/Cityspeak from Blade Runner (2002)

Cityspeak from Blade Runner (2002)


What are the languages used in BR?

The languages spoken are English, Chinese, German, Japanese and “Cityspeak”.

What is “Cityspeak”?

Cityspeak is a mixture of words and expressions from Spanish, French,
Chinese, German, Hungarian and Japanese. The “conversation”
between Deckard and Gaff in the beginning of BR is an example of
this.

Translation of the noodle bar scene dialogue (with comments):

(Provided by and with introduction by Netrunner)

The Noodle Bar scene:

Gaff speaks to Deckard at the Noodle BarThe
Noodle Bar is where we first meet Deckard, hear the (sometimes indistinct)
advertising blimp, listen to the Noodle Bar counterman speaking
Japanese and meet Gaff, with his unusual Cityspeak. This scene is
thus the source of many questions, particularly about what precisely
is being said.

Although transcripts and translations of this scene exist in hundreds
of places on the Web, 99.9% of those are copies and are based on
the original work of just a few people. We thank those few for their
hard work, but note that they all contain definite mistakes and
omissions, (including Future Noir!). We now take that work further,
in order to get the best possible transcription and translation
for everyone. It isn’t perfect, (will it ever be), but it is the
best version available. If you have anything you can add, we would
love to hear from you.

Sources:

  • Various versions of scripts, supplemented by interviews.
  • A few people’s translations to start from.
  • My own small knowledge of European languages and
    Japanese. Now supplemented by Adam H. and eMU confirming the Hungarian
    lines and MJS confirming the Japanese lines.
  • Netrunner’s definitive Blimp transcription, giving
    both the OV and DC lines.

Background to Cityspeak:

Blade Runner GaffEdward
James Olmos (who played Gaff) was originally given a very small
character role to play. His input is what created the character
we know and he obviously inspired Scott et al, as the character
not only became considerably more interesting, but also more important
to the film. The character, even in the last script, was officious,
envious of Deckard and much less of a person. And he was to speak
straight Japanese, (intended to have English subtitles).

Olmos (with Scott) added more nationalities into Gaff’s origins,
plus the multilingual abilities. Olmos said, “The
first idea of mine was to take some different real languages and
mix them down, such as French, Chinese, German and Japanese. Then
I went to the Berlitz School of Languages in Los Angeles, and translated
and learned to pronounce all these little pieces of dialogue. It
was something strange, but it was fitting well into Gaff.

Mr Olmos has some Hungarian Jewish background, hence the incorporation
of some Hungarian in Cityspeak.

Problems in translating Cityspeak:

  • How do you transcribe sounds you don’t understand
    if you don’t even know which language is being used for which
    word?
  • There were considerable changes to Gaff’s character
    and lines during filming, so the final script only helps a little.
  • As far as we know, Olmos hasn’t left us with his
    own transcription.
  • Attempts to translate have to make assumptions of
    language used. Although one line is in three different languages,
    his next line is all Hungarian.
  • Some of the speech is slang and therefore a standard
    dictionary is not going to cut it, but intelligent guesses and
    invaluable assistance from native speakers of those languages
    have helped us translate the whole scene.
  • Olmos did an excellent job in his creating and speaking
    of the different scraps in coherent sentences, but the fact is
    that it is still street lingo and thus any “mistakes”
    he may have made in words or pronunciation are irrelevant as they
    can be simply part of Cityspeak.

Note:
In the following, I no longer label anything as “Cityspeak”,
but rather list just the actual languages that make up the non-English
lines.

– NOODLE BAR SCENE –

Blade Runner Deckard reads his newspaper{Rainy,
busy street scene. Deckard reading newspaper while waiting for a
spot to open up at the White Dragon Noodle Bar.}

Blimp: A new life awaits you in the
Off-world colonies. The chance to begin again in a golden land of
opportunity and adventure.

Sushi Master: {To
a customer}
Nan ni shimasho ka. [Japanese:
“What’ll it be?” Note: “Nan” is
colloquial shortening of “Nani”, so the translation given is less
formal than the “What would you like to have?” it would
be otherwise. Thanks to Gary for that distinction.]

Blade Runner Blimp advertises Off-WorldBlimp:
A new life awaits you in the Off-World Colonies. The chance to begin
again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure. Lets go to
the Colonies!

<<OV only>>
Blimp: New climate, recreational facilities

Deckard (voiceover): They don’t advertise
for killers in the newspaper. That was my profession. Ex-cop, ex-blade
runner, ex-killer.

