David J. Peterson Says to Learn a Language

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Each year, Comic-Con stages an “I Can't Write, I Can't Draw but I Love Comics” panel to inspire those who want to break into the industry through less traditional means. Who better to take part than David J. Peterson, the linguist who helped put words in Khal Drogo's mouth? Peterson – who sat alongside motion capture artist Derron Ross, previsualization artist Kerry Shea, and weapons maker Tony Swatton – recounted how he got his 'Thrones' gig after a two-month, two-round application process, an opportunity he heard about through the Language Creation Society. Although just one of many members in the Language Creation Society, Peterson is the only person currently creating languages for TV shows. “Hopefully the number of opportunities increase in the future,” he said. “It's on me to do a good job.”

The benefit of having a living language on the show, believes Peterson, is that it's like a prop that fans can use too. “Anyone can use and build on it,” he said. “It's a really neat way for fans to engage in a dynamic way.” For those looking to break into the field, Peterson says to “study as many languages as possible” – it's the best way to “understand what makes a language realistic.”

Peterson told Making Game of Thrones that of the two languages he's created for 'Thrones,' his Dothraki is stronger, but he prefers the sound of Valyrian. He has favorite phrases in each tongue: “A dragon is not a slave,” and “It is known.” His go-to phrase? “Where's the bathroom?” he said. “Everything else is less urgent.”