Bawn Gorno! How not knowing Italian (or any other language) can kill you.

Inglorious Basterds

Bridget von Hammersmark: I know this is a silly question before I ask it, but can you Americans speak any other language besides English?

I start thinking that Tarantino has something with languages. After watching Inglorious Basterds for the third time I had came with two conclusions. It’s too violent. And not being at least bilingual in a Tarantino film… is not cool.

We’re in the Second World War, in the Nazi occupation in France. You might have thought that the characters are going to die because they are trapped in a shooting or they are tortured by the Gestapo. But not. Linguistic mistakes… that’s what really kills them.

Lieutenant Archie Hicox – played by the handsome Michael Fassbender. He’s a Scottish solider and critic of German films. He speaks a wonderful German but, like most of us – second language speakers – he’s not free from the curse of accent. A Gestapo official finds him immediately suspicious because he cannot identify from which part of German Hicox’s accent comes from… Hicox’s final mistake is to mark the number in the English – and not German – way. Again, something to remember for all language students… you also need to have some basic cultural knowledge to survive in a foreign country!

Lt. Aldo Raine: Well, I speak the most Italian, so I’ll be your escort. Donowitz speaks the second most, so he’ll be your Italian cameraman. Omar speaks third most, so he’ll be Donny’s assistant.

Pfc. Omar Ulmer: I don’t speak Italian.

Lt. Aldo Raine: Like I said, third best. Just keep your fuckin’ mouth shut. In fact, why don’t you start practicing, right now!

Lieutenat Aldo Raine, Sergeant Donowitz and Private First Class Omar Ulmer blow up their covers because – despite of what they say – they cannot speak a single convincing word in Italian. One of the funniest scenes in the film is when Aldo Raine – Brad Pitt – pronounces ‘Bon Giorno‘ in the stronges American accent possible…

The Dreyffus family – French Jews – die because they cannot understand English. If they had done so, they would have listened Colonel Landa’s wicked plan and – perhaps – could have escaped before being massacred by a bunch of Nazis.

Colonel Landa – the most disgusting Nazi in the film. His wickedness lies in the fact he seems able to speak all languages –  German, English, French, Italian… and I’m sure he also speaks Spanish or Chinese but he didn’t have the chance to show it in the film. Although – no worries – he also makes mistakes from time to time.

Col. Hans Landa: [giddy] Oooh, that’s a bingo! Is that the way you say it? “That’s a bingo?”

Lt. Aldo Raine: You just say “bingo.”

Col. Hans Landa: Bingo! How fun! But, I digress. Where were we?

Sargent Wilhem. A German soldier who speaks very good English. This buys him a couple of extra life minutes and a longest scene in the flim – compared with her fellow German soldiers. But because Tarantino is the director, he also had to die in a blood explosion, of course.

Master SGT. Wilhelm: Who are you? British, American? What?

Lt. Aldo Raine: We’re American! What’re you?

Master SGT. Wilhelm: I’m a German, you idiot!

Lt. Aldo Raine: You speak English pretty good for a German.

Master SGT. Wilhelm: I agree.

Has a foreign language ever saved your life?


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