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Does Hollywood Have an Accent Problem? [TALKING IMAGES]

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Does Hollywood Have an Accent Problem? [TALKING IMAGES]

#1

Post by St. Gloede »

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Hollywood loves to flex accents, some decent, some terrible. In this episode, we see if we are able to buy the illusion or if film after film has been destroyed by bad accents.

We will also take a look at the far more extreme examples of films set in "foregnia", but with all the characters speaking in English with a twink of local accent to sell it all home. Does this work ... at all?!

Oh, and Ridley's Scott recent House of Gucci will keep popping out throughout as Matthieu is quite convinced Jared Leto is imitating Super Mario.

You Can Listen Here:

Sounder: https://talking-images.sounder.fm/episo ... nt-problem

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/4UtIACkRC2FXNdr4MVvxoH

Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/t ... 1542580739 (synching soon)

Participants:
  • Adam / blocho
  • Matthieu / Teproc
  • Sol / Sol
  • Chris / St. Gloede
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How eager are you to believe accents in films? Do you try to go along with the illusion or are you easily distracted?

How good does an accent have to be to be believable? Do you scan the performances for slip-ups?

Can it get extra annoying/frustrating when actors try to mimic your accents?

Are there films that were ruined or severely damaged by bad accents?

What about films where they hire non-native speakers to not just do an accent, but actually SPEAK, at least a few lines in the language of the country they are meant to be from? What are the worst cases of people failing to speak your language?

How do you feel about an actor just nailing an accent? Does it help the film? Do we cheer and shower the actor with praise - or does it just mean that the illusion is not broken?

Can it ever be distracting if an accent is done well - for instance - an actor you are so used to speaking differently, suddenly nailing a completely different accent? Is there ever a disconnect in your head? (Episode example: Daniel Craig in Knives Out)

---Switching to actors using accents to show that they are speaking another language---

Are films where actors pretend to be speaking a different language by putting on an accent an outdated form of storytelling? Is it easy to by the illusion or are these films lesser than other films in some ways?

When the film is already "translated" to English as if it was dubbed, do we really need the actors to put on accents? What if everyone just spoke with their regular voice? Would this have worked better or worse?

How do you feel about films where people are already speaking in accents, but then throw in "local" words, phrases or even have small conversations in that language? Does this sell the illusion that the film is "translated" for us, or does it break the illusion more?

Do you hope films, where actors pretend to be speaking a different language, is phased out, or is that just not possible - unless audiences learn to love subtitles?

Bonus question: Does Jared Leto sound like Super Mario in House of Gucci?

Ending it on a more positive note: What are some of your favourite films that use accents to convey that the characters are speaking in a different language?
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#2

Post by Torgo »

St. Gloede wrote: August 15th, 2022, 1:22 pm Bonus question: Does Jared Leto sound like Super Mario in House of Gucci?
YES HE DOES AND IT WAS TERRIBLE
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#3

Post by sebby »

Leto was the only interesting part of that film. I found gaga's accidental Russian accent more distracting.
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#4

Post by kongs_speech »

In one scene, Jared Leto quite literally says "it's-a me, Paolo."
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#5

Post by blocho »

St. Gloede wrote: August 15th, 2022, 1:22 pm Participants:
  • Matthieu / Teproc
  • Sol / Sol
  • Tom / Filmbantha
  • Chris / St. Gloede
I think I took part in this one.

I remember that by the end of the conversation, I still had a list of terrible accents I wanted to talk about, but I can't remember who was on that list.
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#6

Post by St. Gloede »

blocho wrote: August 15th, 2022, 10:33 pm
St. Gloede wrote: August 15th, 2022, 1:22 pm Participants:
  • Matthieu / Teproc
  • Sol / Sol
  • Tom / Filmbantha
  • Chris / St. Gloede
I think I took part in this one.

I remember that by the end of the conversation, I still had a list of terrible accents I wanted to talk about, but I can't remember who was on that list.
You're right indeed. Tom was not with us for this one.
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#7

Post by magnusbernhardsen »

In one of the Captain Americas they are in Tønsberg, which looks nothing like Tønsberg, and speak something that is meant to be Norwegian. I just find it funny, but they could have just dubbed some real Norwegian or hired some Norwegian actors to do it. Anne Hathaway speaks with a supposedly Norwegian accent in The Witches, but it sounds like a generic Eastern European accent.

