The dad who only talked to his son in Klingon

A Minnesota man claims he only spoke to his son (now 15) in Klingon for the first three years of his life. Is this a good tale to help market translation software?

Just like everyone who grew up on something of a "Star Trek" diet, I want to believe.

I want to believe that Spock will rise from the dead, get married, and have pointy-eared offspring, who, regressing to the mean, will become sports-loving couch potatoes. I want to believe that Captain Kirk will shack up with Uhura on Pluto and lead a fight to have the planet recognized as one of the greats.

And I want to believe that d'Armond Speers really did only speak to his son in Klingon for the first three years of the little boy's life.

You don't remember d'Armond? Well, he first entered the Trekkie firmament in a 1999 Wired article, in which he told of how difficult it had been to communicate solely in the limited language of Klingon with his then 30-month-old son, Alec.

He even presented a recording of little Alec singing the opening bars of the Klingon Imperial Anthem.

Will Klingon still be the language of our future? CC Millermz/Flickr

The story has this week been updated with some extraordinary news.Alec, now 15, is about to become the youngest astronaut in world history, leaping on a Virgin-sponsored flight to the moon.

Oh, alright, not quite. In fact, d'Armond Speers has been repeating this story because he's helping to market the Ultralingua translation software for Mac and PC.

According to the Minnesota Daily, this fine software is frightfully accurate and uses professional linguists as its sources.

Which is how it turned to d'Armond when customers craved a little Klingon version. "It was right square in my sweet spot," Speers told the Daily, in English.

Speers holds a doctorate in computational linguistics and he helped Ultralingua concoct the correct conversational Klingon for important word collections such as "All of you are boring" and "I'll have the black ale," two phrases that seem very deeply related.

However, when you market something, you want to tell of success stories. You want, like "Star Trek", to make people believe that they can be better, higher, stronger, happier and, um, higher.

Which is why I find my lower lip drooping at what happened to Alec. You see, Speers told the Daily that his son doesn't remember a single word of Klingon. He doesn't even appear to don a fake forehead to make himself more attractive to the girls at school.

I wanted to believe in a very different future. Living long and prospering can only take you so far. I wanted to believe that someone could learn Klingon and disseminate that wonderful language to the next generation.

Instead, we're only marketing here. As an expiring Spock himself put it, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one."

And we, the many, need to believe in software that transforms, not merely translates.

 

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