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25 Must-See Movies Featuring Linguists, Linguistics and Languages

See also: Language Learning Resources

1. Iceman (1984)

A team of Arctic researchers find a 40,000 year-old man frozen in ice and bring him back to life (no, this isn't the comedy Encino Man). His speech is decoded by a linguist from MIT using a "pitch stress meter".

Get the DVD here: Iceman DVD

2. Pontypool (2010)

A must-see for linguists. A virus spreads through a community and only a linguist can solve the mystery. Can't give more details without spoilers.  

Get the DVD here: Pontypool DVD

3. Ghost Warrior (1984)

A deep-frozen 400-year-old samurai is shipped to Los Angeles, where he comes back to life, speaking an ancient Japanese dialect.

Get the DVD here:   Ghost Warrior

4. Ball of Fire (1941)

A lexicographer realizes that the slang section of his dictionary is outdated and decides to visit a nightclub where he meets a snarky burlesque performer. He becomes fascinated by her command of popular jargon, but she is the fiancée of a mobster and wanted by the police.

Get the DVD here: Ball of Fire DVD

5. Enemy Mine (1985)

A science-fiction film about a human and alien soldier who become stranded together on an inhospitable planet and must overcome their mutual distrust and learn each others' languages in order to cooperate and survive.

Get the DVD here: Enemy Mind DVD

6. My Fair Lady (1964)

By now, everyone knows this tale of the phonetician who makes a bet that he can refine the cockney speech of Eliza Doolittle

Get the DVD here: My Fair Lady DVD

7. Nell (1994)

Two doctors observe and try to communicate with a wild woodswoman in North Carolina who speaks a strange unknown language.

Get the DVD here: Nell DVD    

8. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

A Disney cartoon featuring a decipherer of ancient languages who finds the lost continent.

Get the DVD here: Atlantis: The Lost Empire

9. Stargate (1994)

A linguist and Egyptologist is transported to another planet where his knowledge of hieroglyphics and ancient languages proves useful as the natives speak a dialect that has evolved from ancient Egyptian.

Get the DVD here: Stargate DVD

10. Windtalkers (2002)

A drama about the use of the Navajo language as a secret code during World War II.

Get the DVD here: Windtalkers DVD

11. Finding Nemo (2016)

Speaking of Navajo, this movie was recently re-released with a Navajo dubbed soundtrack

(Star Wars is also available in Navajo here: Star Wars in Navajo )

12. Youth without Youth (2008)

Movie about a 70-year old linguist (working on finding roots of human language) who suddently becomes 35 again.

Get the DVD here: Youth without Youth DVD

13. The Statue (1971)

A risqué comedy featuring a British linguist who becomes internationally famous for inventing a universal language (Unispeak)

Get the DVD here: The Statue DVD

14. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser / Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle (1974) (German)

This movie is based on a true story about one of the few socially-isolated children who learned to speak after the age of 17

Get the DVD here: Enigma of Kaspar Hauser DVD

15. On Top of the Whale / Het dak van de Walvis (1982)

A parody of anthropology, linguistics, and cultural imperialism. The film follows an unlikely team of linguists into the wilds of an ersatz Patagonia to study the last speakers of a dying language. That language apparently consists of a single word, which therefore means everything.

Only available on VHS: On Top of the Whale

16. The Wild Child / L'enfant sauvage (1969)

Another movie about a language-deprived child found in south-western France in the late 18th century.

Get the DVD here: The Wild Child DVD

17. Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990)

The protagonist in this movie works at a translation agency. She translates Spanish into English for her boss at work and English into Spanish for her pregnant Chilean friend.

Get the DVD here: Truly, Madly, Deeply DVD

18. The Miracle Worker (1962)

Teacher Anne Sullivan leads deaf and blind Helen Keller out of darkness and teaches her about language.

Get the DVD here: Miracle Worker DVD

19. The Linguists (2008)

In this documentary, director Seth Kramer follows a pair of language scholars as they journey through rugged lands in order to find isolated civilizations and hear rare tongues. The linguists, who speak a combined two dozen languages themselves, go to Siberia to listen to a language that will most likely disappear in the next few decades. They trek to India to explore how English colonists altered the nation's culture, and they also visit the American Southwest to talk with Native Americans.

