By the Throat (2021) - full transcript

Starting from a security check at the Tel Aviv airport, By The Throat explores a more deeply engraved border, albeit an invisible one, that defines the sounds and words we can pronounce. We carry with us these limits, created by our mother-tongue, becoming ourselves a mobile check-point, wherever we are.

I can't see over the ledge here.

Get the whole rainbow, look at it!

That's the beginning of the rainbow.
- Oh my God, this is so cool!

This is the weirdest thing.

Oh my God, this is beautiful!
- The beginning of two rainbows.

Oh my God!

I can't believe this!
- I don't know what it means.

This is so cool!

What? What is it?

We're in the rainbow!

What is it? What does it mean?

This is the most beautiful thing
I've ever seen.

So weird.

It's moving with us.
- I know.

Here it is! We gonna drive through it.

Here it comes!
- Here it comes!

Come on in.

See me from within.

In this vast land
of a hundred muscles,

tissues, bones and cartilage,

push and blow and twist and tremble,

in an awe-inspiring effort,

with firmness and delicacy,

with the utmost attention
to the tiniest detail,

neatly timed and orchestrated,

break out into the world
for just a split second

to say something,

to be heard by someone,

to reach beyond
the tissues, bones, cartilage,

to exist outside themselves,

outside of flesh and blood and biology,

to tell, to formulate,
to make sense.

Come on in.

See me from within.

This is where I am born.

From here I go out into the world.

My friend.

My friend.

Try it again?

My friend.

My friend.

In the vowel,
there's a difference, right?

Yes, exactly.

For the first one,
the tongue was a bit more in the front,

and for the second
it went a bit more down,

and you had a higher,
or bigger space

in the back of your mouth,

reaching towards the pharynx.

Maybe you can try an "S".

And a "SH".

Start with a "S".

And then take the tongue slightly back.

You see that the tongue moved
a bit backwards.

In Iraq,

and especially in Baghdad,

the civil war started in 2005,

two years after the fall
of Saddam's regime,

or, let's say, after the occupation,

the American occupation.

At that time,

all the minorities, the Christians,

the Sabi, the Yezidi,

and the other even smaller minorities,

were already few.

Some of them emigrated, some ran away,

some to the north, some to Europe.

It depends.

Only the Shiites and
the Sunnis were left.

I didn't know what the difference was

between the two.

Until I was 20 I couldn't tell
who the Sunnis and the Shiites were,

because most families were mixed.

And in Iraq we have a tribal order.
That's your group belonging.

And some of the tribes are mixed,
they are both Sunni and Shiite.

And the killing started.

Five guys gather,

take a car and set up a checkpoint.

There were also ethnic militias.

They also kidnapped and killed.
There were militias on both sides.

We had a friend, Muhannad,
a student at the art school.

Muhannad was Sunni and lived beyond
the Al-Karkh neighbourhood.

There were always Shiite checkpoints
to go in and out Al-Karkh.

We tried to teach him a word.

This word is like a code,
or a lingual sign,

that can save you from...

save you from death.

Because if you don't pronounce it right
you'd be dead. You'd be gone.

And this word, we told him:

"Muhannad, when you get
to the checkpoint,

'El-Eziz' [my friend]".

But Muhannad said "Al-Aziz" [my friend].

We said: "Muhannad, not

"'al-Aziz', 'el-Eziz'!


Muhannad could not pronounce this word.

We tried many times

and he kept hearing "al-Aziz",

while in fact it's "el-Eziz".

I can understand, it's difficult.

The difference between
"al-Aziz" and "el-Eziz"


So how do you pronounce an H?

Well, an H is made in your throat,

with your vocal folds approximating.

Now, you can't see this sound being made

None of the other articulators
come together.

But you can feel it.

If you hold your hand
about a centimetre, or maybe an inch

away from your mouth
as you make this sound,

you should feel a silent warm breath

hitting the palm of your hand.

Good. Once more.

