If you’re an American, as I am, chances are you speak only one language-English. I understand that there are communities in our country that speak a variety of languages; Spanish, Chinese, and Tagalog, but there’s no question that the dominant language is English. Some folks might look down on us for speaking one language, when our Western allies speak multiple languages, but I find that a bit unfair.
America is a big freaking country
Not only is the country massive, it’s easily isolated. We have oceans on the west and east coasts, and a single neighbor on our northern and southern borders. Overall, the opportunities to expose ourselves to other languages just aren’t there. That’s why it is always impactful when I watch a film that uses foreign languages. Not “Foreign” films but traditional Hollywood features that stray away from English.
A classic example of this is 1972’s The Godfather. There’s an entire sequence in the film that takes place in Italy where everyone is speaking Italian. I remember being a teenager watching this film and being shocked that they weren’t speaking English anymore. It really helped to illustrate how far the main character was from America.
There’s a short Japanese animated feature called Blood the Last Vampire. Now this is a film produced in Japan, but what I always found interesting was that the English dub of the film kept Japanese dialog. Because the movie takes place on an American military base in Japan, the company responsible for the English localization of the film chose to keep certain interactions with Japanese characters intact. I kind of like that.
I want to share a video I was watching this evening.
It’s a critique on how Disney uses language in film. But before the video, I want to preface it with a simple statement; I don’t really like Moana. It’s funny because I understand the cultural significance of the film but I actually find the story to be incredibly weak, especially it’s third act. But I do love it’s music. I love the musical number that We Know the Way and the way it emphasizes Moana’s roots, that scene was well executed. I get goosebumps every time I see that scene.
With that being said, here’s the video that had me thinking this evening.
I also found this live performance that I wanted to share as well. Enjoy~!
I know this was a short entry but I just thought I’d data dump what was on my mind in regards to language in cinema. Let me know what you think~!