Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Frozen in Arabic

Jeremy and I can't stop talking about this post at The New Yorker: Translating Frozen into Arabic.

You may recall from previous posts on this blog (like this one) that Arabic has a standard spoken/written form called Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), and then lots of dialects depending on the country or region. So the Khaliji dialect they speak here in the UAE, is quite different from the Shami Arabic they speak in Syria, is quite different from the Masri they speak in Egypt, is quite different from the Maghrebi they speak in Morocco/Tunisia. But it's all Arabic, and to some degree, it's all mutually intelligible.

In general, the language of entertainment media has been Egyptian Arabic. I don't know why. But if you were to buy an Arabic version of Finding Nemo, it would be dubbed over in Egyptian Arabic. However: the article I linked to earlier points out that Frozen has been dubbed over in MSA. This is comparable to sitting your kids down in front of Frozen, turning it on, and having all the dialogue be in the style of the King James Bible. Huh? For some reason, Disney broke with tradition and put Frozen in MSA instead of the Egyptian dialect.

Which brings the author (and me) to the same conclusion: huh? French and Spanish and probably other languages get their own regional versions of Frozen, but the entire Arabic-speaking world gets stuck with Ye Olde Formal-like Talk?

I really wish they would dub the movies in different dialects. It would be so helpful in encouraging the girls to learn the spoken language in addition to the book MSA they learn at school.

And, you know, there is the small matter of the millions of Arab children who could hear the beauty of such lines as "don't know if I'm elated or gassy/but I'm somewhere in that zone!" in their own dialect.


Liz Johnson said...

"The snow instigateth not lugubriosity within me!!!"

(I'm off to google "lugubriosity" now.)

imenbouyahya said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
imenbouyahya said...

I somehow deleted my comment..

I said:

The Modern Standard Arabic is easier to understand than other Arabic dialects Bridget. It is actually the first children learn here in Tunisia, my country through children TV channels that broadcast programmes in MSA. A Tunisian child can't understand the Egyptian dialect or Khaliji for example, as what we speak seems mysterious for them and vice-versa.
The Egyptian dialect is the language of the entertainment media beacuse Egypt was the first Arab country to send a Satellite, the Nilesat. Therefore, the Egyptian dialect was spoon fed to the entire Arab region for a couple decades before everyone got their TV channels aired regionally and internationally. It is really hard for someone who does not watch TV to understand the Egyptian/Khaliji/Shami dialect, and I personally resort to the MSA to convey my thoughts while talking to someone from the Middle East. At the same time, the Maghrebi dialect is way far from being undesrtood in the ME.
Dubbing Frozen over in MSA is the best way to guarantee that All Arab children could easily understand it, and it is not that "Olde Formal-like Talk". It's the language we learnt at schools and somehow everybody managed to abandon. (thanks to entertainment media..)

The Gulf countries, where so many Arabs live and meet (with everyone carrying around their dialect and culture), have widened the gap which only led to drifting the Arab counties more apart and confusing non-Arabic speakers/learners who often find themselves torn between this dialect and that.

Bridget said...

I think your comment is another argument in favor of having the movie dubbed in dialect! How would you like a version in Tunisian Arabic? Of course there is a time and a place for MSA, but I don't think it is (and it certainly hasn't been, until now) dubbed-over children's movies.

Sorry if my King James English analogy is not exact. It's difficult to explain this feature of Arabic to English speakers and that's the best I could do. I do think it has some parallels, with one major difference being that we don't use biblical language in newscasts, newspapers, etc., as you do with MSA.

imenbouyahya said...

It seems that there is a misunderstanding somewhere..
I by no means like a version in Tunisian dialect, nor any ather dialect. The MSA is well understood by the entire Arab world better than any other dialect. Pick any Arab child and he'll say that he prefers foreign shows in MSA. (I however doubt it's the case in UAE where children get to hear and talk mixed dialects and problably little MSA)
MSA is used in newscasts and newspapers because it is the official language that everyone understands everywhere in the Arab region. MSA is not Fus'ha, the language of Quran, that is quite more difficult.
It seems only confusing to someone who gets to learn/talk any other dialet before real encounter with the Standard Arabic.

I hope my point is clearer now :)

imenbouyahya said...

Oh, Also, did you know that there are so many kids TV channels owned by mainly Syrians and Jordanians broadcasting shows, movies, and programmes Only in MSA? these do really help kids learn MSA better than their own dialect. ( I doubt they are popular in UAE)
I remember that there were (here in Tunisia) only one cartoon dubbed over Tunisian Arabic and got literally zero interst by both Tunisian children and parents as well.

Jen said...

This just goes to show how large the pool is of things I didn't know that I didn't know. Fascinating stuff!

breanne said...

I remember when I was living in Bethlehem one of my Primary kids watched the Cartoon Network all the time, which was dubbed in MSA. He started speaking in MSA when he was goofing around--which was always good for a laugh, since my main contact with MSA was in conflict-heavy newspapers, and here this 6-year-old was saying things like "انا اريد ان اذهب هناك" end vowels and all. :)


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