Interpreters and translators are not only live, but well in the movies too. Since at least 1956 actors have played key roles as interpreters in movies about interacting cultures. Here are several well known movies that used interpreters.
The King & I (1956) – When the interpreter avoids fully translating what Anna Leonowens tells the king’s minister, it turns out that the minister understands English anyway, and the interpreter gets in trouble.
Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) – Shows simultaneous interpretation as used for the first time at the Nuremberg Trials.
Gendarme in New York (1965) – French policemen travel to New York, where their welcome speech is interpreted into several languages. Comic relief is added when Louis de Funés headphones don’t work.
Star Wars (1977-2008) – The ultimate in machine translation, robot C-3PO speaks over 6 million galactic languages fluently. At one point EV-9D9 tells him that was splendid, since their master disintegrated the last interpreter droid they had.
Lost in Translation (2003) – Long elucidations in Japanese are interpreted into very short phrases in English. Bill Murray’s character responds, “That’s all he said?”
The Interpreter (2005) – Nicole Kidman plays a United Nations interpreter living in New York. She understands Ku, a fictional language, which she accidentally overhears two delegates speaking.
Zero Dark Thirty (2012) – Features several military interpreters helping in the manhunt for Osama bin Laden. The movie won numerous awards.
Johnny Sekka (1934-2006) was a real interpreter who ended up as an interpreter in the movies. He is best known among science fictions fans for his role as Dr. Benjamin Kyle in the TV series The Gathering.
Sekka was born in Dakar, Senegal, where he ran away to live on the streets in the country’s capital (Banjul). During WWII he worked as an interpreter at an American air base in Dakar, then on the docks until he was 20, where he stowed away on a ship to France and lived in Paris for three years. In 1952 he went to London to serve in the British Air Force, then was persuaded by Caribbean actor, Earl Cameron, to become an actor himself.
For the next ten years Sekka worked his way up from stage plays to films to movies. Finally he was cast in Roots: The Next Generations, where he played the role of the African interpreter, Ebua Manga.
Next time you need an interpreter, watch one in a movie to see what they do, then call Dialog One.