Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hollywood Can't Speak Arabic

It really pisses me off when I hear bad/broken arabic spoken in Hollywood films. I mean, whats the deal with that? Do they do it on purpose? Because, come on, they spend millions of dollars making these tacky films, and they can't even find one proper Arabic language coach! Seriously, some of the things they say aren't even close enough to resemble Arabic. It is so broken that it ends up sounding like inconsistant grunts rather than words.

The examples are way too many. Perhaps the most known and popular recently are the 24 television series, which are basically about bad-ass Arab terrorists! The list is big but other films that come to mind now are The Mummy and Hidalgo (last night there was a film called Live From Baghdad which also had strange sounding Arabic).

Also, what's up with mixing dialects! If the person is from Iraq, then he wouldn't sound like an Egyptian, and if they are from Egypt why the hell do they sound Lebanease... and for god's sake, Persians are NOT Arabs!

I am sure that there is at least ONE person who can speak proper Arabic in Hollywood. There must be! If not, then I'll move there tomorrow!


Concerned 'Citizen X' said...

Don't forget about the 'LOST' series as well i.e the IRAQI dude.

Blakh, Blakh, ana Blakh

That's how it sounds, basically .

Butterfly said...

You just said it, it all depends on how they view us and how much they know about our culture.

Most of Hollywood movies shows arab as bedouin and if not then they are semi-civilized arab who sound more like labanese. I don't even recognise which type of arabic music they use in these movies, sound weird and funny sometimes.

ArabAmerican said...

O please butterfly! It is a freaking movie or TV show. GET OVER IT! Stop thinking the whole damn world is out to get you because your Arab. Arab accents suck in Hollywood because there are few Arab speaking people in the industry. If you want to do something about it why don't you immigrate to the US and become an actor. Judging from some of the half assed talent out there making BIG BUCKS I suspect with a little training you could do very well. Hell you could even use your new found MILLIONS to create an Arab language training center in Hollywood. Perhaps start a talent agency that specializes in AUTHENTIC Arab actors.

Cerebralwaste said...


Arabic translators are in BIG demand here. And not just for the Government either. Private firms as well are actively looking for Arabic speakers for employment. Something you might want to consider. With your English skills you could make some serious coin and leave plenty of time for writing whatever your heart desires.


While I wON'T be as hard on your as the other poster, he/she has made some valid points. Mainly is it only TV. Don't read into things that aren't there.

Anonymous said...

It probably has a bit to do with target audience. The general public in the USA is quite ignorant about this part of the world (or anything outside the USA border for that matter). So if their target audience wouldn't know the difference, what do they care what it sounds authentic or not, the quality would be lost on it's ignorant audience. And while most company's recognize the world wide sales and distrubution, they aim for one audience and not the world. Look at it like this, selling well in the USA means good profits, anything outside is extra.
- Javier

Butterfly said...


This is your own openion and I really don't care about it. What I see in american movies and TV shows is enough to know what I am talking about.

I am not interested in immigrating to the US or to be an actor in Hollywood and I think that you would have a better chance than me since you are an ArabAmerican :)

and next time when you want to discuss something please learn how to discuss it politely and to defend your opinion with some evidences.

Butterfly said...

If you are interested you can watch this:


There are hundreds of other movies, I guess you are so ignorant or you don't watch enough movies!

Ali Al Saeed said...

Thank you all for your comments.

I see the varying opinions on this one. In this day and age, you can't afford to NOT care anymore. So the sooner those excutives in Hollywood realise that the better. There is a responsibility. To me, saying that a certain group "won't get it" is simply a lame excuse. And if that is the case, then why do Americans (and Jews) get riled up whenever they see something they don't like in Arab productions?

Ali Al Saeed said...

CW... now why didn't I think of that!? :P hey, care to point me in the right direction. No, seriously. Sign me up.

Cerebralwaste said...


Drop me an email with your phone number so I can give you a call.

Seroo said...

George Clooney in Syriana - his persian was good, his arabic was atrocious.

aMaL said...

If you think you're king of the world, if you're raised to believe your views are always right, and you're the one who "knows it all", that everything that is not you is the Savage Other, why would you put any effort into being precise when it comes to other cultures' languages?

Ali Al Saeed said...

Seroo, yep another perfect example!

Amal - you couldn't have been more right. This whole its "my way or the highway" attitude isnt gonna get anyone anywhere.

Hey CW, are you on facebook by any chance?

Cerebralwaste said...


I am not on FaceBook. Sorry.. I don't know enough about it to be honest.

Um Naief said...

hashim has noticed the same thing. there are a few directors in hollywood that go the extra mile to make it right, but most don't care it seems. i know mel gibson went that extra mile in Passion of the Christ, which was really nice to see. and in Babel, they were speaking Morrocan and it was accurate... so it just depends on the director and whether he wants to put forth the energy to make it right.

as far as Lost.. the guy whose playing an iraqi is actually indian.... which is funny. the only guy that plays arab in movies is that persian guy that played in Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. and he doesn't speak proper arabic.. he's the same guy from the mummy.

but.. i will say that i don't think it has anything to do w/ america thinking they're a super power w/ everyone thinking they know everything. this is hollywood... you have directors that don't care to take the time to make it right. i don't think it has anything to do w/ the audience and what they know or don't know about this part of the world. and really, in all honesty, i will say that it's probably due to the fact that most wouldn't know proper arabic if they heard it. like a lot or non-english speaking arabs wouldn't know good english or bad english when watching a movie. i can't tell you how many movies we've gotten from the souq that has english subtitles and they're completely mucked up because they didn't know the english.

i do think there's a market for something in the u.s. for this and i agree w/ CW in that ppl should make this known... go there, start a business. it is the land of opportunity!

Ali Al Saeed said...

Um Naief, the director of Babel wasn't american. In fact, the film wasn't a Hollywood film. Of course, you will always get much better depiction in international cinema.

Your point about english subtitles might be valid, but these are mosly done by amateures in their own homes. Hollywood studies have big budgets and millions of dollars. So there is no comparison I'm afraid.

Um Naief said...

not comparing ali... just saying that many directors have the choice to do it right or not. i don't think it has anything to do w/ the american population or as someone said above... being raised to believe that you know it all. i personally don't think this has anything to do w/ it.

and yes, i know the director of babel wasn't american. it's not about that. there are many movies out there where the director wasn't american... but it's still a hollywood movie.

Priya said...

Not that I speak a word of Arabic (though I've lived in Bahrain 2 years now), but I do believe George Clooney's Arabic in the film Syriana was pretty authentic. Well, that's what my Arab friend who came with me for the film said.

Hollywood does the same thing with Hindi -- James Bond coming to India? Pathetically funny.

Ali Al Saeed said...

Um Naief; I'm not pointing fingers or making anyone look bad, I'm just baffled by the lack of authenticity in such films when it comes to Arabic. They go to extremes to get every tiny detail right but screw it up as soon as someone utters a word of Arabic. It's just carelessness and laziness. They go "oh, nobody would notice" and that what bothers me.

Yes, Priya, true there are very very few examples where the actors actually got it right. Syriana and Babel were great films and had authentic Arabic dialects. But, Um Naief, how would you react when you are wathcing a film and someone who is supposed to be a "New Yorker" or a "Texan" spoke with a thick EastEnd/London accent!?!

foradune said...

Wow! are you kidding me? George Clooney's performance in syriana was terrific, but i did not understand a single word he said in Arabic (and im able to comprehend most dialects partially if not fully)