Finnaan Anha Dothrak?

So unlike MiniDisc, apparently turn-by-turn navigation systems aren’t going away any time soon (go figure). Thanks to our very own Hrakkar, though, we’ll soon have the option of getting turn-by-turn directions in Dothraki. Pretty wild, right?

So this is how it works. Hrakkar found a text file used by Garmin to translate its directions into various languages. All you need to do is translate the set phrases and provide audio, and voilà! It won’t translate street names (which is appropriate), or do them in the appropriate accent, but that would be a bit much to expect. Hrakkar got a jumpstart on translating the list of commands, and I helped him fill in the rest. The entire list of commands is presented below, with commentary:

English Dothraki
Proceed to highlighted route. Dothra osaan shovena.
Recalculating. Anha gachak mae ajjin.
Traffic ahead. Hrazefeser hatif shafki.
Continue on route. Vatteri dothralat she os.
Make a U-turn. Idiro.

Above, the word I used for “highlighted” (shoven, suffixed with -a above as it modifies a noun in a non-nominative case) basically means “smudged” or “marked”. It’s difficult to translate English’s “headline language” into Dothraki (the same is true of just about any inflectional language), so that something that renders quite simply in English (e.g. “Recalculating”) requires a full sentence in Dothraki (literally, “I’m figuring it out right now”). There’s no real word for “traffic” (and no concept for it), so I used hrazefeser, which is kind of like a herd of wild horses. Hrakkar gets credit for what I think is the most brilliant translation of the bunch: idiro, which, in this context, means “Make a U-turn”. Idirolat derives from the Dothraki word for “owl”, idiro. It literally means “to owl”, and implies that one has made a full 180° turn quite suddenly, as owls do with their heads. That’s basically what a U-turn is, so in this case Dothraki is more succinct than the English (that doesn’t happen often!).

Here’s the next batch:

English Dothraki
Destination ovvethikh
Via Point eleisosakh
Arrive at… Jado she…
Arriving at… Shafka jadoe she…
Enter roundabout. Emra osfir.
In she
Then majin
Turn noti
Take okki
Take ramp. Okki yathokh.

As you’ll note, we’re using the formal second person throughout (seems like the safest bet). The word for “destination” is just the word for “goal”, which comes from the word for “target”, which is why it’s related to the word for “fly” (ovethat). For “roundabout”, I went with “round road”, which seems close enough. I think it’s a happy accident that, at least for English speakers, you can pluck the word “sphere” right out of the word osfir. Should help one remember the word.

Regarding “in”, you’ll note that the word she is used, as opposed to mra, which means “in” or “inside”. This is because the word here is the English word “in”, and that brings us to a major translation issue in Doing this. The English word “in” could be used by Garmin in a number of ways—most likely in a sentence like, “Turn left in three miles”. There, it’s pretty clear that “in” doesn’t mean “inside”. Rather, it could almost be translated “after” (i.e. “Turn after three miles have passed”) or “at” (i.e. “Turn at the three mile mark from this point”), etc. In Dothraki, she is the most semantically empty locative preposition. As a result, it’s probably our best bet here, even if it doesn’t match up perfectly (and it helps that, in its basic form, she governs the nominative, which will prevent case problems, for which see below).

Here’s the next set:

English Dothraki
Ahead hatif shafki
Keep vatteri dothralat
Exit esemrasakh
Left sindarine
Right haje
Turn left. Noti sindarine.
Turn right. Noti haje.
On left she sindarinekh
On right she hajekh
Navigate off road. Hezhahi she osoon.
Navigate on road. Hezhahi she osaan.

I have absolutely no idea what “Navigate off road” or “Navigate on road” means, but I thought Hrakkar’s use of hezhahat was inspired, so I stuck with his translation. (Also, nice use of she with the allative and ablative!). There is no adverb “ahead” that’s used just like the English word, so hatif shafki means “in front of you”. And a word like “keep” just gives me fits (lousy analytical English!). I decided to translate it as “Keep riding”, reasoning that it’ll probably be used in expressions like “Keep right” or “Keep left”. Unfortunately, it won’t be translated quite right (I think a more appropriate translation for “Keep right” would be Vatteri dothralat she hajekh), but that’s on account of the fact that the basic language here is English. If the initial language had been anything else (say, Russian), it would have had more phrases to translate, rather than words. In English, the form of a word doesn’t change all that often (just pluralization on nouns and minimal verb tense), so you can separate them out and not worry about the context of surrounding words. Not so with Dothraki. As a result, some things will not be combined appropriately. I imagine the same would be true of a language like Russian if it were to translate the program using this script. So it goes.

