There are several languages that have been created from movies or works of literature. There’s Klingon from the Star Trek franchise. The movie Avatar brought us Na’vi. There’s also Dothraki from Game of Thrones. Let’s not forget Elvish, Nadsat, and Lapine.
Admittedly, each of these language varies in depth and complexity. Some, like Klingon are extraordinarily well-developed. Unsurprising, considering that a linguist was hired to create the language, and Shakespearean plays have been translated into Klingon. Others contain a smattering of words and phrases. Now the Minions movie introduces a new language.
What language do minions speak? Banana language!
Minion Language Translation
Can you translate minion language into English? Not exactly. First of all, there really isn’t a minion language per se. The ‘language’ is really a combination of words from a few different languages, silly sounds, and onomatopoeia. The latter are words that sound like what they are.
But wait a minute! You say. I’ve seen all of the Minions movies, and I understood exactly what they were saying. Yes, this is true. However, you may not have noticed a few things. First, there were lots of visual cues to give you context. Next, many of the made up words used by minions are very close to the actual words they represent. Check out this minion words list, do you think you would understand these if you hadn’t seen the movie?
We bet not.
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A Translator’s Approach to Banana
While there’s no realistic expectation that someone would ask a certified translator to work with Banana, it could be an interesting exercise to explore how a translation team might dig into the language. After all, there are thousands and thousands of dialects and languages in the world. Many of which are ‘pidgin’ languages that are a combination of words and phrases from different cultures. Then there are words and phrases that are born from certain regions and cultures.
Translators often have to work through these in order to properly translate and in some cases localize materials. If Minions were a real group of people, here are some things that a translator might do to understand their culture and language.
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Getting to Know Minions
When it comes to challenging and unfamiliar translation efforts, historical, cultural, and linguistic understanding is imperative. For example, we know that Minions are historically, more than a bit criminal minded. A good translator would keep this in mind. Cute little phrases might have a darker hidden meaning or intention.
Then, there’s linguistic history. In this case, it seems like Minion combines, English, Spanish, and French along with some indigenous speech. There may also be a bit of Italian in there as well. A translator might try to work things out by looking our root words, prefixes, and suffixes.
It would also be a good idea to meet with Minions today. What are their lives like now? What are their values? What is important to them?
Consuming Minion Content
Translators would by all means watch every Minion movie available. They would try to read Minion magazines and newspapers. They would surf minion website. Basically, they would make an effort to use existing content to build an understanding and gather up context clues.
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Yes, this is an indulgent, fantastical exercise. However, if you are a potential translator or client of language translation services, this may give you a bit of insight into the process of translation.