Star Trek: The Next Generation was my introduction to the Star Trek universe. I’d fiercely fight for the remote in the afternoon to have my dose of silly aliens, so when we finally gave in and got Netflix I thought : Well, let’s watch again! Rewatching your childhood favourites is inherently fraught with danger, especially when talking about things with special effects and “future technologies”, but also when the racial and sexual politics of the 1990s are measured against 2022.
Star Trek has always been lauded for being progressive, which shows you exactly not just that progress has been made, but also that we still have a long way to go. The bridge crew starts out with a diverse set of people, yet after Tasha gets killed, we’re down to two constant female crew members, both being in caring and nurturing professions. They are amazing characters, but they are also pretty much a 1990s ideal: a professional woman, but not a threat to the men in any way. The same is true for the changing characters in each episode: Unless one of the crew wants to fuck them, there’s a 90% chance that it’s a white guy, and if they are love interests, it’s a 90% chance they’re a white woman. I think I have now arrived at the third white male important scientist with a much younger wife whose job is “wife”. I can still enjoy it, though. It’s at least a piece of media that is sincerely trying (I’m not going to comment on the allegations of the abuse on set, just the product).
Yet, there is one thing I cannot forgive. Remember when I said I watched it first in the 90s? Well, not only was there no possibility to switch to the OV, I wouldn’t have understood it either (I so envy the kids today who have a world of languages at their hands), so my version of Captain Picard is the dubbed version. Watching the OV now, I recognised three things:
- Captain Picard curses like hell
- Captain Picard is easily pissed (it’s amazing how different the tone of voice is in the dubbed vs OV)
- No-fucking-body in the whole universe is able to pronounce Picard, not even Picard
Oh, and also his first name isn’t Shaun Luck.
Rob Grigjanis says
From the start, I thought it odd that a person born and raised in France had a posh English accent. Not impossible, I guess…
He may not have pronounced his surname correctly, but his rendition of “merde” sounded accurate to me.
Patrick Stewart’s ‘native’ accent can be heard in the last few seconds of this video;
“You can always tell a Yorkshireman, but you can’t tell him much“
Well, I’ve been assured to have a posh English accent as well, so…
I absolutely love Stewart’s voice, he could read the phone book to me (though I really prefer him reading Shakespeare’s sonnets), but I really wished that English speaking people would talk a tiny bit of care when dealing with names, because I swear I had people talk to me about the famous German poet Goethe, pronounced like goatee with a th
The thing that struck me the most when I re-watched several years ago was the “space Africans” episode, which is something like episode 2 or 3. Even for the late 80’s, WTF? Who thought that episode was a good idea? It’s literally hard to watch.
@Gilliel, 3: I present my favourite Irish joke:
Irish bloke goes for a job at a building site. Foreman says “you seem OK, your experience checks out, references and that. But do you know your stuff really? Like… Could you tell me the Downe between a joist and a girder?”
Irish man says “Sure dats easy. Joist wrote Ulysses, Girder wrote Faust.”
Rob Grigjanis says
DrVanNostrand @4: There were also “space North American Indian” and “space Irish” episodes, which hit all the tired old stereotypes.
Mine too. I recall when it was brand new and starting at 7.30 pm on channel 9 in Oz. Then it was on for quite a while at a later timeslot that introduced me to Letterman* but that’s another story.. Ah memories..
OV = ??? “Original Version” at a guess but I understand it was filmed and done in English specifically American English so seems not? Do you mean a version dubbed en francais?
Surely if Picard prounounces his name one way that’s the correct way for him even if it has changed dramatically from the original earlier proununciation of it? Language evolves including prounciations and it was set centuries in the future and Picard seemed more of an english speaker anyhow? Maybe he was raised in England or a part of France that become very anglais-sized over intervening decades? Maybe French itself even with its renowned language academy had given up and decided silent letters aren’t to be a thing anymore? Maybe Spanish too has settled on either saying words how they look in English or spelling them how they are said en habla espanol? Can dream can’t we? (Yeah, their languages, their rules, I know and yeah, I’m being anglophonically parochial no doubt but still it’s something I doubnt get why it is as it is and it just bugs me..) Maybe a future (Federation?) language institute has got people to adopt some practices whereby silent letters are either no longer silent or no longer used and all words are pronounced and spelt phonetically in the 24th century for ease of global comprehension or should that be komprehenshon?
