Ever since their revamp in The Next Generation, Klingons in Star Trek have been partially characterized by the constructed language they use on screen. There are phrases in other species’ languages (the Romulan phrase “jolan tru” and the Cardassian drink “kanar” come to mind) but nothing rivals the Klingons for non-English dialog. If you’re using the Klingon Empire core rulebook, you probably want to do the same but you might be intimidated by this dense language. I’m a novice myself but here are some phrases you can start using today!
This post first appeared on my site Mephit James’ Blog.
In some ways, the Klingon language is straightforward in its pronunciation: every consonant (or group of consonants) and every vowel has one sound associated with it and they aren’t modified by the letters around them. On the other hand, there are more than a few sounds in Klingon that don’t appear in English.
If you want to learn how to say these things “accurately” then check out this amazing guide to pronunciation by no less an authority than the Klingon Language Institute. If you want to be approximate with these things (and, honestly, the level of detail seen on The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager) then you can pronounce things according to the righthand columns on my tables here.
Generally these should be self-explanatory (“nook” is like the English word, “beh” is like bed without a d, etc) but I’ve put syllables that should have some extra emphasis in all caps. Also, there’s one sound that definitely doesn’t come up in English words: the capital H sound which is a “voiceless uvular fricative.” This is the sound of a the “ch” in the Scottish word loch or the German name Bach, though in phonetics it’s usually written as an X. If you aren’t sure what you should be trying to imitate, listen to this audio file from wikipedia.
These are some simple phrases and words to put in your dialogue, similar to what’s seen on the show. Don’t worry about using all Klingon, just pepper them in to add color to the story. When your commanding officer asks if there are any enemy vessels in the area, you can reply “ghobe’, sir! Sensors detect nothing.” On an away mission when you find something, tell your crewmates “naDevvo’ peghoS! There is something here!”
This works with the group’s comfort level, but at the very least folks should be able to hand HISlaH, ghobe’, and nuqneH for a little Klingon fun.
|HISlaH||Yes (to a yes/no question)||XISH-lax|
|ghobe’||No (to a yes/no question)||go-BEH|
|luq||Yes or I’ll do it||luk|
|Qo’||No or I won’t||KOE|
|nuqneH||What do you want?(usual greeting)||nook-NEX|
|yl’el / pe’el||Come in (one person / more than one person)||Ill-ell / peh-ell|
|naDevvo’ ylghoS / naDevvo’ peghoS||Go away (one person / more than one person)||nah-deh-VO ill-GOSH /nah-deh-VO peh-GOSH|
|HIghoS||Come here (to me)||XI-g|
|lojmIt ylpoSmoH!||Open the door!||loje-mit ill-posh-MOX!|
|buy’ ngop!||That’s great news!(lit. “The plates are full!”)||boo-ee en-GOP!|
These phrases are good for the less combat-focused missions of your Klingon campaign. As the Klingon Empire Core Rulebook showed, not every Klingon story needs to be about blazing disruptors and drawn blades. Sometimes they are investigating or solving mysteries just like Federation crews. To highlight that breadth of storytelling, use these Klingon phrases in your science or engineering storylines to communicate mysteries.
|qaStaH nuq?||What’s happening?||kash-TAX nook?|
|nuqjatlh?||What did you say?||nook-JAKL?|
|jIyajbe’||I don’t understand||ji-yaj-BEH|
|QaQ qechvetlh.||That’s a good idea.||KAK kech-vekl|
|qab qechvetlh||That’s a bad idea.||kahb kech-vekl|
Crisis and Battle
These terms can be used to spice up a battle and remind everyone that you are aboard a smoky, red-lit Klingon ship and not a shining Federation vessel. As a lot of these are commands, pay attention to the different forms for different numbers of people. In general, yI- is for one person and pe- is for more than one. This isn’t always the case but explaining why is a whole lesson in itself…
A good tool in this category is to add jay’ (pronounced like “jah-EE”) to the end of some phrase to intensify it with a swear. For instance, naDevvo’ ylghoS means “Go away” (see the Everyday Conversation section) but naDevvo’ ylghoS jay’! Means something like “Get the Hell away from me!” Consider adding it to a phrase to make things a little more intense in the heat of battle.
|Heghlu’meH QaQ jajvam||Today is a good day to die||xeg-LOO-meh kak JAJ-vam|
|nISwI’ yIbaH!||Fire disruptors! (to one person)||nish-WIH yee-bax!|
|cha yIbaH!||Fire torpedoes! (to one person)||chah yee-bax!|
|yoD’e’ vIghajnIS!||I need shields!||yode-EH vee-gaj-neesh!|
|bIjeghbe’chugh vaj bIHegh||Surrender or die!||bee-jeg-BEH-chug vaj bee-Xeg|
|… luQIH||Damage to…||loo-KIX|
|nuHmey yIghuS||Arm weapons||nux-may yee-gush|
|yoDmey yIghuS||Ready shields||yod-may yee-gush|
|may’Wij ‘OH||This is my fight!||may-wij OX|
These are a mainstay of Klingon language and Klingon characters. They’re all fairly self explanatory but not that I’ve ordered the list from generally mild at the time to pretty severe at the bottom. Stick to the upper rows if you don’t want to be starting a feud on the spot!
|bIjatlh’e’ ylmev /Sujatlh’e’ ylmev||Shut up! (one person / more than one person||bih-JAKL-eh ill-mev /shoo-JAKL-eh ill-mev|
|baQa’||General invective (equivalent to “dammit”)||bah-KAH!|
|ghuy’cha’||Stronger general invective (equivalent to the f-word)||gwee-CHAH!|
|baqtagh||Excrement (as in “piece of baqtagh)||bak-TAHG|
|Ha’DIbaH / Ha’DIbaHmey||Animal! / Animals!(an unthinking creature)||XA-dee-bax / XA-dee-bax-MAY|
|HuH … !||… bile! (used like “slime” in English so “HuH Ferengi!” is similar to “Ferengi filth!”)||xux … !|
|petaQ||Inferior person (eq. to “worm”)||pe-TAK (often written pahtak or pahtk in scripts)|
|Hab SoslI’ Quch!||Your mother has a smooth forehead!||hab sosh-LI KUCH!|