Have you ever wanted to learn a new language? What about a fictional one from your favorite book, television show, or movie? Last year, language-learning platform Duolingo introduced a course in High Valyrian, a fictional language used in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels and Game of Thrones TV adaptation. If you have already mastered that tongue, you can now take a course on the Star Trek franchise’s Klingon language, which went into beta this week.
The extraterrestrial warrior race first appeared in the 1967 episode Errand of Mercy in Star Trek: The Original Series. Klingons spoke English until they were given their own language in 1979 with the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
According to Klingon Language Institute, linguist Marc Okrand was called in to develop the language, which started as “guttural shouts.” His work led to the publication of The Klingon Dictionary in 1985, which sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Since then, fans all over the world, along with Okrand, have worked to promote, support, and expand the language.
Since its founding in 2011, Duolingo’s user base has grown to more than 200 million. The platform is free to use, though you can pay to unlock ads and access other features, such as offline access. More than 20 languages are available, with more in the pipeline. You can learn everything from Arabic to Mandarin to Welsh, in addition to constructed languages like Esperanto. Klingon is the latest offering and it’s a real doozy.
“The language itself is centered around spacecraft, warfare, and weaponry — but it also reflects the directness and sense of humor of the Klingon culture,” Duolingo states on its site. “For example, the closest word you can use to express ‘hello’ is ‘nuqneH,’ which actually means ‘What do you want?’. There are also plenty of insults, as it is considered an art form.”
— Star Trek (@StarTrek) March 15, 2018
As with other Duolingo lessons, you complete various skills to level up and unlock more skills. We tried the beta course and while our Klingon writing skills have improved, pronunciation is another matter!
Though fans may know a few keywords, there aren’t too many fluent Klingon speakers out there … at least not on this planet.
“It’s commonly estimated that there are around 30 to 50 people who are conversationally fluent, but hundreds who can communicate clearly through text; perhaps a thousand if they’re allowed occasional use of a dictionary and prefix chart,” course creator Felix Malmenbeck told VentureBeat.
There have been 170,000 pre-registrations, and Duolingo expects even more would-be Klingon speakers to join.
The language has entered the mainstream in many forms, as even Alexa has picked up a few phrases.
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