@ 1. Giliell : I thought it was Jean Luke?
@ 4. DrVanNostrand : I don’t remember that one. I don’t think I really want to do I? Do we give them allowances for the times and the effort to be inclusive there? I don’t know. Intent certainkly isn’t magic or make for good episodes.
@ 5. Rob Grigjanis : Yes, even at the time I thought they were pretty cringe-worthy and I’m neither Irish nor Native American so, yeah.
* Yes I know that wasn’t the actual name of the show but still italicising for it. It did get very hard to move off the couch sometimes when half asleep and having a very settled purring cat on one’s lap..
@ Giliell : “..had people talk to me about the famous German poet Goethe, pronounced like goatee with a th.”
How should we pronounce it? “Go- the” emphasis on second syllable? “Goer- tha?” I don’t know.
As a non-German speaker ( with an Aussie accent FWIW) who sees words in written form and then tries to pronounce them as they would in english, it is sometimes quite hard for me and others to work out. One reason why going purely phonetic might perhaps be an improvement for the world -- but then we get to changing and varying accents and dialects , language and they way we say things evolving and so many other complications so.. I dunno.
Rob Grigjanis says
StevoR @7: Most Anglophones I’ve heard saying the name pronounce it, roughly, as “guh-tuh’, with emphasis on the first syllable.
My own personal favourite pronunciation is that of Italian football commentators who pronounced Mark Hughes’ surname (during a Cup Winners’ Cup match, IIRC) as “yooks”.
Rob Grigjanis @5: I especially remember the “space Irish” episode as being truly awful. The “space African” episode came to mind just because it was so early in the run. It almost made me want to abandon my re-watch entirely.
StevoR @6: I don’t really want to give them allowances for that episode, because I don’t even think it was in good taste in the late 80s. I judge that episode harshly, but I can forgive it in the context of the series as a whole because it was an outlier, and the show as a whole was very progressive for its time. There were very few episodes as offensive as that one, though as Rob Grigjanis pointed out, there were a few. As for the episode itself, this quote in the summary on Wikipedia sums it up quite well: “The episode was received negatively amongst cast, crew, fans and reviewers and has been called “quite possibly the worst piece of Star Trek ever made”.
Ice Swimmer says
Goethe is pronounced like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JMSNKlekbA at 0:32.
My wife and I have also been rewatching Next Gen myself recently. Reading the reviews, we skipped the space Africans. It really hits its stride in seasons 3-5 — more episodes than not are pretty solid. Yes, it doesn’t feel too representative by modern standards, but it still holds up.
I read that Stewart tried a French accent when they first hired him. He made a recording of “Zese are zee voyahges of ze Starsheep Enterpreese…” and nobody ever brought up the idea again.
I was well into grad school studying the Romantic poets before I realized that the “Goethe” I was reading about was the same person as the “Gerta” that my professors kept mentioning.
I have never seen a single full episode of any Star Trek series, although I did imbibe some of its contents via cultural osmosis. But I have planned to write something similar about a different show that I have enjoyed as a kid and young adult.
Pronouncing names in a foreign language is always tricky for non-native speakers, but for some reason, it is extremely tricky for Americans even when they get to hear the pronunciation and even when the name does not contain any sounds not present in English.
I never understood why nobody I met in the USA ever was able to pronounce my name even remotely correctly. Everybody was able to pronounce Carol, everybody was able to pronounce Karen, most could pronounce hard R when they tried, but nobody was able to say Karel despite it differing from both of the English names in a single letter and hard R. At best it always sounded as if they are gathering sputum for a spit. I also never understood why most declined to call me Charlie, despite that being the correct Anglophone form of my name and one that I am accustomed to and respond to readily.
