I am working on recording a live choir in Klingon and I need help with not only the translation but also how to pronounce each Klingon word. Can I get help with a phonetic translation below?
You will be the death of many a woman’s son between the seedtime and the harvest of the grain. We have lost our sons. We remember and remember and remember. They died in glory. We have paid for glory. We pay and pay and pay. I gave my son, there is no higher price. When will the bloodshed end?
law’ be’ puqloD DuqIppu’chugh puq tIr yob HeghnIS. puqloD maluj. qaw qaw ‘ej qaw maH. Hegh chaH qaStaHvIS ben law’ batlhmey. DIl maH ben law’ batlhmey. yIDIl yIDIl ‘ej yIDIl maH. puqloDwI’ nob jIH, pa’ veb pagh ‘ay’. ghorgh qabna’Daj bloodshed?
Years ago in them, to die with honor. Years ago, we will pay for everything with honor and blood. we pay and pay and pay, and what are we. We gave our son to the next kingdom, I am a part of.
ben bIH Hegh batlh. ben DIl maH Hoch batlh ‘Iw je. yIDIl ‘ej yIDIl yIDIl maH ‘ej Dotlhmaj. puqloD nob maH veb Qun’a’ wo’, ‘ay’.
While Jeffrey has been giving you very solid phonetic advice, I must echo what Arttu has said about the translation itself. It really doesn’t matter how perfectly you can coach the singers to pronounce the lyrics if the lyrics are nonsense. The lyrics as-is are unfortunately completely unintelligible to anybody who actually speaks the language.
You are going to want to start with a real translation. Has any kind of melody or meter been established for the song yet? I’m guessing not, given how metrically chaotic the text you already have appears to be.
(NB: Attu covered the translation aspect of the text, since I have formal musical training, I’ll focus on things of note to the choral singing side of things)
Dan, under the “About Klingon” tab of the KLI page there is a link to “The Sounds of Klingon” which has a pronunciation guide and IPA along with audio examples. You’ll notice a few things:
- a, e, o, u — are close to the usual rounded vowels that your choiresters will be most comfortable with. No worries here.
- i — this is the “hard i” that singers are usually taught to round off (by blending in some “ah” or “eh”), and they will need some adjustment and consistentent reminding to keep the sound properor Klingon rather than Latin-ising it.
- gh — is a pitched consonant (it can be treated as a vowel and sung on if you are adventurous)
- Q and H — these don’t exist in the common choral languages. H will be easier than Q for the choir to form. Make sure they keep the air free and don’t overly force the sound with tension in the throat. Also make sure they keep the distinction between them: Q has a sharp onset and H doesn’t
- tlh — this is probably going to be the hardest one to teach them, but once they get it they’ll have fun with it.
- D and q — depending on the level of your singers and how quickly they adapt, I would either try to get them to form these properly or go ahead and tell them to just use the English d and k sounds.
- S — like D and q, if your singers are professional and can adapt quickly, then the Klingon S is a great and unique sound to have; otherwise you can have them substitute the English sh.
- r — this should be done in the Anglican choral style, either flipped or rolled depending on the “strength” of its position.
- ng — should be quite easy for them (oddly enough). It wouldn’t make for a bad dscending scale warm-up substitute to “ning”(using ‘nging” instead)
- ’ (qaghwI’) — Trained singers should be able to insert glottal stops quite easily. Untrained singers may struggle, since it will defy most of their choral conditioning to be open and free and never choke off vowel sounds. How the glottal stop will affect they phrasing of the music is something that the conductor will have to pay special attention to since it is a letter and does affect the pronunciation of words.
- *y and *w — these are the only dipthongs in Klingon, but they make sense and the letter combinations are alway pronounced the same way.
Thankfully, the pronunciation of letters is extremely consistent. There are no exceptions and everything follows the rules — so once they figure out the phonology, there are no exceptions for them to worry about.
There are two things I must say: First, your translation is Bingon (Bing translator’s word substitution) and cannot really communicate what the English text says. If you want authentic Klingon (do you?), you need a translator.
Second, can you read IPA?