Star Wars fans will have a new version of “May the Force be with you” and “I have a bad feeling about this” to learn as Episode IV is going to be translated into the Diné language.
In news that has surprised everyone it was announced last week that the Navajo Nation Museum and Navajo Parks and Recreation were joining forces with Lucasfilm, Ltd. to release Episode IV for the Star Wars franchise dubbed in Diné. This release will mark the first time that a mainstream film has been dubbed into the Navajo language.
Speaking to the Navajo Times Manuelito Wheeler, director of the Navajo Nation Museum said that this project has been one that he’s been working on for more than three years and sees projects like this as fundamental in preserving the Navajo language, “By preserving the Navajo language and encouraging Navajo youth to learn their language, we will also be preserving Navajo culture”.
Lucasfilm are similarly excited about the collaboration and for the opportunity to have the film be embraced by a new audience in this way. “Since its inception, the Star Wars Saga has been experienced and shared all over the world. Its timeless themes of good versus evil have resonated with cultures far and wide. The movies have been translated across multiple languages and Lucasfilm Ltd. is proud to have Navajo as its most recent addition”.
Funded with the generous support of the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department, the Navajo Nation Museum is currently working with Deluxe Studios on starting the dubbing into Diné using a group of Navajo-speaking members.
Senior director of Localization at Deluxe, Shana Priesz said, “this project ranks among the most significant [of films we’ve dubbed]. Every time we dub a film, we recognize the fact that we are helping to bridge cultural and communications gaps among societies. In this case, however, we have the unique privilege of contributing to the preservation of a storied and noble culture, the Navajo”.
According to the 2007 American Community Survey, there are 170,717 Navajo speakers and, as such, is an endangered language. Farmington, New Mexico has the highest number of Navajo speakers in the country, with about 16.5 percent speaking it, followed by about 12 percent of Gallup, New Mexico’s population, 10.3 percent of Flagstaff, Arizona’s and 5.4 percent of Albuquerque, New Mexico’s. A significant number of the older population do not speak English so this will be their first exposure to the film.
The dubbing of Star Wars into Diné is the latest venture in promoting and preserving the language. Some others include a number of bilingual immersion schools in Navajo-speaking areas, Navajo broadcasts on AM radio stations, KTNN and KNDN and in 1996, the Super Bowl was broadcast in Navajo, the first Native American language to do so.