10

In In the Beginning I know that Minbari is spoken briefly (I believe they opt to segue into English rather than use subtitles, but correct me if I'm wrong on that... it's been awhile).

Narn and Centauri are also strong candidates for having been spoken (well, I don't think they did the expensive thing and spent cash having a linguist construct an artificial language, so they probably just picked an obscure human language as a standin, but you know what I mean).

Are any other languages ever spoken? (Non-human, I think Ivannova spoke Russian once or twice.)

Note: No new Babylon 5 shows are being produced, so while this is a list question, the correct answer is both finite and short.

Note II: This question is somewhat more serious for me in that it isn't just to satisfy curiosity, but I'm considering creating subtitle files (SRT format) for the shows and I'm trying to come up with a naming convention.

  • 1
    Ever ever, or on a regular basis? – Izkata Jan 1 '14 at 5:56
  • Ever ever, if you can. I doubt any were done on a regular basis or the actors would have murdered JMS for making them memorize gobbledeegook. – John O Jan 1 '14 at 6:45
  • I don't think the "memorize gobbledeegood" applies though, as only 2 of the 6 I remember used sounds we can make - the rest were obviously nonhuman voices. – Izkata Jan 1 '14 at 6:56
8

Aside from English and possibly Russian (thanks to Ivanova), I can think of 6 for sure, and possibly 3 more:

  • Minbari, as mentioned in the question.
  • The Gaim, who are insectoid and can't make English sounds - all the Gaim ambassadors carry translation devices, and I believe you can hear their language for a moment before the translation is heard.
  • The Pak'Ma'Ra, who may or may not be able to make English sounds. Their religion might play a part in it. They use a similar translation device as the Gaim.
  • The Vorlons, who may or may not be able to make English sounds. If they can, they've chosen to never do so. The musical noise you hear just before and during when they speak is their true voice, what you hear in English is their translation device.
  • The Shadows, whose speech is, as far as I recall, never translated. You can hear a sort of chittering noise when Mr. Morden is speaking to them. (It's sort-of translated in the final battle, but I think that was mind-to-mind communication, not actually translating their speech.)
  • One of the unnamed First Ones, but only for a short part in one episode. The one that manifested like a Moai head refused to speak English, although it understood the language.

Babylon 5 largely makes use of Translation Convention (TVTropes) where if, say, Centauri are speaking to Centauri with no other species around, they'll be speaking Centauri and we'll be hearing English.

Because of this, Centauri and Narn are the two I'm uncertain about. They play such a large role that it seems strange that we'd never hear their language, however the characters we know best have learned English so they can get by on the station, and the others are generally only seen with their own kind. If we hear their language at all, it's most likely 1) when they're swearing, 2) during a Narn religious ceremony, 3) later in the series when G'Kar is writing his book, or 4) when he tries to share the Book of G'Quan and Garibaldi fails to translate it.

I also don't quite recall if we've ever heard the Drakh language. Like the Shadows, they were meant to be mysterious, but they used Minbari in ship-to-ship communication when they were first introduced. Most likely, if we heard their language, it was either on Centauri Prime or in the Crusade spinoff.

  • In the S2 episode Geometry of Shadows, the audio system in Londo's room is heard playing Narn opera. In a later episode (S4 or S5 I think), Londo and Vir recite lines from, and then sing, Centauri opera. – Ian Thompson Jan 1 '14 at 12:14
4

Due to the use of the Translation Convention, there are two lists here... one for non-language uses, and one for language uses. Further, Human languages used I'll list in a separate, third list.

A few dribs and drabs

  • Narn - Mostly nouns.
  • Centauri - mostly nouns.
  • Drazi (might not be Drazi, per se, but in the episode with the Mu Tai... Certainly, the drazi seem to be the majority.)
  • Soulhunter †

Most of these are singular phrases and/or terms, not full sentences even.

Earth Languages

  • Russian (Ivanova's father speaks several intelligible Russian sentences, as well as often uses the phrase "душенька моя" which means, "My darling.")
  • Hebrew (during some of the prayer scenes). Note that Ivanova uses the English translation for the benefit of the non-Jews present during the shiva service.
  • several other indistinct background uses of non-English languages. I think there is Spanish and Japanese.

Language used

  • Minbari - a lot in season 4. Dribs and drabs in season 1.
  • Shadows - never translated, probably just random generation of shrieks, but it works thematically.
  • Vorlons - always translated. We see that they also use writing as a "speech" mode.
  • the Moai-looking First Ones language.
  • Streiberesqe Gray pictography - used as a form of visual language in the episode with Jinxo. It's a throwaway gag.
  • Gaim
  • Pak'ma'ra.

Of these, only one seems to be developed to the point of being analyzable for content: Minbari.

Not certain

  • Dilgar - I don't recall if any Dilgar phrases are used in the Deathwalker episode.

† Soulhunter might not actually be just dribs and drabs - the phrases used might actually be more a mantra, or might even be full linguistic use. But, given that it's ritualized, I'll list it in the dribs and drabs list. Specifically, the chant while extracting souls.

2

Additions:

  • Hyach or some other language connected to them is also spoken in "Secrets of the Soul" briefly before Dr. Franklin engages a computer translation or the like.
  • Brakiri in "Day of the Dead" as part of the prayer or chant that initiates the ceremony.
  • I seem to remember also that there was something spoken (unspecified language) in (perhaps) "A Voice in the Wilderness" and a few other episodes.
  • Somewhere Delenn (or it might be Zathras) says the Minbari speak 3 languages, corresponding to the castes. (How this works, who knows.) So one might have to rethink the Minbari answer. The languages are given names, so in principle one could use them ...
  • Do you have a total number or is this an additions to those missed in another answer? – Edlothiad Oct 16 '17 at 15:58
  • You should really either answer the question (how many languages), or comment on an existing answer if you want to provide additional information. – Blackwood Oct 16 '17 at 15:59

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