The human head is a remarkable resonator

which can change tone at will
by moving the tongue and the jaw.

Can you make an "A" again?

The first time I received
a larynx massage

was a very special experience.

I still find it special,

because that's the only moment where
so much physical attention is paid

to this area of my body,

and it feels very fragile
and also very intimate.

I was not aware
of the vulnerability and intimacy

of that area until now.

And through my physical transition,

I have discovered
that I identify very much with my voice.

Of all changes, this one

is actually the only one
that touches me deeply.

When my larynx is between your hands,

I feel as if
my whole life is in your hands. Really.

I think I've always felt
like a boy, but...

I never felt that my female body

and my feminine expression
were in contradiction to that.

But the rest of humanity does think so.

And for many years I've been fruitlessly
communicating to my environment

that my pronouns were
"he", "him" and "his".

And yes, that didn't work.

People did not understand that,
or could not accept it.

And I think that only then
I got gender dysphoria,

because I saw I failed
to communicate it.

And my voice,

people have told me
a number of times that it betrays me,

that my voice betrays me.

And I became extremely aware
of my giggling

and the high pitch of my voice.

You get the feeling that society
is full of customs officers,

walking around,
constantly holding border controls.

And that physical features
such as high or low voice,

are the necessary documents to be
allowed into one or another territory.

When sunlight strikes raindrops
in the air,

they act like a prism
and form a rainbow.

The rainbow is a division of white light
into many beautiful colours.

These take the shape
of a long round arch

with its path high above and its
two ends apparently beyond the horizon.

The rainbow is a division of white light
into many beautiful colours.

These take the shape
of a long round arch

with its path high above and its
two ends apparently beyond the horizon.

I'm recording this
for the Visual Accent Dialects Archive.

I grew up
in the south-west of Lithuania,

northern Europe.

When I was 19 I moved to Sheffield,
South Yorkshire, England,

and I lived there for three years.

This dialect donor is from Chile

and has lived in the United States
for three years.

She's spoken English
since she was five years old.

I have two paragraphs
I'm going to have you read

that have all the sounds
of the English dialect in them,

and you can just read those out loud.
Take your time.

Shall I do the rainbow passage first?
- Yes, that'd be great.

When sunlight strikes raindrops
in the air...

They act as a prism and form a rainbow.

This is the female recording,
normal vocal effort.

When sunlight strikes raindrops
in the air.

The rainbow is a division of white light

into many beautiful colours.

Into many beautiful colours.

These take the shape
of a long round arc.


With its path

high above

its two ends

apparently beyond the horizon.

People look,

but no one ever finds it.

My name "Mark Phelan"

identifies me as Irish.

Well, my surname does

for “Mark”
is a deliberately neutral name,

chosen by my parents

because "Phelan" marks me

as someone from
the Catholic-Nationalist community

of Northern Ireland.

Phelan isn't a common name

so invariably I have to spell it out
over the phone.

And if the person on the other end
of the phone is a Protestant

and they repeat my name to me,

spelling it out:

P, "aitch", E, L, A, N...

It sounds to me that they're correcting
my pronunciation,

not confirming
they’ve spelt it correctly.

Maybe that is what they are doing,

but sometimes it’s obvious
it’s more than that.

And so sometimes,
I’ll also spell it out again,

careful to emphasise the "H".

P, "haitch", E, L, A, N.

Now, this all sounds,
literally and figuratively, innocuous.

But for me,

it’s an invisible, personal
and political tussle over identity.

I know what’s actually being said.

They know what's actually being said.

We’re both asserting our identity

in the act of spelling out my name.

At least, that’s how it feels to me.

But these silly things can matter.

Sometimes they’re serious,
as I know from my own experience

of when as a kid,
walking my aunty’s dog, Conie,

in the Waterworks Park in North Belfast.

It's an area of the city
that’s a patchwork quilt

of Catholic-Nationalist areas
alongside Protestant-Unionist areas,

and where most of the killings
of the conflict took place,

partially, perhaps, because of
this proximity of both communities.

