How do you pronounce “Ghealdan”? Ask the average Wheel of Time fan and you’ll get answers such as “the glossary” or “audiobooks”. Others will tell you “I say it how Kate Reading and Michael Kramer said it in the early books”, or “Robert Jordan’s assistant Maria Simons gave me the correct pronunciation after a book signing at Anderson’s Bookstore in Naperville”. But who would you ask if you’re Josha Stradowski or Zoe Robins? Well, Naomi Joy Todd of course.
By title, Naomi is the show’s dialect coach. That might be a straightforward role in most film and tv productions, but in the world of the Wheel of Time, it is much, much more. From dialect and accent coaching, to bringing a dead language back to life, to inventing a new sign language, Naomi’s work and presence is felt throughout the series.
The Old Tongue
If an entire album of songs in the Old Tongue didn’t give you the hint, the show embraced the long-dead language to a level that was refreshingly surprising. Not fully developed in the text as to be used with ease in the tv series, the production treated the fans to an entire scene in the Old Tongue to open the season finale. That was made possible by translations done by Naomi. In a post about her work for the Wheel of Time, Naomi explains that she was tasked with “providing a grammar system, and making up words that didn’t exist yet”. Which also lead to Naomi translating all of the lyrics for The Wheel of Time: The First Turn (Amazon Original Series Soundtrack), 14 songs, most sung in the Old Tongue.
It’s moh-GHEH-dee-ehn, Burn You!
Naomi also has the responsibility of tracking the pronunciation of Wheel of Time names and places. In-world words go through a process to determine how to pronounce such words. Once the pronunciation is finalized, it is her job to ensure consistency. To do that, she keeps “a spreadsheet of over 500 words from The Wheel of Time”.
New Sign Language?
One of the most interesting tidbits from Naomi’s post was a possible reference to Maiden Handtalk. “For this show we are also inventing a new sign language” Naomi explains. Known only to members of the all-female warrior society, Far Daraeis Mai, Maiden Handtalk is a sign language of sorts. The show could’ve opted for American or British Sign Language, but it seems they went for creating their very own. To create this new sign language, Naomi collaborated with Gavin Lilley, an actor and creator in the Deaf community.
Also exciting is the notion that season 2 will feature the use of Maiden Handtalk. The show officially announced that we will see Aviendha in the upcoming season, who will be portrayed by actor Ayoola Smart.
From Naomi’s agency profile:
Naomi is a London based voice and dialect coach. She has a wide range of coaching experience, including musicals, biopics, fantasy and sci-fi, as well as extended experience in the recording studio for animation and ADR. Some recent film and television credits include Wheel of Time (Amazon), Chernobyl (Johan Renck), On the Basis of Sex (Mimi Leider), How to Build a Girl (Coky Geidroyc), and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again.
She holds an MFA in Voice Studies from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, as well as an M.Ed in second language acquisition and teaching, and a BA in Romance Languages from the University of Oregon. Naomi has a strong foundation in linguistics, teaching English as a Second Language, and loves researching and learning about obscure (or even made up!) accents and languages.