Star Wars Needs More Tolkien

…and I don’t mean more elves, pointy ears or not. I mean somebody with a fundamental understanding of languages. Tolkien was a linguist, and it shows in the languages he created for his world (or, as some say, the world he created for his languages).

I can’t sugarcoat it in any way: the “alien” languages in Star Wars are just stupid. They don’t seem to follow any rhyme or reason. It’s just a gibberish of random syllables. They don’t even have to start from scratch with a grammar, but if somebody talks about a place or a person, chances are you should be able to hear the names in the flow of language. “Berlin” in English is “Berlin”, and “New York” in German is “New York”. A sentence that is translated as “See you on Dromund Kaas” should contain the words “Dromund Kaas”, because it’s a proper name.They might be pronounced a bit differently, and every now and then, another language might have a historically grown name that is totally different, but those are rare exceptions. If you can never, ever make out any name, it makes you think somebody just rolled their face over the keyboard to create random gibberish.

In that respect, SW:TOR would have been a lot better off without voice-overs. They just make me cringe. Not that the movies were any better, if I remember correctly…

6 thoughts on “Star Wars Needs More Tolkien

  1. I agree on this. I actually paid proper attention to the alien voice-overs initially and it quickly became apparent that they were just reusing a handful of gibberish phrases over and over again to basically let the aliens say anything and everything. I just ignore them now and focus on the subtitles when they aren’t speaking Basic, it’s better for my sanity. πŸ™‚

  2. Hey Shintar, cool to see you’re reading here, too. πŸ™‚
    You obviously have more experience with the game – I had the feeling they might recycle the audio sniplets, but didn’t have the time to actually check in detail.

    To me, this is one of these little things that really tick me off, like the scratch in your new coffee table you managed to damage on day 3. I’ll probably write an overall impression of the SW:TOR trial later this week.

  3. Sorry bud but your logic on languages is flawed. Whereas the base concept of place names sounding the same in other languages may be true for some, if not possibly most, of the native tongues on our little blue ball, there are definately exceptions; and what’s to say that stylistically / structurally the languages Bioware are trying to create don’t follow those tenets rather than the ones you’re assuming from our shared usage of English?

    I’ll even throw in some examples to highlight my point (and these are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head translating between English and Welsh)

    London – Llundain
    Germany – Yr Almaen
    New York – Efrog Newydd
    Italy – Yr Eidal
    Ireland – Iwerddon

    And so on and so on. Sure there are other’s, even in Welsh, where your argument holds 100% true. Berlin has no alternative pronounciation for example and Spain sounds near as dammit but hopefully you get the point I’m trying to make.

    Going back to the points you raised about the game though and if you play through enough of it then you’ll notice that your character will voice the same responses often enough that it starts to wear thin after a while, but you’ll discover that one on your own soon enough.

    Additionally, why the hell didn’t you drop me a line and let me know you were going to try the free trial? I could have hooked you up with a guest invitation (which I’m sure must have some kind of benefit) or something!

    1. I’ll contest all your examples except for “New York”, which really, really doesn’t make any sense to me as a person ignorant of all Celtic languages. (I just assume “efrog” is “new”?)

      Llundain seems to sound like London, or close enough. “Almaen” is one of the traditional names of Germany; as a country that is a bit of a mess, it goes by a lot of names, I’ll refer you to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Names_of_Germany . Granted, Germany is a pretty good counter-example πŸ˜‰

      I started to notice the repeating voice sniplets when I played a bit more today. As I said when I answered Shintar, I’ll save some of my impressions for another post, though.

      And… damnit! I didn’t even realize you had the possibility to do guest invites! Maybe I should just make another EA account and ask you for one of those. Then you could show me around a bit more. It seems, now that I specifically looked for it, the advantage of the friend trial is 7 free days instead of 4. Hmm… maybe I’ll take you up on that offer soon. πŸ™‚

  4. Yeah I think we all have 3 guest passes (anyone with an active account). If you want one, say the word.

    I will dispute the language thing as well – sort of. Bioware got lazy and did not properly implement the languages, but…the languages of Star Wars usually do have grammar and syntax and vocab, and as often as not, are based on a real life language. Karen Traviss, for example, has turned Mando’a into a working language. The Ewoks speak some gibberish, but some of it is Tibetan. IIRC, Lando’s sidekick in Return of the Jedi is speaking a language from Southeast Asia, and is using nonsense phrases that had the audiences in that part of the world giggling when they heard it. Most of Huttese is phonetically similar to English and so should be recognizable.

    But…Bioware just recorded some slathered together bits and let it go at that. Lost opportunity.

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