I am not able to pronounce Goethe correctly for my life. The oe, ö, ü, and similar are not present in Czech and most Czechs invariably pronounce them much closer to o,ó or i, í. I do not know how my English sounds to a native speaker, I haven’t had many opportunities to speak for two decades by now, but when speaking German, my accent is immediately recognized as Czech by anybody I ever spoke to.
There’s been roughly three phases in my life:
Under 15: Watching Finnish-dubbed TV cartoons and animated movies, more than actual Finnish language productions. Regardless of whether these have any particular nostalgia value, I wouldn’t be interested in seeing the originals (which were typically but not always in English). I don’t think I’ve ever seen a live action show with Finnish dub, though I hear some exist nowadays. The whole idea just feels wrong.
Age 10-20: Learning English (and a little Swedish) at school while watching a lot of foreign language (usually English) TV shows and movies with Finnish subtitles. In my experience, this trains the brain to ignore the sounds and focus on the text. Eventually, I did start catching at least some English expressions and correct pronunciations from TV. The first time I tried to use English for actual communication was at 18, meeting some distant US relatives who were visiting old country.
Over 20: Learning more English from interesting books, magazines, professional reading materials and (predominantly since my late 20s) social media. At this point, I’d mostly lost interest in TV, so I have relatively little exposure to spoken English, and my pronunciation/hearing comprehension still sucks. Sometimes I’ve had to speak English at the university or during travel, but not enough for good practice. In recent years I’ve sometimes watched youtube comedy/informational videos in English, but for music I prefer other languages.
Ice Swimmer says
I’ve watched quite a lot of Star Trek, but it’s been a while, about 20 years, since last seeing an episode. I wonder how it would look like now. I did see TOS and TNG as a teen, but mostly I was in my twenties, when I was a member of a student Star Trek fan club (we binge-watched the various series, way before that became popular among wider audiences, there was also a ‘zine and some other activities). I’m not sure how would it feel to rewatch some of the stuff.
Charly @ 13
As for accents, I think it’s rare that a non-native speaker doesn’t have one. I’m guessing I have the stress on the first syllable regardless of it being appropriate or not (because in Finnish, the stress is always on first syllable and I find it difficult to change it consciously) and my wovels and consonants are the Finnish approximations of the British English ones. Natively Finnish doesn’t have b, g, w, sh, ch, the j/g in John and George or th and b, k and t are unaspirated.
Regarding your real first name, I think it’s easy for a Finnish speaker, easier to say than Charlie. The corresponding Finnish nickname would be Kalle (which is both a popular first name as well as a nickname for Kaarle, Kaarlo or Swedish-language Carl or Karl).
As for y/ü and ö, yeah not all languages seem to have them. Also, I think German and Finnish ö are a bit different, in my ears the German ö/oe has a bit of a ü flavour, while the Finnish ö doesn’t (it’s a bit more open?).
You don’t know many French people, do you? Now, I can imagine many things, but phonetically anglicised French in France? Not so much. Anyway, this neither makes sense with the Picard family history, with their old fashioned vignoble and their love of traditions, it also doesn’t make sense linguistically: If you want to get rid of silent letters, you get rid of them in writing, not by starting to pronounce them. Like AE nite.
See, that’s what I was talking about. This isn’t a dig at you personally, but at the English speaking culture to assume that it’s not important to find out how to pronounce any foreign names or words. No German would ever dream of pronouncing Shakespeare according to German phonology. Not even my grandparents with their 7 years of school and no foreign language classes at all.
I find that interesting, and highly respectable.
I don’t know how logical German pronunciation is generally for native German speakers. From what I’ve heard, English speakers often accept that you can’t know the correct pronunciation (or spelling) of unfamiliar English words, so you just have to wing it based on intuition.
