How Game of Thrones language High Valyrian comes to life
How you doing?
All right, so that's a buger and a shake.
All right, any fries with that?
Yeah, fries, too, yeah, yeah.
Game of Thrones is back.
And the original Shake Shack in New York has a secret menu if you order in High Valyrian.
It's the language spoken by the most powerful characters on the show.
So it's a fantasy story full of made up dragons and undead armies.
But the language has real rules and structure.
And it all comes from the mind of this guy, David J Peterson.
He's a professional linguist who creates languages for several shows and movies.
He crafted Dothrathy and High Valerian for the HBO series So obviously creating the Game of Thrones language was a little bit different from my usual projects because there was material that I had to incorporate.
Material that was created by George R.
So like to give you an example with the [UNKNOWN] which is an easy one.
There's a phrase in the books where the women are chanting, rah, rah, rah high.
And so that's translated as a boy a boy, a strong Boy, you figure out that rah must mean boy And Hadgmas means strong which means that the placement of the modifier comes after the noun.
Which is different from English, so it's cool.
Is it consistent and you go around and look and it is consistent.
So that was nice.
For Valerian there was much less to go on.
There was only two phrases, there was [FOREIGN].
Which is Amman must die.
And [FOREIGN] which is all men must cert.
So that's all I had to go on which is not a lot.
And now we have how many words in Valerian?
He had over 2000 some.
And you can even learn it yourself on the duo lingo app.
David built the free course for duo lingo based on what he created for the show.
I think I came up with something that works that's kind of, at least I hope it's not too intensive.
I think you can just kinda jump in and figure it out in little bits as you go.
I think it works well.
When you're hearing them perform on TV, do you ever think they interpereted it differently then you intended or does anyone do a really good job with it?
Or give me your impressions when you're seeing it perfromed.
Nothing, absolutely nothing tops Her introduction.
Now is when she revealed that she's speaking high Valyrian.
I mean, that scene, in my opinion, is the high water mark at the series.
We'll see if they top it at the last season.
That scene for me is just.
I will tell you, far and away, the best perform, not just on Game of Thrones, but on everything I've ever worked on, is Jacob Anderson, who plays Grey Worm.
He is extraordinary.
He's the only person that's ever had one of my languages where I said that trying as hard as I might.
I could never be as good as him at pronouncing this language.
He was so good that after season three when I heard him in action, just thereafter, I tried to copy his pronunciation.
He was just that good.
And I begged them, begged them, just give him more lines in the language.
And was heartbroken when his character learned English.
But yeah, every so often there are errors and stuff, and you know that will happen.
What I've always said is, especially if the errors are believable errors, that's actually realistic.
Like, that's how we speak.
If you ever transcribe somebody actually speaking You will be amazed how may errors they make.
When I set material to the actors, they all get the sae amount of inofrmation.
Firstly, the scripts writers sends me a script And then what I do is I translate the line.
But what I do is I give them back, here's the English line that was in the script.
Then below that is a translation, just a straight translation, that's very easy to read.
Below that line is what I call a phonetic translation.
And then, the most important thing though is that I record it on MP3.
So every single line of this series.
With Game of Thrones in fact, I added this up recently, it was more Then more than 1100 recordings that I did for Game of Thrones.
Do you ever have fun with it and make your own little jokes out of words?
Yeah, all the time, all the time.
Becuase you know, in theory, if this universe is totally unconnected to our own, if you wanna, say make a word that's based on a friend's name.
That doesn't mean anything, because that friend doesn't exist in that universe.
So as long as it's phonologically licit, meaning that the sounds could be in that language, and come in that order, then that's fine, it's fair game.
So give me some examples, then.
Yeah, all the time.
My friend Blaine, he made it into High Valerian, cuz he loves the mountains, and he loves snowboarding.
And so the word for mountain is [FOREIGN].
What are some I guess basic phrases that every Game of Thrones fan should know?
I guess now everyone talks about winter is coming but we should say winter is here, right?
Break it down.
Wait, first part is-
First part is winter.
And [FOREIGN] is snow in the singular.
[FOREIGN] is basically the snows.
All of them, or all the snow.
And that's how you say winter.
And I have learned, so [FOREIGN].
Yes, that's how.
I heard that trill, that's good.
What can people really get out of spending time studying [UNKNOWN]?
Well, the thing is when you're studying a language, if you look at two things.
Number one, if you look at it as success or failure fluency, learning a language can be very depressing.
Because it takes a lot of work to be fluent, and if anything less than fluent is failure than most people fail when it comes to learning the language.
And frankly I don't think that's a useful metric.
The way I look at it, is every single language created or otherwise is an absolutely beautiful creation.
If I had the ability I would learn every single one.
So it wouldn't matter to me if I used them with another person.
Just because it's so inherently interesting to see what humans are doing to solve the problem of communication.
Because that's what all of us have done, right?
All over the world, every single language is an attempt to solve that problem of communication.
And every language does it in a slightly unique way.
And so the more you learn any language.
The more you understand what it means to be human, I just think that it's inherently valuable.
And of course when you're hungry, there's also some value in ordering a burger and a shake.
Alright got my dragon glass shake, my dracarus burger, got the whole mother thing down and And the iron throne, it's a little bit off, but it'll have to do.
Still though, If I'm gonna do this, I gotta do it right.
It's got that Hungarian heat.
Kinda take some of those marines spices.
Missy dragon glass.
You want some?