The funniest Norwegian I have heard was in an old H P Lovecraft PC game, where the Norwegian guy just has one line he uses like Groot's "I am Groot!". The line was "Jag har aldrig älskat någon!" - "I have never loved anyone" in Swedish.
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#8

Post by magnusbernhardsen »

I find it more distracting when the dialogue sounds very anachronistic. The Norwegian TV series Beforeigners did a huge job with creating "Old Saami", "Old Norse", "pre-historic" etc languages, but the characters from the 19th century sounded very much like a parody. So, the only "invented" language I understood felt inauthentic. I think this is universal though. Someone who knows the difference between, say. a Belfast, Dublin and Cork accent will react to a family where the actors speak these different accents, while I will just hear them as Irish accents. In many Norwegian films/shows the parents and kids speak wildly different dialects because they can't train the kids to act in another dialect. Foreigners will probably not notice.
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#9

Post by Fergenaprido »

St. Gloede wrote: August 15th, 2022, 1:22 pm---Switching to actors using accents to show that they are speaking another language---

Are films where actors pretend to be speaking a different language by putting on an accent an outdated form of storytelling? Is it easy to by the illusion or are these films lesser than other films in some ways?

When the film is already "translated" to English as if it was dubbed, do we really need the actors to put on accents? What if everyone just spoke with their regular voice? Would this have worked better or worse?

How do you feel about films where people are already speaking in accents, but then throw in "local" words, phrases or even have small conversations in that language? Does this sell the illusion that the film is "translated" for us, or does it break the illusion more?

Do you hope films, where actors pretend to be speaking a different language, is phased out, or is that just not possible - unless audiences learn to love subtitles?

Ending it on a more positive note: What are some of your favourite films that use accents to convey that the characters are speaking in a different language?
Wait, this is a thing? I can't say I've ever encountered that, unless I'm not understanding the concept properly.
magnusbernhardsen wrote: August 16th, 2022, 6:43 pm Someone who knows the difference between, say. a Belfast, Dublin and Cork accent will react to a family where the actors speak these different accents, while I will just hear them as Irish accents. In many Norwegian films/shows the parents and kids speak wildly different dialects because they can't train the kids to act in another dialect. Foreigners will probably not notice.
I concur that I can rarely tell apart regional accents in films other than English, Spanish or French, and even then sometimes I don't know what the accent is supposed to be, I just know it sounds different.

For some multilingual films, I even don't know which language they're speaking when - this happens a lot with Indian films, African films, and Chinese films where they switch between Cantonese, Mandarin, and other forms of Chinese. I've long wished that subtitles for those films would use different colours to differentiate between the languages, because often it's important to the plot, especially when some characters don't understand one or more of the languages being spoken and that affects what they do.
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#10

Post by St. Gloede »

Fergenaprido wrote: August 17th, 2022, 2:47 am
St. Gloede wrote: August 15th, 2022, 1:22 pm---Switching to actors using accents to show that they are speaking another language---

Are films where actors pretend to be speaking a different language by putting on an accent an outdated form of storytelling? Is it easy to by the illusion or are these films lesser than other films in some ways?

When the film is already "translated" to English as if it was dubbed, do we really need the actors to put on accents? What if everyone just spoke with their regular voice? Would this have worked better or worse?

How do you feel about films where people are already speaking in accents, but then throw in "local" words, phrases or even have small conversations in that language? Does this sell the illusion that the film is "translated" for us, or does it break the illusion more?

Do you hope films, where actors pretend to be speaking a different language, is phased out, or is that just not possible - unless audiences learn to love subtitles?

