How does Quentin Tarantino or any other screenwriter write dialog for a language he doesn't speak? I have never found any mention of Tarantino being able to speak in any language other than English.

In Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, Hans Landa speaks English, German, French, and Italian fluently. In fact, about a third of the film is non-English and is subtitled.

I have never heard anyone who speaks German, French, or Italian complaining that their language was written by a hack.

Is the language written in English first and then rewritten in the appropriate language? Or does he work with other writers as he is writing it? Did he learn the basics of other languages to write for those languages?

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    My guess would be he writes the dialogue in English in the way he sees fit and then lets natives or experts (or maybe even the actors?) find the correct words for it. Fortunately the languages in your example are similar enough to not introduce too many problems with this process, I guess. Yet I'm completely unable to judge if e.g. The Passion or Apocalypto were well done.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 23:01
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    The script of Inglourious Basterds is certainly written completely in English.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 23:11
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    Maybe he uses Google Translate? I am sure he writes as suggested by @ChristianRau. Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 1:11
  • @NapoleonWilson - That version of the script seems to be an OCR of this screenplay. Some of the wording has been changed; cinefile.biz/script/basterds.pdf
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 19:58

2 Answers 2


It's simple, really. What most screenwriters do is to write the entire script in the same language (which, in the case of Hollywood movies, is English) and then when there's a piece of dialog that's supposed to be spoken in some other language, all you have to do is tell the reader this by adding a parenthesis between the character's name and the dialog.

  (in French)
No, I am your father.

The main reason for this is that there's a huge chance that the person who's going to read your script doesn't know that specific language. And, even if the reader happens to know that specific language it doesn't read as fast and as smooth as if the entire screenplay would've been written in the same language.

When realizing that you don't actually have to know the language your characters are going to speak in the movie, some writers might get carried away and throw some foreign language-skills in there just to spice things up a bit. However, this isn't exactly recommended as it could easily turn a great, dramatic moment into something, well, ridiculous... Just like in the example above.

  • 26
    Luke, je suis ton père....
    – Evik James
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 13:47
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    non c'est impossible! Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 14:35
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    So who actually translates the dialog into the target language, and what sort of credit do they receive?
    – Psychonaut
    Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 18:18
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    @Psychonaut See my answer.
    – Prometheus
    Commented Sep 20, 2023 at 18:38

Specifically for Inglorious Basterds, Tom Tykwer and Nicholas Richard are credited for "German Dialogue Translation" and "French Dialogue Translation" respectively:

Credit screen from Inglorious Basterds

Tom Tykwer is himself a German film director and screenwriter that Tarantino or Miramax brought on board at some point.


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