SDCC 2014: Game of Thrones’ Dothraki Lessons

dothrakiLearning a new language can be very difficult, especially one that only book or TV geeks would truly understand. I’ve learned J. R. R. Tolkien’s Elven and Star Trek’s Klingon (teH!) growing up and now, with my love of George R. R. Martin’s books and HBO’s hit television show, I had the opportunity to have a lesson with linguist scholar and creator of the Dothraki Living Language book, David J. Peterson.

DothrakiPeterson was chosen through competitive selection to develop the Valyarian and Dothraki languages for the show. Now, he has worked with Living Language to develop a book and CD for fans and geeks out there that would like to learn the Dothraki language.

We went over the first chapter, which consisted of pronunciation. I had some trouble with some Dothraki syllables – mainly because I cannot rattle my tongue when pronouncing the Rs. He really tried working with me on this, but I told him to just move on.

Some of the words were difficult to pronounce, but we kept on repeating it until Peterson told us we got it right… or he felt bad for me because I was really trying.

For example, kh in Dothraki is pronounced like the ch in bach. So when we say khal (King), we pronounce it as ‘ch-al’. Or another word we all recognize – Khaleesi.

With the Dothraki people being mainly male dominant, I asked Peterson if there was any gender distinctions in the language. He answered, “With Dothraki, I decided to have fun with it and eliminate gender distinctions in the grammar. There is no equivalent of he or she. I thought let’s throw gender equality into the mix. Just for fun.”

We practiced some more words and finally finished with a Dothraki course with a curse word… well, a curse word to the Dothraki people: ifak which means walker, which is the ultimate insult since it implies he can no longer ride his horse. So I found a new word for me to use while driving on the 405 fwy.

It may take some time to truly master the language, but I’m slowly getting there. The book will be released on October 7th, but is available for pre-order on the HBO website.

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