Multilingualism in the Movies
Hollywood Characters and Their Language Choices
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Do 'bad guys' in Hollywood movies necessarily speak 'broken' English? What happens when film characters switch between English, French, or even Serbian? Why does Hollywood show Mozart and his wife speaking American English? This sociolinguistic survey is based on a corpus of multilingual movie dialogues from 32 contemporary mainstream Hollywood movies. It begins with an analysis of movies where the English language is illogically spoken by characters who, in real life, would have used a different language. A second major focus is on the fictional characters: how are individual multilingualism and factors such as sex, social status, and being a 'good' or a 'bad guy' interrelated? Finally, the study discusses the amount of dialogue in other languages, how it is rendered comprehensible, and the nature of movie code-switching. The results indicate that the common view of Hollywood movies contributing to ethnic stereotyping and ideologies of English-only monolingualism falls short of fictional reality.