20. The Grammar of Happiness (2012)

The Grammar Of Happiness follows the story of Daniel Everett among the extraordinary Amazonian Piraha tribe, a group of indigenous hunter- gatherers whose culture and outlook on life has taken the world of linguistics by storm. His assignment was to translate the book of Mark into the tongue of the Piraha, a people whose puzzling speech seemed unrelated to any other on Earth. What he learned during his time with the Piraha led him to question the very foundations of his own deep beliefs.

21. The Passion of the Christ (2004)

In this movie, the dialogue is entirely in reconstructed Aramaic, vernacular Hebrew and Latin with subtitles.

Get the DVD here: Passion of the Christ DVD
22. Apocalypto (2006) This movie was filmed entirely in the Yucatec Maya language (with subtitles) Get the DVD here: Apocalypto DVD
23. The Interpreter (2005) The Interpreter features an interpreter at the United Nations who speaks a made-up African language based on Shona and Swahili, created by an African linguist in London. Get the DVD here: The Interpreter DVD
24. Last of the Mohicans (1992)
The characters in the movie were supposed to be speaking either Mahican or Mohegan, but in actual fact, they're not. The "Huron" characters in the movie are actually speaking two different languages, Cherokee and Mohawk, while the "Mohican" characters are speaking Delaware/Lenape, which is related to both Mohican and Mohegan and is probably a good compromise. Get the DVD here: Last of the Mohicans DVD

25. The Sleeping Dictionary (2003) John Truscott goes to Borneo to work with the Iban. He reports to Henry Bullard, who gives him a "sleeping dictionary"--one of the locals who teaches him the local language and culture.  Get the DVD here: The Sleeping Dictionary DVD

BONUS MOVIES: Other movies suggested by readers:
Still Alive (2014)
Arrival (2016)
The 13th Warrior (1999) DVD Here (famous for this scene where Antonio Banderas learns Old Icelandic by "listening"): Link to YouTube Video
Spanglish (2004) DVD Here
Dances with Wolves (Kevin Costner learns Lakota)  DVD Here
Bon Cop, Bad Cop (2006) (showcases Quebec French) DVD Here
Babel (2006) (movie with four stories each filmed in a different language) DVD Here
Oscar (1991) (dialectologist asked to teach proper language)
Chan is Missing (1982) (includes a lecture on sociolinguistics) DVD Here
A Thousand Clowns (1965) (features a man who can identify dialects) DVD Here

Click here for Language Crawler's Language Resource Page

The galaxy-wide Guild of Xenolinguists handles all cross-cultural communications by sending agents abroad to learn new languages and program translation computers. The travails of novice linguists animate these 11 stories as they face much more than simple translation work, taking on alien parasites and viruses, a mysterious and violent star-faring race, dolphin instructors, and large tyrant ants. As cultures and languages collide, first contact quickly becomes a matter of morality, galactic politics, death, and war. Click here to get the book 
The Elvish Writing Systems of J.R.R Tolkien has been written as a guide to understanding the ways in which the 'most popular author of the 20th century' was inspired to write the Elvish languages and a means by which the writing systems they used can be appreciated. • Learn to write using the same systems as the Elves, Dwarves and Orcs • Discover the history of the Elvish languages and who spoke them • Use clear tables and diagrams as a reference to write any language in Elvish lettering • Understand the way in which J.R.R. Tolkien write his languages • Gain access to information to learn all you need to about Elvish languages. Click here to get the book 
This book sets out to answer a question that many linguists have been hesitant to ask: are some languages better than others? Can we say, for instance, that because German has three genders and French only two, German is a better language in this respect? Jarawara, spoken in the Amazonian jungle, has two ways of showing possession: one for a part (e.g. 'Father's foot') and the other for something which is owned and can be given away or sold (e.g. 'Father's knife'); is it thus a better language than English, which marks all possession in the same way? Click here to get the book
Dictionary of Imaginary Languages | Dictionnaire Des Langues Imaginaire (578 pages)

Dictionary of Conlangs (written in French)