Obviously, people should still put a little effort in getting people’s names right if they’re introduced in person and shown a model for pronunciation. The example provided Charly here sounds all the more bewildering considering the extreme diversity of personal names in the US. Ethnic minorities aside, just consider what are found as “white people names” in the US.
Curiously, I’ve seen some complaint on US social media that certain Anglo-white people show extreme inability to pronounce simple names from Asian or other. non-white cultures, while getting German, Slavic etc. names generally correct. There was then argument in the comments on whether said Anglo-white people are actually equally incapable of pronouncing German, Slavic etc. names.
In Finland, using proper English (or whatever) phonology is deemed necessary mainly if you’re actually speaking the language. Embedding foreign words in grammatically Finnish sentences is awkward because you have to graft them with Finnish case endings etc. and that kind of ruins the correctness of pronunciation while creating awkward phonetic transitions. With regard to winging unfamiliar pronunciations, that’s not necessary in Finnish but we do it quite often with foreign words. I tend to not be aware when I do it because my Finnish intuition is that the pronunciation/spelling of words is always knowable. If I had no foreign language training (like the abovementioned grandparents), it’d be very difficult to even conceive that there are different/less logical phonologies. As it is, I at least know to hesitate when pronouncing truly unfamiliar words or names, and take note when given advice.
@Lumipuna, German pronunciation is very logical. I find it second best to Czech and Slovak. Generally, it is possible in some cases to write a word/name wrongly, but once you learn the rules, it is nearly impossible to pronounce a word wrongly when reading it. For example, there are cases when a word or a name with identical pronunciation has more than one spelling (Günter/Günther) but those are rare.
However, what can be challenging for non-native German speakers is Germans’ tendency to combine words into übermegagigalongwords. Then pronunciation can become tricky if you do not know where to parse the word and put emphasis (because those übermegagigalongwords are not pronounced as one word but as a string of almost-but-not-entirely-separate words). There are some fun wordplays that arise through that like Urinsekt (Ur+Insekt=prehistoric insect vs. Urin+Sekt=urine bubbly vine) Or Blumentopferde (Blumen+Topf+Erde=Substrate for potted plants vs Blumento+Pferde=Flowerish horses). It has happened to me several times that I have parsed übermegagigalongword wrongly when reading it and I had to search with context for where to parse it into its components in a way that actually makes sense.
In my experience, Anglophones are unable and often unfortunately unwilling to pronounce even Slavic names correctly. My infuriating experience is not an isolated thing. I know multiple people who had their simple names mangled -- Eva, Iva, Ivan, Jan, Julius, Petr, Pavel. All these names have pronunciations that are phonetically compatible with English. But most Americans and Australians insisted on pronouncing them wrong, especially those that have written (but not phonetic) equivalent in English.
Charly -- OK. Anyway, I figured that the background in this regard (logical vs. illogical phonology) probably doesn’t matter much because, as I noted, Finnish speakers also tend to accept a lot of laxity in pronouncing foreign words and names (even if they know better, and especially if they don’t).
Yeah, one of my lecturers always said “you know how to pronounce “the”, everything else, you look up”.
As Charly said, German is pretty logical when it comes to pronunciation. While going from spoken to written may be tricky, the other way around is pretty consistent once you know a few rules, for example that a double consonant indicates vowel shortness. And also there’s “winging it” and there’s not even trying. The long compounds may be a problem, but usually the question is “what is the probable meaning of a word in this context. Another one I can think of is “Urinstinkt” (primal instinct) vs “Urin stinkt” (urine stinks)
German is pretty flexible in that respect. A nice example is the verb “to google”: I can conjugate it in all persons and times. Hast du das gegoogelt (have you googled it?)
Yeah, those are mostly proper names though. I mean, I’m married to a guy whose last name has 4 different spellings. That#s absolutely one of the reasons why I didn’t take his. I’d absolutely have swapped mine for “Sommer”, but not for a disaster in spelling waiting to happen.
