Study Guide

Pyongyang Language and Communication

By Guy Delisle

Language and Communication

Bill Murray had a hard time communicating with the Japanese in Lost in Translation.At least he had Scarlett Johansson to keep him company. In Pyongyang, Guy Delisle has no such luck. Plus, he often finds himself having to translate from French to English to Korean. A lot gets lost in this translation.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that the North Koreans don’t really understand anything. They’re shut-ins. Guy isn’t just translating from French to English to Korean, he’s translating to people who are afraid to hear anything their Dear Leader hasn’t authorized. It’s absurd, sad, and, depending on how you look at it, funny, all at the same time.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. What concepts does Guy have the most trouble communicating to the North Koreans? What concepts do they have trouble explaining to him?
  2. How does North Korea communicate with the rest of the world?
  3. Is the language barrier the only thing keeping the English-speakers and the Korean-speakers from understanding each other?

Chew on This

Maximizing communication difficulties is one way that Dear Leader keeps the North Korean people isolated. You can’t connect with someone if you can’t communicate with each other.

Language isn’t the only issue with communication. Huge cultural differences also make it difficult for different people to understand one another.