Star Wars has been translated into
many languages — most recently, Navajo. Above, Princess Leia (Carrie
Fisher) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in a scene from the 1977
20th Century Fox Film Corp./AP
If you've ever wondered how to say "May the Force be with you" in Navajo, you're in luck. On July 3, a new translation of Star Wars will
be unveiled on the Navajo Nation reservation in Arizona. The 1977
classic has been translated into many languages, and the latest effort
is the brainchild of Manuelito Wheeler, director of the in Window Rock, Ariz.
needed a way to preserve our culture," Wheeler tells NPR's Robert
Siegel. "Language is at the core of a culture. And I felt we needed a
more contemporary way to reach not just young people but the population
in general. And so, that's when the idea of translating a major movie
into the Navajo language came up."
On why a well-known movie is perfect for a Navajo translation "I'm
not fluent in Navajo. I grew up on the Navajo Nation, around the Navajo
language; both my parents speak Navajo, yet I don't. And there are
thousands and thousands of us out there that are in that same situation.
So, when you watch a movie like Star Wars where you pretty
much already know many of the famous phrases from it and then you hear
it in Navajo, that's the connection right there."
On the descriptive nature of the Navajo language "We
had a team of five translators and in my mind they pulled off a
miracle. You know, there was some talk out there ... like, 'How are you
gonna say robot because there's no word for robot in Navajo?' It's such a
powerful language, that it's very descriptive, very descriptive. If you
ask for an object in Navajo you will know you'll be getting a round
object, you'll be getting a skinny, soft object, you'll be getting a
flat rigid object. So, the trick was choosing from the variety of
definitions that the group came up with. So for example: 'robot.' It's a
thinking machine; a machine that thinks for itself."
On the upcoming premiere "The
premiere sponsor that came forward was Navajo Nation Parks and
Recreation. They do that Navajo Nation Fair and the Fourth of July fair.
So, I will premiere it at the Fourth of July celebration on July 3. We
have a grandstand there on the fairgrounds and we are having a screen
built on a semi-flatbed trailer. So, when we're ready we'll drive that
out and set up chairs ... and have popcorn for as many as we can make
On how to say 'May the Force be with you' in Navajo "That's
been the No. 1 question being asked of me since I started this project.
But we're not going to give out that famous phrase. Come to the movie
on July 3 and you'll find out. I'll save you a seat right up front, so