Ice Swimmer says
Giliell @ 20 / lumipuna @ 17
One of things that makes foreign words awkward in Finnish is the vowel harmony. If the (non-compound) foreign word mixes front (ä, ö, y) and back vowels (a ,o, u), that’s harder to pronounce (e and i are neutral). The vowel harmony extends to things like case endings in nouns, for example the case ending that denotes being inside something can be either -ssa or -ssä (talossa = in a/the house, mökissä = in a/the cottage).
As for German spelling, as a student I always found it to be nicely consistent, a bit more so than Swedish, and clearly better than English. For me biggest downside in German spelling is the uneconomical consonant combination sch. Germanic languages should steal the various s/sh/ch letters from the Russian alphabet (and English should steal eth and thorn from icelandic).
@ Giliell :
No. Currently not a single one and rarely met many in my life although I studied french back in high school many decades ago.
Fair points. Although the options would seem to be either saying them in the voiced form or dropping them from the written the latter does seem more likely.
Fair enough. Australia especially is very monolingual and probly pretty lazy and rude -- despite our hundreds of Indigenous tongues like the local Kaurna (prounounced “Gar-na”), Ngarrindjeri, Wiradjuri and Arrente which are starting to be a bit more commonly used for and accepted.
I’m certainly guilty here of seeing word s written and prouncing them as they’d seem to sound in my head (ie as english & Ausie eglish at that pronunciation) rather than having much clue how they’d sound in other languages. I’m certainly willing to try and understand and to do the right thing by other people’s and culture’s though it doesn’t necessarily come easily.
Out of sheer curiosity how would Shakespeare be prounced in German please?
Well, otoh the French take their revenge by butchering any English word they can find. Last time we went on a holiday we stayed overnight at this nice little campsite near Lyon opposite the nuclear power plant and the guy asked me if I had “reservé”, which I understood perfectly and then added a two syllable word that resembled “bouquette” and totally threw me off before I realised that he was asking in English and meant “booked”. I’ve had that issue a couple of times in France. I understand French really well, though I tend to answer in Spanish, but once they notice I’m foreign, they switch to unintelligible English and then assume that I don’t understand English either…
First, the Sh just becomes s, A like in hard, Kes adds another syllable as we pronounce the es as in “roses”, P like in English and the EA turns into two syllables again instead of one long vowel , more like Eeyore and then add another syllable fore the re.
German is long. There’s a running joke that any book that it set the same way as the English equivalent will always have more pages.
Ice Swimmer says
Giliell @ 23
Finnish is also guilty of having long, multisyllablic words. In English it’s long, in German it’s lang and in Finnish it’s pitkä.
We English have problems with many of our words, but especially with place names. I lived in Wolverhampton for four years before realising that the place I saw on road signs -- Brewood -- was the same as the place I had heard people talking about -- Brood. In my opinion we don’t rationalise our spelling or pronunciation because knowing them is a mark of a certain level of education, and we do like to have our class distinctions *spit*
@ ^ Jazzlet : Yup. Truth.
@ Giliell : Thanks for that -- appreciated.
@ Ice Swimmer : Aussie, well, slang and common usage is to shorten things often by adding ”o'” at the end e.g. Bottleshop becomes “bottleo”, devastated becomes “devo”, “Steven” becomes “Stevo”, McDonalds becomes “Maccas”, David becomes “Davo”, “have a good day” becomes “G’day”or / & “Ave a good ún,” avocado becoems “avo”, mayonaise “mayo”, sandwhiches “sangas”, etc..
Ice Swimmer says
StevoR @ 26
Finnish also has colloquial/slang shorter (or sometimes lengthened for very short words) forms, often ending with -ri, -ra, -(k)ka or -is. McDonald’s is Mäkkäri (or Mäkki), a tram (raitiovaunu) can be ratikka or spora (from Swedish spårvagn), one possible nickname for Mikael, Mika or Mikko is Mikkis. The video game NHL is Änäri.
To get a bit closer to the original topic, Star Trek is sometimes called here Trekki.