Polyglot Chameleon English, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, French, German
Hey ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! How are you doing My name is David Zen. This is my first tutorial where I’ll be speaking the six languages that I’m fluent in In the following order English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese and Chinese. For each language, I’m going to talking about something different, something that’s very dear to me, dear to my heart, so hopefully it won’t be just boring rehashes of the same thing. If it gets too long, just skip to the part. I have the things marked down on the. whatever.
So a little bit about myself I am ChineseAmerican. I was born and raised half here in L.A., half in Taipei. I am bilingual in English and Mandarin Chinese. The other four languages that I speak I actually did not get started on until much later on in life. For a very specific reason that I will telling you guys about. All in all, it’s been a 12year journey. I’ve been doing this for quite some time now, professionally and privately. And I’m getting to the point where I really, really want to channel this linguistic ability.
More towards artistic selfexpression in film, media or whatever. So, without further ado, let’s go! As I just mentioned, I embarked upon this journey for about 12 years now. At the time, I was a writer and artist in the film industry. What I wanted to do was become an actor, writer, screenwriter. Around that time, I wrote a short film that we filmed and sent to the Cannes film fest. But unfortunately, it didn’t go too well. The project went bellyup. I had a fallingout with my partners. I took the whole thing very, very badly.
I was disappointed and disillusioned, I lost all my selfconfidence I told myself David You need to get back on your feet, do something new. Do something that matters more to you. And from there, an idea came to me. I wanted to create a character. A chameleon, a human chameleon. A type of secret agent, spy, mole. Someone who suffers from constant identity crisis, seeking love and affection. Someone who masters several languages. Who possesses the capability of weaving in and out cultures. Who takes on different identities.
Who blends into the crowd and into his surroundings just a real chameleon. It’s a concept that has always fascinated me from a young age. In a way, it’s a mirror of my life. Metaphorically speaking, of course. I’m somewhat like this character. I get lots of people, all sorts of people to welcome them into their circle I adapt and I mold myself after their expectations In order to fit in and be accepted. However, inside, I really don’t fit in. I always feel there’s a gap between myself and others.
I feel like I’m standing on the outside. I’m really an outcast, but an outcast in disguise. I wanted to express this side of myself. The side of me that’s tormented and torn between multiple elements and cultures. So one day, 12 years ago, I went to the bookstore. I was in the foreign language section. I saw books for learning Spanish, French, German and Japanese. And quite suddenly, I was overcome by a strange impulse to buy one book for each language. What’s funny, though, is that before I wasn’t really into languages at all.
I could’ve cared less. I told myself that it was too late to start learning. And like most Americans, I didn’t see the point in learning another language since everyone spoke English. However, with this dream I had about breathing life into this character and giving birth to this story, Everything was different. I felt that I had a very good reason to learn these languages. I began studying them. And I became ADDICTED!! From that moment on, I poured my heart and soul into learning languages. It became a total obsession.
For 10 years, I left the movie industry. And my dream faded into oblivion. Thus, for 10 years, I deviated from my goal Which was to make this film. I dedicated myself to learning languages, it became the one thing I focused upon. I did it like an obsessed madman, day and night, continuously. When I look back at this period of my life. I look back at it with some amazement because. All the jobs, sidejobs and projects that I took on during this time Were related to languages in one way or the other.
For example, I worked as a translator for a Japanese company here in L.A. for 4 years. I interpreted meetings for the management of this company. I also worked as an administrative assistant, as the president’s assistant, as a project coordinator and as a salesman. I did a bit of everything. In all of these positions, I made good use of my language skills. But I was very unhappy. I didn’t feel accomplished. What I did professionally was not really that fulfilling. And it wasn’t what I really wanted to do.
Deep down inside, I still had not lost sight of this dream of mine. Which was to make this film, create this character. Transform myself into this chameleonlike character sotospeak. However, the problem was that people already had me pigeonholed as a translator. Well, the profession of being a translator is. a good profession, I guess. It has its value, it’s becoming more and more important in the world. But I really don’t like it AT ALL! I don’t know if any of you guys have ever tried your hand at translating.
For me, translating and interpreting can be quite an unbearable pain in the ass!! You can’t be yourself. You’re nothing more than a fucking machine. You spend hours in a row racking your brains just to repeat what other people say. You can’t deviate from the original meaning. You can’t add anything of your own. You can’t express yourself! I don’t like feeling restricted. If I weren’t an artist, this wouldn’t be such a problem. The worse thing is when you’re translating and interpreting. Both parties start yelling at each other, fighting, getting worked up.
