How One Translation of 'Star Wars' Can Help Preserve a Native American Language

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How One Translation of 'Star Wars' Can Help Preserve a Native American Language How One Translation of 'Star Wars' Can Help Preserve a Native American Language
Culture

How One Translation of 'Star Wars' Can Help Preserve a Native American Language

by Yasha Wallin

June 24, 2013

Hardcore Star Wars fans probably won't recall the scene in the 1977 film where C-3PO speaks Navajo. That's because it hasn't happened… yet. However, as part of a new initiative to dub Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope entirely into Navajo, fans will soon see C-3PO, Carrie Fisher and others speaking this age-old language. It's already been dubbed into 40 other languages, and now the Star Wars movie will be the first major motion picture to be translated into a Native American language.

The idea was the brainchild of Manuelito Wheeler, director of the Navajo Nation Museum, who thought the film would be a good way for young tribe members to learn and carry on the Navajo language. Wheeler told NPR, "There are definitely Star Wars nerds out there who can repeat that movie verbatim, and they speak no Navajo. And so when they're watching this and it's in Navajo, it's them learning Navajo." Wheeler's wife became the translator on the project, tasked with figuring out how to say words like "droid" in their mother tongue. The result will be a celebration of their heritage and a clever way to teach the next generation their legacy, through pop-culture.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope—in Navajo—will be premiered July 3 during the Navajo Nation Fair in Window Rock, Arizona.

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