After returning his son to Jabba in his palace, the Crime Lord orders the Jedi to be executed immediately, the protocol droid dutifully translates this to the victims from Huttese and Ahsoka and Anakin react with a stereo "What?".

I get the out-of-universe Rule-of-Funny trope, but I'm interested in an In-Universe explanation as to why Anakin Skywalker, who grew up on Tatooine as a slave to first a Hutt and then a Huttese-speaking Toydarian - and was still fluent in Huttese himself as recently as AotC - suddenly needs a translation?

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    If I had to guess, I'd say that it was a result of Anakin being unfamiliar with the specific word that Jabba used for execute (dialect / slang)
    – Valorum
    Jul 27, 2014 at 16:45
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    I don't see in that episode that he didn't understand what Jabba said. It could easily be that he couldn't believe what he was hearing.
    – BBlake
    Jul 29, 2014 at 13:13
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    @BBlake Agreed, hence the "What?", but he should have reacted that way even BEFORE the protocol droid translated. Richard could be right of course, probably Jabba orders someone killed so often he has a type of short-hand with his protocol droid and just says something like "The Usual", which Anakin would understand, but could get no meaning from.
    – BMWurm
    Jul 29, 2014 at 18:26
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    @janaspage True, they usually don't fit into things that were produced after but are set before other events. But this movie was produced years after Episode I established Anakin spoke fluent Huttese.
    – BMWurm
    Oct 19, 2014 at 8:01

4 Answers 4


The events in the Clone Wars novelisation by Karen Traviss are slightly different. Ahsoka doesn't speak Huttese but Anakin does. When Jabba threatens them Anakin is fully cognisant of what's being said and attempts to negotiate with his captor:

Jabba had his son back. He was barely able to believe it. Dooku had conned him, but so had the Jedi. They were all the same, these humans, only after his favor for what they could wring out of it in their interminable little squabbles. He wouldn't let relief get in the way of business yet. "Now, Jedi," Jabba said. "You still die." Anakin decided he should have known better. It would take more than a tearful reunion. if Hutts had that depth of feeling in them, to make Jabba see reason.

"Okay, I'm the one you've got the problem with," Anakin said. "Let Ahsoka leave with my astromech. She saved your son a dozen times since we found him on Teth. She doesn't deserve this." Ahsoka's eyes darted from face to face; she didn't speak Huttese.

It's pretty clear that in the Clone Wars film that whilst Jabba seems perfectly capable of understanding spoken Standard (it's used by his cousin on at least one occasion), Anakin doesn't understand Jabba, as evidenced by his lack of reaction to Jabba's accusations and pronouncement of their deaths. No explanation is offered within the film for this canon discrepancy.

Since we know that Anakin, a former slave of Gardulla the Hutt speaks Huttese, the only possible explanations are that Jabba is either speaking a dialect of Huttese that's unknown to Anakin or that he is speaking with an accent that makes it hard for Anakin to understand him. Either would explain why he's relying on the translator to understand what's being said.

Out of universe, it was simply a writer's mistake.

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    Thanks for the additional out-of-universe quote :) Glad that I wasn't the only one who wondered that :)
    – BMWurm
    Jan 28, 2015 at 14:38
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    @BMWurm - The twitter account is my alter-ego. I asked the question on your behalf.
    – Valorum
    Jan 28, 2015 at 14:57

Given a star-faring civilization, having an inability to understand a language, even when spoken by a known species, shouldn't be that hard to conceive of.

  • There is the distinct possibility that the language of the Hutts may come in different dialects or even completely different languages based on different planets, cultures, and even time periods (given the vast age of the Empire).

  • It is not unreasonable for Anakin to understand one Hutt and not understand another who may hail from another planet or even just another region where a regional difference may make the language barely understandable.

Consider theses parallel example from modern Earth:

  • There are 6500 languages spoken on present day Earth. Granted 2,000 of them have fewer than 1,000 speakers. Over 1.2 billion people on Earth speak Mandarin Chinese.

  • To compare regional changes of a language over time, consider Spanish and Portuguese. They are both considered Romance languages.

