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Creating Game of Thrones’ Dothraki & High Valyrian languages | David Peterson

Here’s how you say “This is Marketplace” in Dothraki: “Jini Jereser.” My name is David Peterson, and I created the Dothraki and High Valyrian languages for HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” When I was creating both Dothraki and High Valyrian, there were little bits of language that George R.R. Martin had included in his books. My job was to take everything that George R.R. Martin had created and use that as my starting point, building off of it after that to make sure that everything that I created fit with his original vision. I get paid differently depending on whether I’m working on a film or a television show. For a television show, it’s much more structured. So I get paid a flat fee to create the language. Then after that, I’m paid an episodic fee to do translation on the episode, do voice recordings, work with the actors if need be and also for language maintenance — that is, you know, to add vocabulary to the language as I go. Most of the time, the actors on all the various shows and films I work on get the pronunciation and delivery of their lines pretty good. Sometimes it’s excellent, which is great. And then every so often, it’s absolutely abysmal, and I just roll my eyes. But it’s like, that’s showbiz. You just kind of have to roll with it. Easily my favorite scene from the show revolved around one of my lines. Daenerys had been negotiating with a slave master to get his army of Unsullied. He had seen her and assumed that she only spoke the common tongue. So he used a translator to talk to her. After she gets his army in exchange for a dragon, she turns the tables on him and reveals to him, with one line, that she actually speaks his language. And then, of course, mayhem ensues. It’s easily my favorite scene in the entire series. I mean, that basically launched my career. Producers saw “Game of Thrones” and they said, “Yes, that’s what we want to be doing.” “We want to be doing something like that.” And pretty much every job I’ve gotten since then has been a direct result of working on “Game of Thrones.”

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