Here’s the next group:

English Dothraki
Board ferry. Emra rhaggat eveth.
Leave ferry. Esemrasa rhaggat eveth.
At roundabout she osfir
Exit roundabout. Esemrasa osfir.
To destination ovvethikhaan
To via point eleisosakhaan
Feet qorraya
Yards rhaesof
Meters rhaesof Valiri

There isn’t, of course, a large nautical vocabulary in Dothraki: a boat is a boat is a boat is a water cart. For our measure words, I had to create some on the fly to serve. These aren’t to be used in-universe; they’re just for us. So the word for “feet” (or “foot”, as the singular and plural are the same) is qorraya, the Dothraki word for “forearm” (about as long as a foot). A yard, on the other hand, is a bit longer, and so it’s a rhaesof—not a larger foot, in this case, but a stride. And I’m mightily entertained by my word for “meter”, which is, essentially, “a Valyrian yard”. I think of “meters” as basically “British yards” (even though we got our measure from England initially), and so I thought, “What would the equivalent of ‘British’ be in Dothraki…?” I wanted to say Lhazareen, but that didn’t seem very fair to the British, so I went with Valyrian. You’ll see it again in the next group:

English Dothraki
One quarter mile irvosa
One half mile chetira
Three quarters of a mile sen irvosa
Mile karlina
And a quarter ma saccheya
Miles karlina
And a half ma sachi
And three quarters ma sen saccheya
Kilometer karlina Valiri
Kilometers karlina Valiri

And there’s our Valyrian miles (a.k.a. kilometers). There’s no word for “quarter” in Dothraki, so I borrowed over the word saccheya (derived from the word sachi, which means “half”) which actually means something like “part” or “division”. It could mean “half” in the right context, but more often it’s less than that, and conventionally I think it works well as “quarter”. As for the terms for miles and parts of miles (another rare instance where Dothraki proves more economical than English), you can read more about their etymologies in this blog post I did for CNN’s The Next List.

Finally, there are a bunch of numbers. It calls for the cardinal numbers 1 through 10 and also 100, and the ordinal numbers 1 through 9. There’s no call for ordinal 10 or 100, but since it’ll make a neater table, I’ll go ahead and include those too:

English Dothraki English Dothraki
One at First atak
Two akat Second akatak
Three sen Third senak
Four tor Fourth torak
Five mek Fifth mekak
Six zhinda Sixth zhindak
Seven fekh Seventh fekhak
Eight ori Eighth orik
Nine qazat Ninth qazatak
Ten thi Tenth thik
Hundred ken Hundredth kenak

And there you have it! I’m not quite sure what step lies between having this information translated and recorded and getting it onto your own Garmin, but I believe Hrakkar will provide us with that info in time (at which point this post will updated). If you happen to already know what to do, I’ve got audio of me reading all of the above which you can download here (right click on that. I thought about embedding the audio as I’ve done with previous posts, but there’d just be too much, and this page loads slow enough as it is). You can also get the text from above in a handy .txt file by clicking here. If you’d like to record your own version, send it my way and I’ll put it up here.

In other news, if you’re going to be at WorldCon in Chicago at the end of the month, I will be there. Come find me and test my on-the-fly Dothraki fluency! (Then prepare to be disappointed [though I’ve always been much more of a writer than a speaker, when it comes to second languages].) Until next time, fonas chek!

Posted on August 22, 2012, in Community, Vocabulary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Idiro is a clever idiom. Internets to Hrakkar!

  2. Idiro is a clever idiom. Internets to Hrakkar!

  3. Idiro as a word just seemed logical. If you drive, you will realize that most U-turns are made quickly, to either avoid traffic, or perhaps not be seen by a cop ;)

    The recording work will be fun. I will take a listen to David’s files and try them first (all clips need to be two seconds or under, which will be a bit challenging with the phrases!), When I have a little more time, I will record them on my own. (Like David, I, too am getting ready for Worldcon.) The software used is called Garmin Voice Studio and at least used to be easy to find and download.

    I very much like rhaesof valiri for ‘meter’, as I tend to think of the Valyrian people as being the scientists and engineers of Westeros. One example of their skill is the awesome Damascus steel their swords are made of! In any case, they, of any people in Westeros, would have been the ones to come up with a ‘meteric system’.

  4. Who likes the house Stark? Likes the page.

  5. Who likes the house Stark? Likes the page.

  6. Who likes the house Stark? Likes the page.

  7. “Left” is “sindarine” but “right” isn’ “quenye”? I’m disappointed :-)

  8. I always thought that sindarine seemed to stand out as a rather unique word (and the Tolkienese connection stands out every time I encounter the word). Now though, we know the ‘rest of the story’ and need to remember to attack a Dothraki from the left side ;)

    As I write this, I am on a train in eastern Iowa, about five hours from Chicago and Worldcon!

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