New Tongues in the Talkies
A few years ago the arrival of a French or German dramatic company in Boston was an event of educational importance. Teachers who were not quite sure of the pronunciation of the language in which they had been instructing the young held themselves to the theatre and tried to appear, especial if any members of their classes sat nearby, as members of their classes sat nearby, as if they understood and enjoyed every word. Pupils, sent on the advice of their teachers and glad of any chance to go to the theatre, conscientiously endeavored to follow the dialogue during the first act, and gave little gasps of glee when they understood a "s'll yous plait" or a "danke schon." But by the second act all except the most proficient linguists gave up the battle, and lazily resigned themselves to watching the few French or German-horn person in the audience and laughing heartily whenever they gave signs of being amused.
But the talkies, to their credit, have brought French, German and other languages to the Boston screen without the stigma of being educational." Since they are essentially pictures and must depend largely for their success on movement and pantomime, one can ordinarily understand what is going on even though the spoken words are unintelligible. Music, of course, is a universal language and a dictionary need not be thumbed when the hero is singing a love song. The admission prices, moreover, are usually so modest that you can afford to take a chance on being delighted or bored. But, after all, what Boston schoolgirl would be deterred by such practical considerations when there is a chance to hear Maurice Chevaller sing in his native French? Learning French or German in this way is almost too easy!