  • Romance Languages: They form a branch of the Italic languages within the Indo-European language family. The five most widely spoken Romance languages by number of native speakers are Spanish (386 million), Portuguese (216 million), French (75 million), Italian (60 million), and Romanian (25 million).
  • Romance languages have Latin roots, and may have words and concepts in common. Despite Spain and Portugal's proximity, there are regional variations which make the languages distinctive though one who speaks one language could conceivably muddle through and understand simple concepts in the other.

  • Consider Chinese: Mandarin and Cantonese share a character library of phonemes but are linguistically different languages sharing few words though the glyphs which comprise the languages can sometimes have the same meanings.

  • Mandarin is a five tone language and Cantonese is a nine-tone language. Both share a geography yet one language replaced the other due to cultural pressures over time. Speakers of one have no advantage in learning to speak the other. Both languages can often be found in areas of high commerce.

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    I like the idea that Gardulla, Watto and Jabba all have different accents. That's certainly within the realms of possibility.
    – Valorum
    Oct 21, 2014 at 21:35
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    On the other hand, the Jedi in episode 1 who had never been on the planet, and Amidala and even Jar-Jar seemed able to understand everyone they met without problems.
    – Oldcat
    Oct 21, 2014 at 21:43
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    Jar Jar is not human, so we don't know the range of his language potential. Amidala is a noble and a diplomat so she may have extensive training in languages, the same can be said of the Jedi, since they too function as leaders and diplomatic envoys. Being an older Jedi, his chance for exposure to new languages and dialects is likely to be much higher. I have met human diplomats who speak six, eight, ten or even fifteen languages. This may mean nothing in a galaxy of thousands of races, but it definitely couldn't hurt one's chances to speak the language of powerful races, now could it? Oct 21, 2014 at 22:06
  • Hutts are known to only speak in their native tongue to show their contempt with lesser beings (non-Hutts, of course) - so beings growing up on one of their slave worlds SHOULD really know the idiom, yet you make very valid points, and as I commented above Jabba could have just said something Anakin would understand, but could not derive a meaning from: maybe Jabba calls out a number which belongs to a certain manner of execution: 1 Pit of Carkoon, 2 Skinned alive, 3 Rancor pit (which he doesn't have yet, but you get the idea). ...
    – BMWurm
    Oct 22, 2014 at 18:54
  • -... That way Anakin would be confused, and would get the true meaning only after translation. I chose to accept Richard's answer though, because he provided an in-universe source (complete with retcon) - although yours is more along the line of an actual explanation.
    – BMWurm
    Oct 22, 2014 at 18:57

If you don't speak a language for a long time, you forge it. I learned Spanish in College, but 15 years later, I can't conjugate a verb. It's not a discrepency really...

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    "execute them" seems the sort of thing you'd remember :-)
    – Valorum
    Dec 6, 2014 at 1:48
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    There’s a huge difference between learning a language in college and actively using a language as a small child. If you knew and actively used a language for the first eight or ten years of your life, you’re not likely to have forgotten that language by the time you’re 20. Feb 12, 2016 at 0:24
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    @JanusBahsJacquet ... true, and Anakin hadn't forgotten either, since he spoke it -- to Watto -- in Attack of the Clones, which took place after the incident in question...
    – BMWurm
    Oct 20, 2016 at 11:57
  • I’m upvoting this because of personal experience from my wife. She lived in a foreign country until she was 10 and only spoke that language. She entered the US in the 70s. Teachers told her mother to only speak English at home. She had forgotten her native language as a teenager and now only speaks English. Aug 2, 2019 at 18:26

First off, Anakin in AotC still speaks fluent Huttese to Watto. So at 19 he is still fluent. The novel makes it clear Anakin still knows, as he speaks to Rotta in Huttese too. The novel sets the Jabba scene up to show Anakin DOES understand Jabba perfectly fine.

There IS a scene in the CW movie that puzzles me too. When Anakin threatens Jabba with his lightsaber, Jabba yells at him. Anakin should totally understand him. However, Anakin looks to the protocol droid for a translation and THEN backs off. In the book, he clearly understands without the droid's help.

I think it was just an oversight with the writers/animators.

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