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The Air and Space Museum Now Gives Tours in Klingon

Perhaps today is a good day to visit the museum! Screenshot via Paramount Pictures.

Just in time for the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the National Air and Space Museum has created an audio tour to its exhibits in Klingon, the language spoken by the warrior race of the same name that has vexed multiple generations of Starfleet crews. The hour-long guide was devised and recited by Marc Okrand, a linguist who devised the fictional dialect for the science-fiction franchise.

Okrand’s tour features descriptions of all the familiar human achievements in flight and space exploration in the harsh, guttural tones Star Trek fans have obsessed over since he developed the language for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. (Disclosure: The writer of this article, who is a professed Star Trek fan, does not speak Klingon.) The Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, for instance, becomes “Apollo wa’maH wa’ ra’ghom bobcho’ Columbia.” Friendship 7, the spacecraft that carried John Glenn in his orbit around the Earth, was particularly challenging because Klingon has no word for “friend.”

Besides offering his translation services to the Smithsonian, Okrand is also the president of the WSC Avant Bard theater company, which has in the past performed Shakespeare in the original Klingon.

The Air and Space Museum’s Klingon tour is available on its Go Flight app, the contents of which are otherwise produced in English. The Smithsonian made snippets of Okrand describing some exhibits in Klingon available on its website along with a video of Okrand recording the tour and talking about developing the language.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.