And you’re caught in the middle, you can’t do anything. Either way you turn, there’s trouble. And you suddenly take on the role of a mediator. You have to keep your cool and make peace. I am unfortunately someone who gets worked up and who loses his temper easily, in the blink of an eye. I’m not good at dealing with these types of situations. For many years, I didn’t dare tell anyone about what I really wanted to do. I was afraid. I was afraid that people would criticize and judge me, and say things like.
David, don’t go too far! What you want to do is impossible! There’s no way you can do it!! I led a pretty repressed life. I even tried changing myself. I tried molding myself after what others wanted, after their expectations. And one day, I was ready to explode. I was fucking fed up!! I couldn’t take it anymore! I just wanted to rip off the fucking chains that I’d placed upon myself! For quite some time, I was depressed. I wanted to die. I went through fucking hell. I couldn’t express what I had inside of me.
I had so much creative energy that I couldn’t even get out or channel towards something productive. And little by little, this energy began killing me, eating me alive, destroying me. One day, I reached a point where I just told myself Fuck what other people say and think!! I’m the fucking boss of my life! I’m gonna do what I want. And if you guys don’t like it, well, you can just go screw yourselves! So, after 10 years, I went back to the film industry. I began writing my scripts. I trained as an actor at two schools.
I even spent a year working for Warner Bros. Little by little, I’m starting to feel that some things are happening, step by step. And that’s good! I still have some doubts and feel some uncertainty. But I suppose it’s all part of the process. You just have to move forward and put up with it. At the very least, I’m doing something that meaningful to me. I leave the rest up to God. And this is one thing that I’m learning more and more. There are so many things in life that you can’t control, that are just out of your reach.
It’s best for you to just leave it in the hands of God, the universe, Buddha, Allah, or whoever. Simply let go and see what comes of it. Easier said than done! So my friends, let us change the subject again! Some of you might be asking how I learned all these languages and how I get by in them. I’m not going to be giving a longwinded speech here. But I’ll sum it up and give you guys 5 tips on effective learning. First off, textbooks. Please chuck your textbooks away as soon as you can.
Textbooks and language classes are perhaps important at first, in that they help you build a foundation. But please don’t get stuck in them, like so many people do. It’s a mistake. And stay away from all unnecessary theoretical baggage. That’s my first tip. Secondly, find native speakers. And if you get along with them, become friends with them and talk to them in the language. And make that into a daily habit. Thirdly, find and gather questions about the language, expressions, grammar, whatever And preferably get these questions answered by a native speaker.
For this purpose, language exchanges and private lessons are real useful. Fourthly, you guys need to have conversations with yourselves. Use your imagination and think of something creative. You can speak about anything about your day, your dreams, fears, relationships. You can use the language to bitch about something, or rave about something. Or you can praise someone, or backstab your enemies. Anything’s good. What I do, for example, is create my own dialogue or film scenes featuring several characters. And I do it spontaneously, unrehearsed, without preparing anything in advance.
Sometimes it works out better that way. The important thing about all this is to speak. Because speaking involves a different cerebral hemisphere. It’s like a muscle or a muscle group that an athlete trains everday, so that he’s able to perform at his peak level during the game. Languages are no different. Speaking is a muscle. You need to train everyday. Last, but not least . T.V. Absolutely imperative! has become my best friend. It’s my one constant companion. I love , because you can find just about anything on.
TV series, talkshows, documentaries, lectures, anime, tutorial game walkthroughs. Watch something interesting, something that’s fun for you. What I do, for example I have a daily routine. I open up a window for every language. I take turns watching shows in Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Chinese, etc. I go through all the languages in order, then I repeat the process till I don’t feel like doing it anymore. It’s pretty freaking annoying when some people compare languages with IT or programming languages. For me, those are two completely different things.
A language, ladies and gentlemen, encompasses far more than just sounds and words. A language is rather the reflection and expression of the soul and history of an entire population, of a collective consciousness. A language has its own musicality, a penetrating energy, a vibration. And that brings me to the next subject that I want to tackle here. Foreign languages can be used way more in filmmaking as a means of expression. What do I mean by this Socalled international movies such as Fast and the Furious, Mission Impossible, Iron Man 3 are more and more popular nowadays.
Foreign actors are increasingly present in these Hollywood blockbusters. However, the linguistic element is still missing. You do hear a few lines here and there in Chinese, German, etc. in these movies. But the dialogue is still mostly or only in English. Or some Hollywood celebs desperately attempt to recite a few lines in another language. But it’s not very welldone nor is it convincing, since they obviously don’t know the language. You really could incorporate more languages to make the entire thing more colorful, more interesting, more relevant. A great example of this is the film from Quentin Tarantion Inglorious Bastards.