Ending it on a more positive note: What are some of your favourite films that use accents to convey that the characters are speaking in a different language?
Wait, this is a thing? I can't say I've ever encountered that, unless I'm not understanding the concept properly.
Yes, it is a pretty big thing, though not that common anymore. We mention a few examples in the podcast. One of the most recent ones is House of Gucci, while Matthieu mentioned the example of The Hunt for the Red October, where they start by speaking in Russian and then have a moment where switch to speaking in English with a Russian accent.
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#11

Post by St. Gloede »

magnusbernhardsen wrote: August 16th, 2022, 6:32 pm In one of the Captain Americas they are in Tønsberg, which looks nothing like Tønsberg, and speak something that is meant to be Norwegian. I just find it funny, but they could have just dubbed some real Norwegian or hired some Norwegian actors to do it. Anne Hathaway speaks with a supposedly Norwegian accent in The Witches, but it sounds like a generic Eastern European accent.
Yes, I remember that moment (thought it was in one of the Avengers films for some reason - the one in the church right? - though if I recall correctly Thor moves to Tønsberg at one point too. That was utterly terrible, sounded nothing like Norwegian - though the most jarring/ridiculous one for me is still The Thing.
The funniest Norwegian I have heard was in an old H P Lovecraft PC game, where the Norwegian guy just has one line he uses like Groot's "I am Groot!". The line was "Jag har aldrig älskat någon!" - "I have never loved anyone" in Swedish.
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#12

Post by magnusbernhardsen »

Fergenaprido wrote: August 17th, 2022, 2:47 am
St. Gloede wrote: August 15th, 2022, 1:22 pm---Switching to actors using accents to show that they are speaking another language---

Are films where actors pretend to be speaking a different language by putting on an accent an outdated form of storytelling? Is it easy to by the illusion or are these films lesser than other films in some ways?

When the film is already "translated" to English as if it was dubbed, do we really need the actors to put on accents? What if everyone just spoke with their regular voice? Would this have worked better or worse?

How do you feel about films where people are already speaking in accents, but then throw in "local" words, phrases or even have small conversations in that language? Does this sell the illusion that the film is "translated" for us, or does it break the illusion more?

Do you hope films, where actors pretend to be speaking a different language, is phased out, or is that just not possible - unless audiences learn to love subtitles?

Ending it on a more positive note: What are some of your favourite films that use accents to convey that the characters are speaking in a different language?
Wait, this is a thing? I can't say I've ever encountered that, unless I'm not understanding the concept properly.
In the show Rome I think they used different British accents to show the characters were from different classes or from different parts of the empire. A pet peeve I had with that show was they used Arabic to show they were in Egypt - hundreds of year before Arabs took over Egypt.
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#13

Post by magnusbernhardsen »

The Norwegian film Jeg er Dina (I am Dina) was directed by a Dane with an international cast, and all actors spoke English. This created some problems when some Norwegian actors spoke with heavy Norwegian accents. For example, a very rich and powerful man spoke English in a way that made him sound like an uneducated country bumpkin.

The Norwegian film The Middle Man is set in flyover country USA where loads of Scandinavian actors play Americans. They speak English well, but do sound like foreigners rather than locals. And this is supposed to be in an isolated backwater. It stood out for me, in a bad way.

This is of course also an issue in translation of literature. In the Norwegian translation of Irvine Welsh's Trainspotters the Edinburgh accent was replaced by Oslo East accent.I thought it should have been a dialect from farther north, this was like making Scottish into Cockney. A better example was a book by Goethe were the translator made Bavarian peasants speak Østfold-dialect.
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#14

Post by St. Gloede »

Not seen these two, but wonderful examples - with The Middle Man being the oddest of all.

Great notes on the translations also!
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#15

Post by Fergenaprido »

St. Gloede wrote: August 17th, 2022, 7:10 am Yes, it is a pretty big thing, though not that common anymore. We mention a few examples in the podcast. One of the most recent ones is House of Gucci, while Matthieu mentioned the example of The Hunt for the Red October, where they start by speaking in Russian and then have a moment where switch to speaking in English with a Russian accent.
St. Gloede wrote: August 17th, 2022, 7:14 am
magnusbernhardsen wrote: August 16th, 2022, 6:32 pm In one of the Captain Americas they are in Tønsberg, which looks nothing like Tønsberg, and speak something that is meant to be Norwegian. I just find it funny, but they could have just dubbed some real Norwegian or hired some Norwegian actors to do it. Anne Hathaway speaks with a supposedly Norwegian accent in The Witches, but it sounds like a generic Eastern European accent.
Yes, I remember that moment (thought it was in one of the Avengers films for some reason - the one in the church right? - though if I recall correctly Thor moves to Tønsberg at one point too. That was utterly terrible, sounded nothing like Norwegian - though the most jarring/ridiculous one for me is still The Thing.
Ah, I don't remember those bits in Red October, Thor, or The Thing (haven't seen the new Witches). :/ I do remember Connery's Scottish accent coming through thickly instead of a Latvian/Lithuanian one (I forget which the character is supposed to be), but I think that was less of a "let's make this accent a stand-in for that one" and more of a "Connery can't do accents" thing. :D


