Think like a Klingon

In order to speak Klingon, it is often said that one needs to "think" like a Klingon. Otherwise you would not understand how the language is used, and why some expressions are used.

This is partially right; Klingons do not say "please", or "thank you", but on the other hand, there is an expression for it. People learning Klingon are no Klingons, so there is no must to think like a Klingon. Yet understanding their culture does help a little.


bubble   This is an OPINION PAGE. It may contain different points of view about different parts of Klingon. You may add useful thoughts, but please remember this is not a forum.

by Felix Malmenbeck (1)

I agree with this, and I also don't. You don't need to adopt the mindset of a Klingon, but you do need to consider the logic and aesthetic of the language. You don't need to consider whether or not your sentence will bring glory to the empire, but you do need to get used to the idea of splitting long and complicated noun compounds into multiple sentences, and using subordinate clauses where you might use an adverb in English.

It's interesting to think about how Klingon culture might influence how a particular concept is expressed, but we should be careful about making assumptions about what concepts a Klingon would be interested in expressing.

For example, when talking about approximations, somebody will usually remind us all that according to Conversational Klingon: "Though Klingons are often inaccurate, they are never approximate." ...which is a relevant piece of information and great guidance for writing natural-sounding Klingon dialogue, but it shouldn't stop us from discussing how to make approximations in Klingon. For one thing, it is certainly an oversimplification. For another, a language should not come with pre-defined boundaries on what you can or cannot talk about; some things may be expressed more concisely or more conveniently than others, and some - such as the word "Hello" - may require anything from a footnote to a 200-page appendix to explain, but if we cannot express novel thoughts in a language, then we're getting into some Orwellian territory.

...and finally, whether or not a Klingon ever has dwelled upon a particular concept, a Klingon-speaker *might*, and I'd like to believe that that's worth something. Klingon has both a fictional speaker base and a real one, and I believe that both should be cherished.

We must approach the language with an understanding that it is still very young and doesn't have the benefit of tens of thousands of years' worth of evolution to fall back on. We must be aware that sometimes, saying something will require quite a lot of creativity, and sometimes patience as we wait either for Marc to tell us how something works or for the community to develop some sort of best practice recommendation. And we must accept that sometimes, just as in real life, the language won't evolve in the way you're hoping.

...but that doesn't mean that it isn't also fine to admit that there are holes in Klingon. I want more guidelines for how to talk in probabilities in Klingon, and how to talk about voting, and LGBTQ matters, and fiction, and archipelagos, and cladistics, and algebra, and Newton's (or Kl'Vok's?) laws of physics, and the relativity of simultaneity, and neutrino oscillations, and many, many other things.

I'm fine with the fact that there are no easy answers to these questions. In fact, I find that quite exciting, because it means that there is still much to learn, whether by word of Maltz or through discussion. However, whenever I'm told that I'm wrong for wanting something because it's not Klingon enough, or because it means I want to turn the language into a "code", or that I should go off and create my own language institute, a bit of that enthusiasm dies.

Fortunately, I'm quite invested in the language, and putting a dent in my enthusiasm won't keep me away for long. However, I worry that a lot of new speakers might not feel too inclined to stick around if we shoot them down for asking the wrong questions.

So perhaps, when somebody asks "How do you say X?", we need to be a little bit less eager to say "You shouldn't say X.", and a bit more willing to say "Well, we don't know ... yet."

See also


1 : Message to the mailing list of 05 Jan 2017, 00:10

Category: General    Latest edit: 05 Jan 2017, by KlingonTeacher    Created: 05 Jan 2017 by KlingonTeacher

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