As I walked around the lower lake,
I was who I am:

Mark Phelan.

I lived in Salisbury Avenue.

I went to
the Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School

and the Catholic Church of
the Resurrection on Cavehill Road.

But in the northern part
of the Waterworks

when walking
near the Westland Protestant estate,

I called myself Mark Paisley,

I lived in Henderson Avenue,

went to mostly Protestant
BRA primary school

and the Methodist Church
on the Cavehill Road.

I used to walk round that park
rehearsing both identities,

just in case I was stopped
by older gangs of boys.

Though usually, nothing ever happened,

and only once was I asked my name.

But I was ready for it,
because one sunny day in the Waterworks

when I was about ten,

I was punched in the face by
some older boys from the Westland estate,

which was protestant.

The boy who hit me

later became a notorious loyalist thug
in the local paramilitaries,

who went on to kill a young man,

who was a good friend of mine,

someone I’d admired
for his grace and beauty.

And the man who killed him,

was once the boy who asked me
to say the eighth letter of the alphabet.

And who hit me, hard,
when I said "haitch".

Human speech, seemingly so simple,

is a very complicated process
no one fully understands.

We're interested
in finding better ways of describing

complicated sounds, like speech.

Born from air, invisible.

Wind blowing through
creeks and tunnels,

swirling in caves,
gliding over hills,

caressing an ever-changing topography,

again and again,
repeating the same path,

becoming sound,

becoming words,

becoming language.

Forgetting other possibilities.

Forgotten possibilities
become foreign sounds,

foreign words,

foreign languages.

Unpractised topographies
become other territories,




Crossing is not guaranteed.

Every sound is a potential checkpoint.

Crossing is not guaranteed.

Oh, I see.

Oh, I see.

You can use your fingers for help.

And the tongue...

You can see you always put
the tongue against the teeth.

It shouldn't touch the teeth.

Can you hold your jaw still?

It still moves together.

It's only the tongue that participates.

Do this again...

I come from Ghent

and you hear it very well
in my "R".

I notice that people always recognize me
as a Ghent-man

from the way I pronounce "R".

It is something we carry from the past,

from a long time ago, when we were
dominated by the French Bourgeoisie.

There was an occupation.

The people of Ghent couldn't speak

their own language for a long time.

I want to become an actor

and it'd be difficult for me
to get roles

if I'm always identified by my language.

They will always say:

"This guy is from Ghent
and you hear it in his speech."

It's also the case if you want to...

to be voice actor, or do radio.

You must be able

to speak pure general Dutch.

So, when doing the tongue-tip R,
it's important

that the tongue-tip touches
the alveolar ridge

and the airflow makes
the tongue-tip vibrate.

Then, put the tongue
in the position of the D.

Then keep the sound continuous.

Don't change your posture.

While doing that, you put the Q-tip
in the middle of your tongue,

the opposite side,
the bottom of your tongue,

and you add vibration there.

And feel your tongue flapping.

Even look at your mouth in the mirror.

When sound wave strikes the membrane,

it makes thousands of microscopic
movements per second.

Only by computer
could they be calculated,

and for the first time
pictorially described.

It takes several minutes of this motion
to draw the simple sound of


We're at 62%,



That's it. Thanks.

She sells sea shells on the sea shore.

The sticky taste of salt
on her twisted tongue.

She closes her eyes
and opens her mouth.

In a split second
she is crossing the distance

between "SH" and "S",

between sea and shore,

between "stop" and "go",

between "yes, you are"
and "no, you're not".

Eight hours per day I was only a voice.

This voice was mine,
but I was someone else.

I didn’t speak my language,
my tone was mature and confident,

and I had a different name.

For 8 hours per day
I was called Daniela Feritti.

I was working in a call center
and the first requirement of the job

was to forget who I was

and become a different person.

A trustful, reliable person,

certainly not Albanian.

My voice was my only tool.

In order to sound as Daniela Feritti,
I had to imagine her.