Tangent: In one musical I did in university, for a summer two-week intensive for youth aged 15-25, we were doing Titanic The Musical and a lot of kids were trying to do accents for their characters (especially those who were Irish), and the director just put his foot down and forbade us from doing accents and told us to just say the lines straight. I suppose for some audience members it may have been disappointing to hear all these immigrants speak like born-and-raised North Americans, but I guess it was better than being distracted by faulty or spotty accents.
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#16

Post by Lakigigar »

Belgian films are almost always without exceptions with an accent, a lot of the attraction of these works is exactly because of these accents, and the films and tv can often be very focused on those exact accents and dialects. Without them they would feel emptier. In TV it is the same.

It used to be more standard, and in presentations, standard spoken language is used, but the standard spoken language differs usually a lot from the spoken language actually being spoken in most parts of the country, since the standard spoken language is seen as formal, and rarely used in informal cases. In that regard, flemish dutch can be similar to latin and vulgar latin.

Films and series without an accent would simply not be believable, and basically have 0% zero chance that they'll be acclaimed here, unless the setting is 100% and the entire time formal.

And flemish dutch differs also from general dutch slightly, especially in accent again and occassionally the words & slang words being used, but there is mutual intelligibility mostly, except for maybe northern Netherlands and the frisian dialects. It is hard to understand dutch people especially in humoristic settings for me or in dutch talk shows.

I usually have an easier time following a talk show or general political coverage on CNN than random dutch tv. But it often depends on who is talking, there are some persons that are exceptionally hard to understand, and others that i have no trouble with on dutch tv. It often depends, it's kinda weird. (van der gijp & derksen for example i cannot understand, not even 50% of what they say).

Dutch film i feel has less accents, but sometimes they do. Prins is an example, and i wasn't able to select subs on Disney plus and I abandoned the film because I could not understand the youth language used in Prins, and there were no subs available. Might've also seen the wrong Dutch films, since almost none i've seen were really acclaimed. The language often used seemed to have been standard Dutch which i was able to follow most of the time.

When watching an animation film dubbed, usually both Flemish-Dutch and Dutch-Dutch are options. I think i've mostly heard Flemish Dutch but I can imagine for tv series as a kid since some was shared, i definitely would have heard a lot of dutch dubs than (and not even noticed the difference), usually that's also standard language and that's not really that different from here, except for the weird accent kind of.

Of course i live close to the French border, my dialect is gonna be more distant from the accents & dialects used in the Netherlands than like border areas closer to the Netherlands. My dialect is probably from the Flemish dialects easily the most furthest away from standard dutch and even standard flemish dutch from all dialects here. It is closer to both french and english, especially the latter having undergoing a few sound changes that english also did, but dutch not.

A lot of films & series have my region as setting, using the dialect in a prominent position (examples: Bevergem, Eigen Kweek. For film: Le ciel flamand, Ex Drummer) which is often used very humoristic. I feel like since we're the most rural area, and also talk quite a lot faster than the average Flemish person, while the language has often being seen as impolite because it is boertig and we're being learnt to talk in "nice standard flemish dutch", but it is basically an attempt to eradicate those dialects from existing. Due to some of the sound changes it did that also happened in english and dutch, and due to the quite rural identity, it is sometimes seen as quite close to ranchers english in terms of sound. I think it would be a good setting for a western too.



One scene from the film (it's just a conversation and subbed in dutch). Beware that the film is a "parody"'.
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#17

Post by Silga »

Fergenaprido wrote: August 17th, 2022, 11:42 am
Ah, I don't remember those bits in Red October. I do remember Connery's Scottish accent coming through thickly instead of a Latvian/Lithuanian one (I forget which the character is supposed to be), but I think that was less of a "let's make this accent a stand-in for that one" and more of a "Connery can't do accents" thing. :D
Connery's Mark Ramius was Lithuanian. He was based on Jonas Pleskys, a Lithuanian who was a Soviet Navy submarine tender captain. He defected by sailing his vessel from Klaipėda, Lithuania to Gotland in Sweden, although his official destination was Tallinn, Estonia. The Soviet authorities sentenced him in his absence to death by firing squad, but the CIA hid him, first in Guatemala and later in the United States.

So while Ramius obviously was supposed to speak "Russian" in the navy, his native language was Lithuanian.

I can never fault Sean Connery for his accents though. I think he had a distinct charisma and charm that helped him get away with his Scottish accent.
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#18

Post by blocho »

Fergenaprido wrote: August 17th, 2022, 2:47 am For some multilingual films, I even don't know which language they're speaking when - this happens a lot with Indian films, African films, and Chinese films where they switch between Cantonese, Mandarin, and other forms of Chinese. I've long wished that subtitles for those films would use different colours to differentiate between the languages, because often it's important to the plot, especially when some characters don't understand one or more of the languages being spoken and that affects what they do.
Roma did this, or at least the version I saw. The subtitles when someone was speaking Spanish were in normal text, while the subtitles when someone was speaking Mixtec were italicized.
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#19

Post by blocho »

magnusbernhardsen wrote: August 17th, 2022, 10:11 am Oslo East accent
Is there a clear difference in the accent used by people from the East side of Oslo compared to the West side of Oslo? I've never heard of an intra-city accent difference like that.
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#20

Post by magnusbernhardsen »

blocho wrote: August 18th, 2022, 1:02 am Is there a clear difference in the accent used by people from the East side of Oslo compared to the West side of Oslo? I've never heard of an intra-city accent difference like that.
Yes. The Oslo West dialect is a norvagised Danish, the Oslo East dialect is a traditional Norwegian dialect. This divide used to be much more pronounced, but there are still stark differences.

Oslo West has a common-neuter system, Oslo East has masculine, feminine and neuter. Oslo East has the voiced retroflex flap, which traditionally doesn't occur in the Oslo West. Etc.

Now, Oslo is by no means the only city which such a divide. I would suggest every society has a division between high and low status language to some extent, and in the cities this will often be morst clearly defined.

I mentioned Cockney, but there are other London dialects as well, for example Estuary English and Londono Regional Standard.
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#21

Post by St. Gloede »

I spoke about this a little in the podcast (and the situation in Norway also seems to be quite close to the situation Laki describes in Belgium) but both of the official written Norwegian languages are invented rather than naturally occurring. Stranger yet, they were invented at the same time, with both creators battling each other in the 1880s. The purpose was to separate us from the Danes, who we had been in a union with until 1814, with the official written language still being Danish.

The smaller language of New Norwegian is a compilation of various accents, while the more common Bokmål, is a literal Danish written language revamp, where the "inventor" sat down and changed the way the Danish words were written to sound more "Norwegian".

Anyhow, while these languages were made official, and are the correct ways to communicate in writing, they had very little impact on the actual spoken language, as no one spoke it naturally to begin with. It is however used in most news broadcasts, and for a long time, it was the norm in the theatre and in films, which means they rarely felt natural. Essentially even gangsters would sound like people on the news. Blocho made the great comparison to the trans-atlantic accent deployed by Hollywood.

As Magnus mentioned above, a section of Oslo actually speaks "Bokmål", or something very close to it. This way of speaking is associated with the upper and middle class (along with news) and is seen as quite posh - so when anyone else speaks the same way on TV and in film there is a degree of artificiality involved as these characters would be unlikely to speak this way in real life. Not only is it comparable and as extreme as say having say the characters in Trainspotting speak in a posh London accent, it is worse, as the accemt/dialect/way of speaking is not just associated with the posh, due to barely being spoken/used in most of the country, the main association would be TV news/broadcasting, and even worse:

Being a Norwegianised version of Danish created in the 1880s and mostly going unused by the population at large it feels antiquated and stiff. While not as extreme, as some people do actually speak it (or something close to it) it could even be compared to people speaking 19th-century English in the modern day. That's how stiff and odd it comes across, and when you have working-class characters and characters in rural areas (or just anywhere outside of Oslo/Bærum/Akershus it feels very, very off.
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#22

