Exploring the Multilingual Universe of Star Wars: Real-World Influences Behind Alien Languages

News - 16 February 2024
One of the reasons why Star Wars has such a rich and diverse universe is because not all of the characters speak English. A variety of languages can be heard throughout the films, adding to the depth and authenticity of the galaxy far, far away. While it may seem like these alien languages were created from scratch, they actually have ties to real languages here on Earth.

nnIn the Star Wars universe, the most commonly spoken language is Galactic Basic, which is essentially English for the audience's benefit. However, there are numerous alien languages that are spoken by various characters in the films, each with its own unique origins and influences. One such example is Huttese, spoken by Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi.

Huttese is based on Quechua, the language of the Inca Empire that is still spoken today in the Andes Mountains of South America. With around 7 million speakers, Quechua is a vibrant indigenous language that can be heard in the films spoken by both aliens and humans alike.nnIn addition to Huttese, there are several other alien languages featured in the Star Wars films that are also based on real languages.

For instance, Nien Nunb, Lando's co-pilot, speaks Kikuyu, a language spoken in Kenya. The Ewokese language, spoken by the lovable Ewoks, is heavily inspired by Tibetan and Kalmyk Oirat languages. These linguistic choices were made by Ben Burtt, the sound designer for both the original trilogy and the prequels.

By using existing non-English sentences and sounds, Burtt was able to create unique and authentic languages that added to the world-building of the Star Wars universe.nnBurtt explained his process of creating these alien languages, stating, "This usually meant doing some research and finding an existing language or several languages that were exotic and interesting, something that our audience - 99 percent of them - would never understand." This attention to detail and dedication to authenticity helped to make the Star Wars universe feel more immersive and believable to audiences around the world.

nnIf you're curious to hear more of these unique alien languages in action, you can watch all of the Star Wars movies on Disney+. So next time you watch a Star Wars film, pay attention to the various languages spoken by the characters and appreciate the real-world influences that help bring the galaxy far, far away to life.