Translated Into Navajo, 'Star Wars' Will Be The Navajo Nation and Lucasfilm have teamed up to translate the original Star Wars movie into Navajo, entertaining those who already speak it, and teaching newcomers about the language and culture.
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Translated Into Navajo, 'Star Wars' Will Be

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Translated Into Navajo, 'Star Wars' Will Be

Translated Into Navajo, 'Star Wars' Will Be

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OK. Let's just say it straight out: This is awesome. Next month, the original "Star Wars" movie will premiere dubbed into Navajo. This is the first time a major motion picture has been translated into a Native American language. Navajo families hope the project will help to promote and preserve their language. Here's Christine Trudeau, of member station KUNM in Albuquerque.

CHRISTINE TRUDEAU, BYLINE: When Dave Nezzie met his future wife, Amanda, they quickly fell in love over a galaxy far, far away.

AMANDA NEZZIE: I think that was one of the first things that bonded Dave and I together - was our love for "Star Wars." And our children have also caught the "Star Wars" bug.

TRUDEAU: The family lives in Albuquerque. And one of the biggest struggles they've come up against living off the reservation, is teaching their kids Dave's native Navajo language.

DAVE NEZZIE: Rosetta Stone has something; there's an app on the iPad. And having alternatives was what we need. Having more resources available will help us teach the language to more people.

TRUDEAU: Enter "Star Wars."


MANUELITO WHEELER: There are definitely "Star Wars" nerds out there who can repeat that movie verbatim, and they speak no Navajo.

TRUDEAU: That's Manuelito Wheeler, director of the Navajo Nation Museum and the muscle behind the "Star Wars" translation project.

MANUELITO WHEELER: And so when they're watching this and it's in Navajo, it's them learning Navajo.

TRUDEAU: So he approached both the Navajo Nation and Lucasfilm, and the project went into hyperdrive.

MANUELITO WHEELER: This was an idea that I felt was a way to promote our culture, promote our language, a way to save our language.

TRUDEAU: But translating the film into Navajo was no easy feat. When dubbing a film into another language, syncing the translation with the character's lip movement is crucial to the pace of the film. Wheeler's wife, Jennifer, is a professor of English at the University New Mexico in Gallup, and is one of the translators working on the project. She gives this example of a translation problem: Think about how you'd say "computer" in Navajo.

JENNIFER WHEELER: (Navajo spoken) - you know, that's quite long.

TRUDEAU: Now imagine how you'd get across the concept of a droid.


TRUDEAU: It's metal, it moves around, and it's a computer.

JENNIFER WHEELER: R2-D2 would be "the short, metal thing that's alive."

TRUDEAU: So the translation for droid? That won't be revealed until the premiere.


TRUDEAU: In some ways, though, the syncing process might be somewhat easier for "Star Wars" because characters like Darth Vader deliver their lines behind a mask. Beyond the fun of translating phrases like Death Star, Jennifer Wheeler says the whole project demonstrates that the Navajo language is still alive.

JENNIFER WHEELER: 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. But who we are as Navajo people living in this century, we really need to celebrate.


DAVE NEZZIE: Do you want to watch "Star Wars"?


TRUDEAU: Dave and Amanda Nezzie, and their kids, are looking forward to sitting down to watch "Star Wars" in Navajo.

AMANDA NEZZIE: I want to hear what Millennium Falcon is in Navajo. I'm very curious. 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"?

DAVE NEZZIE: Absolutely.

TRUDEAU: The Nezzies are traveling to Window Rock, Ariz., for the premiere, which is taking place as part of the Navajo Nation Fair. At this time, Lucasfilm has no plans for a wider theatrical release, or a DVD version, of "Star Wars" in Navajo. For NPR News, I'm Christine Trudeau in Albuquerque.


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