I imagined a 24 years old woman

with a degree in finance.

She was wearing a suit,
with fancy hair and make up

and had her own office with a computer

and two or three screens.

She was everything I wasn't
in my daily life.

I was a high school student
in my homeland Albania,

struggling to ease the burden
of my parents

and secure some kind of future
for myself,

employed as a cheap labor force

by some fishy foreign company.

Eight hours a day, I hid my origins
because of the reputation it carries,

but as this meant cheating,

I was contributing to this reputation
at the same time.

Daniela Feritti was speaking German.

Because her job consisted of calling
people in German-speaking countries,

trying to sell them fraudulent
financial services.

Like myself, she didn't speak
in her mother tongue.

She was Italian
who learnt German from friends

and mostly in informal circumstances.

This was a clever trick

which explained her eventual mistakes,

wrong pronunciation
and other linguistic pitfalls,

that otherwise would have exposed her
as an impostor.

Talking in German
and trying to sound like one

required a lot of physical effort...

and I was stretching my mouth
and jaw muscles all the time.

Towards the end of the day
I would usually get so tired

that I couldn't pronounce
harsh German sounds anymore.

Please repeat the sentences.

It's springtime.

Now the trees are in bloom.

Losing everything:

home, roots, rights.

Owning nothing but the body.

Becoming nothing but a body.

Carrying under the tongue
a lost home, lost roots, lost rights.

A treasure hidden between teeth,

protected behind clipped lips,

held in by a hundred muscles,

becoming everything.

Hello, can I give you a
reference number please?


A for alpha, 8, 1, 8, 7



Yes, that's correct, you can
pass the headset to the interviewee.

Yes, I switched the speaker phone,
so the applicant is ready when you are.


OK, that sounds ready.
You can just start.

Say hello.


Hello. Please raise your voice,
we have a problem.

So speak loudly.

We'll do
what's called a dialect analysis.

This means you have to speak
in your usual dialect,

like you speak at home
with your family and friends.

Talk about any subject you wish.

It's very important
not to mention your name,

nor names of family members
or acquaintances,

nor details regarding
your asylum request.

This is not an interrogation.
- Who are you?

- It's not an interrogation,

the details don't interest us.

Nobody gives attention
to what you say.

We're interested in your dialect,

because this recording

will be sent to a dialects expert.

The expert will examine your dialect,

and will determine
whether it fits the place you come from.

So speak in your dialect.

Don't be influenced
by my dialect

and don't talk in
classical Arabic.

This is not an interrogation.

You have to speak
for 15 to 20 minutes.

Speak about general things,
like your youth,

your family, your studies,
your tradition,

your everyday life,

whatever comes to mind, OK?

Yes, fine.

When I was 15,

I escaped Tibet for Nepal.

I stayed in Nepal one year and a half.

Then I came to Switzerland
and asked for asylum.

In two and a half years,
I had two interviews

and the 3rd one was a language test.

I got the invitation letter
ten days beforehand.

I went there,

I entered that place.

It was a big hall
with many people waiting,

and then a policeman came to me,

maybe a guard, and called my name.

He said that I had to go,

that I had to go to another room,

so I went with him.

And in the room there was

a big table.

A big table like this.

Like this, a big table.

In front there was a square window,

from which you could see
people passing by and buses.

By the window stood the table,

with a computer on it,
a chair underneath

and headphones on the side,

one chair and on the left side,
a table with chairs.

A chair like this.
And I sat down

like this.

Then he gave me headphones.

Like this.
And I put them on.

And then, the lady, by phone,
started the interview.

She introduced herself.

Her Tibetan was like the one
I speak now.

It was a Lassa dialect, but of someone
who had been abroad for 2 to 3 years.

From her style of talking,

I felt it was going to be tough.

Before I came to the interview,
I felt confident.

I knew they were going
to ask about

my home and my language.

So there was no reason
to be afraid or worried.

I was confident.

But once there,
the questions were general

and some were tricky.