Click Here to Get the Book

Viking Language 1: Learn Old Norse, Runes, and Icelandic Sagas

Click here to get the book 


Great Book Series to Learn Korean

Korean from Zero Series here:
Korean made Simple Series here:

Free audio is available for both courses:

Audio for Korean from Zero:

Five Accomplished Polyglots Every Language Geek Should Know About

Powell Janulus can speak 42 different languages, and was a certified court translator for 28 of those. In his thirties, he became a court translator and got paid for each language he could translate. He was entered into the Guinness World Records in 1985 for fluency in 42 languages. He had to pass a two-hour conversational fluency test with a native speaker of each of the 42 different languages he spoke at that time. It is reported that Powell speaks the following 42 languages: French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Romanian, German, Dutch, Frisian, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Icelandic, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, Serbian, Slovak, Slovene, Kashubian, Lusatian, Wendish, Belarusian, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Armenian, Sinhalese, Tibetan, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Croatian, Greek, Turkish, Kurdish, Finnish, Korean and Persian. In his forties he expanded his repertoire to include less common languages such as Tibetan, Romani (Gypsy), Inuit (Eskimo) and Swahili.  

Kató Lomb was a Hungarian interpreter, translator and one of the first simultaneous interpreters in the world. She was able to interpret fluently in nine or ten languages and she earned money with sixteen languages (Bulgarian, Chinese, Danish, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Ukrainian). She learned these languages mostly by teaching herself. She is the author of the books: How I Learn Languages and Harmony of Babel

Harold Williams was a journalist and linguist who spoke more than 58 languages, including  English, Zulu, Latin, Ancient Greek, Hebrew, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Maori, Samoan, Tongan, Fijian, Russian, Polish, Niue, Swahili, Dobuan, Hausa, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Old Irish, Tagalog, Hungarian, Czech, Coptic, Egyptian, Hittite, Albanian, Basque, Chinese and others.

Kenneth Locke Hale was a linguist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who spoke over 50 languages and studied a huge variety of previously unstudied and often endangered languages—especially indigenous languages of North America, Central America and Australia. Languages investigated by Hale include Navajo, O'odham, Warlpiri, and Ulwa, among many others.

Michael Ventris deciphered Linear B, showing it to be early Greek and was an impressive linguist, though an architect by profession. He knew a wide range of European languages (during wartime training in Canada, he commented on hearing Polish and Ukrainian being spoken in the streets of Canadian cities) and before his death in a car crash in 1956, he was able to talk to Linear B symposium participants in their own languages. 

Add your favorite polyglot in the comment section below. Please include full name, brief bio and link if possible.

101+ Verb Guides in 28 Exotic Languages

Click Here to Access the Verb Guides in Over 28 Languages

These new verb guides seem very promising. Some of them (like the Azerbaijani verb guide) are over 500 pages long! They are all written by different authors, so I assume the quality of each will vary. However, judging by the sample pages available on Amazon here, they look interesting, especially considering the lack of modern and affordable resources in some of these languages.

Languages available: Basque, Bengali, Dari, Macedonian, Pashto, Croatian, Urdu, Tamil, Telugu, Georgian, Estonian, Bosnian, Azerbaijani, Punjabi, Latvian, Burmese (Mayanmar), Kazakh, Hebrew, Indonesian, Catalan, Creole + more. There's even one for Esperanto, but I can't imagine why you'd need it because the verbs are so easy and regular.

Netflix Streaming Movies in 45 Lesser-Studied Languages from Albanian to Georgian and from Igbo to Zulu

[Last Update: January 18, 2017] (* = added since last update)

Netflix offers movies in a wide variety of foreign languages. The problem is that they can be difficult to find without checking the audio track content of each movie individually. I decided to make this list after finding some lesser-studied languages and I hope this will also be useful to others.

This list will be periodically updated to keep it as current as possible. Please comment if you find anything I'm missing.

