Tuesday, February 07, 2006
In Languages We Live
Just watched an interesting new film last night, called In Languages We Live/In Sproget Jeg Er (I don't vouch for the second title's accuracy.) It's a film about linguistic diversity, essentially, with cameos from a number of communities including Mla'bri, Totonaco, and Pitjantjatjara, as well as larger languages, such as a rather fun Arabic Hamlet (with Claudius as an Arab dictator, of course), a newscaster who speaks a dialect of Mandarin (Xiang, I think) natively but wants to bring up her kids only speaking Standard Mandarin, and "sheng", the Swahili-English-other street slang of Nairobi teenagers - not to mention, of course, the English and Danish of the narrators. It also had a brief meeting with the last(?) native speaker of Livonian - who apparently has more people to talk to than you might think, what with the steady stream of Finnicists beating a path to his door! But the most memorable bit was the brief narration, in the original language (Arrernte? I'd have to rewatch the film), of the Australian government's 1950's policy of forcibly separating Aboriginal kids from their parents, as witnessed by one of the parents: parents trying to physically hold on to their kids as the police tore them away; parents running with their kids to hide in local ravines, and being tracked down by the police; children crying as they were driven away... It would be hard to believe that such a policy was being practiced just fifty years ago, if the twentieth century weren't already full of such cases.