September 08, 2010

lame dialogues

There is an old lady living upstairs, and we have a nice, friendly dialogue with her. She always talks nicely to us. Or at least, this is what we think, because we can't really understand at least half of the things she says. Because her accent is really very alien to us.

Whenever I watch a movie with characters from different parts of the world, I am sort of irritated when i see that the characters can understand each other so easily. It irritates me, because i know that it is impossible, and it is far from convincing, and i feel angry for the script writers who don't do their job good enough and angry for the director and the rest of the crew who simply don't care.

It is not only the accent thing. A language is not something you can grasp only by literally translating the words. It is more than that. There are always idioms made up of words with a completely different meaning than the combination of those words. And yet, people understand each other so easily. It is just lame.

For example in the movie Eat Pray Love, there is a barbershop scene in which two Italian guys, one American woman and one Swedish woman have a chat. And one of the Italian guys talks about his theory about Americans. And the American woman says: "It is not far off, acutally". And the Swedish woman nods. Really? So did she get what the American woman says? OK now, if you are already a native English speaker, you might ask "what is the big deal?" But it is a big deal. This idiom is not something they will teach you in basic English courses. You have to live with English speaking people to grasp the meaning at the first instance you hear about it.

You see, this is actually lame. Very lame. And it is far off from the reality.

3 comments:

Ayak said...

I find it incredibly difficult to translate Turkish to English and English to Turkish. Something is always lost in translation. Words are just words...that's easy enough of course...but the meaning is often lost or changes completely. It's very frustrating.

Nomad said...

You know what is also funny? How when they make films about ancient Rome that tend to use various accents to establish class of the characters. That always made me giggle.

I guess you have to ask yourself why does the diversity of languages still exist? After so many advanced in the common condition of man, here we are still quacking away in different languages. I'm sure people 300 years from now will marvel that we ever got anything done, given that confusion.

People have tried to develop a universal language, not based on the imperialistic past, one with logical grammar and few (or no) exceptional cases. Since this has never quite caught on, there has to be a reason for it- something that goes deep into human nature.
I figure it is merely a good way of separating the "us" from the "them." Because, the sad fact of the matter is, in some societies, even when a student has mastered the second language, there will still be gaps. It is inevitable and has more to do with culture than language. And an obvious error in the adopted language says to the native, "I am not one of your kind. I am a guest. I am an interloper."
Personally, I have never felt that way and before I came abroad, one of my personal pleasure was listening to a foreigner speaking English. There was always something intriguing about the mistakes and entrancing about the slightly different pronunciation.

jedilost said...

you are right Nomad, language gaps are cultural. even if there was one single language spoken in this world, the differences wouldn't be late to come, because there would be different cultural codes in different places, and this would inevitably cause diversion.

you know what is even more funny in the movies? when everybody speaks fluent English in outer space.

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