What language is your television


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I always like to watch TV while I’m in other countries. It interests me to see what kind of shows are played and in what languages. On one Eastern European trip, I got to watch Who Wants to be a Millionaire in German, Slovak and Bulgarian as I traveled around. The latter version was crucial in me getting a grasp on the Cyrillic alphabet. And that show especially, is great for language learning. They read both the question and the answers out loud while you read along. That gives you pronunciation help. And if you can get any sense at all of what the question or group of answers refers to, you have context to figure out what some of the words mean.

Naturally, with this interest, I had to turn on the TV not long after checking into my hotel room in Addis Ababa. My nephew Michael tells me that TV here is off a Middle Eastern satellite, which jives with what I saw. Most of the channels were either dubbed in Arabic, or broadcasted in English with Arabic subtitles.

Here’s the report of what I saw:
One Amharic station playing what looked like a local news program
Arabic network stations:
Fox–something with Cameron Diaz, dubbed
MBC Max–Out of Africa, with subtitles (Meryl Streep awesome in any language)
A–American movie, subtitled
Al Jazeera in English
Al Jazeera and the similar PressTV in Arabic
National Geographic Abu Dhabi–a show about the cobra, dubbed

High school and university here are given in English, and you can’t start high school unless you pass an English proficiency test. Folks who have enough money to pay for satellite TV also speak English.

Surreal moment of the day came later, when I returned to my room after spending time with my family. There, on Fox, was an episode of Glee. Rachel and Puck, the two very out Jewish characters on the show, were having a conversation, subtitled in Arabic.

*cue chorus of It’s a “Small World After All”*

About Verla

Wordfreak. Linguist. WA State licensed P.I. #3377. Principal, Viera Investigations. Spanish-English interpreter. Sole proprietor, Encanto Language Services. Erstwhile librarian. Texan by birth, cheesehead by upbringing, latina by soul, PacNWer by choice. Jewelry artist, Different Drummer Designs. Owner, world’s most gigantic dachshund. Driver, world’s almost smallest car. Chocoholic. Lover of things purple.
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