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Bing boldly goes where no translation tool has gone before

Fancy a job on the Starship Enterprise, but concerned you might not have the language skills? Don’t worry, Microsoft has come to the rescue – delighting Star Trek fans by adding Klingon to its Bing translator.

Captain Kirk and his crew used to rely on a “universal translator” to understand Earthling and alien languages. But now, if they come across members of the alien warrior race, they can overcome communication problems by using the web-based tool. It’s also available as a smartphone app, for quick and easy access.

Microsoft announced the latest additions to coincide with the launch of the movie, Star Trek Into Darkness. You can type in any sentence  (or an entire web page) in any of their existing supported languages, to get the results. You can even choose between Roman characters and the alphabet of the Klingons’ home planet,  Kronos.

This brings the number of languages supported by Bing to 42 (the others are more widely spoken, “natural” languages!) It’s still some way behind Google Translate in terms of numbers. Google also supports Esperanto, one of the best known invented languages.

Klingon might have fewer fluent speakers than Esperanto, but it’s still one of the  most popular “invented languages” in the world. There’s a dedicated Klingon Language Institute for die-hard fans, with members in 45 countries, its own journal, and regular events. They assisted Microsoft with developing the tool.   

It was originally developed by linguist Dr Mark Okrand, who based it on words made up by the actor James Doohan. He deliberately chose to use unusual sounds and sentence constructions – and it doesn’t contain adjectives.  The works of Shakespeare and parts of the Bible have already been translated into the language.

Of course he’s not the only person to invent a fictional language for a TV series, book – or simply for fun. Viewers of Game of Thrones might pick up a few words of Dothraki or Valyrian, while Navi featured in Avatar. J.R.R. Tolkien’s love of linguistics led to him developing two Elvish languages,  Quenya and Sindarin, for his Lord of the Rings trilogy.

We don’t offer Klingon translation (yet!) but our professional translators cover hundreds of natural languages. Find out more about our translation services or get in touch.

Hazel Mollison

Hazel Mollison edits and writes for the Lingo24 blog. After studying Italian and German at Cambridge University, she worked as a journalist for five years with regional and national newspapers. She enjoys writing about languages, translation, online marketing, and helping small businesses explore new opportunities.

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