Sunday, July 27, 2008

Movie Rules - Speaking in Tongues

Rule #56: Non-English speakers will speak English with heavy accents, even in their native country.

Examples: Hunt for Red October, Hotel Rwanda

You ever notice how people in American movies almost always speak English, even if they're not English speakers? They cut to a nuclear bunker in Russia full of Russians speaking to other Russians, and what are they speaking? English. But they do it with an accent. Of course, movies could have foreign characters speaking their own language with subtitles, but Americans hate reading subtitles.

My favorite example of this phenomenon is "Goldeneye," where the Russians in the military research facility are not only all speaking English to each other, but their computer systems display English as well. In fact, a critical plot point is that a hotshot Russian programmer likes to use dirty words as passwords for their high-tech Russian computer system. In English.

It's as if movies are set in an alternate reality where the whole world speaks English, and the only distinction between one country's language and another is the accent. Imagine a movie where a Frenchman character walks up to an American and starts speaking English with a French accent, and the American says, "I'm sorry, I don't speak French." Then the Frenchman starts talking with an American accent, and the American goes, "Okay, that's better." Or they get a translator who starts speaking English with a French accent. I'd like to see that.


Mauricem said...

LOL. Thats true. I never thought about the Goldeneye example, but its a good one. What would be even funnier is if the Frenchman would start speaking French to an American with an American accent and the American goes "that's better".

Monkey Migraine said...

I realized that last line about the translator reminded me of a classic scene from "Bananas" where Woody Allen plays an American turned South American dictator, and is greeted by an American diplomat, and both are speaking English, but there's still a guy standing there translating their speech into English with a Spanish accent. And then the guy gets chased off by two guys in white coats with a butterfly net.

Mauricem said...

LOVE that scene!