of their services.

The examples can go on and on, but thing to see here is that Klingon is being increasingly accepted in mainstream life, and who knows, centuries later, it might even become as detailed and complex as English, or French.

So that is all for this time, and I bid you farewell, or as they say in Klingon, ‘Qapla’!’.

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Sushant Bothe - French-English Translator, BITS Private Limited A curious and headstrong mix of patience and aggression, creativity and discipline, and caution and recklessness, Sushant is a mixed bag of tricks if there ever was one! A myriad of passions govern his life, like football, bikes, languages, technology, psychology and good literature. He’s also a gadget junkie and an amateur marksman. His ‘Kryptonite’ is monotony and getting up early in the mornings! An introvert, he usually minds his own business, till someone gets a fact wrong or makes a grammatical error.