The original science fiction TV show, Star Trek, was only on the air for three years, but it was just the beginning. Over the past 50 years, there have been many Star Trek TV shows and movies loved by Star Trek super fans, called Trekkies. Dr. d’Armond Speers says that he is not a Trekkie, but some people don’t buy it. For the first three years of his child’s life, he only spoke to his son using Klingon, an alien language invented for the TV show.
Star Trek is not unique. Many popular science fiction and fantasy films, TV shows, and books have done this. Game of Thrones, Avatar, and Lord of the Rings all feature new languages. These languages have unique pronunciation, grammar rules, and thousands of words.
So why would Speers, who says he is not a Trekkie, go to all the trouble of not only learning Klingon, but also teaching it to his son? Speers says he is a linguist, and it was an experiment. He wanted to see whether his son would pick up Klingon in the same way a child would pick up a normal human language. Before you start thinking this is child abuse, Speer’s wife spoke to the boy in English, and he learned to speak English just like any other kid.
While 300,000 people have bought the Klingon dictionary, the number of people who can read and write Klingon is just a few hundred. According to Arika Okrent, who wrote a book on invented languages, there are only a few dozen people who can speak Klingon fluently.
After three years of Klingon, Speer’s son did learn to understand his father’s language. He was even able to speak a few words himself, but he never truly picked up the language enough to speak it fluently. By the age of 3, he started to reject his father’s weird experiment and ignored him when he spoke Klingon. Speers wisely gave up his experiment and began speaking to his son in English.
Until we develop DeepKlingon.com, you can get your fix of Klingon language classes at kli.org, the Klingon language institute.