When she asked a question

and I was thinking of what to reply,

she would pass it
and move to the next question.

And she spoke very fast.

And then,
she asked in Chinese

and I had
to answer in Tibetan.

And when she spoke Tibetan
I had to answer in Chinese.

I was not that good at Chinese
as she expected.

She thought Tibetans from China
must know Chinese.

This isn't really so.

Not everyone in Tibet
can speak Chinese.

Then she asked me to speak English.

So I did, because I learned
English in Lassa,

and I liked listening to English songs.

And in Nepal I learned
Nepali and English too.

And also on Youtube.

Then I arrived in Switzerland,

I stayed with foreigners for 7 months,

speaking only English,
so it had improved.

And she didn't expect
this level of English,

so she had doubts.

How can a Tibetan
speak English so well?

This is what she thought.

Three months later
I received the decision.

Three months later I got an answer.

Unfortunately not a good one.

They had doubts
if I have really come from Tibet.

So I feel that my beloved
mother tongue or father tongue

becomes like

a weapon against me.

Against my future.

The rainbow is a division of white light
into many beautiful colours.

These take the shape
of a long round arch

with its path high above

and its two ends
apparently beyond the horizon.

There's according to legend

a boiling pot of gold at one end.

People look, but no one ever finds it.

When a man looks for something
beyond his reach,

his friends say he's looking for the pot
of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Each colour in the spectrum
has its own individual wavelength,

just as each note on the piano
has its own sound, or wavelength.

However, you can't play all the notes
on the piano at the same time

and arrive at anything.

OK, so...

The first time I saw a rainbow,

I don't remember how old I was.

I was little, that I remember, but

I do know that the month was June,

and it had rained so heavily.

One part of our drying line
had come down.

I used to be very scared of rain.

Now I'm just...

moderately displeased,
when it's raining.

When I was little I was...

very scared.

You told me that this is a recording
from someone from Ghana.

That's also how it works
in our case work

that we get a recording
and there is at least a claim

where somebody comes from.
We don't have to start from nothing.

We know what the claim is
and then the question to me is:

"Is there a support in this recording
for that claimed origin?"

Maybe she has been lying to you,
or you're trying to test me.

I have to check
if that's supported linguistically.

OK, so...

The first time I saw a rainbow...

There's a nice example already.

She says, "So, the first time
I saw a rainbow",

and the way she pronounces "first"
sounds like "fest",

which is...

also what they do in Ghana.


The "fest" time.

I don't remember how old I was.

I was little.

I was little.

She says the L at the end.

In other parts of Africa,
they might say "litu" or "lito".

So they wouldn't vocalise the L.
You wouldn't hear the L at the end.

But people from Ghana
do have the L at the end.

I was little, that I remember, but...


Here's a nice occurrence
of the vowel in "but"

which is a difficult vowel
for any non-native speaker of English.

So the Dutch get this wrong
all the time as well.

So the only important question
for the first instance of an asylum case

is whether the claimed origin
is supported or not.

And if it's credible, that would
be good for the application.

If it's not credible, then there are
doubts about the whole story.

So, in principle, the primary issue is

whether the claimed origin
is true or not,

and it doesn't really matter if we can

establish what the true origin is.

You can try to imitate another accent,

and that happens sometimes,

and that's one of the reasons why

we want an interview
to last for 45 minutes,

because it is quite hard
to keep it up for that long.

And you would probably also find
that it is either too exaggerated,



I don't know, maybe we have been fooled
sometimes and we don't know it.

It's possible.

Could it be the opposite, also?

That you took the wrong...

not decision, but the wrong...
- Conclusion?

Well, it could be that the evidence...

The evidence that we would expect
if the claimed origin was true

is just not there,

for some reason,
and that's what we'll have to report,

that there's nothing
supporting what's claimed.

So, for instance, if we would expect
a local dialect and it's just not there,

then what does that mean?

That depends on whether everyone
really speaks that local dialect.

