What a great idea! — the Navajo Nation is beginning work on a project to dub the 1977 movie, Star Wars, into Navajo as a means of helping to preserve its traditional language. It is believed that about 170,000 people speak the language.
Star Wars was picked for the project because it was thought that the universal theme of the movie–good versus evil–would resonate with the culture of the Navajo people.
Navajo Constellations Photo by SoulTekki
Casting for the various voice roles is to begin soon. So far seventy-five people — fluent Navaho speakers, presumably — have signed up for the auditions. Wouldn’t it be fun to speak as Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia? I can imagine it won’t be easy, especially getting the voices to match the lip movements on screen. Shucks, I can’t always make my lips match up with my thoughts and they’re in the same language! As with any translation of this sort, not all words or phrases have a direct counterpart. I recall last year when I was doing a Chinese cooking class in Hong Kong, the Master Chef conducting the demonstration would use three paragraphs and a full ballet of gestures in his explanation, then the translator would say “It is important you mix well.”
Anyway, the newly dubbed movie will also have English subtitles, so I hope it will be viewed by more than the Navajo audience. We could all learn something!
May the Force be with you. MM
You might also find it interesting to read about
the Wind Talkers:
The information below came from the official site constructed by the Navy as a tribute to their major contribution to winning World War II by creating a code the enemy couldn’t break.
(The Navajo) are a proud, intelligent and industrious culture who continue to struggle to find a balance between their traditions and ours. The Navajo are now the wealthiest of all the tribes. Take a look at the Code Talker Dictionary to appreciate their language.
“Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Peleliu, and Iwo Jima have one thing in common: they were captured by the Wind Talkers unit. The Wind Talkers took part in every assault the U.S. Marines conducted in the Pacific from 1942 to 1945–serving in all six Marine divisions. Many American soldiers staked their lives on the success of the Navajo code and view the Wind Talkers’ contributions to the war effort as nothing short of monumental. A Marine Corps signal officer summed up the situation after WW2: “Were it not for the Wind Talkers, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima and other places.”
American Marines on Saipan were able to use one code that was never broken by the Japanese. Navajo Indian communicators spoke in a code derived from their exclusive language to help win the battle. The complexity of the code perplexed the Japanese. It proved impossible to break for many reasons. For example, there are multiple sounds for vowels used in words which are similar in spelling but have different meanings. The complexity increased on the receiving end. Once a Navajo Code Talker obtained the string of unrelated Navajo words, he translated every word into English. From the collection of English words, he used the first letter in every word to make a whole word in English. The original Navajo Code Talkers also created and learned approximately 450 words that represented military terms.
The first group, 29 recruits in May 1942, developed a dictionary, and also numerous words for military terms that did not exist in their native tongue. The dictionary and code words had to be memorized before training was complete.
In recognition of their dedicated service to America during World War II, the Navajo code talkers were awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the President of the United States in December 1981. Their unique achievements constitute a proud chapter in the history of the United States Marine Corp.”
Check out this youtube clip of the 2002 movie, staring Nichola C
age, called Windtalkers: :