The film Arrival is concerned heavily with language and translation, but as far as I can remember two things are not translated for the audience.

The first one is the circle symbol traced by the main protagonist and the Heptapod.

The second is the last words of General Shang's wife.

What is the translation of those moments?

I expect both moments to be full of meaning, so not putting any subtitles at those moments (even in VOST versions) is probably a choice from the director. But since we probably can translate them (several Heptapod symbols have translation, and Mandarin is a known language), my guess is that they offer some kind of second read on the movie.


"In war there are no winners, only widows."

I can help you with the second half of your question, concerning General Shang's wife's last words. According to Arrival screenwriter Eric Heisserer during a premiere showing of the film, the English translation is "In war there are no winners, only widows."

The sequence is even more challenging because we're never given the dialogue MacGuffin. Heisserer says [Director Denis] Villeneuve debated whether or not to include subtitles for the line. The director opted to revel in the mystery. The writer wasn't as keen on keeping it a secret, and was happy to divulge. As he told the audience at Fantastic Fest, the line translates to: "In war there are no winners, only widows."

"I worked so hard on the dialogue in Mandarin for Denis," Heisserer wrote on Reddit. "Spent weeks crafting the lines that he finally approved! And then that scoundrel goes and doesn't use subtitles in that scene. I guess there's something to be said there about the nature of language. And I love Denis. But he's also a mischievous fox."


This also confirms your speculation that the director himself, Denis Villeneuve, decided to omit the subtitle, whereas the screenwriter would have included it.

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