19

Are any of the alien languages (other than English and binary) in Star Wars movies or TV shows real Earth languages?

26

There was at least one known example of real Earth language used by G-canon (e.g., movies). In Episode VI (ROTJ), Sullustese language - or at least, lines from it - was indeed using a real non-English language.

By the way, the most commonly rumored answer to this question (Ewoks speaking Tagalog) is actually not true. They had some Tagalog words mixed in but it wasn't actual Tagalog speech.


UPDATE: Found the details for Sullustese - and indeed, as I remembered, that same source dispels the Tagalog rumor which is why I recalled both simultaneously.

As per this forum comment (in a thread "Did I hear the Ewoks speak Filipino"): http://forum.blueharvest.net/index.php?showtopic=4485 . Spelling and grammar corrected by me.

If you listen to the Return OF The Jedi DVD audio Commentary, Sound Designer Ben Burtt explains that native language sounds were used to form the language of many Star Wars species so you probably hear specific words but it seems, from what Mr. Burtt says, that it is randomly joined words rather than dialogue in another language.

The only exception to this is Lando Calrissian's Falcon co-pilot in Return of the Jedi, the Sullaston named Nien Nunb. His dialogue is translated directly into the young actor who played him's native language.


UPDATE 2:

This seems to be somewhat confirmed, though the last specific details are from uncited and later deleted Wookiepedia article, so caveat emptor (they do seem to match most of the other info I was able to find so I would consider them trustworthy enough):

Nien Nunb IMDB page says:

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
Played by Richard Bonehill / Mike Quinn / Kipsang Rotich

And digging more, Kipsang Rotich's IMDB page says:

Actor (1 title)
1983 Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi
Nien Nunb (voice) (uncredited)

Wookiepedia article on Nien Nunb confirms this, linking to this article.

And this clone of older Wookiepedia page for Kipsang Rotich said:

Kipsang Rotich was an African student who voiced Nien Nunb in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.
He used his native tongue of Haya as if it were Sullustese. He was not credited in the movie.
Furthermore, it was noted that when Rotich had read the lines for Nien Nunb, they translated (in another language) into "One thousand herds of elephants are standing on my foot".
But not all of Nien Nunb's lines are in the Haya language, which is not spoken in Kenya but rather neighboring Tanzania. The very first thing he says before the attack is in the native tongue of Kenya's biggest tribe, the Kikuyu, and it translates to "All of you over there, come here."
By his surname, Rotich is from the Kipsigis subtribe of Kenya's Kalenjin tribe in the Great Rift Valley -- where the Kipsigis live alongside Kikuyus and would therefore be likely to speak Kikuyu as well as their own unrelated tribal tongue.
He did many lines in Haya, because no one thought anyone would understand it, but they did.

  • 1
    I could've sworn I had heard or seen somewhere that one of the songs the Ewoks sing at one point was a real song from a village in China or some such thing. – Xantec Oct 1 '12 at 19:38
  • 1
    so... the answer is "fragments, such as sentences and phrases, or real languages were used but not consistently as a whole language for a specific character" (I'd also like to add that I am still convinced that two Ewoks respond to C-3PO with "oh, that's wise" and "to be sure") – HorusKol Oct 2 '12 at 5:51
  • Sullustese was largely an amalgam of 2 languages, whether those phrases constitute "consistently as a whole language" or not is a wee bit subjective. I would say they do, given the meager amount of dialog. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 2 '12 at 10:37
  • 1
    @wad ??? There is Kalmyk in Russia. Possibly turcic and related to Chinese ones – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jun 9 '15 at 0:58
  • 1
    @WadCheber - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalmyk_people. So, they are ethnically closest to Mongols (as in, the original Mongols, of Temuchin fame). Their only sovereign-ish area is in Russia; but they do live in China as well AFAIK – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jun 9 '15 at 11:09
4

Would C3PO asking a question to Jabba the Hutt servant in supposedly their language count?
In that case


Polish subtitles included - it literally means "Ehm... Does Jabba the Hutt live here?", which is a valid question when knocking the door.
Too much coincidence not to be Polish language actually. It's just 90% correct pronunciation, which is what I would expect from a good actor who's not a native Polish speaker. Enjoy reading the Polish way of writing Jabba the Hutt anyways :)

EDIT: Here's the proof from Google's translator - use the speaker button on the left side to hear almost exactly what C3PO said in the movie. I even made it so that it detects it's actually Polish.

  • Over-interpretation IMO - these are literally only 2 words and I would never consider them as Polish words without subtitles (I'm native Polish speaker). – rob006 Mar 26 at 13:24
  • @rob006 I get your point - there's a chance that someone came up with these 2 words by accident. But it's still hard to prove which one of us is right. I've just posted it. Even if C3PO spoke Polish by pure accident, it's maybe even more interesting :) Native Polish speaker I am too (Yoda style). – ElmoVanKielmo Mar 26 at 16:12
  • I've seen countless examples where Polish-like sentences were found in non-Polish songs, so these 2 words do not impress me at all :P. – rob006 Mar 26 at 17:34
  • @rob006 I've seen them too but 99% of them are not even remotely as accurate. It's not the most important thing in the world however, so I'm not going to try convince anyone :) – ElmoVanKielmo Mar 27 at 4:18

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