‘I sat down with a Game of Thrones tutor to learn Daenerys Targaryen’s mother tongue’

‘Valar dohaeris’

(Image credit: Helen Sloan/HBO)

‘Valar dohaeris’

There is just one episode left until the end of Game of Thrones, with fans spending every waking moment debating who is going to end up on the iron throne and trying to soak up every last bit of Westeros before next week.

This past few months have seen Game of Thrones supper clubs, pop-up tattoo parlours and dragon eggs on Deliveroo come to the capital. But wanting to venture outside of the box, I tried something a little different.

I decided to give learning one of the languages a go.

Which? High Valyrian - Daenerys Targaryen’s mother tongue.

Throwback to that iconic scene where the Mother of Dragons frees The Unsullied and burns Astapor. ‘I am Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, of the blood of Old Valyria. Valyrian is my mother tongue.’

game of thrones

Credit: HBO

The language service offered by Bark, Europe’s leading online marketplace, allows members of the public to hire professional tutors for £40 per hour to learn to speak, read and write the Game of Thrones dialect.

Featuring throughout George R.R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ fantasy novels, and created for the HBO program by American linguist David J. Peterson, it seemed like an obvious choice.

So, interested in the tuition service, I sat down with a High Valyrian tutor to get to grips with the language.

(Image credit: Sky Atlantic / ©2015 Home Box Office)

What is your golden tip for learning High Valyrian?

Take things really slow to start with – it’s important not to rush. Take it one syllable at a time and really exaggerate your pronunciation. You won’t be able to speak as fluently as your favourite characters straight away, but practice makes perfect!

Another good tip is to listen very closely to Grey Worm on the show – even David Peterson, who created the High Valyrian language for the show, admitted that he would never be as good a speaker as actor Jacob Anderson.

What are the techniques that I need to crack?

Rolling your Rs is a must with High Valyrian – you have to really exaggerate them. Similarly to Spanish or Italian, the language is full of these playful trills. It can be difficult to get this right at first and will take a lot of practice to be able to speak as quickly as Daenerys.

What is a common mistake that people make with High Valyrian?

A good example of a common mistake is one of the show’s most well-known phrases, 'valar morghulis', which translates to 'all men must die'. You’ll notice that it’s usually pronounced with a hard ‘g’, skipping over the ‘h’. However if you listen to David Peterson’s pronunciation of the word, he softens the ‘g’ sound.

What is the hardest part about learning High Valyrian?

From my personal experience, I struggled with the gender system. In High Valyrian, a noun’s gender isn’t tied to sex and the whole system only came from the fact that 'valar' was translated as 'all men'. It’s a very complicated language!

How long would it take on average to learn High Valyrian?

It would only take around three to four months to learn High Valyrian to a good level of fluency, although that will depend on how much time you put in every day. There are only around 2,000 words in the High Valyrian language, so it’s not as extensive as other languages. I’m sure that dedicated fans could pick up the language quickly.

game of thrones battle of winterfell

(Image credit: HBO)

Bark also has a service where you can sign up as a High Valyrian tutor yourself, but after just one session, I don’t think I’m ready.

‘Game of Thrones is more than another hit show – it’s become a worldwide sensation!’, exclaimed Bark.com’s co-founder, Kai Feller. ‘And with the highly anticipated final season fast approaching, the show is more popular than it has ever been. That’s why we’ve launched our latest service – High Valyrian tuition.’

‘High Valyrian is a complex language and this is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who has worked hard to become fluent to share their knowledge – not to mention it would be a fantastic string to any fan’s bow!’

Naejot memēbātās!

Jenny Proudfoot
Features Editor

Jenny Proudfoot is an award-winning journalist, specialising in lifestyle, culture, entertainment, international development and politics. She has worked at Marie Claire UK for seven years, rising from intern to Features Editor and is now the most published Marie Claire writer of all time. She was made a 30 under 30 award-winner last year and named a rising star in journalism by the Professional Publishers Association.