Klingon for humans* is in the Incubator!
The most popular way to learn languages in the world will soon become the most popular app in the… galaxy!
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And as the Klingons themselves would say, “Qapla’!”
This is interesting, I'm wondering where the heck will they get a TTS engine for this. More importantly, aren't there any licensing and copyright issues related to this language?
Oh, I think everybody should grip themselves for the incoming spam of "When will klingon graduate". Assuming this isn't a joke, I'm wondering how the heck will this course be moderated.
I don't know where they're getting a TTS engine from, but at least one TTS engine exists for Klingon. I know this because I wrote it: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.tlhInganHol.android.klingonttsengine
I don't think that's what they'll be using, though, as I would've expected them to contact me if they were.
Having done some research it seems that languages, including conlangs, are un-copyright-able, although dictionaries etc. are protected in the same way as a natural language. I've had trouble finding a primary source though. If I find one, I'll put it here. In the meantime, this [broken link] describes the situation as I understand it, although, as I said, I'm still looking for primary sources.
Edit: Oh, this only applies the the language itself. Using the name Klingon... I don't know? Some things I've read (now) would suggest it, but it's, honestly, really confusing reading all this as a non-expert...
Edit 2: According to this article, which is fairly well sourced, languages cannot be considered under copyright, at least in the U.S., since, to quote 17 U.S. Code § 102, [...] (b) In no case does copyright protection [...] extend to any idea, procedure, process, [...] regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.
I cut out what I considered the unimportant parts for the issue at hand, but I recommend reading it in it's entirety ^^
Edit 3: Apparently, the first link leads, well, nowhere, so I decided to remove it.
A couple of people have complained about the inclusion of Klingon while higher-demand natural languages haven't yet been accepted, and instead of replying to each comment, I'll just post a general response here. I don't work for Duolingo and have no special insight into their internal processes, but I have worked on multilingual software and can make an educated guess.
TL;DR summary: the benefits of supporting Klingon may justify the effort of doing so, in a way that may not be obvious to you.
The complaints appear to boil down to two questions.
- Why would someone developing multilingual software prioritise Klingon over some natural languages?
Because Klingon occupies the gap between easy to implement (from the point of view of developing software that supports many languages) and difficult. It's trivial to support English, because technology is biased towards the Latin alphabet (think ASCII). It's easy to extend your software to support other Western European languages: you just need to support extended Latin and be able to handle some forms of conjugation and grammatical gender. Beyond that, there's a gap that needs to be crossed before supporting most natural languages: other writing systems, more complex grammar, etc. Klingon is a rare instance of a language that occupies that gap. It uses Latin, but with unusual capitalisation rules. Its grammar is OVS. It is agglutinative. It has grammatical gender (but the division it draws is between beings, body parts, and everything else). As a software developer, using Klingon is a great way to work out edge cases before tackling more difficult languages.
Because its speakers tend to be tech-savvy. The speakers of Klingons are disproportionately likely to have a technical background. This means that Klingon beta testers give much better bug reports than users of other languages.
Because there is little consequence to offending its speakers. If you do something embarrassingly wrong in, say, Russian, many people will get offended. You'll be mocked in the Russian media and Russian users will write angry rants about you. In contrast, Klingon speakers are very forgiving (contrary to the image of the Klingons on Star Trek). Microsoft launched Klingon support in Bing with a level of quality far below that of the supported natural languages (that's to put it mildly). If they had done that with any other language, they would have been pilloried in the press and that language's speakers would have been outraged. Instead, they received a great deal of positive press, and Klingon speakers, while mildly annoyed, have been working to help Microsoft improve their engine.
- Why would anyone want to learn Klingon?
Different people want to learn different languages for different reasons, and that's also true for Klingon. However, there are some reasons which are specific to Klingon. Some people want to learn it to add authenticity to a character, for example as part of cosplay, in a video game, for fan fiction, etc. The fact that it uses the Latin alphabet, and has a speaker base consisting of only dozens at most who can speak it in real-time, but thousands who are familiar with stock phrases and can decipher simple sentences given a little time and a dictionary, makes it ideal for use as a code. (I originally learned Klingon as a secret language to use with a friend.) The fact that it is much simpler than a natural language, and has no connection to any real-life political entities, makes it an ideal instructional language for teaching linguistics and related subjects. And finally, Klingon speakers are interesting people, due to selection bias (only people who have time and energy to dedicate themselves to unusual hobbies become conversant in Klingon, and they tend to be involved in other interesting hobbies too).
I understand your point of view, but technical challenges should be hosted in another forum. What I don't understand is how do you prioritize the projects? How many will actually learn this fiction language? How many books are written with it? Would you spend your time to learn it? All I see is this fiction language is going to burn a lot of working hours. I am very appreciate what Duolingo team has done so far, but my time on Earth only limited to 100 years old - 'On ne vit qu'une fois', please spend your time wisely.