So, it wouldn't mean
that our conclusion is wrong,

but it's what you take
from the conclusion.

So, we take the rule of thumb

to determine what we would expect,

in terms of linguistic evidence.

If someone is a real exception
to the rule, somehow,

then, they don't fit the rule of thumb.

It's not so hard to hear
whether somebody says "RR" or "R".

That's not where the language analyst
makes the mistake.

It is the conclusions
that you draw from it.

It is not so hard to hear
whether somebody uses a certain word

that is connected to a certain area.

But it is hard to know
whether it is right that people

use that word only in that area,
or in many other areas,

because people have a lot of prejudice
about each other's language, etc.

And so, people make a lot of mistakes
in those judgments.

So they are instant,
they are very unconscious,

they are ubiquitous,

but they are also very wrong.

And people are very, very sure
about these judgements

even if they are very, very wrong.

Like this?
- That's better.

Can you make an "A"?

It's not working.
- No?

Go on.

We are hired to help

people who have to take legal decisions,

take better decisions.

But it is...

There is a conflict of standards there.

So, linguists know and understand,

that there is a whole variety
in which people speak,

that there's a lot of variation
and diversity.

And there is basically no room
for diversity in those decisions.

And of course, this is...

the problem of legal systems,
where decisions need to be taken

and they are "yes" or "no",

and the linguist knows that the evidence
very often doesn't...

more often than not,
doesn't really allow "yes" or "no".

Listen to me

Say the words

and watch my mouth

Then, say the word with me.

Words are broken into sounds.

Sound becomes matter.

Rolls in the mouth,

glides over the tongue.

Pushed and squeezed
by a hundred muscles.

Clenched between teeth.







Put into a drawer.

Becomes the drawer.

Extracted from the body
and turned against that body.

Made to betray.


Becomes a weapon.

A hundred muscle army.

Can you look again,

and turn it so that
we get the vertical axis.

So what you can see here are
the sensors on the upper lip, lower lip.

And here are the three
we glued to the tongue, the tongue-tip,

and here on the back of the tongue.

With the articulation we can see

how the tongue moves
while speaking

and how the lip opens and closes
depending on the angle of the jaw

or move forward
when the lips are rounded.

The BAMF introduced dialect analysis
in September 2017,

when refugees come to Germany

without a valid passport.

This was especially true for...

Since September 2017,
the BAMF uses automatic analysis tools

to determine the origin of refugees.

When this system was presented,

we only knew that the BAMF wants

to make the asylum procedure
faster and safer.

I then wanted to know more
about the system and how it works.

So, for example,
I used the freedom of information law

that allows the request
of documents from authorities.

So I got the user manual,

the instructions and training documents
for this system,

to see what the BAMF officials
and decision makers use

when they perform
dialect analysis on refugees.

When a person arrives to Germany
and registers,

that is, when they
give their fingerprints,

in this registration process
a language analysis is performed,

when one doesn't have a passport,
for example.

The procedure itself is very simple.

The official picks up a telephone
and dials 72099,

then the number of the BAMF office
and the number of the applicant.

A picture is then shown
to the applicant.

The picture can contain everyday scenes.

A family with children
in front of a house or a dinner scene.

And the applicant has to describe it
for two minutes.

After two minutes there's a beep,

the recording is finished and
the BAMF official will receive a report

that can be added to the asylum file.

The system analyses phonemes,

meaning, it doesn't care
which word is used,

it only looks at how speech is formed.

For this, the system needs many samples

to be trained on how one language
differs from another language.

And the reliability of the system
depends on this training data.

When the voice recording
is completed and analysed,

a note comes by mail,

and there are mainly percentages
on this note. For example, it says

that there's 68% probability
the person speaks Turkish,

and maybe 14% probability Hebrew,

and 5% of languages
that could not be identified.

But the problem
is that the BAMF officials,

those who will later decide
on the asylum case,

have no information or instructions
from which point on

such a result bears any meaning.

The computer results
with their decimal numbers

convey that they are accurate.

