x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Klingon lessons to stun UAE Star Trek fans

The Eton Institute has announced it will boldly go where no college has gone before by offering free lessons in the ancient warrior language from the Star Trek TV series and movies.

Michael Dorn as the Klingon-speaking Worf in Star Trek: First Contact.
Michael Dorn as the Klingon-speaking Worf in Star Trek: First Contact.

DUBAI // You accidentally bump into a brutish, hirsute man with a forehead that looks like a small mountain range and an extremely grumpy demeanour.

You know you should apologise - and quickly - but how do you say "sorry, mate" in Klingon?

Until now there has been a pronounced lack of places in the UAE to help you prepare for such an admittedly unlikely situation.

But the Eton Institute has announced it will boldly go where no college has gone before by offering free lessons in the ancient warrior language from the Star Trek TV series and movies.

The course on the language school's social-networking sites will fill a gap in the organisation's offerings, said the institution's spokesman, Moaz Khan.

"We offer over 100 languages but up until now we haven't included Klingon," Mr Khan said.

For those unfamiliar with the inner workings of the "Trekkie" subculture, Klingon is the language spoken by Worf - a central character in the space adventure series.

Worf's mother tongue has become so popular since its debut in 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture that Shakespeare's Hamlet and the Chinese religious classic Tao Te Ching have been translated into Klingon.

"We wanted to include it because it's quite popular among people who like Star Trek," said Mr Khan. "Even though it's not a real language, there's still a huge amount of people who are keen on learning it."

The Eton Institute's lessons are taken from a popular language programme, Talk Now! Learn Klingon by Eurotalk in the UK.

"This is for a Klingon visiting Earth and not wanting to be out of place," said Dick Howeson, the chairman of Eurotalk. "It's all vaguely friendly.

"There's a lot of Trekkies out there who get very excited and want to talk to each other in Klingon. This won't make them fluent but there's lot of words they can use."

The language CD-ROM was put together by the UK translator Jonathan Brown, who said Klingon was composed of sounds from several "Earth languages" with the goal to make it sound as alien as possible.

Mr Brown said it was difficult to get an exact Klingon translation of certain human words because of intergalactic cultural differences.

For instance, Klingons do not cook food, nor do they have potatoes on their planet.

This makes translating a common word like "chips" into the literal "sliced root vegetables rendered in fat" (or tlhagh patat 'oQqar naQHommey). Despite the obvious challenges, many fans of the TV series have already decided to sign up.

"I've always been interested in other languages and I used to watch Star Trek a lot," said Nitin Sharma, 31, an Indian who lives in Ras Al Khaimah. "I am interested in learning this."

But the Abu Dhabi resident Scott Snowdon, who says he can "out-Star Trek" anyone in the country, gave the language course only a cautious welcome.

Learning Klingon, Mr Snowdon said, was taking a simple interest in a TV show a bit too far, although he admired the boldness of the idea.

"Aside from a giant meteor hitting Dubai, that's pretty much the last thing I expected."

Meanwhile, the Trekkie says he has ordered a Star Fleet uniform from the Wrath of Khan movie era in advance of the Star Trek convention that takes place in London this year.

"I'm hoping my wife will go as a Ferengi," Mr Snowdon said.

mcroucher@thenational.ae