Ever wondered if those lovable yellow Minions that have taken the world by storm speak a real language? Hard to believe they do, you’d say – what with all their not-making-any-sense mumbling and babbling – and you’d be perfectly right to feel that way. Having seen the Minions movie with my 6-year-old son earlier this month, as well as Despicable me 2 before that, and being forever fascinated by languages, I quite naturally wondered about this myself – which prompted me to do a bit of research on the “Banana language” – as it turns out it’s called – also known as Minionese. Yes, that’s right – it even has its own name! It must be somewhat of a real language then, right? Well, not really – as most sources on the Internet will tell you, as well as anyone who’s ever studied, learned or even just heard enough foreign languages to be able to tell an actual language from complete gibberish, Minionese is the latter – with some words from actual languages thrown in, as it becomes obvious when you listen to the Minions speak. Some reports though – like this interesting read by Digital Spy: 15 fun facts about Despicable Me’s cute yellow critters go so far as to say that “each word in Minion-ese translates to an actual word“.
The truth, according to a section of the production notes of the 2013 movie, is that the language is indeed just gibberish with random words from many different languages put in. As the creator of the Minions himself (and the man voicing them), Pierre Coffin – a Frenchman who co-directed the first two Despicable Me films as well as the new Minions film – confirms to the Guardian:“It’s gibberish. It’s a mixture of all the languages of the world and it’s about finding a particular magical rhythm and melody that makes the nonsense make sense.”
Coffin also adds: “So, these words pop out, and I have them speak Indian, French, English, Spanish and Italian. I mix up all these ridiculous sounding words just because they sound good, not because they necessarily mean something.”
“If I need to evoke something specific, I might search the internet for a particular word from a particular language like, for instance, something Dutch for an argument as it’s quite guttural. But without the visuals, the words are meaningless.”
Or, as Coffin’s fellow director Renaud says, “What’s great about the Minion language, while it is gibberish, it sounds real because Pierre puts in words from many languages and does the lion’s share of the Minion recordings”
For more interesting insights into the Minions’ language, check Here’s how they created Minionese, the language of the Minions