When Finn meets Chewie, he's astounded that Han can understand him - and I can see where he's coming from: it all sounds the same to someone who didn't grow up with those phonemes, i.e. we can't tell where one meaningful sound-unit ends and another begins. But in Rise of Skywalker, Finn is shown replying to something Chewie said, i.e. he seems to have managed to learn enough of the language to understand it. There wasn't that much time between the movies, was there? How did Finn learn such a difficult language in such a short amount of time?

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    Since Star Wars is SF: Do we have any evidence of advanced training methods in the SW universe? Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 12:37
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    Frankly, if a giant roaring monster with a gun wants me to understand him I'm gonna do my best to comply! "It's alright, giant roaring monster - I'm sure you had a rough childhood, your mother didn't understand you, and you were probably bullied in school. Now, put the gun down. NICE roaring monster! :-)))" Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 2:45
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    @ReinstateMonica-M.Schröder Star wars is more fantasy than SF, though. That's the whole reason that it starts with "A long time ago": to make viewers accept that magic exists and there is sound in space and space ships have maximum velocities and so on without fuzzing. It's more Lord of the Rings or Narnia or Wheel of Time with technology and space than it is Star Trek or Dune or Firefly with magic. At least it was meant that way originally.
    – Arthur
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 9:16
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    As you know, Chewie is played by Joonas Suotamo, a former basketball player from Finland. So it is quite obvious why a Finn understands him. Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 12:55
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    Well it took me only about a week to start understanding what Ozzy Osbourne says without subtitles, so...
    – Marvel Boy
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 13:53

3 Answers 3


Vanity Fair reported in their The Rise of Skywalker preview that the gap between the two movies is "about a year." Assuming that was based on conversations with producers and is likely accurate*, that's still more than enough time for someone to pick up the rudiments of a language.

Here's some relevant reporting from the BBC:

Such immersion is also actively encouraged at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington, DC, which trains US diplomats and US foreign affairs personnel in foreign languages. With teaching expertise in more than 70 foreign languages, courses last up to 44 weeks, with the aim of taking students to 'level 3' in a language — essentially this means they can read and understand the equivalent of a magazine like Time and hold in-depth conversations.

Getting to basic conversational proficiency can be achieved in much less time, just several weeks according to experts, particularly if you can speak regularly. James North, associate director for instruction at the Foreign Service Institute, said students are encouraged to get to know native speakers.

So if Finn spent a year or so working closely with and learning from Chewie, it's believable that he would be able to understand a single sentence in a foreign language and respond in his own language. And while he initially seemed shocked that Han could understand Chewie, at the time he was accosted by a giant roaring monster with a gun in his face ("You understand that thing?" were his exact words). Enough humans are shown to be able to speak and understand the Wookiee language that it can't be that difficult for them to learn once they're open to the idea.

*And this is all assuming the one-year gap is accurate. I don't recall that being made explicit in the film. We could just as easily assume the gap is three years, or five, or even ten if that helps believability.

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    There is also an aspect of the Force to be considered. There are several mentions in books where Jedi have used the Force to comprehend languages. Revan was said to have "ripped the Rakatan language from their minds". There are several other events where Jedi such as Mace Windu, Luke Skywalker, and Obi Wan Kenobi have all demonstrated the use of Comprehend Language as a Force ability. However, given Finn's lack of training as a Jedi, this would be quite the feat for him to pull off and it would make more sense to believe he simply learned the Wookie language. Commented Jan 3, 2020 at 12:27

In the intervening time since we last checked in with the rebellion's golden trio, they've all been pretty busy. Poe has become a general and is now coordinating military activities, Rey has been training as a Jedi and Finn has been immersing himself in the study of weapons, tactics, leadership and languages.


Finn's stormtrooper training has provided the Resistance with inside information and firsthand intelligence on enemy forces, but his lowly rank and strictly defined role within the First Order hindered his own development.

The Resistance, however, needs everyone to excel beyond their boundaries to win this war. Therefore, Finn is actively developing a wider range of skills - he devotes himself to learning more about leadership, piloting, languages, and other areas. He has also shown a cautious curiosity about the Force. Finn is astounded by the feats Rey has performed, and wishes to gain some insight into something that is clearly deeply important to her.

Rise of Skywalker: Visual Dictionary

This evidently includes learning conversational Wookiee.

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    At first, I read the title of the quote as "Growling skills"
    – Taladris
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 0:58
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    @Taladris - Wookiee can't be that hard to learn. After all, Rey learned it from "spending time with Wookiee traders".
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 1:01

I think TenthJustice's answer sums it up really well. One thing I think we can also consider is that throughout the EU and Legends canon and video games, those who were Force-sensitive sometimes had a knack for understanding alien languages or droid-speak.

More than anything, I think it's probably immersion that provided the most benefit for Finn. However, considering the current discussions around this question I think its worth mentioning that if

Finn is Force-Sensitive

There's a good chance this supplemented his ability to converse with Chewie.

Here's a link to some examples of this ability.

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    You should edit in some relevant information from the link, on its own it doesn't add much to the answer.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Jan 2, 2020 at 17:29

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