Cast of Characters:



Karen
Enkidu (AKA Slim)
Beowolf (AKA Wolfie)
Blaze (AKA Blaze)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Note on the distinction between living and dead languages

If you aren't able to watch a mainstream movie in the language that you are studying, then the language you are learning is not a living language.

(unless, of course, it is a language that simply isn't spoken by enough people with enough money for them to have made movies in that language.)

Let's take some examples:
  • Italian: yep, you can watch movies in Italian
  • Latin: nope...no mainstream movies in Latin
  • Modern American English: yep, you can watch movies in English
  • Old English: nope, not a living language (Think the original Beowulf.)
  • Egyptian Arabic: yep, you can watch movies in Egyptian Arabic
  • Classical Arabic: nope, not a living language - try watching a movie after you've figured out how to read the Qur'an...you'll be sadly disappointed.

6 comments:

*Jamie* said...

lol what about Aramaic?

Ty said...

...so the Klingon language is spoken in some Star Trek movies.

Karen said...

I haven't heard of any blockbusters in Aramaic. As far as I know, they haven't translated "Pirates of the Caribbean", "Office Space" or any other films into it. There was an attempt at using it in that movie about the crucifixion, but I'm certain that they found no native speakers for the part and would suspect that a linguistic analysis would reveal a highly Anglicized variety of Aramaic.

As far as Klingon, I'm limiting my discussion to human languages. Also, the same issues would apply as above: I'm certain that they found no native speakers for the part and would suspect that a linguistic analysis would reveal a highly Anglicized variety of Klingon.

Anonymous said...

This criterium for living vs. dead languages seems a little, uh, ridiculous? What about all the various dialects in the world?

Karen said...

Anonymous:

That was the part in parentheses above:

(unless, of course, it is a language that simply isn't spoken by enough people with enough money for them to have made movies in that language.)

Anyway, I'm not taking issue with the languageness of smaller varieties. I'm mostly craby about the way that Arabic is taught in American universities today. Basically, the Arabic that is taught does not allow you to really communicate with native speakers, because the variety taught is not the one that speakers use today.

As a friend of mine said, it's like teaching Latin to someone who wants to speak to Italians.

mom said...

I actually found a children's bilingual book in Latin.