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Do Hollywood Films Get Dubbed into Many Languages?

On July 3rd, 2013, the 1977 film Star Wars was introduced to a new audience. Or perhaps more accurately, an old audience gained a new appreciation of both the film and their own culture. On that date, a new version of Star Wars: A New Hope premiered in Window Rock, Arizona, the capital of the Navajo Nation. It was projected onto a massive screen on the side of a ten-wheeler truck. The project was the culmination of the efforts of Manny Wheeler, head of the Navajo Nation Museum and a longtime Star Wars fan. With the blessing of Lucasfilm, five people worked to translate the film's script into Navajo, with the additional challenge of trying to match up the words to the on-screen characters' lip movements. This was especially difficult when several Navajo words were required to translate one English word. Although over 160 people auditioned, the project ultimately used the talents of seven main voice actors and 20 secondary voice actors. Navajo, or Diné bizaad, is the most widely-spoken Native American language north of the Mexico-United States border, with around 170,000 people speaking it at home. Significant education efforts have helped to keep the language alive, and translating works of popular culture into Navajo will undoubtedly help preserve it for generations to come.

Bringing a galaxy far, far away to the Navajo Nation:

  • The entire film was translated into Navajo; several different dialects were featured. The portions of the film when characters are speaking alien languages are subtitled in Navajo.

  • The story doesn't end there. In 2016, Finding Nemo became the second film dubbed into Navajo, and it seems likely that others will follow.

  • In the 1990s, the Wyoming Indian Schools translated the Disney animated classic Bambi into Arapaho. And in 2010, episodes of the cartoon series The Berenstain Bears were translated into the Dakota/Lakota language.

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More Info: NPR

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