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Haya: The Kenyan Dialect Spoken by Nien Nunb in Star Wars

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Haya good hour

The Star Wars universe is incredibly expansive and filled with captivating stories. It can be challenging to navigate through the movies, series, comics, and video games. In Episode VI Return of the Jedi, one character, Nien Nunb, catches our attention.

You probably remember Nien Nunb as Lando Calrissian’s co-pilot on the Millennium Falcon during the epic battle between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire’s Death Star. He is an alien from the planet Sullust with a distinctive appearance and speaks an unintelligible language.

But is his language truly incomprehensible? Not for everyone! In reality, Nien Nunb speaks a completely ordinary dialect originating from Africa: “haya.”

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How is it possible for a Star Wars character to speak a Kenyan dialect? Let’s delve into the words of sound engineer Ben Burtt, the mastermind behind the iconic sounds of lightsabers and blasters in Star Wars.

Billy Dee Williams’ co-pilot’s voice was recorded by a young man who was a foreign exchange student from Kenya and spoke Haya, one of the indigenous languages of the country.

And that’s how simple it is. This linguistic surprise even delighted those who understood Haya worldwide.

We did a recording session with him, and his voice was used for the co-pilot. Of course, in most parts of the world, no one understands this language. But when this film was shown in Kenya, people suddenly recognized their own language in Star Wars and were thrilled.

If you’ve ever wondered what Nien Nunb said, for example, when he uttered “Atiriri, inyuothe muri hari ukai haha” in the film, it simply translates to “Can you all come?” That’s all there is to it.

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