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Dances with Klingons July 20, 2015

Klingon from Affliction (Star Trek Enterprise)At a recent contradance, my day was made when someone jokingly wondered how to say “thank you for the dance” in Klingon* – and someone else actually knew. Daniel Morse, who translates Chinese texts for a living, turns out to also be fluent in Klingon. Without batting an eyelash or pulling out a device, he explained the following.

Ma mi/t mo/ qatlho/  = Thank you for the dance

Ma = we together, Mi/t = dance, mo/= due to, or because of that, qatlho/ = I, to you, thank.  Note his knowledge about grammatical structure differences between Klingon and English too.

I was pretty surprised by the idea that Klingons dance, so even though I trust my friend, I did do a bit of Internet research for confirmation and maybe a scandalous video showing their moves. Indeed, many of these same words appear when calling upon Saint Google.

Another juicy tidbit also arose: several scholars pointed out that while qatlho/ (I, to you, thank) is a Klingon word,  it is not one used by Klingons. So what would Klingons say? “I’m sorry I didn’t stomp hard enough on your foot”?

Whorf

Klingon in the News

You know how interesting things often occur en masse? Around the same time I was delighting in this, applied Klingon language appeared in the news. An UFO was sighted in Wales, and a magnificently nerdy government spokesperson responded.

From the BBC:

Welsh government responds in Klingon to UFO airport query

“Klingon was the chosen language for the Welsh government in its response to queries about UFO sightings at Cardiff Airport.

While English and Welsh are the usual forms of communications in the Senedd, it opted for the native tongue of the enemies of Star Trek’s Captain Kirk.

Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar had asked for details of UFOs sightings and asked if research would be funded. A Welsh government spokesman responded with: “jang vIDa je due luq.” The Welsh government statement continued: “‘ach ghotvam’e’ QI’yaH devolve qaS.” In full it said it translated as: “The minister will reply in due course. However this is a non-devolved matter.”

It is believed to be the first time the Welsh government has chosen to communicate in Klingon.

Mr Millar, shadow health minister and AM for Clwyd West, submitted three questions to economy, science and transport minister Edwina Hart about UFO reports around the airport and across the rest of Wales.

“Responding to the government’s unusual diversion into trilingualism, Mr Millar said: “I’ve always suspected that Labour ministers came from another planet. This response confirms it.””

Click here to read the full account.  See, I didn’t make this up.

More!

The crazy late night search for Klingon dancing terms gave me another moment of linguistic delight before going to bed: there is actually a site dedicated to informing people how to say the vital phrase, “My hovercraft is full of eels!” in multiple languages, from Afrikaans to Zulu.

As if this homage to the bad Hungarian phrasebook in Monty Python’s Flying Circus weren’t enough, as a bonus, the wizards at Omniglot include the phrase in several invented languages – yes, including Klingon.

Klingon:  lupDujHomwIj lubuy’moH gharghmey  (Click here to hear it spoken)

For those of you who may need distraction from insomnia or deadlines, or those with really cool travel plans, here’s how to say it in Quenya, the language of J.R.R. Tolkien’s high elves:

Quenya:  Venenya vilyanirwanen ná quanta as angolingwi

Really, Klingon and Quenya seem no weirder than Welsh or Yiddish:

Welsh: Mae fy hofrenfad yn llawn llyswennod

Yiddish: מײַן פּראָם (שוועבשיף) איז פֿול מיט ווענגערס     (Mayn prom (shveb-shif) iz ful mit vengers)

…I suppose they’re also no weirder than a search for how to say this phrase in the first place. Or to praise your dance partner in Klingon. Ah well. Thanks for reading.

Qapla’! (Success! Good-bye!)

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* For the non-nerdly among our readers, “Klingon” refers to a fictional alien (planetary alien) people and language from TV’s Star Trek.

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Iñupiaq ancient lore in video game May 11, 2014

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Exciting news on the indigenous storytelling front: the Iñupiaq people (of the place currently known as northern Alaska) will soon release a video game based on their traditional stories. For those who haven’t the ability to physically sit at the feet of their First Nations elders and listen, what better way to get this ancient knowledge of how to live in right relationship with the more-than-human world into the ears of today’s youth — and even the world?

Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa) is the story of a young girl who, with her arctic fox companion, must save her people from an endless blizzard.  From their trailer:

“Welcome to the top of the world. Where nature challenges life in the extreme. Where death lies waiting in the cold. Where you must explore the fantastical world of Iñupiaq stories to help a young girl save her people from an endless blizzard. …A game of survival in a place where survival shouldn’t be possible. A game that opens a gateway to explore what it means to be human.”

Indigenous-Owned

Upper One, the creators of this “atmospheric puzzle platformer” adventure game, say they are the first indigenous-owned video game developer and publisher in the U.S. To create Never Alone, they had experienced game developers join forces with Alaska Native storytellers and elders. Some of the stories are thousands of years old.

Ecopsychological Dimensions

On the one hand, such video games encourage more staring at glowing machines indoors instead of actually interacting with the natural world in both its physical and magical dimensions, as seen in Never Alone‘s storyline. From an ecopsychological viewpoint, I find this a painfully ironic disjoint. But if we accept the fact that the burgeoning use of internet technology is here to stay for now, telling traditional stories in an interactive way like this is a wonderful use of it – especially if players then apply the principles to their own lives, seeking deep relationships of the sort featured in the game.

Native Language

The game will be released in Fall 2014 so I obviously haven’t played it, but from the trailer alone I love nearly everything about it. Besides the sheer gorgeousness of the visuals and the fact that it offers vitally important traditional lore in such a delicious and widely accessible package, one of the best things about this game is that it is presented in the characters’ own language of Inupiat, with an English translation below.

Why is this so great? Because native languages are in serious trouble. According to MIT’s Indigenous Language Initiative, “In the world, approximately 6,000 languages are spoken, of which only about 600 are confidently expected to survive this century.” Preserving them is important not only for the speakers of the languages themselves and the integrity of their cultures each one’s language creates and holds, but the fact that diversity of languages is intimately tied to biodiversity.

First Nations languages contain words and phrases for local natural events and features. They therefore hold keys for the local natural world’s survival and thriving, so when the language is lost, this knowledge of how to work with and care for the local environment is lost as well. The loss of a native language is therefore a painful loss for the whole world. Exposure like this game offers could go a long way toward preserving and even expanding these languages’ use.

What, no Mac version?

The game will cost a reasonable $15, but is only going to be released for PS4, Xbox One and PC. No mention of Mac. 😦   So I only hope I can gain access to the right kind of machine for awhile to play it. (Hey Upper One developers, if you’re reading this, please make a version for Mac too!!)

To learn more or to play it once it’s released, here is the game’s websitehttp://neveralonegame.com

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