Saturday, June 15, 2019

Tilda Swinton speaks (a wee bit of) Korean

Strange and statuesque Tilda Swinton—who is basically Cate Blanchett for weirdos—has done a commercial for here in Korea. She utters one line of carefully spoken Korean: "여행이 영어로 뭐지?" (Yeohaeng-i yeongeo-ro mweoji?)—i.e., "What is 'trip' [yeohaeng] in English?" See for yourself:

I'd been wanting to slap this up on the blog for weeks. I'm glad the commercial made it to YouTube. I guess Tilda's pronunciation wasn't clear enough to earn her the "foreigner pronounces so clearly she doesn't need subtitles" status.* In Korea, the assumption is that, if you've got a foreign face, you probably can't speak Korean, and Koreans are so thoroughly convinced this is true that they'll stick subtitles on the screen even if the foreigner speaking Korean is speaking the language perfectly. Koreans are psychologically thrown off by the mere sight (and, well, sound) of a Korean-fluent foreigner: that's how low their expectations are regarding your language proficiency, and that's why so many of them will burst out in startled laughter if you start speaking comprehensible Korean to them. Obviously, there are exceptions, e.g., Koreans who know you and your proficiency level and have had a chance to get used to hearing you speak Korean, as well as Koreans who work around Korean-speaking foreigners all day long (e.g., in Itaewon, on college campuses, etc.). Certain famous foreigners who have proven their Korean ability, and who appear in TV dramas and such, don't always have to be subtitled. I'm thinking specifically of German-turned-Korean-citizen Yi Hanu, a.k.a. Lee Charm, né Bernhard Quant of Bad Kreuznach. Oho—I see on Wikipedia that he was embroiled in a sex scandal in 2013 when he was caught having sex with a prostitute in Japan. Very Bad Kreuznach, indeed! Anyway, it tickles me to see stars I recognize suddenly appear out of nowhere in Korean commercials. You go, Tilda! Rock on, O Ancient One!

*To be fair, the Korean guy's lines also appear as subtitles. Subtitling often happens in TV commercials, and I find it cringe-worthy. Very often, it feels as if someone were telling a joke and then explaining it, which is the best way to suck the humor out of a joke. Granted, not all commercials are subtitled, but many are.

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