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New mission: Speak Klingon in time for the Star Trek convention

| 34 comments | Category: mission

While I usually travel to new countries for cultural immersion, and learning the local language hugely enhances that experience, for the next four weeks I’m taking a fun diversion!

My next language is Klingon.

For those of you who don’t know it, it’s the fictional language used by one particular alien species on the TV show (and movies) Star Trek. Believe it or not, this is an actually well enough developed language and has a huge following of enthusiastic speakers, as well as literature (you can even buy Hamlet translated to Klingon).

The language was developed by a linguist for the show, with more features added to allow it to grow, and has inspired similar alien languages such as Nav’i. Apparently, you can say quite a lot in Klingon!

While I haven’t watched TV in years, I grew up with Star Trek and would definitely call myself a “trekkie”. Hopefully the image of me in a Klingon costume with my shiny new four foot long Bat’leth will make that clear :D I have no idea how the hell I’m supposed to travel with it…

Speak the language in 3.5 weeks at the official Star Trek convention

As you know, I wouldn’t quite learn a language for the sake of it, but to actually use it, and Klingon is no exception! Yes, I do intend to actually speak it!

You see, I’ll be going to the 45th official Star Trek convention in Chicago! (Details here) I’ve already booked a photo shoot with Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), Brent Spiner (Data) and Jonathon Frakes (Riker) and am looking forward to the unique experience of something I’ve only heard rumours about!

The convention will also (of course) have many high level speakers of Klingon, as well as “A Klingon Christmas Carol” performance, given entirely in Klingon.

My goal will be to find one or more other speakers and to interview them on camera in Klingon during that weekend. (i.e. a spontaneous conversation, rather than an easy to make rehearsed speech). Normally I have way more than 25 days to prepare, but that’s all part of the fun of this mission!

Come October, I’ll be back to learning “real” languages, but I look forward to this unique challenge!

So follow along with me in this mission and see if I can apply my usual communicative learning approach to boldly go where no language hacker has gone before!!

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  • WC

    I have to say, this is your biggest challenge yet.  Not because Klingon is tough, or made-up…  But because your method involves talking to people a LOT to learn the language.  I can imagine you’d find a few people at the convention that can speak it, but other than that…  I have no idea how you’re going to pull this off.  :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Skype, meetup.com and Couchsurfing actually has Klingon as a language you can search for. ;)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Skype, meetup.com and Couchsurfing actually has Klingon as a language you can search for. ;)

      • http://www.facebook.com/Vortarulo André Müller

        As you might not know, Benny, I am learning Klingon as well. I already know the grammar, now I’m practising vocabulary with Anki. I’m planning to know the 500 basic-words list by the time I’ll attent the qepHom in Saarbrücken, Germany, which will be in November.

        So, if you get stuck somewhere, have questions about Klingon grammar, vocabulary, or just want to try to talk or practise speaking, you can add me on Skype (“vortarulo”). I could need some practice too.

        • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

          I remember hearing you speak some Klingon at an Esperanto meeting! You wrote it on your sticker at the aligatorejo :D
          There are actual Klingon meetups? Looks like I went too broad with my decision of where to practise it :P
          I’ll let you know if I need to practise some basics, thanks for the offer!

      • http://www.facebook.com/Vortarulo André Müller

        As you might not know, Benny, I am learning Klingon as well. I already know the grammar, now I’m practising vocabulary with Anki. I’m planning to know the 500 basic-words list by the time I’ll attent the qepHom in Saarbrücken, Germany, which will be in November.

        So, if you get stuck somewhere, have questions about Klingon grammar, vocabulary, or just want to try to talk or practise speaking, you can add me on Skype (“vortarulo”). I could need some practice too.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Vortarulo André Müller

        As you might not know, Benny, I am learning Klingon as well. I already know the grammar, now I’m practising vocabulary with Anki. I’m planning to know the 500 basic-words list by the time I’ll attent the qepHom in Saarbrücken, Germany, which will be in November.

        So, if you get stuck somewhere, have questions about Klingon grammar, vocabulary, or just want to try to talk or practise speaking, you can add me on Skype (“vortarulo”). I could need some practice too.

  • http://profiles.google.com/cadaeib Amy Zhou

    Totally called it: http://www.reddit.com/r/linguistics/comments/jd2nv/lets_see_if_we_can_figure_out_this_language/c2b452w

    Good luck with your mission!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Haha, wow – I wasn’t even aware of that Reddit discussion :D Thanks for sharing and good work for figuring it out ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I specifically said at the start of this year that I was going to aim for more languages in a shorter time for the year. Next year I’ll get back into longer missions.

  • Sam

    I always enjoy reading about your missions Benny, but I think this is an especially cool one! I’m a big Trekkie, and I’m really jealous you’ll be meeting Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner! I’m also a linguist (as per your definition in your previous post), and the invention of artificial languages in general really fascinates me. Any chance you’ll be learning Sindarin soon? Good luck!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Yes, can’t wait to meet the actors, even if I won’t get to talk to them beyond a thank you for a 5 second long photo shoot :P

  • http://www.facebook.com/Vortarulo André Müller

    Indeed a guy named d’Armond Spears once raised his son in Klingon (and English). This worked well at first, but due to the lack of speakers besides his father, the boy refused to speak the language and switched to English only; especially when he realized that his father speaks English as well. ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/Vortarulo André Müller

    Indeed a guy named d’Armond Spears once raised his son in Klingon (and English). This worked well at first, but due to the lack of speakers besides his father, the boy refused to speak the language and switched to English only; especially when he realized that his father speaks English as well. ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/Vortarulo André Müller

    Indeed a guy named d’Armond Spears once raised his son in Klingon (and English). This worked well at first, but due to the lack of speakers besides his father, the boy refused to speak the language and switched to English only; especially when he realized that his father speaks English as well. ;)

  • Anonymous

    When I was a kid, I owned the official English/Klingon Dictionary.  I used to think I could learn it by just memorizing every word!  I kind of wish I still had it, as I am curious to see how this mission goes.  I didn’t realize anyone could actually be fluent in a made up language, but it sounds like there are quite a few people out there who have done it.  I think this has inspired me to add at least one “made up” language to my own list of language missions.  Perhaps Na’vi in time for the Avatar sequel….anyone with me?!