And a human might trust the computer

more than the asylum seeker
in front of him.

Because it gives a number
which can help justify your decision,

by saying
the computer said it.

And the computer is
supposedly objective.

Even if we are aware
that the results can be wrong,

it generates suspicion
where there shouldn't be one.

If all my stories and documents
suggest that I'm from Syria,

but the computer claims I'm from Egypt,
doubt persists.

Much of what we know
about voice and speech

is stored in the computer's memory.

From there we can experiment
with more advanced ideas

in areas that are still unknown.

Let's try to synthesize that sentence.

I like my coffee black.

Let's see if we can change
the stress on "my"?

How about on "my" and "black"?

I like my coffee black.

There is more inflection on it
but let's see if we can improve this.

I got into linguistics, I think,

because I was always
a language misfit, growing up.

I was born in NY City
on the Lower East Side,

but I have never had
a New York City accent

because neither of my parents
were New Yorkers.

When I was five years old
I moved to Jamaica,

in the West Indies,

and Jamaican Creole
is my second language.

Patois, as they call it.

But when I speak to you normally,
like this,

my speech has nothing in it of Jamaican,
or of New York City.

So if I would to be tested,
on language,

to establish my own origins,
the first 25 years of my life,

it would be very unlikely to confirm
the story I've just told you.

Many people will assume that languages
stop at an international border,

or, perhaps, a provincial border.

In fact, in the last 500 years,

particularly with European languages,

languages have evolved to represent
the nation-state.

So, German and Dutch
is a classic example,

moving from the Hook of Holland
to Berlin,

many hundreds of kilometres.

It used to be that there's what we call
a dialect continuum:

one village to the next will be much
the same but with a few differences.

Differences of grammar, of accent,
of word choice.

But the same thing would have been true
a few hundred years ago at the border.

A Dutch village across the border
from a German village,

they would have spoken very similarly.

In the modern era this has changed

because of
the identification of language

as a symbol of nationality,

because of the influence of mass media.

So, although this homogenization
has happened in Europe,

and has entered our consciousness
through schooling,

we believe that the real language
is the one we're taught in school,

but when we look
at the rest of the world,

they're very far behind
in this naturalised process

of language
representing the nation-state.

And so, very often it's not true that
languages stop at international borders.

It's very often the case
that language variation within a country

can be tremendously varied,
tremendously great.

And so people speaking differently
from what is expected...

Well, it all depends on what's expected.









It's so close.

Like purple and blue.

Like cyan and green.

Neighbouring countries
on a continuous patch of land.

See how in the non-existing distance

one sound spills into the other.

Movements merge and shift,

escaping pens and pixels,

crossing regions,

bending lines,

ignoring walls and fences.

Counting a million colours,
not two, nor seven,

in a magnificent gradience,

almost imperceptible.


Thin as air.

Nothing but air.

And yet, everything.

What I'm trying to see is whether
the "D" of "dog",

when you make a "D" sound,

you first make contact
at the top and front of the mouth,

and you hear nothing during that time.

So, you're going...
And you hear nothing.

Then when you release the contact,
that's when you hear "D".

That's exactly what you see here.

This is you making the "D" sound
but you can't hear it,

because it's closed.
The tongue is closed.

And when you release the tongue,
that's exactly what you're seeing here,

full contact and then release.

And what you can see is that

more often the electrodes
on the left side of the palette

were activated
than on the right side of the palette.

If you compare these numbers:
38, 44, 29, 39.


When I'm asked where I'm from, I say:
"From God's vast lands".

I'm not a big fan of
identity cards and passports

and all kinds of institutions that want
to own my identity, or to own the land,

which actually belong to nobody.
Or to everybody.

Maybe I inherited this from the Bedouin,

or maybe this is what attracted
me to them, to Sinai

when I was 17 years old.

There, I felt at home.

And since that day
I feel at home wherever I go.

This home has nothing...

This home has nothing to do
with a specific place.

