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Bashu, the Little Stranger

The title’s translation is based on the listing on IMDB

باشو، غریبه کوچک 

Bashu 2.jpg

Was There a Language Barrier?

By Amir Faress • 12/25/19

In their initial meeting, Bashu and Naii, the two central characters, find themselves unable to communicate with one another by way of language. The former’s native tongue is Arabic and the latter’s is Gilaki. This barrier remains for much of the film, defining the relationship between the two. But it is not at all clear why the two do not communicate with each other in Farsi (Persian).

Bashu is fluent enough in Persian to be able to read and write. We also hear him using Persian phrases when trying to befriend other kids. Naii also speaks Persian. Though she cannot read and write, she clearly understands the letters sent to her by her husband, who writes to her in Persian (the letters are read aloud to her). In fact, in one instance, realizing her husband failed to acknowledge Bashu as a new member of the family, Naii yanks the letter from the reader and proceeds to pretend-read the “rest” in Persian out loud, making it up as she goes.

It is suggested that Naii’s Persian improves in the course of the months following the initial encounter to a point where she understands “six out of ten words” Bashu speaks.

But even if Nai’s command of Persian had not improved, she was already fluent enough in Persian to understand her husband’s correspondence when read aloud to her and, in fact, be able to extemporaneously make up portions of the letter in Persian. In light of this, it is hard to understand why neither side tried speaking Persian with the other in their first encounters.

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