Kevin Pilley takes a trip to Saarbrucken to Europe’s first – and so far only – residential Klingon language course.
Spit hurling, screaming obscenities and wearing an alternative forehead can be very liberating. And now easier than ever.
Especially since Ryanair has announced a route to Luxembourg and flights into the 23rd century.
The airline has always been a popular way of searching out new civilizations and interesting mutant life forms. As well as helping you become fluent in alien languages.
Becoming moderately proficient in the first tongue of the Planet Q’onos requires diligence and a large and murderous Sword of Honour ( bat’leth”). And a penchant for the black look.
A third lung and extra kidneys would help.
Pronouncing the capital letters in the middle of words is difficult. You have to study hard and duck a lot if you want to be fluent in Klingon.
It is one of the most aggressive languages in the universe. One slip of the tongue could mean instant death.
A Belgian architect living in Germany now offers Klingon survival skills and Europe’s first and so far only residential Klingon language courses.
The “qepHoms” (gatherings) take place in Saarbrucken, near the French border. The Grand Duchy’s Findel airport is the nearest Starfleet port.
Lieven L. Litaer is a lifelong Trekkie and, although no Klingons feature, the latest film, Star Trek: Beyond and the recent fiftieth anniversary of the franchise (the first episode was aired on September 8 1966) has brought more latent Klingons out of the closet to hone their interplanetary oral skills and learn street Klingon at his unique two and three-day workshops.
The courses include lectures on Klingon history, geography and culture, cooking (Gagh worms with blood wine) as well useful phrases (nuqDaq’oHpuchp”e’- “Where is the bathroom?”) and tips on mating rituals. Basically a layman’s guide to seductive growling.
Herr Litaer explains: “When a man is not interested, he says “bIrchoH choH SuvwI” - “The blood of the warrior is cold”. “If the lady is not attracted to the man she says “ DaH jIbwIj Visay NismoH” - “I must wash my hair”.
Thirty-six-year-old Litaer (Klingon name Quvar valer ) trained at the Klingon Language Institute in Flourtown, Pennsylvania which opened in 1992. The KLI used to publish Klingon fiction and poetry.
As well as helping produce the first Klingon version of Monopoly and first Klingon opera, it has also been involved in translating Shakespeare, the Bible and the Tao Te Ching into Klingon. Sadly, its seminal “Pictorial Guide To The Verbal Suffixes of tlhIngan (Klingon)” has been remaindered.
Every year, the Institute hosts a five-day conference, awarding an out-of-this-world scholarships to linguistics graduates or undergraduates. The Institute’s motto is “qo’mey poSmoH Hol” (“ Language opens worlds”).
Europe’s most eminent Klingonist is about to publish an English “Beginners’ Klingon” textbook. Europe’s only certified Klingon Grammarian and teacher (“ghoymoHwl”) also has his own YouTube channel.
It was invented in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. James “Scotty” Doohan improvised some of the language’s first words.
According to the best-selling Klingon dictionary - first published in 1985 - there are now over 3000 words in the Klingon language.
You can buy teach yourself elementary everyday conversational Klingon audio tapes with toasts for all intergalactic occasions and general advice on how best to avoid embarrassing yourself in front of a roomful of Klingon Imperial Army members and risk being zapped by a death sting disruptor rifle, fed into a mind shifter or, worse still, fed to a Targ.
A few years back, I enrolled in a “Star Trek Philosophy” class in Manchester. The Connecticut one.
Along with the usual mind-stretching, self-improvement classes to be found on any east coast America evening school curriculum - “An Introduction to Blacksmithing”, “How To Talk To Practically Anyone , “Support for Reluctant Goal-Setters”, “Herbs for Women’s Wellness” , “Yikes! Motherhood!” and “Yikes! Cronehood!” - you could once major in “ The Cultural Importance of Star Trek - A Blast Into New Learning!”
The lecturer, a Mr Mills, a local graphic designer and founder of the “Central Connecticut Star Trek Support Group”, rejected as hackneyed the notion that Star Trek is a domain for geeks and hippies who have taken one too many phaser hits to the head.