This home is inside of me.

I started learning Arabic
from the Bedouin in Sinai.

The dialect of the Tarabin tribe.

The Bedouin also introduced me
to the music of the Gulf.

And I fell in love with it,
adopted it, and it adopted me.

After years in Sinai and the Gulf
my Arabic improved.

And as I'm staying
in Israel and Palestine,

I also learnt the Palestinian dialect.

If till now, because of the rivalry

between the Israeli and Arab entities,

I had to completely separate
the two languages,

so that no Hebrew words
sneak into Arabic.

Suddenly I started using Hebrew words
in my Arabic,

in order to speak
the local Arabic,

the Arabic spoken by Palestinians
living in Israel and Palestine.

Arabic mixed with a bit of Hebrew.

The story is...

is actually a series of stories
that lead to a day,

where I have to get to the airport,
and I'm late.

So I take a taxi from Jerusalem.

I tell the driver that I'm late.

and he says that...


He suggests that I change taxi.

That I take another taxi

because he would be stopped
at the airport's checkpoint,

as always,

because he's Palestinian.

The taxi company was not Arabic
but he was.

And that meant that
at the entrance of the airport

we would be delayed,
because he would be checked.

He was convinced that
when we got to the airport

his identity would cause my delay.

And we are already out of the city.

So I tell him that I don't have time
to switch taxis

and if he listens to me
and does what I say,

we will get there on time.

So we go through
the checkpoint ritual.

Upon arriving, you open the window

and the security guy, or girl

says, "Hi" or "What's up?"
or ask "How are you?"

So I ask him,
"What's the answer?"

He is experienced.

He drives tourists often to the airport.

"I say, 'Shalom'".

So I tell him, "No.
When they say 'Shalom',

"you answer, 'Alan'".

and then I ask him
to repeat after me.

So he does, but says, "Ahlan".

I correct him,
"It's 'Alan', not 'Ahlan'.


After several attempts,
like you'd do with an actor,

we have 23, 25 minutes to get it right,

We finally manage the "Alan"

as a reply to "Hello", or "How are you?"

And the next question is:
"Where are you coming from?"

So I ask, "What do you reply to
'Where are you coming from?'"


"No", I tell him,

"if they ask you,
'Where are you coming from?',

"say, 'And you?
Where are you from?'"

And I train him

without reasoning behind it.

We arrive at the airport.

I also ask him not to slow down.

"Don't slow down.
Keep a constant speed till the guard."

- "Alan."

"Where are you coming from?"
- "And you?"

A sign of a hand
and we go through.

When the checkpoint is
out of sight,

he stops at the side
of the road,

leans his head on the wheel
and starts crying.

And he says, "17 years.

"For 17 years
I've passed this checkpoint

"and was always stopped!
It's the first time I passed."

So, today I'll show you
how to make a real rainbow.

and all we need

is a garden hose.

See? On mine here,

I have a setting that's called mist.

We can select: jet...

We can select jet, flat, full, cone...

I have one here, it's a little used.

It's called mist.

And that's what l do.
I set it on mist.

And then, I put it up here,

on the little stick here.

And I'm going to create the mist.

This mist will create
a lot of waterdrops.

And then I just have to go
behind the sun

and look for my rainbow.

And as you guys can see

here there's a real rainbow.

It's not a fake one, this thing is real.

Look how pretty. Now...

You could say,
how do I do a double rainbow?

Just go down,

and you see,
there's a second one there.

You can also try to go over
to the other side and see if you can...

You can see there that
it's going all the way through.

Can you see it there?

I don't know if I can see
the second one right now from there.

It's not there.
So you have to look around a little bit.

See? It's going there.

Look around.

Change your position a little bit,

and if you're lucky you find it.

Look at that.

It has to do with the wind.

Look how the wind
is pushing the mist away.

Then you have to walk on a little bit.

Do you see that?
How pretty it is?

A home-made rainbow.

It is so great!

And so close to home.

Babel Subtitling -