Tag Archives: Yoruba

No room for African or Indian languages in Disney’s multilingual version of ‘Let It Go’

Images from the Tumblr, “This Could Have Been Frozen”

Images from the Tumblr, “This Could Have Been Frozen”

Disney has released a version of the Oscar-nominated song “Let it Go” from the animated movie Frozen that includes lyrics sung in 25 languages. It sounds global and inclusive, but most of the languages are European.

This is the Epcot World Showcase of songs: a trip around the linguistic world — or at least the one according to Disney.

The song opens with a line in English, followed by French, German and Dutch. That sets the tone.

Seventeen of the languages are European, including some that are not exactly widely spoken — Catalan, for example, and the dialect of Dutch spoken by the Flemish of Belgium. Regular Dutch is also included, as well as Serbian (but not Croatian), Bulgarian and many more.

Danish is represented too — appropriately enough, given that “Frozen” is loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.”

From Asia, there’s Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian and Thai. And from the Americas, Latin American Spanish and Canadian French. (Interestingly, there is no Brazilian Portuguese, or for that matter, British English.)

From Africa there’s … nothing. Not one language. The same goes for South Asia. Between them, these two regions acccount for for more than 3,000 of the world’s languages.

I contacted Disney to ask why they ignored such a huge part of the world. But no one returned my calls and emails. (One Disney representative did say to me as she connected me to a colleague’s voicemail, “Thank you, Sir. And you have a magical day.”)

Disney, of course, has long been criticized for its preference for white-skinned heroines. Before the release of “Frozen,” a Tumblr called This Could Have Been Frozen re-imagined Elsa the Snow Queen as black, Tibetan, Mongolan, Iniut and other ethnicities.

Given that dissatisfaction, the release of this song seems like a missed opportunity. It wouldn’t have taken much to have had “Let it Go” recorded in say, Zulu or Yoruba, and included in the multilingual mash-up.

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    Getting Kids to Speak Africa’s Languages, One Doll at a Time

    Once every couple of months, Cartoon Queen Carol Hills and I pick five language stories to chat about. They’re all news stories of some sort, but none has made much of a splash. These are stories we chose this time:

    The Future of Yoruba

    Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka is worried that young Nigerians aren’t speaking Yoruba. The language is the native tongue of between 20-30 million people—mainly Nigerians, but also some Beninese and Togolese.

    Girl with Rooti dolls. (Photo: Rooti Dolls)

    (Photo: Rooti Dolls)

    Many of Nigeria’s best-known cultural exports—Soyinka, Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade—were brought up as Yoruba speakers. Now there are calls to switch the language of instruction in schools and colleges from English to Yoruba. The idea is to head off a catastrophic crash before it’s too late.

    A small part of the effort to keep Yoruba alive among young people is Rooti Dolls. It’s the brainchild of London-based Nigerian entrepreneur Chris Chidi Ngoforo. Big Show host Marco and I talked about Rooti Dolls and Yoruba in the broadcast:

    Rooti Dolls are like regular speaking dolls, except that they each speak four or five languages. There are twelve in the series, covering close to 50 languages. They all also speak English, which they use to teach a few words in their African languages. The idea is to expose these languages to children who may be living far from their ancestral homelands. Ngoforo himself is raising three young daughters in exactly that situation (the family’s ancestral language isn’t Yoruba, but another Nigerian language, Igbo).

    Also discussed in the podcast:



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