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Star Wars to be translated into Navajo

Ryan Leston
25 April 2013
Star Wars to be translated into Navajo
Fluent in over six million forms of communication, perhaps C-3PO can help...

Over 35 years after its theatrical release, it seems that 'Star Wars: Episode IV' is set to become the first commercial film to be translated into Navajo.

While it's come as a big surprise to everyone (including the Navajo Tribe itself) it looks like Obi-Wan might soon be proclaiming "these aren't the droids you're looking for" in the native Navajo language… just as long as they can agree on a word for 'droids'.

I am fluent in over six million forms of communication...

The good people at Lucasfilm will be working alongside the Navajo Nation Museum and Navajo Parks and Recreation in order to translate the original film, 'A New Hope' into the Navajo language, Diné - this classic space fantasy becoming the first commercial film to be dubbed in the language.

The director of the Navajo Nation Museum, Manuelito Wheeler told The Navajo Times that he's been eager to convert a popular movie into Navajo as a means of preserving their language. "By preserving the Navajo language and encouraging Navajo youth to learn their language, we will also be preserving Navajo culture," he explained.

And it looks as though the folks over at Lucasfilm were just as excited by this seemingly madcap project. "Since its inception, the Star Wars Saga has been experienced and shared all over the world. Its timeless themes of good versus evil have resonated with cultures far and wide. The movies have been translated across multiple languages and Lucasfilm Ltd. is proud to have Navajo as its most recent addition."

I have to admit, I absolutely love the idea that our beloved 'Star Wars' could be used to help preserve such an interesting and culturally significant language. After all, we're all familiar with the film itself… and many of us know the dialogue inside-out. So what better way to preserve the Diné language than with a film that has itself become so culturally significant?

Don't blame me - I'm an interpreter.

The Navajo Nation Museum is currently working with Deluxe Studios to dub the film in Navajo, painstakingly translating each and every word. Shana Priesz of Deluxe Studios explained the significance of such an enormous project.

"While we have dubbed many films in the past into a variety of languages, this project ranks among the most significant. Every time we dub a film, we recognize the fact that we are helping to bridge cultural and communications gaps among societies. In this case, however, we have the unique privilege of contributing to the preservation of a storied and noble culture, the Navajo."

Of course, the project isn't without problems… for one thing, much of the language used in the movie might prove rather tricky to translate. "This is going to be a challenge," Wheeler explained, "since there are many words in the movie for which there are no counterpart in the Navajo language. The Navajo language is a descriptive language that, in many cases, uses a description of what the word does to relay its meaning. This results in a word in English taking several words in Navajo to convey the same meaning."

Thankfully, they won't have to worry about those pesky Midichlorians…

While the process has already begun, the team is still on the lookout for native Navajo speakers to voice many of the characters. Auditions for the roles of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Han Solo, C-3PO, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Grand Moff Tarkin will be taking place in May. Let's just hope they find the voice actors they're looking for.

What do you think of this ambitious project? Will 'Star Wars' really help preserve the Navajo language?

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