All right...I don't know how long these links are going to last, but I am hoping they'll last long enough for you to get the idea.
Now you get to hear your first taste of the Cardăsda language--yes, you get to hear it! Just click the links before each section to get the audio for this lesson, as if you were a Federation citizen studying the language!
(Man, I hate my voice. And I know what it says on that website but don't even THINK about making ringtones or any other crap out of this. I would never be able to crawl back out from under my rock and face humanity again if you did. Oh, and I'd never forgive you.
Lesson 1: Consonant Pronunciation
Cardassian pronunciation has a reputation among speakers of Federation Standard (once known as English) for being difficult due to the prevalence of certain consonants of relatively rare occurrence among Terran languages. The truth is that this reputation is somewhat unfair—Cardassian is not as difficult as it’s commonly made out to be. Most Cardassian consonants are quite straightforward, with only a few minor points that Federation Standard speakers need to be aware of. In fact, Federation Standard speakers have a distinct advantage
over native speakers of languages such as Spanish, Rihannsu, Klingon, and other prominent galactic languages due to certain similarities in vowel pronunciation—right down to a tendency to de-emphasize vowels occurring in non-accented syllables. That’s why we will spend little time dealing with the vowels: they will by and large take care of themselves as long as you follow the Ilojan transliterations listed on your display. We’ll work on them a few lessons down the line.
It can accurately be said of native Federation Standard speakers that if one masters the consonants, a near-native accent will come easily (the trouble being, of course, that many Cardassians, upon hearing well-pronounced language, will expect perfect grammar to come with it!). Still, put aside your fears—in not too long, you’ll be well on your way.
Before we begin, please note that every Cardassian letter has a name, such as loubăk
for “l.” Don’t worry about these names for now—you’ll learn them later. We’ll start our lessons with proper names, some of which you may have heard on the news. This will give you the advantage of knowing somewhat what to expect, allowing you to focus on mastering each sound without having to worry about unfamiliar vocabulary.
On your display you will see two transliterations of each name: first, that currently used by the Federation News Service, and second in italics, the Ilojan transliterations used by Starfleet Linguistics to phonetically render Cardassian. It is strongly advised that you focus on the Ilojan text—as we progress through this series, we will drop the FNS transliterations altogether. By the end of this lesson, you’ll know how to pronounce the famous poet’s name the way a native-born Cardassian would.
We’ll start simple—this first set of consonants works exactly like Federation Standard.
B: Benil / Beniyl
D: Dukat / Doukat
H: Hovat / Hovăt
M: Macet / Maset
N: Nador / Nădor
P: Pa’Dar/ Pa’Dar
V: Vorlem / Vorlem
Y: Yaltar / Yăltar
Z: Zarale / Zarayl
“L” works similarly to Federation Standard—however, it is always pronounced with the sound known as “dark l,” further back in the front, never with the “light l” from the tip of the tongue, heard in many England-based dialects. Listen to the correct pronunciation:
L: Lemec / Lemec
This name should never be pronounced *Lemec.
From now on, we will deal with the consonants in sets. That will allow you to hear the contrasts between them. We’ll move in order of relative difficulty. We will also provide you with accepted substitutes that will allow you to make yourself understood while you perfect your accent—however, we do not advise relying on them in lieu of developing a Cardassian accent, as some of the sounds are difficult to substitute in a way that will make you understood to Cardassians who do not understand Federation Standard.
Here’s our first pair—listen for the contrast in the beginning consonants.
S / «: Seska / Seska
Jasad / «asad
Place your tongue in the same place you would for the “s” sound and lower it slightly, allowing for air to pass above it. Don’t pull the tip of your tongue back into the position used for the Federation Standard “sh” sound.
If you have difficulty with this sound, you may substitute “j” or “sh.”
Here’s the next—and possibly one of the most important ones to learn, considering that you must use this to name the people, the language, and the world that you’re studying:
K / C: Kell / Kel
Corak / Corăk
Begin in the same way as you would for the “k” sound, but accompany it with a sharp release of breath that continues into the following vowel. This is not to be confused with the sound heard in the German name “Bach” or the sound heard in the Spanish word “baja.”
The “ch” sound in “Bach” may be used as a substitute if necessary.
The next set is pronounced very similarly—after we contrast them against each other, we’ll contrast with one of the previous examples for review.
G / Gh: Garak / Garăk
Ghemor / Ghemor
Begin as you would for the “g” sound, but accompany it with a sharp release of breath that continues into the following vowel, though this may be somewhat more abbreviated than the previous example.
The “j” sound in “baja” may be used as a substitute.
Let’s make a few more comparisons:
C / Gh: Corak / Corăk
Ghemor / Ghemor
Here’s the next pair.
T / Th: Tain / Tayn
Thrax / Thrăks
Though transcribed the same as the Federation Standard “th” sound, this is nothing like it. Begin the same way as you would the “t” sound, but accompany it with a sharp release of breath. You may find you need to lower your tongue very slightly after the initial attack.
You may use the “th” sound as a substitute if necessary, though native Cardassian speakers unfamiliar with Federation Standard may find this a bit difficult to understand.
The final pair is perhaps the most challenging to speakers of Federation Standard who do not also speak a language such as Spanish, Russian, or Rihannsu which contains similar sounds. Both consonants in this pair deserve special attention. In the second case, you will hear it in the middle of the word.
R / Rh: Rusot / Rousot
Marritza / Marhitza
The first is pronounced with a “tap” of the tongue much like the Spanish “ere.” If you are unfamiliar with this sound, start by saying “ede” more and more rapidly until you match the sample. In some dialects, such as that heard from Gul Dukat (Gul Doukat
), this sound is a full trill like the Spanish “erre.”*
Begin the pronunciation of the second sound just as you did the first, and accompany it with a sharp release of breath. This will result, if done properly, in the “r” component turning into a trill.**
Use the Federation Standard “r” for the first as a substitute if necessary.
A trill may be used as a substitute for the second—however, native Cardassian speakers may have difficulty understanding this due to its use in certain dialects for a different consonant.
You may be wondering why we don’t cover the glottal stop heard in Pa’Dar (Pa’Dar
) in this lesson, given that it is a consonant. This sound is considered by Cardassian grammarians to be a vowel, much the same way Federation Standard grammarians debate whether “y” and “w” should be considered vowels. It’s a very simple sound, just as you hear between syllables in the word “uh-oh.”
*I couldn’t help it. Yes, that quirk of Dukat’s is a reference to a certain historical someone.
**That is one godawful and completely unintended—and unavoidable—pun…