The Problem With The Arabic Version Of Frozen

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frozenPhoto: Courtesy of Disney.
If you've spent time around anyone under 10 this year, you've probably witnessed firsthand how Frozen is now a phenomena that can only described as Beatlemania for the pretween set. And, with the movie now in 41 languages, kids around the world are getting to join in on the action.

And, the singing. Oh, God, so much singing.

But, while children who speak Arabic have their own version of the film, it's not necessarily in the Arabic they know.

Frozen, unlike other Disney movies, was translated in Modern Standard Arabic, the language of high culture, and not Egyptian Arabic, the language of the people (and most TV shows and films). For a movie like Frozen — one that relies heavily on relatable speech and contemporary references — to not be colloquial is just perplexing.

Just to give you an idea of what the disconnect would be like in English, the lyrics to the movie's most recognizable song, "Let It Go," translate to something like this: "Discharge thy secret! I shall not bear the torment!” and "I dread not all that shall be said! Discharge the storm clouds! The snow instigateth not lugubriosity within me.”

Yes, it's almost as if John Travolta did the translation.

However, Frozen's translation is in keeping with most Arabic children's literature, which has traditionally resisted vernacularization. And, most parents are totally fine with it, because they want kids to learn Modern Standard, often referred to as "real Arabic."

While there's something to be said for preserving a language, there might be more of an argument for children's literature that speaks to children. That's why there's a petition calling for Disney to re-dub Frozen into colloquial Egyptian Arabic. Because with versions of the movie in both European and Canadian French, Brazilian and European Portuguese, and Castilian and Latin American Spanish, there's a question that begs to be asked: Why not have both? (The New Yorker)