Even among hardcore Trekkies, those who speak Klingon fluently are rare. Created by Marc Okrand, the language is heard in many Star Trek films and shows, and dedicated fans have even translated many works by Shakespeare into Klingon, but learning the language can be challenging. There aren’t exactly many courses on the subject.
Not until 2016, that is.
Duolingo, the online language-learning app, is set to add Klingon to its growing list of languages in 2016. The current estimated date is sometime in January, and there are currently two contributors to the cause: André Müller, a linguistics PhD from Germany, and Felix Malmenbeck. The two Klingonites are currently working on the project to share their love of the Klingon language with others.
The problem is, because of the way the language works, it will be a little difficult to translate into a digital medium. As Malmenbeck explains, much of the language is case sensitive, and minor differences can drastically change the way a message comes across.
“If you change a lower case q to an upper case Q, a sentence can go from meaning ‘trust me’ to ‘strangle me.'”
This also means that there are no word-for-word translations; just like many other languages, learning grammar is equally important.
It may also present a challenge for those unaccustomed to some of the sounds and pronunciations present in the language. Hopeful students can get a glimpse of what the written and spoken language looks and sounds like over at the Klingon Language Institute, which also offers multiple lessons.
Because of the way Duolingo works, Klingon is currently in its “incubation” phase. This means that the courses are still being developed and isn’t ready for beta testing. It also means that others who are also fluent in the language can contribute to the project as well. Klingon is currently being published for English speakers, so anyone who is fluent in both languages are capable of collaborating.
If you’ve been looking for an excuse to learn another language, you should know it has its benefits, and Klingon is sure to be no exception.
However, there may be another problem for contributors. Advancement in the language depends primarily on input from the language’s creator, and it can’t do that forever if the language is to be self-sustaining. Now that Klingon is about to jump into a major resource of language learning, it may also have to take its first step in that direction since updates will no doubt be necessary.
For those simply interested in learning, however, you can sign up on Klingon’s Duolingo page to receive an email when the course is available. So far, nearly 20,000 people have opted in.
[Photo by Connie Ma/Flickr]