Sure, you could use hackneyed pick-up lines like "Come here often?" or "Is your name Google? Because you're the answer to everything I'm searching for."
But when it, you should set yourself apart. And nothing will distinguish you more than whispering catchy come-ons like a tall, hairy, handsome humanoid from Kashyyyk.
"Can I buy you a drink?" sounds so much cooler in the Wookiee language of Shyriiwook: "Huwaa muaa mumwa?"
With Valentine's Day approaching, the goal here isn't just to impress with a basic Wookiee roar. You'll want to rouse the object of your affection right down to their midi-chlorians with intriguing openers that show you have the confidence to approach strangers talking like a walking carpet, a temperamental warrior with a ridged forehead or a sentient blue extraterrestrial.
My love of speaking sci-fi goes way back. As a kid, I thought I could talk droid like R2-D2 and began to randomly beep at my classmates in elementary school -- until a confused teacher pulled me aside to ask if I was OK. Later, when I worked as a senior editor for the Lucasfilm site StarWars.com, part of my job was to become familiar with phrases spoken by characters like Chewbacca, Jabba the Hutt, Greedo, Wicket the Ewok and Jawas.
While I did end up marrying R2-D2, it's not as easy to master a sci-fi language as it looks. It took awhile just to decipher the difference between the high-pitched sounds of Jawas and Ewoks and the deeper, guttural utterances of Jabba the Hutt and Chewbacca. But with patience, and the help of repeat Star Wars film viewings and books like the "Star Wars Galactic Phrase Book & Travel Guide," I got there.
I can't speak Huttese, Ewokese, Klingon, Na'vi or other alien languages fluently, but popping a few key phrases in alien tongues into daily conversations with friends helped me become more comfortable speaking made-up dialects in front of strangers. Ultimately, I could repeat phrases expertly enough that when I greeted fans with them at sci-fi conventions, I got winks and high-fives for my efforts.
I don't just use my fictional-language skills for friendly greetings, though. Believe it or not, I flirt in Huttese quite a bit -- typically at social gatherings held at events like San Diego Comic-Con International and Denver Comic Con. After speaking in sci-fi, I usually get a date -- or at least an offer to hang out and play Star Wars Monopoly.
As a side note, I also often curse in Klingon while playing board games with new people, just to throw them off-guard. I don't recommend screaming "hu'tegh" ("damn") while trying to flirt, though, as it could send mixed signals.
Master the moves
I like to break the ice with completely unexpected phrases. In Huttese I'll say, "Jeeska do sookee koopa moe nanya," which translates to "Keep your suction cups where I can see them."
The Huttese phrase "U kulle rah doe kankee kung" ("You are my kind of scum") can also work wonders.
Don't just start randomly beeping at strangers, of course. I often return to a valuable lesson I learned back in grade school when booping like R2-D2 to my bemused peers -- know your audience. If it's clear my conversation partner doesn't speak Star Wars, I'll use a precursor like "As Jabba the Hutt likes to say…." or "That reminds me of a popular Ewok saying…." That seems to do the trick.
It's good to say hi in your own language, introduce yourself and then ask if the person you're chatting with has ever seen Star Wars, Star Trek or whatever pop culture universe your alien language comes from. Then try to impress them with your intergalactic, bilingual skills.
But don't be shy about talking alien to science fiction novices.
If there's a hard-core Star Trek fan in the group, and I say something in Klingon -- favorites include "mamI' 'oH DaneH?" ("Would you like to dance with me?") or "quSDaq ba'lu'a" ("Is this seat taken?") -- I always get a huge smile. Those who don't understand me but recognize the complex Star Trek language are often intrigued and want to know what I just said and how to say it.
I'll tell them this Klingon alphabet and pronunciation guide from Omniglot is a good way to make sure you can not only pronounce phrases correctly, but also can write out letters.
The Klingon Institute offers language classes for beginners to advanced students for a small membership fee of $10, or you can take some of the free lessons online to get a taste of what you're in for if you want to be fluent enough to impress a battleship (or bar) full of cranky Klingons.
If you're in more of a hurry to get just the basics, "Learn Klingon in 6 Steps" is the way to go.
To learn Klingon online, my favorite resource is a series of YouTube videos from StarTrekIS that teach Klingon phrases, behavior tips and cultural cues. If you want to brush up on your German skills too, StarTrekIS also teaches Klingon in German.
To really master Star Wars languages, start by paying close attention to the Star Wars movies for pronunciations and inflections. Ben Burtt, the author of the "Star Wars Galactic Phrase Book & Travel Guide," has compiled quite a few handy sayings to keep you moving.
Here are more Huttese phrases I like from the legendary sound designer and alien-linguist's book:
"Mee dunkee gunko": "I am pleased to meet you."
"Bargon u noa a-uyat": "You will be rewarded."
"Smeeleeya whao toupee upee": "Smile when you say that."
"Dopo mee gusha?": "Do you feel lucky?"
"Twoos pa reeta bah flootah": "May your juices stay fresh."
If you'd rather not sound like an interplanetary gangster, bring out your inner Ewok by saying "Gyeesh, chak heeta hutah." THAT translates as "Please, no more bark lizard." If nothing else, the phrase serves as a terrific ice breaker at parties. I hope.
More pro tips
Of course, no amount of alien lingo will work unless you remember to be yourself. Even if you're fluent in Klingon or Huttese, you'll eventually still need to charm in your native language.
The ultimate goal in learning fun sci-fi phrases isn't to lure someone back to your Death Star. Instead, they show you're willing to make an extra effort to skip predictable small talk so you can get to more meaningful exchanges that reveal and how you feel deep down.
In the end, we all really want the same thing: to hear someone say in Na'vi, "Oel ngati kameie" ("I understand your soul.")
First published Feb. 13, 4 a.m. PT.
Update, Feb, 14 at 8:58 a.m. PT: Adds video on how to woo your crush in alien languages.
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