If you have a serious interest in learning the Klingon language, you can now take a course online that pretty quickly reveals you to be the human coward that you truly are. The language learning site Duolingo has launched a section for learning phrases in the fictional language spoken by the greatest and bumpiest warrior aliens in Star Trek. But there are also a few unexpected jokes found in a few sly Trekkie references. Just who are Mara and Torg anyway?
On Thursday, DuoLingo launched its Klingon learning section, which is surprisingly minimalist. The lessons and tests approach learning Klingon as though it were any other terrestrial language. It’s a surprisingly straightforward approach that has its roots in Marc Okrand’s classic book The Klingon Dictionary.
If you jump right in and try to take any of Duolingo’s tests, you’ll probably be schooled like the weak human p’takh you probably are — unless of course, you’re really good at Klingon already, in which case, you’ll be fine. Either way, two Klingon proper names that come up a lot in the tests are “Torg” and “Mara,” which are actually kind of inside jokes.
Torg was the name of a Klingon who boarded the USS Enterprise in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock right before Kirk blew up the whole damn ship. At one point, Torg holds up his communicator to the computer, serenely counting down the seconds to his destruction. The reason he doesn’t know its a countdown is because he only speaks Klingon, not English. So, when Duolingo presents the phrase “blyaj’a torgh?” — which translates to “do you understand Torg?” — hardcore fans know that the answer is no. Torg does not understand.
A similar reference is made with the name Mara. She’s a Klingon from the classic original series episode “Day of the Dove.” In the episode, she has to put up with a lot of shit not only from a Klingon named Kang, but also Ensign Chekov, too. So, when you try to learn the phrase “Mara does not understand,” there are tons of things the real Mara might not understand, including why Chekov is such an asshole and why she has to be surrounded by so many idiot males in one Star Trek episode.
These aren’t the only references to the entire canon of Star Trek on the Duolingo Klingon courses. Obviously, because the language itself comes from Star Trek, the entire thing is a little tongue-in-cheek. Still, like so much of Trek fandom, the brilliance of the Klingon courses on Duolingo is they prove that some science fiction is so pervasive that it ceases to be fiction anymore. The Klingon language is real. And the Torgs and Maras of the world are ready to make you understand.
Duolingo is free to use. You can learn other languages apart from Klingon there, too. You can sign up here.