Languages of Star Wars

The Holidays are here! And while some of us are excited about shopping for presents, lighting the menorah, or decorating the tree, I must remind you that something else very important is happening this December.  Christmas comes every year, as do Hanukkah, Kwanza, New Years, the Winter Solstice, and any other winter holiday you probably celebrate.  But this event hasn’t happened since 2005, and we’ve been waiting for it for quite a while.  No, it’s not a comet, but it does have to do with space…

Have you figured it out yet?

This December, the newest installment of Star Wars is coming to a theater near you. Take a break from your shopping and decorating and baking and cooking and find some time to go to the movies! But before you rush off, let’s learn a little bit about languages from the ghosts of Star Wars movies past.

There are six Star Wars movies, dating from 1977 to 2005, with more than ten languages heard in the films and videogames, and even more spoken in the universe:

Basic: Galactic Basic is the lingua franca of space.  Shortened to Basic, the language is commonly written using the “Aurebesh” alphabet, which contains 26 letters that correspond to the letters in the Latin alphabet.  Basically, Basic is the language of the audience; if you’re watching in English, Basic is English, if you’re watching in French, Basic is French, and so on throughout the many translated versions.

Bocce: Bocce is a mixed language used for trading.  Merchant fleets combined numerous languages in order to communicate between various species in the Universe.

Hutese: Jabba is the most infamous of the Huts, but their language is spoken by many species, including humans. The language is a lingua franca among numerous planets around the Hutt space, and said to be based on the Native American language Quechuan, spoken in the Andes of South America.

Ewokese: The tribal tongue of the Ewoks is said to be based off a compilation of earthly languages including Tibetan, Kalmyk, and Nepali.

Shyriiwook: Chewbacca understands Basic, and numerous other languages, but because of their unique vocal chords and physiology, Wookies can only speak this language. Native to the Wookie species, Shyriiwook is informally referred to as Wookieespeak.  The language consists of roars, grunts, and growls, and is difficult for most humans to understand, unless they’ve read the book How to Speak Wookie.

Ithorian: Having a mouth on each two sides tends to make things complicated, especially when it comes to languages. The language spoken by the Ithorians is extremely complex, making it difficult for non-Ithorians to understand, and impossible for them to speak. Luckily, the species has learned Basic so that we can understand them.

Geonosian: Spoken by an species of insects, this language is heard in Episode II, and includes click consonants.

Jawaese: While humans typically show their emotions using facial expressions, Jawas use smell. Along with their high-pitched language, they emit a smell when speaking with other Jawas. Thankfully, they can control the smell and don’t emit it when trading or speaking with non-Jawas.

Ryl: Ryl is the language of the Twi’leks, human like creatures with two tails on their heads, called lekku. Their language is a combination of spoken words and sign language using the tips of their lekku.

Binary: R2-D2 is lucky to have C-3PO around to translate for him. Astromech Droids like R2-D2 communicate using binary, a language consisting of beeps and whistles.

Other languages in the films include Rodese, spoken by the Rodian, Hapan, spoken by residents of the Hapes Cluster, and the language of the Tusken Raiders. Many more languages exist off screen, as we know from C-3PO’s fluency “in over six million forms of communication.”  Maybe we’ll learn a few more of those Galactic languages when the new movie, Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in theaters. 

For now, Lionbridge onDemand can help you translate more than 250 earthly languages.  Check out our website to see all the services we offer.