From Narcos to Liaison: The Best Bilingual Series to Watch Now

From Narcos to Liaison: The Best Bilingual Series to Watch Now

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Wednesday, 22nd February 2023
Liaison (credit: Apple TV+)

As the British-French thriller Liaison comes to Apple TV+, the RTS explores other series expertly combining cultures and languages.


Hulu/All 4

Ramy features a fascinating and hilarious collision of cultures. The comedy-drama follows Ramy, an American-Muslim, carefully navigating his faith and lifestyle choices in a seemingly apathetic New Jersey environment.

Ramy wrestles with romance, work and family, all through a western prism, knowing his family and friends are often judging him for his profane choices. “I’m just, like, trying to be good. You really think God cares if I wash between my toes?” fizzes Ramy to a friend criticising him for not washing his feet thoroughly enough before prayers.

The blend of languages comes cleverly through Ramy’s family and friends, whose storylines intensify as the series goes on. With an Egyptian father and Palestinian mother, Ramy flits seamlessly between English, Arabic and French as different characters converse.

The series masterfully depicts the family immigrant experience. Not only does Ramy find humour in the cultural differences, but also hardships, providing great balance in the dramedy. — MP



Inspired by a true story, Unorthodox follows Esty, a 19-year-old woman fleeing her intensely pious, ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jewish community in New York. She escapes her marriage and flies abroad, discovering a completely alien secular lifestyle in Berlin.

Containing Yiddish language scenes with her orthodox Jewish community, as well as English and German speaking in Berlin, the drama features a diverse cast of Israeli, American and German actors.

The miniseries artfully examines not only freedom, rebellion, religion and hedonism, but the connections between them as Esty attempts to find herself in a liberating European culture.

The show was widely praised for being one of the first to accurately portray the Hasidic community and the struggles faced by secular Jews.

Deborah Feldman is the writer of Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots, on which the TV series is based. Speaking on the short documentary The Making of Unorthodox, she said: “We’re dealing with a language no one understands, and we’re dealing with costumes and rituals that no one understands. But the essence of what is happening, that’s what is understood.” – MP



In Narcos, American drug enforcement officers hunt the wealthiest criminal in history: Pablo Escobar. A forefather of the modern bilingual TV series, Narcos is intrinsically Colombian, but narrated through the American agents seeking to stop the flow of cocaine into the USA.

Although the story is told through the perspective of drug enforcement agent Steve Murphy (Boyd Holbrook), Narcos naturally weaves Spanish dialogue from gangsters, police and civilians into the narrative.

Whilst the show was praised for its comprehensive use of Spanish, it wasn’t necessarily accurate. The Guardian reported in 2015 that the show was criticised in Colombia for poorly executing the Colombian accent. The cast was drawn from across north and south America and Warner Moura, who played Escobar, had a distinctive Brazilian lilt.

Despite this, the series received rave reviews for creating a vibrant and entertaining depiction of South American criminal drug exportations of the time. The series was researched extensively, using articles, archive footage and interviews with figures involved in the Escobar story. – MP

Tokyo Vice

BBC iPlayer

Tokyo Vice follows the recognisable theme of a cultural alien dropped into an unfamiliar society. Jake Adelstein (Angel Eglort) plays the first ever westerner to work as a journalist at Yomiuri Shimbun, one of the biggest newspapers in Japan.

The key difference with Tokyo Vice is that because the main character is fluent in the language and has studied the culture extensively, he expertly slots into his adopted surroundings. In the first episode, his interview with hiring editors sees Jake dive in and out of Japanese dialogue with ease. Not bad for a gaijin – 'outsider' or 'alien' in Japanese.

Set in the late 1990s, Jake is signed up as a crime reporter, but struggles to grasp the newspaper culture of accepting and regurgitating police reports without question. When he begins to pry into the inner workings of the Yakuza mob at the heart of many crimes in Tokyo, he comes under pressure from his editors to stick to the reporting script. As his discoveries snowball in an effervescent Tokyo of neon lights, noodle bars and nightclubs, Jake begins to take on the corruption engulfing Tokyo’s police force and wider media. – MP

The Americans


The Americans isn't just bilingual, it's bi-political. The thrilling and compassionate Cold War drama may have you rooting for two KGB agents, codenamed Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, infiltrating the American suburbs and corridors of power, but you spend as much time with the ones on their tail, the FBI, to sympathise with both sides. Especially their kindly neighbour Stan Beeman (a tender Noah Emmerich), who just so happens to be one of the Bureau's most vigilant counterintelligence agents. And that's not to mention the Jennings' unsuspecting American-born children.

Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are a mighty force as Phillip and Elizabeth, juggling American family life with Russian state-sanctioned seduction and murder. But as the political tension between the two countries continues to mount, The Americans becomes a cautionary tale about the perils of polarisation, and a poignant reminder that no matter our nation, language or ideology, idealism can corrupt us all.HB

White Lines


White Lines uses a clash of Spanish and English cultures throughout the narrative. Set in Ibiza, the show follows Zoe Walker (Laura Haddock) on a fact-finding mission as she tries to find out more about her brother’s disappearance on the island twenty years ago. With notes of mystery, thriller, comedy and drama, the show was a hit on Netflix in 2020.

The whole cast and crew in White Lines followed a bilingual pattern. The creator, Álex Pina, is of mixed Spanish and English heritage, the writing team were predominantly Spanish, and the filming crew were bilingual. The blend of nationalities striped through the whole production helped retain authenticity of both cultures on screen.

“For 100 years fiction has been British, basically, and American, and now Spanish fiction is setting its own rules: it’s more Mediterranean, more Latino and the DNA is different,” Pina told GQ, explaining his desire to merge the two languages in White Lines. “That’s what makes [Spanish series] more popular with people, because you tell different stories differently and that telling differently is the value.” – MP


Apple TV+

Rarely do English and French languages mix in television, but Liaison looks set to capitalise on the growing appetite for bilingual series.

Vincent Cassell (Westworld) and Eva Green (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) star as the complicated duo Gabriel Delage and Alison Rowdy, former lovers and now collaborative agents who must work together against destructive cyber-attacks on the UK. One of these hacks sees the capital suffer widespread floods as the Thames barrier is breached, whilst another extinguishes the city’s glowing lights. Cue mayhem. The series promises plenty thrills and action in a sleek, noir London.

Both the show’s stars hail from France, and their characters follow suit. Alison, settled in the UK with a new partner, dips back into her native tongue when conversing with Gabriel. The two characters inject the bilingualism into the series, creating a French fraternity between them as they attempt to save the UK from cyber-terrorism.

Liaison is available to stream from 24 February on Apple TV+. – MP

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As the British-French thriller Liaison comes to Apple TV+, the RTS explores other series expertly combining cultures and languages.