Translators dub entire Star Wars Ep. IV into Navajo language

Contributed by
Jun 26, 2013

This is Star Wars like you've never heard it before.

On July 3, at the Navajo Nation Fair in Window Rock, Ariz., a version of the classic 1977 space opera unlike any we've ever seen will premiere. It's a version of Star Wars redubbed completely in the language of the Navajo Nation.

This intriguing little cultural heritage project began with people like Dave and Amanda Nezzie, a pair of Star Wars fans who are also working to keep the Navajo language alive through their children. The Nezzies don't live on a reservation, so Dave's native language of Navajo is only really available through software.

 "Rosetta Stone has something, there's an app on the iPad, and having alternatives is what we need," Dave Nezzie said. "Having more resources available will help us teach the language to more people."

With this concern in mind, Manuelito Wheeler, director of the Navajo Nation Museum, came up with a plan. He contacted both the Navajo Nation and Lucasfilm and set out to translate a major pop culture touchstone, Star Wars, into a fading but still culturally significant Native American language.

"This was an idea that I felt was a way to promote our culture, promote our language, a way to save our language," Wheeler said. "There are definitely Star Wars nerds out there who can repeat that movie verbatim, and they speak no Navajo. And so when they're watching this and it's in Navajo, it's them learning Navajo."

A team of translators, including Wheeler's wife Jennifer, then set out not just to translate every word of Star Wars into Navajo, but to make sure the dialogue syncs with the mouths of the actors. It wasn't easy. Terms like "droid" and "Death Star," for example, don't exactly exist in Navajo, but viewers will see how the translators figured those terms out at the premiere.

It's not just about learning a language, though. For Jennifer Wheeler, it's about maintaining a sense of cultural pride.

"This will be one historic event that will celebrate and recognize the fact that we're just part of society here, in this Western society, in this country," she said. "But who we are as Navajo people living in this century, we really need to celebrate."

As for the Nezzie family, they'll be right there at the premiere, ready to learn along with everyone else.

"I wanna hear what 'Millennium Falcon' is in Navajo. I'm very curious," Amanda Nezzie said. "And our daughter, she'll be able to speak Navajo, she'll understand who she is. And what more of a beautiful way to do that than put that in Star Wars?"

(NPR via Mashable)



Make Your Inbox Important

Like Comic-Con. Except every week in your inbox.

Sign-up breaker
Sign out: