Subtitled for Success

By Jon Hillenbrand In Stories

Regular readers of my blog already know that I imagine myself to be fluent in several foreign languages including Russian, Spanish, French, Southie, Klingon and of course Huttese. But I use the word fluent to mean, “I know enough to get myself in trouble.” The drawback of my foreign language skills is that I have acquired them through watching movies. For example, I know how to say in Russian, “Very cold this morning Captain,” which is from the Hunt for Red October. I also know how to say, “Yes, cold…and hard,” which is Marko Ramius’s response to his 1st Mate, Vasili. Sadly, one of the best lines from that movie, “Give me a ping, Vasili, one ping only,” is said in English, so I don’t know how to say that in Russian. But I do know how to say, “What’s happening here,” in a loud paniced voice in Spanish. I learned that from Predator when Hawkins is questioning the spanish woman about what killed Blaine. At least, I think that’s what he was saying. There were no subtitles. So maybe that’s why my Spanish-speaking friends are looking at me weird. When they ask me how I’m doing, I’m probably saying something like, “The jungle came alive and took him.”

I like sitting down to a quick breakfast with the Spanish-speaking kitchen staff at my work. See, the difference between me and other typical white Americans is that I’m not afraid to use my movie-gained knowledge in real world situations. Once when I was camping on a field trip back in college, I was housed with one of the non-students who was helping with the driving up to U.P. Michigan. He was in OCS at the time (Officer Candidate School) training to be a Marine Lieutenant. So to pass the time, I asked him if the Marines were just like what I’ve seen in Full Metal Jacket. Soon, he and I were barking cadences and rehashing the ridiculous sayings that DI’s scream at you as if I were an old salty Devil Dog. “You worthless puke! Did your parents have any children that lived?”

So as long as I keep the conversations short and sweet and limited to situations similar to what I’ve seen in the movies, I’m good to go.  The bad part is when I try to interact with a Russian-speaker, all I know how to do is ask for a cigarette and then kill them 007-style as they start to search their overcoat.  Or if I want to speak Korean, all I know how to say is, “Others!” and “Find Jack!”  in heavy Korean-accented English.  Fail.

So hopefully there will be more movies with smatterings of foreign languages that will be easy for me to understand and dramatic enough for me to remember.  And I hope they are subtitled because I still don’t know the English translation of John McClane’s famous line, “Yippie Kai Yay, motherf****r.”


What do you think?