For Star Trek fans, the final frontier doesn’t end once the credits roll on a new TV show or movie. The franchise extends way beyond that to include countless conventions, board games, video games, mountains of merchandise, and even a dating website specifically for Trekkies. And if you’re a real die-hard for Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future, you can even learn Klingon—one of many fictional languages from the franchise, and by far its most fully-realized.
Now, the popular language-learning website Duolingo is helping people master the guttural beauty of Klingon with a free online course that is currently in a public beta. To start, you can choose to either learn some useful phrases or take an online placement test—though that’s recommended for people who already have some experience in Klingon. The course was crafted with the help of CBS—both Trek and the network are owned by Viacom—as well as “some of the world’s leading Klingon experts,” according to a quote from VentureBeat.
If you’re a novice, Duolingo will start you off with some tips on how the Klingon language works, including its alphabet, capitalization rules, and the fact that there’s really no word for “hello” (apparently, a Klingon won’t waste your time with silly trivialities like greetings).
In an interview with VentureBeat, course creator Felix Malmenbeck said there are only about 30 to 50 people who can actually converse in Klingon, though there are more who can communicate through text. But there’s a chance that number can shoot up with this new course, as Malmenbeck revealed that the site has gotten around 170,000 pre-registrations. This might seem like a lot for a fictional language, but just remember that the site’s course for High Valyrian, a fictional language from Game of Thrones, was viewed by 240,000 eager learners.
Klingon made its debut as a very basic language in 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture and was partly devised by actor James Doohan, who played Scotty. It was further fleshed out in 1984's Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and it has since gotten its own dictionary by the linguist Marc Okrand, the man responsible for working on the official language for the movie.
Duolingo’s Klingon course is available now for free, and if you have a Duolingo Plus subscription, you can experience the whole thing without ads and use it while offline. Just remember, be careful who you say hab sosli' Quch* to. It may not end well.
*It means “Your mother has a smooth forehead.” Trust us, that’s as insulting as it gets.
When it premiered in 1966, Star Trek presented a world unlike anything else on television at the time. But there was one frontier even its creator wouldn’t venture into: As Entertainment Weekly reports, the word "God" must never be mentioned on the show.
The rule originated with Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, and will be followed by the makers of the franchise’s newest property, Star Trek: Discovery, which premieres in September. According to the writer Kirsten Beyer, the new series adheres to Roddenberry’s idea of "a science-driven 23rd-century future where religion basically no longer exists." That doesn’t just mean that religion shouldn’t interfere with the plot; even a casual "for God’s sake" ad libbed by an actor won't make it into a final cut.
Roddenberry was known for creating several cardinal rules for the Star Trek universe. Besides forbidding any mention of religion, he also maintained that crews should be diverse, characters should avoid meddling with other cultures, and there should be no serious interpersonal conflicts aboard the vessel (you can read more about his vision in the Star Trek: The Next Generation show bible [PDF]). But even the showrunners of Star Trek: Discovery don’t promise to stay 100 percent faithful to Roddenberry’s wishes. They’ve already stated that they’re abandoning his rule about conflict in favor of more realistic drama. So if their position on the God rule changes, it won’t be unprecedented.
[h/t Entertainment Weekly]