the tower of babel

  • robert: oh my god! where's my couch? did someone put it in storage?
  • joseph: no, no. i sold it and made you 120 dollars richer. here! *gives money to robert*
  • robert: ... joseph, that couch was very, very important. do you know why it was important?
  • joseph: um, sentimental value?
  • mary: why the fuck did you put 15,000 dollars in your couch?
  • robert: because fuck banks that’s why!

Dear Jim,

Please paint me a normal episode of Frasier except Niles is wearing a jetpack and using it to hover slightly and Frasier’s forehead has become so grotesquely large it’s started to absorb the apartment and everything in it including Eddie. Martin is sitting in his chair like normal except he doesn’t have any bones. There are severed heads strewn around and everything is on fire. Also the view of the Seattle skyline has been replaced by that of the Tower of Babel. Daphne is being stolen by ants.

Thanks in advance,

James Grimley

movies for polyglots

7. Paris je t’aime (2006) various directors
French | English | Spanish | Mandarin | Arabic

A compilation of shorts that all have to do with Paris. Every short has a different director and a different set of characters, so there is bound to be something for you.

6. Babel (2006) Alejandro González Iñárritu
English | Spanish | Arabic | Japanese | Japanese sign language | Berber

Using the myth of the tower of Babel as a starting point, this movie revolves around miscommunication and the tragedy of becoming isolated as a human being. 

5. Night on Earth (1991) Jim Jarmusch
English | German | Italian | French | Finnish

A delightful movie in 5 instalments, all set in a different place, in a different language. The title says it all, one night on earth (more like one night in Europe but okay). Bonus young Winona Ryder.

4. Rush (2013) Ron Howard
English | French | German | Italian

Although a movie about the rivalry between two Formula 1 drivers may initially not seem your thing, it manages to keep you on the front of your seat for the whole ride. Admittedly most of it is spoken in English but the spot-on casting certainly makes up for it.

3. Biutiful (2010) Alejandro González Iñárritu
Spanish | Chinese | Wolof

A beautiful but inconsolably sad story about a father coming to terms with paternity, mortality and sacrifice in modern Barcelona. The cinematography in itself already makes this film worthwhile. 

2. Plemya (2014)
Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy
Ukrainian sign language

Yes, this movie only contains one language but is nonetheless a must see for language lovers. This movie is entirely in sign language, no spoken word, no translations, no subtitles. Yet it tells a gripping story that is entirely understandable and shows the intricate world of body language. Fair warning: contains very graphic and explicit material, definitely not for the fainthearted.

1. Inglourious Basterds (2009) Quentin Tarantino
English | German | French | Italian

This movie deserves to be number one since it actually highlights language idiosyncrasies in a wonderful and funny way. From a hair raising scene about German accents to a hilarious scene with Americans who think they know Italian, it’s a downright classic.


The Dragon of the God Marduk.

Nebuchadnezzar II (who reigned c.604-562 BC), the king of Babylon, started a series of ambitious building projects including the richly decorated Ishtar Gate (575 BC). A long processional avenue linked the sacred gate to the temple of the city god Marduk and his famous temple tower, known from the Bible as the Tower of Babel. The façades of the Ishtar Gate were decorated with reliefs on glazed bricks, representing dragons (Akkadian: mušḫuššu ; from Sumerian: MUŠ.ḪUS, lit. “reddish snake” sometimes also translated as “fierce snake” ), Marduk’s emblem, and bulls (aurochs) symbolizing the weather god Adad. The processional route away from the city was decorated with lions, the animals of Ishtar, goddess of love and war. They were to guard against advancing enemies, as is indicated by the name of the gateway: “Ishtar conquers its enemy”.

This dragon is preserved at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen (DK). Cm 115 x 164

Tower of Babel

Once upon a time, all humans worked together to build something that could reach God. We realized we were going to be successful when, suddenly, the project ended.

In the middle of building, our words stopped making sense to each other, and, whenever our friends spoke, all we could hear was babble.

You see, we were never supposed to build something equal to God, and so, to prevent us from working together, we all began speaking different languages. The project fell apart as we fought over new misunderstandings, wars broke out - we could no longer communicate. We could no longer understand our friends. But…

We could build it
If we only had the words

Mogliśmy to zbudować,
gdybyśmy tylko mieli słowa.

كَانَ مِنْ المُمكِن أنْ نَبْنِيهًُ، لَو كَانَ لَدينا الكَلِمات

Vi kunne bygget det
om vi bare hadde ordene

Мы могли бы его построить,
если бы только у нас были слова

Lo podríamos construir
si sólo tuviéramos las palabras

हम उसे बुन सकते थे अगर हमारे पास केवल वह शब्द होते

יכולנו לבנות את זה, אם רק היו לנו המילים

But we do not understand each other
So, we haven’t built it

I thank everyone who assisted me in editing these various translations. I had help with every single one, but some of the people involved have requested, understandably, not to be tagged. This piece is still open for edits. If your language is not represented and you would like for it to be, please reach out to me.