See Also:
Click Here for Movies Featuring Languages / Linguists

The Forgiveness of Blood


A Borrowed Identity
Eyes of a Thief
Horses of God
Return to Homs
Salt of the Sea
* Sandstorm
The Square
Under the Bombs
When I Saw You

Sesh Sanghat

Tasting Menu

The Trap
* You Carry Me

The Country Teacher

An Afghan Love Story
The Black Tulip
Tell Spring Not to Come This Year

A War
After the Wedding
Antboy: Revenge of the Fury
* Department Q: The Keeper of Lost Causes
* Department Q: The Absent One
Expedition to the End of the World
The Hunt
What we Became

* Black Book
Black Out
* Bon Bini Holland
Everybody's Famous
Kill Zombie!
North Sea Texas
The Deflowering of Eva van End
Time of My Life
* Tricked


Ben X

In Bloom
* The President


* Famous in Ahmedabad

Atomic Falafel
* Baba June
Big Bad Wolves
Hot House
* Orientated
Room 514
The Attack
The Bubble
The Flat
The Matchmaker
Zero Motivation

Click Here for Movies in Hindi 

White God

* Rams

Onye Ozi

Look of Silence
What They Don't Talk About...
The Act of Killing

* U-Turn

Valley of Saints


The Gambler

The Dead Lands

* 1000 Rupee Note
* Sairat 

About Elly
Jafar Panchi's Taxi
Manuscripts Don't Burn
* Those who Feel the Fire Burning

* III - The Ritual 
11 Minutes
In the Name of Korczak
Jack Strong
Starting Point

Mitti Wajaan Maardi
* Saaday CM Saab
Zinda Bhaag

* Ixcanul

Beyond the Hills
Child's Pose
The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu
Tuesday, After Christmas
When Evening Falls on Bucharest

When Day Breaks

Last Hijack

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting Existence
Gentlemen and Gangsters (TV show)
Simon and the Oaks
We are the Best

Norte, The End of History
On the Job
The Road

* Interrogation
Theeya Velai Seyyanum Kumaru

At the Gate of the Ghost
Mercury Man
Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior
Power Kids
The Gangster
The Protector 2
This Girl is Badass
Vengeance of an Assassin

A Gesar Bard's Tale

Love Me
Winter Sleep

Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom

Inshallah Football
Josh (Against the Grain)
Na Maloom Afraad
These Birds Walk


How to Translate the Word Hoarder in Other Languages

Sometimes you hear a word in your native language and then you suddenly realize that you don't know or have never heard that word or expression used in your foreign language. Often you are not even aware of this lexical gap in your vocabulary. A useful exercise is to go on a vocabulary exploration or hunt - as described by Anthony Lauder in his four-part series The Spiral Method of Language Learning

For example, while watching a popular American television show, I realized that I didn't know how the word "hoarder" or "hoarding" was translated in some of my languages. Pathological or compulsive hoarding, also known as Diogenes syndrome, is a specific type of behavior characterized by acquiring and failing to throw out a large number of items that would appear to have little or no value to others (e.g. papers, notes, flyers, newspapers, clothes) and severe cluttering of the person's home so that it is no longer able to function as a viable living space. But how is this idea expressed in other languages? I decided to do some research.

One of the terms used for hoarder in Spanish is "acaparador(a)" and hoarding is "acaparamiento" as in the "acaparamiento de bienes" (hoarding of possessions). While native Spanish speakers concur that this is the term used to refer to hoarding, the term is also used to describe monopolizing the sale of a good or product or just simply stockpiling. As a result, many speakers feel that you need to make the term more specific and say “acaparamiento obsesivo/compulsivo” (obsessive/compulsive hoarding). Italian also uses the similar “accaparratore (m)” and “accaparratrice (f)” to refer to a hoarder.

The French seem to use the word "amasseur" or, similar to Spanish, the word "accaparer", with a hoarder being referred to as "celui qui amasse" or "one who hoards". One of the translations suggested for Portuguese was "catador", but this refers more to a scavenger and I'm not sure if it adequately conveys the concept of "hoarding".

By far my favorite is the German term “Messies” and the corresponding “Messie-Syndrom”.
Germans also use the word “hamstern” and “anhäufen” as well as the term “Vermüllungssyndrom”. Here is a YouTube video from a German TV show featuring someone with Messie-Syndrom: