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This is especially noticeable when compared to the protagonist, who is primarily an English-speaking Wakandan. The language of Wakanda is the real-world language of Xhosa spoken in South Africa, but Wakanda in His Forever was mostly relegated to greetings and digressions.

Instead, the protagonist speaks English with a sort of Pan-African accent. Unlike James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water, viewers are never explicitly told that what they heard was “translated” for us.

Refresh to see and hear more languages

In Avatar, which won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects, the main characters all speak Na’vi, the language of the fictional Pandora race.

Most of the language is “translated” in narrator Jake Sully’s head. In a clever commentary trick, the protagonist narrates the beginning of the film, explaining that he’s mastered the alien language enough that it sounds like English.

That way, the audience doesn’t have to read the entire movie, and the heroes (and actors) can speak only English without sacrificing the “realism” of the sci-fi world.

In recent years, it’s refreshing to see so many works of cinema enjoying critical and commercial success in the English-speaking world, despite the use of subtitles in languages ​​other than English. There is much more room for a film to highlight both diversity and authentic characterization of characters who speak and sign without resorting to potentially harmful tropes.

I’m sure viewers won’t mind hearing more of Na’vi in ​​Avatar 3.

Andrew Cheng is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Linguistics at Simon Fraser University.This commentary First appearance in conversation. Commentary: Everything Everywhere All at Once and other Oscar 2023 films show Hollywood’s trend towards linguistic realism

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