May 1, 2013

When worlds collide: Star Wars, the Navajo Nation, and langage revitalization

Advocates and speakers of indigenous and endangered languages use a variety of methods – from language immersion preschools to radio programs to social media – to perpetuate their mother tongues.  This weekend, the Navajo Nation will add another strategy to that list:  Dub a classic film in a native language.  Fluent speakers interested in becoming the voices of Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and the like will gather this weekend in Window Rock, Arizona to audition.  Although the idea came to Manuelito Wheeler, the director of the Navajo Nation Museum, 13 years ago, work on the project began just recently with a team of five Navajo speakers translating the script in preparation for auditions.  Reuters reports that Wheeler and his team are not revealing the translations of popular quotes, but fans of the film and advocates of the language will have a chance to check out the finished product – complete with English subtitles – at the tribe’s Fourth of July celebration in Window Rock and at the Navajo Nation Fair in September.  May the force be with them as they take on this exciting project and continue to perpetuate their language and culture.

What do you think of this approach?  Wheeler mentions that, as one might expect, there are English words and phrases that do not directly translate to Navajo.  Do you think anything is lost in this process?  Does what is gained outweigh the loss?  Comment below or on our Cultural Sustainability Facebook page.