26 Apr 2013

Star Wars Goes Native American

“Que la force soit avec toi!”, “Que la Fuerza te acompañe!”, “Möge die Macht mit dir sein!”. Even if you don’t know any of these languages – Spanish, French and German – it appears to be pretty obvious, that these words make up the probably best known quote from the world-famous Star Wars films, wishing you well in all your endeavours: “May the force be with you”. But, can you imagine that these words would echo in the world of Native Americans? In particular, in the language of Navajo, spoken in Navajo Nation, the biggest area assigned to the Native Americans? We can!

If you can’t, all you have to do is wait patiently. The recently initiated translation of the fourth episode of Star Wars into Navajo is nearly finished. Soon you will be able to witness the first blockbuster translated and dubbed into a Native American language. ‘Navajo’ is one of the so called Southern Athabaskan languages that is spoken in the Navajo Nation, called “Naabeehó Bináhásdzo” in the Navajo language. Navajo Nation is a territory in the Southwest of the USA, comprising areas in the states Arizona, southeastern Utah and northwestern New Mexico and is home to roughly 170,000 people.

George Lucas and Lucasfilm gave the permission to dub their 1977 epic and recently came together with the Navajo Nation Museum and the Parks and Recreation Department to begin the translation process. Manuelito Wheeler, director of the museum, thinks that the movie “is one of the best movies of all times”. It has been translated into more than 40 languages and inspired generations around the world. During the translation process, the Navajo tribe will aim to raise awareness of their cultural heritage and language among their youth and hope to encourage young people to continue speaking their ancestral tongue. In case you are fluent in Navajo and have a good command of the English language, feel free to apply for the voice actor cast. Auditions are held in the beginning of May.

Translating phrases like “Thank You” appears to be an easy task (in Navajo: “Ahéhee”). In contrast, certain words that count among our daily life’s vocabulary, are non-existent in Navajo and therefore, some subjects and objects would need to be described. For these reasons, it seems to be much harder to translate complex dialogues. A real challenge will be to translate every single famous quote into Navajo. Impossible? We don’t think so.

A fun fact that really struck a chord with us as linguists: Star Wars itself is one of the most multilingual movies ever made: the pool of languages spoken contains Galactic Basic, Bocce, Huttese, the Ewok language, Shyriiwook and others. The unchallenged master of languages in Star Wars is C-3PO, who states in the movies that he is “fluent in over six million forms of communication”. Geeks all over the world are using Star Wars quotes in their daily life, learning the languages of Star Wars – sometimes even grammar to be vanishing seems – as Yoda might say.

With our network of more than 6,000 language professionals, TranslateMedia can’t reach the capacity of C-3PO’s extraordinary linguistic skills of knowing over 6 million universal languages, but we do offer comprehensive professional language solutions for more than 90 languages spoken here on earth.

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