In his absorbing lecture he made out a case that the long-running science fiction saga provides a meaningful philosophy to live by.
For its fans, one of the reasons “Star Trek” has survived so long is the continued relevance of its socio-political messages.
Each episode and each film is a clearly articulated morality tale. Star Trek provides a wealth of commentary on the human adventure. It’s not about the escapist interplanetary travels of a warp-drive spaceship.
It’s all about becoming and being all we can. It invented cultural sensitivity. And reinforces it. Continually.
Apparently, I learnt at the Manchester Community College, Trek’s ethos is liberal-progressive. It’s wedded to the notion of diversity. It’s anti-greed and capitalism. And environmentalist. One of its major tenets is “infinite diversity in infinite combinations”, the Vulcan philosophy of IDIC.
“Trek”, “Trekkers” believe, is a thought-provoking and revelatory work of modern art. An inspirational opus. “Trekkers” are different from “Trekkies”.
Who are, according to “Trekker” definitions, people who don’t date because they are too busy memorizing star dates , fine-tuning their “diagnostics” and perfecting impressions of Photon Torpedoes or the door to sickbay opening and closing.
They know which episodes the Vulcan Death Pinch (“The Enemy Within”) , The Vulcan Hand Salute (“Amok Time”) and Vulcan Mind-Meld (“The Dagger of Mind”) first appeared.
To a Trekker, apparently, “a Trekkie” has a negative groupie connotation of the seriously wacko/weirdo get-a-life kind. True “Trekkers” are into a serious evaluation of the show’s subtext.
And message. And educational value.
They understand what it is saying. “Trek” is definitely not mindless entertainment.
“Essentially Trek’s modern mythology,” Mills began his lecture (I still have my notes), “Its universe is as valid as Tolkien’s.
It’s a show that hits us where we live.” To the perceptive, Trek advocates a pluralist society.
“The Enterprise” is a metaphor for an ideal nation or united earth. Trek teaches you to “relish the difference”, I remember Mr Mills saying.
He brought to our attention the fact that the first inter-racial kiss on “Plato’s Stepchildren” was banned from some southern US TV stations. Roddenberry, a decorated World War II bomber pilot and police officer, died in 1991.
According to my Pitman: “ He saw an Earth where differences are sources of construction not destruction.
In G’s universe humans overcome their sense of cultural and religious supremacy.”
The Roddenberry vision will live long and prosper. If you are worried about the future, study the future. It was heavy stuff.
There is apparently a space cadet in each of us waiting to beam down. Klingon is spoken worldwide. It’s not just turning heads in Saarbrucken’s Ludwigsplatz and St Johanner Market.
And the Grand Duchy’s Neumunster Cathedral. Linguistics experts says it’s a cross between Yiddish and ancient Babylonian with a few “lochs” and “Bachs” thrown in.
Consisting primarily of throat-scraping and retching noises, sentences are constructed purely by attempting to hum and gargle simultaneously.
The most common words are swearwords and unflattering compliments like “Qu’yah!”, “ baQa!” and “PetaQ”. Which basically mean “Berk!” Klingons don’t believe in social niceties.
They don’t have a word for “Hello”. Their greeting is a peremptory,”NuQneh?” or, “ What do you want?”
Baring his teeth menacingly, Lievar opens his lessons with “ylghojrup!ylqIm!ylbuS!yItIv!” (Get ready to learn! Pay attention! Concentrate! Enjoy!”
The spittle flies.
The courses are open to aliens as well as “ugly bags mostly full of water” (earthlings).
They only cost €15. Plus a voluntary donation. Students (“ghojwl”) stay in the local youth hostel (€137 for three nights sharing with the sworn enemies of “The Federation”.
A very useful phrase from the green planet is “Hab SoSll’ Quch! (“Your mother has a smooth forehead”). The apostrophe is silent.
For further information about the Klingonischkurs www.qephom.de/ email@example.com
Ryanair.com began London Stansted-Luxembourg flights in October. Seats start at €19.99.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved