Last modified on 3 October 2011, at 11:52

Klingon/Why learn Klingon

So you've found the Klingon Wikibook and now you wonder, why learn Klingon? Isn't it the language of self-absorbed reality-impaired nerds that believe in Star Trek and think Vulcans will soon land in their back yard? Is the language even practically useful? You may find it hard to believe, but Klingon can actually supply a valuable skill and a worthwhile endeavor for many people.

We can give many reasons to learn Klingon; the language represents a personal endeavor and as such does not hold the same value for every person. Some possible reasons you may find yourself interested in Klingon include:

  • General entertainment. Although a broad scope encompassing many of the other reasons listed here, learning and speaking Klingon can prove fun and interesting, giving self-amusement more than self-enrichment. Generally when one learns Klingon, they learn about Klingon culture; traditional material attempts to teach the language under the pretense that Klingons exist and we've learned much about them and their language through interaction. Do try not to absorb yourself too much in fantasy; remember, the TV show and general franchise of Star Trek represents the imaginations of a skilled writer, not a piece of reality.
  • To meet people. Learning any language that other people are capable of speaking is a useful skill, and Klingon is no exception. The Klingon-speaking community are generally well-educated and passionate people, and there are Klingonists in countries all over the world. Speaking Klingon can provide a great gateway into a small but tightly-knit community of people. Not for nothing is the Klingon Language Institute's motto qo'mey poSmoH Hol "language opens worlds".
  • An intellectual challenge. Klingon is structurally very different from English, or indeed any other major European language. For instance, its sentence structure puts the subject after the verb, rather than before it in English; Klingon nouns and verbs also take a large array of suffixes that give nuances of meaning to the word they modify. It is challenging to speak Klingon and even more challenging to speak it well, and so Klingon provides an intellectual mountain that many may enjoy climbing.
  • Harshness of the language. The Klingon language has a very direct and harsh nature; for example, the most polite greeting, nuqneH, most literally translates to, "What do you want?" You have no obligation to use or attempt to emulate words such as "please" or "thank you" in Klingon. Klingon values directness rather than evasiveness: when speaking Klingon you're expected to get to the point quickly and concisely, and many people find such an approach appealing.
  • Lots of curses. The Klingon language has a broad array of invectives, epithets, and general expletives. You may find you can construct entire sentences purely from curses, and even find cursing gives the most elegant form of expression of an idea. For example, Qu'vatlh in itself conveys frustration; it literally translates to "a hundred tasks," and many use it when under too heavy a workload.
  • The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis states that the language people use influences the way they think and act. The Pirahã language illustrates this especially: Pirahã contains words for concepts such as "a few" and "many" but not for discrete concepts such as one and two; Pirahã speakers generally cannot manage even small numbers of individual items, even four or five. The strange grammar and structure of Klingon give an addition to your arsenal of problem solving methods that may supply you with new ideas and approaches when considering the language from a Klingon perspective (i.e. in the Klingon language).
  • It sounds good. To some, the Klingon language may present a pleasing sound; the proliference of abrupt cut-offs or glottal stops in Klingon give it a sound more similar to German or Russian than French. To some, this distinct, clear-cut tone may prove pleasing.
  • Shock value. Speaking in Klingon can shock and confuse people; if they don't consider you a nerd already, they probably will when you start playing D&D games in Klingon.

Whatever your reasons, learning Klingon can present an interesting and enriching experience. There are other artificial languages you may find interesting: Lojban, Esperanto, Sindarin (elf, J.R.R. Tolkien), and Drow-Elf (D&D), to list a few. The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis may also lead you to find interest in Oriental languages such as Japanese.