Language Usage

In the Book

Tom Clancy carefully used the Russian language in his book. Ranks of some of the Red October's crew members, short phrases, and under-your-breath expressions are given in phoenetic Russian. (As opposed to using cyrillic characters.) Not only is the language well-used, if it is used where someone unfirmiliar with the language would be confused, a translation is giving in parenthesis. The following is a list of some of the terms he uses repeatedly in the book:

zampolitpolitical officer
michmanwarrant officer
starpomexecutive officer
michmanyywarrant officers
glavnyy starshinisenior petty officer

In the Movie

When creating the movie, the powers that be decided to remind the audience that the people on one of the submarines are Russians, and therefore speak the Russian language. Since the film begins on the Red October, the actors speak in Russian (with English subtitles) for a few minutes where there is a transition. This is done by zooming onto the political officers mouth while he is speaking, after which he changes language mid-sentance. The Russians go back to their "native tounge" at the end of the movie, when the Americans board the sub. Luckily for the viewers, several of the officers speak English, so most of the dialog after that does not need to be read off the screen.

Quite creative, one would think. However, the dialogue is not copied exactly from the book, nor is the translation. And, nobody was able to correct pronunciation once the actors had begun to rehearse. The Russian became, "interesting". Russian text here follows this form: Russian ("Pheonetic pronunciation", translation).

Some Errors:

* During the opening titles, the picture "morphs" from the text on the left to the text on the right. (No, these are not from the actual footage .)

Its a visual thing...
Nice Russian lettering, right? Nope. The second word is spelled horribly wrong. It is supposed to be ОКТЯБРЬ ("Oktiabr", October). Instead, they used the English "IA" to make the Я ("ya") sound. Russian does not have an "I" character. They also used the English "B" (which is a Russian "V"), instead of the Russian Б ("B"). Finally, they used the English "R" instead of the Russian Р ("R"), even though they had used the correct character in the first word. This is what the first half should look like (The character at the end is a soft sign.):

* When Ramius enters his cabin and sees Putin reading his books, he says the line Что ты делаишь? ("Shto ti delayish?", What are you doing?). This should be pronounced with a -ешь> (-yesh) sound. (Что ты делаешь?) Spanish speakers would know this as a difference between endings of -ar and -ir verbs. The wrong ending was used.

* The Absolute Worst Error:
Ramius: Каковний бут букару? ("Kokovniy boot... bukaroo?", "Which is the 'bukaroo'?")
(Ryan Laughs.)
Mancuso: What's so funny?
Ryan: The captain seems to think you're some kind of cowboy.
** Ramius: Noo pa Russky! ** (Translation impossible.)

This line has been highlighted as probably the worst-placed line in the film. First, the translation is horrible. The subtitles for this line read, "You speak Russian?" However, The line as it is said translates to: "Wow! In-Russian!" Second, the pronuciation is (of course) off. The first word is said too stressed, the second sounds like "Pa" (as is Ma and Pa), and the third has a deep "uhh" sound in the middle. Also, each word is said very seperated from the others. Thirdly, it is at a time when there is no other action, so all attention is focused on Connery when he says the line.

As it is written, the line should be pronouced Ну, по-руский! ("New, po-Rooskiy!"). The first word is short, and the second two slur into each other. The third word has a soft stress to it. A better line choice would have been Ты говоришь по-руский? ("Ti govorish po-rooskiy!?", "You speak in Russian!?") or Ты говоришь руский язык? ("Ti govorish rooskiy yazik!?", "You speak [the] Russian [language]!?")

An example of how poorly this line was done: One night, as I was watching the movie (again), my sister and a friend of hers came home. Both are Russian majors in college. When this line came up, the friend, who must have never seen the movie, began laughing histerically at the line -- it is not an extremely funny part of the film.

If you cannot follow this text, or if some of the examples above appear to be giberish, see information about the KOI-8R standard.

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