Channeling Saddam


From the department of wtf: CBS' on-air "translator" for the Saddam interview was a SAG member faking an Arabic accent. Hope he's not a method actor…(groan).


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  1. “Look fooor the union laabeeelll,…”

  2. If they had used a British accent, we would have thought, oh good, BBC did the heavy lifting.

  3. The use of an accent strikes me as cheesy, but I have always wondered why broadcast translators are so seldom chosen for their vocal similarities to the person, whose speech is being translated. As an extreme, yet common, example: Dismayingly often, men in translation have the voice of WOMEN and vice versa! It seems to me that some effort should be made to find and use a translator or actor whose voice matched, as near as we could determine, what a given public figure would sound like, if speaking fluent (unaccented?) English.

    Major network news is infotainment; these days, that is a given. That being said, the question becomes, is the “tainment” part there to help you better appreciate and understand the “info”? Or is it there to distract you from or twist your perception of the “info” (or lack of it)? In other words, does the embellishment tip the piece in the direction of news/journalism, or propaganda/advertising? I think that appropriate-sounding, translated “voices” for newsmakers tends to achieve the former.

  4. Does Saddam speak Arabic in an accent that is foreign to his listeners in Iraq? No? Then his translator shouldn’t speak English in an accent that is foreign to his listeners in America. “He” should sound as comfortable with the language as he did in the original, or the meaning of his speech is distorted.

  5. So how would we know Saddam is Evil without an Evil foriegn Accent?

  6. well, listening to henry kissinger speak english with that awful accent, then hearing his awful (english) accent in german, well, you got something there.

    maybe they did this to highlight even further that this guy, sa-ddam (like bush the first said it), really is “the other” or foreign or some such??? no. that wouldn’t do. danny rather-not wouldn’t like to boost the current prez by helping make SH seem even more foreign…

    or even better: since CBS et al toe the “european is better line”, maybe the accent was to allow them the feeling that americans can’t speak other languages, so it must be foreign to be accurate?

    still, peter seller’s inspecteur closeau is the best accent of all time…


  7. I’m with Joe on this one. I’m guessing the accent was employed to add a sense of context; but that puts context above content. The translation should be accurate and honest–and in a perfect mid-west Nebraska accent–otherwise; it pretends to make the meaning of the words as foreign as the language.

  8. So I guess the solution is to get an Iraqi immigrant whose accent has faded ALMOST to the point of imperceptibility. That way it wouldn’t offend the people who think we ought to hear an American-sounding voice; it wouldn’t offend the people who think the translator ought to use his natural voice, and it wouldn’t offend the people who think we ought to hear a genuine accent if we hear one at all. Suggestion to participants in this debate: turn down the volume and opt for closed captioning next time.

  9. EMAIL:
    DATE: 01/20/2004 12:19:35
    Misfortune shows those who are not really friends.

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