Post by blocho »

magnusbernhardsen wrote: August 18th, 2022, 7:25 am Now, Oslo is by no means the only city which such a divide. I would suggest every society has a division between high and low status language to some extent, and in the cities this will often be morst clearly defined.
Thanks for the explanation. I didn't realize this East-West divide was a class distinction, which as you say is common in many cities.
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#23

Post by Fergenaprido »

So when we're watching films in "Norwegian", which dialect/version are they usually speaking? Has that changed over the years? Do they use different accents for films set in historical times?
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#24

Post by St. Gloede »

Fergenaprido wrote: August 19th, 2022, 4:20 am So when we're watching films in "Norwegian", which dialect/version are they usually speaking? Has that changed over the years? Do they use different accents for films set in historical times?
Traditionally almost everyone would change their dialect and speak something very close to Bokmål, and this remained the norm well into this century. I remember still being taken out of films like Nokias (2010). It really felt like the scripts were written to be grammatically correct in Bokmål and then just read from the page by the cast (Tying back to the comparison of a newscaster)

It is also worth mentioning that the differences in dialects are far more extreme than pronunciation. For instance, here's how just some of the different dialects say "I":

Image
However, in most films, everyone would say "Jeg".

And this is the case with quite a few words. Worse, even if the base word is the same, verbs and nouns follow different conventions from dialect to dialect.

I would say that the differences between some dialects are as big if not bigger than their differences to Danish and Swedish, and there are actually Norwegian dialects I struggle more to understand than Swedish.

I don't remember noticing newer Norwegian films feeling as unnatural as they did 10-20+ years ago, so I think it is getting better, but I also don't watch that many Norwegian films.
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#25

Post by magnusbernhardsen »

One very stupid example of an actor changing their dialect is in the tv series Skam. The actress playing Noora is from Sigdal in Buskerud, and speaks with a quite pronounced dialect. In the serie she plays a character from another place in Buskerud, Mjøndalen. So, she changes her dialect to something closer to Mjøndalen, but really just sounds like she is from the East of Oslo. There is really no reason that she should have changed her dialect in any case, they could just have made the character someone from Sigdal.

Overall the dialogue in Norwegian films has become much better and more natural. In older films they would proclaim things rather than speak, enunciating like they were on stage. And in the period where this theatrical approach was challenged the dialogue was often very demonstratively vulgar or "like ordinary people speak".
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#26

Post by magnusbernhardsen »

A very funny accent I just remembered. In the movie Switch Peter Stormare attempts to speak Norwegian with an American accent.


https://www.youtube.com/embed/9KYP7XrjH7c?start=63
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#27

Post by magnusbernhardsen »

In the Irish/British TV series Redemption the main character is a detective from Liverpool who transfers to Dublin. The actor is from Belfast, and speaks with a Belfast accent. not a Liverpool accent (from what I can tell). So, this is not difficult to write, there is no reason why a NI police shouldn't work in Liverpool. BUT: they have written the character as an Englishwoman and the Irish people make jabs at her for not being Irish.
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#28

Post by 3eyes »

Hugely enjoyed reading this, especially the Norwegian parts. (I can get subs or some sort of transcription on spotify but it's a chore).

Meanwhile:
adventures in literary translation (from Norwegian)
I translated a number of Jens Bjørneboe's novels. Relevant to this discussion are:

1)Otto [Moment of Freedom] is an Estonian refugee in Sweden during WWII - he speaks bad German, we are told, but his utterances are standard Norwegian. American lit has a tradition of rendering foreign accents/dialects which Norwegian lit doesn't, so I didn't think standard American would be right. So what to do?

Well, even if I had a clue what an Estonian accent sounded like, the reader wouldn't. Not standard comic-book English (which mostly involves "do not' instead of "don't" etc. The solution I finally hit on was to translate the Norwegian literally and then ask a friend to help me smooth out the bumps a bit.

2) Italians attempting to talk Swedish (Winter in Bellapalma). Actually I forget, I think I more or less followed JB's lead on that one.
:run: STILL the Gaffer!
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