  • http://www.hejorama.com Alex

    Man, what can I say?! You just rock. We were big fans already but this is taking our fanship (is that a word?) to a whole new level: you are now the idol of team Hejorama! We are looking forward to read about your progress and obviously how the convention will go.

    Live long and prosper :)

  • http://www.hejorama.com Alex

    Man, what can I say?! You just rock. We were big fans already but this is taking our fanship (is that a word?) to a whole new level: you are now the idol of team Hejorama! We are looking forward to read about your progress and obviously how the convention will go.

    Live long and prosper :)

  • http://www.hejorama.com Alex

    Man, what can I say?! You just rock. We were big fans already but this is taking our fanship (is that a word?) to a whole new level: you are now the idol of team Hejorama! We are looking forward to read about your progress and obviously how the convention will go.

    Live long and prosper :)

    • Sam

      Fandom, maybe?

    • Sam

      Fandom, maybe?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-Webster/507401999 Tim Webster

    Hilarious! Did you see the movie, ‘Paul’? The two main ‘geek’ characters speak Klingon when they run into the alien dude. Paul (the alien dude) says, ‘What the f*** was that, Klingon?’ One of the funniest exchanges in the movie.

    I knew folks speak it.. but I wasn’t aware  it was *that* wide spread! Awesome. If nothing else, it’s a cool party trick (like break-dancing or sword-swallowing, you know, common stuff hahaha)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tim-Webster/507401999 Tim Webster

    Hilarious! Did you see the movie, ‘Paul’? The two main ‘geek’ characters speak Klingon when they run into the alien dude. Paul (the alien dude) says, ‘What the f*** was that, Klingon?’ One of the funniest exchanges in the movie.

    I knew folks speak it.. but I wasn’t aware  it was *that* wide spread! Awesome. If nothing else, it’s a cool party trick (like break-dancing or sword-swallowing, you know, common stuff hahaha)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I lived in Spain for almost TWO years and in France for an entire year. I have been travelling quickly only in recent years since being able to work online. I’ve got through plenty of ups and downs and know all about expat life.

    Also, please read this: http://www.fluentin3months.com/why-czech-isnt-as-hard-to-learn-as-you-think/

    If anything learning in Czech Republic is EASIER than in France or Germany, since the level of English is worse there so there is more motivation to learn quicker. The only true barriers are the ones in your head my friend ;)

  • http://howlearnspanish.com/ Andrew

    Meh, why not, sounds like a great vacation and fun way to take a bit of a break from your usual ordeal.  Enjoy yourself :)

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  • http://twitter.com/qurgh qurgh HoD

    The Klingon in Paul isn’t gibberish, its just badly pronounced. After listening to the first Klingon scene a dozen times I figured out what he said.

    I’ll also mention http://hol.kag.org as a site with lots of Klingon resources. 

    • http://twitter.com/loghaD loghaD 

      qar’a’. chaq Simon Pegg vInoHHa’pu’.

      muchHomvam vIbejqa’taH. wej mu’mey vIyaj.

       

    • http://twitter.com/loghaD loghaD 

      qar’a’. chaq Simon Pegg vInoHHa’pu’.

      muchHomvam vIbejqa’taH. wej mu’mey vIyaj.

       

  • http://www.thehappinessmanual.com/ Laurence Mason

    Benny – we think we’ve seen it all and then you come up with this. It’s a brilliant challenge for you and I’m looking forward to the result. Probably though I think you’ll be though of as eccentric even by the standard of trekkers, but then all the best people are aren’t they?

    I know G’OHH!!! for that strange dish of worm things. er.. that’s about it. I can only guess that a McDonalds would be “BIG’OH MAC’OH’

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      Haven’t you met true trekkies before? :) I’ll be equally matched by eccentricity ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    As stated in the article, Chicago.

  • Qov foofoo

    You said you’d answer all comments in flag languages, but haven’t responded to this one yet, so I’ll write again in English. 

    I gained a very useful ability in Klingon in three months myself. Klingon is easier than natural languages. Have you verified that there will be skilled Klingon language speakers at the conference? You cannot assume that there will be Klingon speakers wherever there are trekkies. If I had a dollar for every time I was introduced to someone who was “fluent in Klingon” only to discover that they couldn’t string a grammatically correct sentence together, I’d have the airfare to come to Chicago.  I might come out for the conference anyway, if only to make sure there is one person there you can test your new-found skills on.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      I answer all comments in a language I’m fluent in. If I’ve just started learning a language, and my focus is on speaking, reading and writing comments in a language I can’t check on Google Translate means you’ll have to wait a while for a reply. ;)

      There will be a show of “A Christmas Carol” entirely in Klingon during the convention. These actors will certainly know enough unless they can just memorise unintelligible noise that lasts for 2 hours! Interviewing one of them will be the most interesting as they’ll be in costume.

      But yes, hopefully I’ll meet others too. In my experience, convincing someone to let me interview them can be tricky so I need a backup.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    I have to apply a different approach since text-based Klingon doesn’t interest me as much as speaking it does. I appreciate the practice, but I can’t reply since I am focusing on speaking specifically for the task I set myself out.

    If you come to Chicago I’ll of course be happy to have you in the video! Especially if the actors have less of a level than I thought they did.