For those of you who don’t know the film, the film premiered back in 2009 and was a big boxoffice success. It’s about an American special forces squad consisting of Americans, Irishmen, Germans, people of different origins. And they all have something in common They want to annihilate Hitler and his commanding officers, and overthrow his regime. What was really great about this film was that the whole thing was evenly shot in 3 different languages English, French and German. For this purpose, they hired actors from all across the world for their respective roles, who were either native speakers,.
Or who mastered the language wellenough to deliver the dialogue in a credible way. It was just magnificent and refreshing to see, and above all to experience. How the actors interacted with one another in different languages, and how the languages dovetailed into one another. This interplay and clashing of opposing cultures and languages simply fascinated me For example, as soon as you switch the language, the mood changes, the vibration changes, the plot takes a detour in another direction. Admittedly, there were very few viewers who mastered all three languages sufficiently and who were able to understand the whole thing from beginning to end without subtitles.
Nonetheless, the audience was perfectly able to appreciate and value the diversity of languages. Without the languages, the film would not have been the unprecedented success that it was. Unfortunately, there are still people who don’t believe in the entertainment value of a multilingual film. They say Why would you want to watch a movie where you can understand only one part and where you have to look at subtitles the rest of time Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that Inglorious Bastards proves the fact that something like this can actually work!.
And that a movie can be that much more nuanced, gripping, captivating and entertaining when the languages are incorporated the right way. Even the moviegoing audience nowadays is a lot different than it was 10 years ago. The linguistic and cultural interchange taking place between different countries is stronger and more expanded than ever before. Through this, many viewers have developed a certain feeling or a taste for this kind of stuff, sotospeak. I’m very certain that something like this will become a real trend in the future. And I would like to capitalize upon this.
My dream is to be able to incorporate not only English, French, German, but also Chinese, Japanese and Spanish into one single film. If the direction, writing, casting and all other elements are done the right way, this could potentially be groundbreaking. More of the world would be united together on the same stage. They fight one another, butt heads with one another, play with one another. Due to external circumstances, they are forced to find a way to get along and work in unison. And therein lies the magic!!.
Language is awesome! I’ve said it before language is not just a combination of words and sounds. A language speaks of the soul, history, of things passed down from generation to generation, of the unseen aspects of a country and its people. So, change of subject! I’d like to talk about the standing of Asians particularly Asian actors in Hollywood and in the world’s entertainment industry. I’m sure you guys all know already. It is extremely difficult for Asians to succeed in the world’s entertainmentmovie business. To be fair, the situation has somewhat changed for the better in the last 1020 years.
However, there’s still a long ways to go! There are Asian actors who’ve appeared in big Hollywood movies and who’ve succeeded to a certain extent worldwide. For example, there’s Ken Watanabe, Jet Li, Maggie Q, Jackie Chan, etc. In a sense, these people have overcome cultural and language barriers. They’ve put out some great performances in various Hollywood movies and have been wellreceived by both critics and audiences. However, unlike a Tom Cruise or a Will Smith, they are not as wellknown by the rest of the world, regardless of where you go. Unfortunately.
The same goes for Jackie Chan. When I was living in Europe 34 years ago, I met all sorts of people. When I was living in Europe 34 years ago, I met all sorts of people. Surprisingly, there were a large number of people who didn’t even know Jackie Chan. That gets me thinking. Are Asians just not as popular compared to other racesethnicities Just think about it. You have white entertainers, black entertainers and Latin American entertainers who are household names across the world. But is there really an Asian superstar Hmmmm.
But is there really an Asian superstar Hmmmm. I can’t really think of anyone. There isn’t anyone, is there Why Why! WHY!!! One reason for this lies in the contentmaterial. In Hollywood, there’s a lack of material that’s suitable for Asian actors, or that brings out and expresses the beauty, virtues and soul of Asian culture. Admittedly, there are stories out there that take place in Asia or that depict Asian people. There are even roles geared specifically towards Asian actors. However, Asians are not the ones writing up these stories or roles.
In most cases, these are stories fabricated by white people or nonAsians. A lot of these people don’t even speak an Asian language, and they don’t really understand the culture at all. So when they write about Asians, a lot of the stuff that comes out feels somewhat removed from reality. White people. I’m sorry, not everyone’s like this. I shouldn’t been generalizing across the board here. From their point of view, Asian people fall into the following types The physically weak, bespectacled geek. The refugee who speaks English in a strange accent and moves about comically.
Yakuza. A martial arts master. The stoicfaced, taciturn Asian man. The wise old sage. For Asian women, you have the weak, submissive Asian woman who’s strongly dependent on men. Then you have the sexy, maneating Asian femme fatale. In any case, the types of roles out there are very limited. I’m not saying that stories about Asians should never be written from an nonAsian perspective. That being said, the way you see yourself versus the way others see you is different. If you were to rewrite the same story using an Asian perspective, the whole feeling of it and the message would be completely different.