Blimp: … absolutely free.
<<End OV>>

<<DC only>>
Blimp: This announcement has been brought
to you by the Shimago-Dominguez Corporation. Helping America into
the New World.
<<End DC>>

Blimp: {Continues
over some of the following dialogue}
Use your new friend
as a personal body servant or a tireless field hand – the custom
tailored genetically engineered humanoid replicant designed especially
for your needs. So come on America, lets put our team up there …

Sushi Master: {To
Deckard}
akimashita, akimashita! Irasshai, irasshai! [Japanese:
“(The seat’s) free, (it’s) free!”
Welcome, welcome!” Note: Akimashita is the
past tense of “aku” – to become free”. Although it sounds like
“kimashita” this is in fact the past tense of “come”, i.e.
“came”, and “Came, came!” is thus an unlikely translation.
The Sushi Master gestures to the empty seat and effectively
says, “The seat’s
opened up! There’s a seat for you here!” – Thanks
to Gary for the information.]

{Deckard goes over to Sushi Bar.}

Sushi Master in Blade RunnerSushi
Master:
Sa dozo. [Japanese: “Come,
please.” (sit down here)]

{Deckard sits where Sushi Master indicates.}

Sushi Master: Nan ni shimasho ka.
[Japanese: “What’ll it be?”]

Deckard: {Points}
Give me four.

Sushi Master: Futatsu de jubun desu
yo. [Japanese: “Two is enough!”]

Deckard: No. Four. Two, two, four.

Sushi Master: Futatsu de jubun desu
yo. [Japanese: “Two is enough!”]

Deckard: {Resignedly}
And noodles.

Sushi Master: Wakatte kudasai yo.
[Japanese: “Please understand!”
(Actually implying (mildly) sarcastically, “Can’t you understand?”)
He knows Deckard by name, so this is probably a familiar jibing
between the two.]

Blade Runner Deckard is a cold fish<<OV
only>>

Deckard (voiceover): Sushi, that’s
what my ex-wife called me. Cold fish.
<<End OV>>

Policeman: Hey, idi-wa. [Korean:
“Hey, come here.” {Thanks to Mark Taylor for confirmation.}]

Blade Runner Deckard is interruptedGaff:
Monsieur, azonnal kvessen engem bitte. [French-Hungarian-German:
“Sir, follow me immediately please!” (Thanks to eMU for
translating the Hungarian part:- “azonnal” – means immediately;
“kvessen” – means follow imperative; “engem”
– means me. And of course “Monsieur” is French for Sir
and “bitte” is German for please.)]

{Deckard gestures to Sushi Master to translate.
(The script had Deckard not understanding
the original Japanese. The subsequent voiceover said of course he
actually understood Cityspeak. So whether he really understands
or not is pretty much your choice!)
}

Gaff talks to Deckard at the Noodle Bar in Blade RunnerSushi
Master:
He say you under arrest, Mr. Deckard.

Deckard: You got the wrong guy, pal.

Gaff: Lfaszt, nehogy mr.
Te vagy a Blade … Blade Runner. [Hungarian:
“Horsedick, no way! You are the Blade … Blade Runner.”
(Thanks to Adam H. and eMU for confirming this Hungarian.)]

Sushi Master: He say you ‘Brade Runner’.

Deckard: Tell him I’m eating.

Gaff: Captain Bryant toka. Me ni
omae yo. [“Japanese”: “Captain
Bryant wants to see your mug in front of his immediately!” (This
is a very loose translation and is definitely Cityspeak rather
than straight Japanese.) Note: The first part could actually be
a strangulation of
“Captain Burayanto ga”
grammatically meaning Captain Bryant is the subject of the sentence. “Me
ni omae yo” may be
a sort of pun. “Me
ni mae” means to meet someone. “omae” is the very
informal use of “you” – in Japanese, this is significant.
“yo” – Exclamation – Japanese doesn’t use the ‘!’ punctuation.
Thanks to Michael J. Simon for helping out with this line. However,
note that this is an attempt at translation and
as it stands is not standard Japanese. (Could this actually contain
some other Oriental language?) Thanks to Gary for the additional
info.]

Deckard and Gaff leave in a SpinnerDeckard:
Bryant, huh?

Gaff: Hai! [Japanese:
“Yes!”]

{Deckard and Gaff leave in spinner.}

————————–

(By Netrunner)

What is the language used by the midgets that are ripping stuff
off Deckard’s car? What are they saying?

They are speaking German.

Here is the complete dialogue of that scene:

[On the street… Police radio heard in background.
Street vandals approach Deckard’s car.]

Little thieves try to rip off a Blade Runner's carVandal:
Jemand hat uns ein kleines Geschenk dagelassen.
[German:
“Somebody left us a little present.”]

Vandal:
Ist jemand drinnen? [German: “Is somebody
in there?”]

Vandal: Ich kann nichts sehen. Hey,
warte bis die Bullen weg sind! Hey, warte bis die Bullen weg —
[ German: “I can`t see anything. Hey,
wait `til the pigs are gone! Hey, wait `til the pigs — ” Note
that “bullen” actually translates to English “bulls”,
but this is the German slang equivalent of the Anglo/American “pigs”
– that is, not just a colloquial “cops”, but a rather
more derogatory name for the police.” Thanks to Anna K. for
that explanation]

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