Having rewatched Joy Luck Club yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it even without English subs in the Chinese scenes, this is oh-so-timely. Also, I actually went through the entire slideshow, so you should, too.
…[Liz] makes a point of learning Italian, and director Ryan Murphy depicts her at various stages of comprehension, from a stammering negotiation with her landlady to a breathlessly fluent, restaurant-ordering triumph—accompanied by subtitles as needed. Dwelling on Liz’s Italian serves to illustrate her newfound curiosity. It is both realistic and dramatically functional. But when she gets to India and Bali, and becomes preoccupied with spiritual growth, Murphy stops focusing on Liz’s language skills. Locals conveniently speak to her in English, and there’s nary a subtitle east of Rome.
The Universal Translator: How Hollywood represents foreign speech at Slate