May 4, 2018
The Wisdom And Creativity Of Translating Yoda Worldwide

If you are a fan of the movie Star Wars, you have no doubt fell in love with the character Yoda. Yes, this wise and mystical Jedi Master has a way of weaving his way into your heart. What makes Yoda so endearing is his wistful way of speech.

But, have you considered the anomalies that occur when Yoda’s English use of Subject + Verb + Object (SVO) rolls off his tongue in another country? Translators had to get a little creative in the translation of Yoda-speak to deliver a character that was as meaningful and artful as the English version of the movie portrayed him to be. With May 4th upon us, now is the perfect time to divulge deep into how Yoda speaks the world over.

SVO Vs. OSV

When we take a look at translations around the world, languages that typically use the SVO conjunction, don’t find Yoda’s speech all that different from their own grammatically correct way of speaking. For these translations, linguists had to be savvy and utilize the English Object + Subject + Verb (OSV) flow to create some distinction between the way Yoda speaks and the other characters of the movie talk. For English-speaking countries, this may create some confusion as Yoda just doesn’t sound like the Yoda they know and love. But, for countries that use SVO as their traditional way of speaking, the OSV change up provides a unique and in some instances a charming way of talking.

European SVO To OSV Translation

For European countries such as France and Germany, the conversion of Yoda’s script was made to OSV from the traditional SVO that is spoken in French and German. This simple change of bringing the object to the front gives Yoda a distinct speech that separates him easily from his counterparts like Han Solo, Darth Vader and of course Princess Leia to name a few.

In Italy, Yoda also speaks in an OSV language, which is counter-intuitive to the Italian SVO makeup. Interestingly, some areas of Italy such as the region of Sardinia speak an OSV version of Italian, which makes one wonder what their interpretation of Yoda really is. It may sound quite normal to them as it also does in Hungary where OSV is the traditional way of talking. To Hungarians, there is nothing remarkable about the way that Yoda speaks, causing them to miss out on one of the nuances of the movie, unfortunately.

Spain also uses an OSV translation instead of its Spanish SVO usage to give Yoda some quirkiness to his way of talking as does Norway. Turkey also joins the ranks of flipping the object by making Yoda speak with an OSV tense instead of the Turkish SVO language. It is thought that to Turkish viewers using OSV imparts some wisdom as it is the syntax that is typically used in classical Ottoman poetry in the country, adding to the characteristics that Yoda beholds.

Eastern European OSV And SVO Translations

As we move east, we find countries such as the Czech Republic and Estonia, using free word order that is grammatically correct in the country of origin. In the Czech Republic Yoda is an SVO speaker, and in Estonia, he speaks OSV. In both instances, this grammatically correct for the region, but Yoda is given an unusual twist to his speech as many think he is putting an exorbitant amount of emphasis on the verb in each sentence that he speaks.

Romania takes the translation to another degree by translating from SVO to OSV syntax, but in addition, all adjectives are placed before the noun as well as using archaic future tense that gets the point across that Yoda carries the age and wisdom to be a respected figurehead in the movie.

Asian SOV Translations

Asian countries such as Japan keep the SVO translation but change the words that Yoda speaks by infusing a more archaic vocabulary to get the desired effect with his speech. In Korea, there is no difference in the way Yoda speaks as he uses an SOV translation that is used by Koreans throughout the country.

While the country that you live in and the language that you speak alters the persona of Yoda, one thing is certain; there is an affinity for Star Wars no matter where you are. The movie has made space fans out of all of us and on this May 4th, we hope you take a moment to think about how Yoda’s speech has evolved through translation worldwide. And, above all, “May the force be with you!”.