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I learned to speak Klingon and it was a lot like Welsh

The language of Star Trek's warrior race hit closer to home than Huw Fullerton ever expected

Published: Thursday, 15th September 2016 at 12:15 pm

You know how the old saying goes – give a man a Star Trek DVD and he will be entertained for an hour. Teach a man to speak Klingon and he will be entertaining for life.


At least that’s what I told myself as I sat down for a session with self-described “armchair linguist” Alex Greene, who offers Skype lessons in Klingon for anyone feeling like their language skills are a few scrolls short of a paq'batlh.

After I struggled through a friendly Klingon greeting of nuqneH* (closest translation – “What do you want?”), which was deemed “good enough” by my new teacher, we began in earnest – and a whole universe of language was opened up to me.

Well, actually I just sort of growled and coughed nonsense words for about half an hour, but there was certainly a lot more to the Klingon language then I might have first thought. Originally created by linguist Dr Marc Okrand in the 1980s for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (based on non-specific Klingon lines from earlier films), over the years the language has evolved and blossomed, even spawning a dictionary in 1985 that has been updated in the years since.

The Klingon language used in US sitcom The Big Bang Theory

These days fans can learn Klingon proverbs and dialects from a variety of courses around the world, though Alex is the only one doing them in the UK, which is why I’d turned to him in my hour of need.

Soon we’d moved on from basic pronunciation, dipthongs and the Klingon alphabet and on to longer words. While I completely nailed the actual word for Klingon (which is basically saying Klingon in a Scouse accent, fact fans) I struggled a bit with longer phrases, which required a mishmash of guttural throat noises, growls and panting.

A page from Alex Greene's Klingon language lesson taster

Now, a lazy hack cultural commenter without an original idea in their head would make the observation that this made it a lot like speaking Welsh. So I’m going to say “this made it a lot like speaking Welsh”– but talking as someone who got a B in the subject at A Level (aka a Big Expert) I feel qualified to say that the two languages are more alike than you might realize.

“Make use of your Welsh heritage!” Alex urged me as I struggled over the pronounciation of “Come here,” while I mused what Mrs Evans would think of how I put her hard-learned vocabulary lessons to use in the real world. But you know what? He was right.

The many marvellous facial expressions I produced while trying to speak in throaty Klingon tones

It turns out that years of perfecting rolled “r”s, hissing double L sounds and generally learning a rarely-useful language (sorry pawb) were great practice for Klingon, and soon I was spitting out phrases like a pro. Frankly, it’s enough to make you wonder whether any Klingon starships ever touched down in the valleys.

And despite myself, I was finding it interesting. For a previous article I’d spent an interminable few hours trying to learn the Dothraki language from Game of Thrones with a book (I made the lazy Welsh comparison then too, naturally), and by comparison the genial tutelage of Alex was much more fun and informative. If you want to learn Klingon, this is definitely the way to do it.

But did I succeed? Was I now the Klingon raconteur I’d always dreamed of becoming? With the Klingon word for goodbye (which also means “success!” or “good luck”!) I think I have your answer.

So no, not really –tlhIngan Hol vIjatlhlaHbe (I do not speak Klingon). But hey, I was never that good at Welsh either.

* all Klingon words are written in English alphabet for ease of understanding


To book your own Klingon Language lessons, you can get in touch with Alex Greene here


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