Ok, so I got on the Firefly/Serenity bandwagon kind of late. I was a little scared because I heard so much praise about it here and I doubted it could live up to the hype. (Peggy Hill: "Bobby, that is the best burger I've ever had in my life!" Bobby Hill: "Thanks Mom, now you've ruined it for me. After you've built it up like that, there's no way it can be that good.")
However, I rented the movie a few weeks ago. It was awesome. It just seemed like there was so much more going on, so I started renting the Firefly discs from Netflix. I watched all of disc 1 on saturday. I'll probably buy the boxed set.
I have two questions though.
1) Is there any reason given why they all speak some Chinese as well as English? They only use it when they are particularly emotional about something, much the same way bilingual speakers will say something in their mother tongue if they are emotional. This leads me to believe that perhaps China took over most of Old Earth in some way, but then English speakers regained influence. Anyway, if anyone knows, please clue me in.
2) Can anyone else understand their Chinese when they speak more than one word? I mean, either my listening skills have seriously degraded, or the actors' Chinese is terrible. They don't put any tones on the words, their pronounciation is horrible, and they run the words together without inflection or break, as if it was nonsense (which to them it probably is I guess).
Anyway, I look forward to getting the remaining 3 discs in the mail.
1) 'Verse version: The two remaining superpowers on Earth That Was, the US and China, combined into the AngloSino Alliance, which later became the Union of Allied Planets after humanity moved to the new system and the war of Unification was fought. The cultures were merged over time, so that now pretty much everyone speaks Chinese and most people can also speak English. Note that many of the higher-class people have Chinese surnames: Simon and River Tam, Atherton Wing, etc. Real life reason: It's a quick way to demonstrate the merged cultures, and it's an excellent way to let the characters curse without bleeping it.
2) The actors had a horrible time with their Chinese. They had interpreters and phonetic aids, but for the most part they stumbled through as best they could. Alan Tudyk (Wash) has said that he always got the longest lines and he would often start making up gibberish just to get through the scene.
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1) It's never explicitly stated in the series, but the general idea is that China and America were the last two superpowers on Earth, and it all sort of blended when humanity moved offworld. It also lets them "swear" on the show without actually swearing in English.
2) I don't know Chinese, but it's safe to say that the actors' Chinese is terrible. They've talked about this in interviews and the commentary tracks. They basically would just get the Chinese parts written out phonetically and have to get it out as best they could.
--Enigmatic Edit: Types too slow, should have known Mr Bridges would get the more complete info in anyway.
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True. Especially if it is an old grandma. I think part of the reason is the tones and the fact that most words are either one or two syllables that are hard for our western tongues to spit out. There is a tone in Chinese, the 4th, that starts out high pitched and falls sharply. To our Western ears, it sounds the kind of tone we take when we are upset. That and grandma's can be really loud there
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I suspect Fireflyese has more to do with people adapting&adopting the languages of the technological&economic superpowers -- at least in part -- than with a full merger of Chinese and English.
To be considered functionally literate, Japanese have to know a few thousand English/American words: most of them extensively reshaped by Japanese phonemes, phoneme combinations, and phoneme-to-writing rules into new words which aren't recognizable to English/American-only speakers; eg basebaru, etc. Similarly in Germany, France, etc. The American anime is a return of the Japanese adaptation of animation. Heck, truka is a Mexican-variant on the American truck.
If China fully reaches the status of technological&economic superpower as expected, then the natural extrapolation would be that English/American-speakers will add large numbers of Chinese words&phrases to their vocabularies. And like English/American-speakers being unable to recognize that eg konbini is a variant on convenience store, a Chinese-speaker would be unlikely to catch the meaning of Chinese words modified by English phonemes.
Ok, well I found a website where someone published the Chinese parts of the scripts. I don't quite agree with some of the translations, (especially the ones that are supposed to be curses) although they are close. The actors didn't do terrible with the single words they were to say, like qing jin, mei mei, bi zui, but as far as the phrases went, it was hopeless. Firefly Chinese PhrasesPosts: 1412 | Registered: Oct 2005
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shu gua, which a I think means mellon head.
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