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May 14, 2013

Buy' ngop! Bing adds Klingon to its popular Translator app for Windows Phone

Bing just added a new language to its highly rated Translator app that makes it a must-have for Star Trek fans headed to see Star Trek: Into Darkness this Thursday: Klingon. Download it to your Windows Phone communicator.

In what could be the biggest advance for the popular fictional language since the publication of 1984’s “The Klingon Dictionary,” the app lets you translate back and forth between Klingon and the 41 planetary tongues it supports. If you really want to test your skills, check out this post from Microsoft’s Translation team.

Klingons, as most fans of the Trek franchise know, are a fictional warrior race with famously boney foreheads (an anatomical quirk that presumably inspired the cringe-inducing Klingon curse: “Your mother has a smooth forehead!”). Early in the series, they were everybody’s favorite villain. According to Guinness World Records, their throat-wrecking tongue is today the world’s most popular fictional spoken language (though it’s unclear how much competition it has).

Curious linguaphiles and younger Trek fans might be surprised by its origins and rich history.

Klingon got its start with some words and phrases made up by James Doohan, the actor who played Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in the original series. The occasion was 1979’s “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” the first time the language was spoken in a movie. It was then fleshed out by UC Berkeley-trained linguist Marc Okrand, author of “The Klingon Dictionary,” which is still in print.

In the years since, as Wikipedia notes, several Shakespeare plays and parts of the Bible have been translated into Klingon. There’s even a nonprofit Klingon Language Institute, formed in 1992 to promote the study of “Klingon linguistics and culture.” The organization, which publishes its own quarterly academic journal registered with the Library of Congress, assisted Bing with its intergalactic upgrades to the app. As the LA Times reported yesterday, Bing also received help from Okrand and Microsoft engineer Eric Andeen, who is fluent in the language. (You knew there’d be someone here who was, right?)

Give it a shot and post a comment—Klingon only, please. And leave my mother’s forehead out of it, thanks.

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(In case you’re wondering, the headline starts with the Klingon for “Great news!” As the screenshots above show, the Translator app is also handy for doing things like ordering Chinese for lunch.)