The final product would also be a more accurate reflection of the Asian world. There are tons of movies out there made by Asians. However, only very few of them are able to succeed on an international level. Asian period pieceshistorical dramas fall into this category. They do great at the box office in Asia and are a big hit, but when you play them in the Western world or overseas, there’s a lack of audience response. Which is understandable since the people over there don’t really understand or get the material.
What we have here is a very tricky issue. If we don’t improve the image of Asians out there, Asian actors will continue to be pigeonholed into these silly, boring roles and stereotypes, and it will be hard for us to overcome the current situation. Plus, as Asians, we will gradually lose more and more of our voice. So what can we do to change our image There are two factors that I mentioned earlier that need to be taken into account. First thing the story needs to be written by an Asian or by someone who’s wellversed in Asian culture.
Second thing the content or story can’t be limited to just one local region or country. It needs to transcend national, racial and cultural boundaries, and capture the heart of the masses across the world. The influence of art is unfathomably deep. When we’re unable to convince others or get our thoughts and feelings across to the other through our speech and actions. We’re actually able to more effectively express these things through art, be it through acting, music or dance. This is the magical quality that art has. By moving people, exciting them, getting them to feel something strongly or by stimulating them, we can open up their eyes.
And through this, we can change the consciousness of the world. At least, that’s what I think. What about you guys There’s been a big shift in the trend of the world’s movie business nowadays. In the past, most Hollywood box office revenue came from within or domestically. Domestically includes the U.S. of course, but also Canada, England and other Englishspeaking territories. At the time, most Hollywood producers and studios didn’t really care about the other audiences. Their focus was upon the Englishspeaking audience. A lot of minorities within the country as well as foreign audiences were left out of the equation.
But things have shifted in a big way, my friends. This year, nearly 50 of box office revenue for Hollywood blockbusters came not from the domestic market, but from overseas. I read a statistical report recently. According to this report, aside from the U.S.Canada, the world’s second biggest movie market and source of box office revenue is China. This is quite incredible considering that 5 years ago, China was just 15 worldwide. In 5 years, it has risen to the number 2 position. China’s film market potential is still huge. You could say that it’s unlimited.
Aside from China, Japan is the 3 film market in the world, England 4, France 5, India 6, Germany 7, South Korea 8 and Russia 9. This year, I worked for about a year at the movie studio Warner Bros. The current CEO of Warner Bros. is Asian. He’s a thirdgeneration Japanese American. He also happens to be the first Asian CEO in the history of Warner Bros. About two months ago, I attended a QA session with this new CEO. At the time, he mentioned the importance of the Chinese film market.
He said, If Hollywood studios want to survive, they MUST put their eye and focus on the Chinese market. The purchasing power of Chinese consumers is a force to be reckoned with. The world has changed a lot. Even within America, demographics are shifting bigtime. The Spanish language and the influence of LatinAmerican culture have permeated every level of American society. Its influence cannot be overlooked. Asia including India and China is also very big. China has become very powerful. China’s economic might has boosted the entire Asian region. Japan as well, and especially Korea! In recent years, Korea’s movie and entertainment business has just flourished, and they’re very aggressively getting a lot of their representative works out there.
The world as a whole is getting smaller and becoming more and more like a big melting pot. The cultural exchange taking place between countries is flourishing. Never before in history have so many young people and foreigners been learning foreign languages. Hollywood, unfortunately, is still one step behind. Its movies have yet to reflect this new world. A lot of Hollywood producers and highlevel executives are still very conservative. They look at the rest of the world and at other races, and write about them from a traditional CaucasianAmerican standpoint.
But even this is starting to change. For example, a lot of Hollywood movies in recent years are taking place abroad. Accordingly, they’ve also hired more wellknown foreign actors to play more interesting and more pivotal roles. I hope that the world media and movies will reflect and express this diversity of people, cultures and languages in an even greater way in the future. Besides transcending national, cultural and racial boundaries. I hope that we’ll be able to use art to break stereotypes and prejudices, be it about gender, sexual orientation, economic background, age, or religion.
My personal wish is that if I get the opportunity.if God is willing to bestow this opportunity upon me. I would like to use my unusual imagination and linguistic ability to channel and spread this type of a world view, be it through acting or writing. With this tutorial, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to meet more artists from different places and backgrounds. Like actors, directors, writers, dancers, singers, producers, etc. We may come from different backgrounds and have different ways of dealing with things, but at least when it comes to movies, culture and language, we’re able to find some common ground.