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.

4 comments:

Nicholas said...

For the record, "I sproget jeg er" is more accurately translated as *In the language I am* - most importantly perhaps, it is singular not plural>

Lameen Souag said...

Interesting - I wonder why they made the English title plural? Is there some subtle message here about the difference between the experience of language for speakers of an international language like English and a more local one like Danish, or did they just think it sounded better?

ACW said...

I grew up in the city of Livonia, Michigan, and when I investigated the origin of the name, I found out about the vanishing Livonian language. I think that may have been my introduction to the concept of language endangerment.

David Marjanović said...

There is no particular reason whatsoever for why they didn't do a correct translation. English movie titles translated into German are almost never accurate. Off the top of my head, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" retranslates as "The Knights of the Coconut"! Usually they are dumbed down. Often they are longer ("Terminator" and "Rambo" being notable exceptions). Sometimes they are not translations at all but new English names instead!!!


Whatever some corporate moron believes sounds best.