Created By: EzzyAlpha on May 21, 2011 Last Edited By: Jagyularr on January 23, 2012

Native Language Shift

Character returns to native language within certain circumstances.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Needs More Examples, Up for Grabs

Alice was born and raised in Spain. However, she moved to the States and speaks perfectly good English. One day, Bob decides to prank her. He jumps out of her closet, she freaks out, and in the confusion, she starts screaming in Spanish.

To put it simply, when a character isn't speaking their native language they might revert to it when scared or hurt (or when they just don't want the other character to know what they're saying)

Related to Pardon My Klingon, Foreign Language Tirade, and Foreign Cuss Word, Sister Trope to Foreign Language Tirade


Examples

General
  • Comes up a lot in movies/TV series about the Mafia, with Italian-American gangsters throwing in some Italian at moments of high excitement. In at least one scene in Casino, for instance, mob boss Remo Gagi goes into Italian in an animated conversation with another gangster who's beaten him at cards. He doesn't seem very happy

Film
  • Inverted in The Parent Trap (1998 remake). When Annie (posing as Hallie) hears that her father is planning on marrying Meredith, she starts ranting in French, which is not her first language. This threatens to blow Annie's cover, since Hallie doesn't know French.

Literature
  • Mentioned via aversion in Tarnsman of Gor (the first in the Gor series). Tarl and his trainer (also named Tarl, aka "the older Tarl") realize his fluency in Gorean is proceeding apace when he doesn't switch to English.
I had begun to dream in Gorean...I was fluent in Gorean. Once, when struck by the Older Tarl, I had cursed in Gorean, and he had laughed.
  • Inheritance Cycle: In Brisingr, both Fadawar and Nasuada were born in the same clan, and so can speak both their native clan language and the common Human language. However, Nasuada was not part of their clan for long though, and so has trouble speaking the clan language. During an argument, Fadawar deliberately switches from Human to their clan language, knowing full well that Nasuada has trouble speaking it to mock her.

Live-Action TV
  • In My Name Is Earl, Catalina would sometimes curse at people in Spanish. However, she was actually speaking to the viewer.
  • Used in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Little Green Men" when the Ferengi accidentally travel back in time to 1947, before they are able to fix their universal translators. Also counts as an inversion, as the human characters' speech (as heard by the Ferengi) was distorted in that episode to create the effect of the malfunctioning translators.
  • A sort of reversal was in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. A dead Voyager crew member was "adopted" by an alien species. Their way of procreating involves reviving corpses and somehow physically turning them into one of their own. However, the crew member in question flees from her new home, reunites with Voyager and tries to re-adapt to her old life. It slowly turns out that this isn't going to work, hinted by the fact that she begins to lapse into her adoptive parents' language when stressed.
  • This was a trademark of I Love Lucy's Ricky Ricardo. Once he got into a rage he'd go into his native Spanish.
  • Was a plot point in Seventeen Moments Of Spring -- Kat was going to scream on her native tongue while giving birth.
    • Naturally, the anecdotes "improved" this into Germans planning to impregnate Stirlitz himself, just to check once and for all whether he's a spy.
  • On "The Office", when the employees are all invited to "roast" Michael, Oscar spends his entire time slot screaming in Spanish.

Web Comics
  • Viktor from Lackadaisy reverts to his Slavic mothertongue whenever he's upset enough to really start swearing.
  • Richek in Jack switches rather easily back to Russian when he's surprised.

Western Animation
  • In Futurama, Amy curses in Chinese.
  • In JLI: Generation Lost, when a certain person pulls I Got Better, Rocket Red starts shouting happily in Russian, then shouts (in Russian), "Wait, I'm so excited I'm shouting in Russian! No one can understand what I'm saying!"
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, when the ponies burst into Zecora's hut and wreck the place, she babbles angrily in Zebra.

Real Life
  • Truth in Television: Even if you talk your second language perfectly, if you're not used to it, you probably will resort to this.
    • Inverted: Some people train themselves to swear in their second language. This is useful in situations where swearing would be frowned upon but inevitable (like stubbing your toe in front of grandma).

Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • May 21, 2011
    Speedball
    Amy's curses in Chinese in Futurama would be an example?
  • May 21, 2011
    SKJAM
    In JLI: Generation Lost, when a certain person pulls I Got Better, Rocket Red starts shouting happily in Russian, then shouts (in Russian), "Wait, I'm so excited I'm shouting in Russian! No one can understand what I'm saying!"
  • May 21, 2011
    peccantis
    Webcomics:
    • Viktor from Lackadaisy reverts to his Slavic mothertongue whenever he's upset enough to really start swearing.
  • May 21, 2011
    doorhandle
    note this as a variant of Pardon My Klingon
  • May 22, 2011
    peccantis
    ^ related to, not a variant.
  • May 22, 2011
    VampireBuddha
    In My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, when the ponies burst into Zecora's hut and wreck the place, she babbles angrily in Zebra.
  • May 22, 2011
    fulltimeD
    Used in the Star Trek Deep Space Nine episode "Little Green Men" when the Ferengi accidentally travel back in time to 1947, before they are able to fix their universal translators. Also counts as an inversion, as the human characters' speech (as heard by the Ferengi) was distorted in that episode to create the effect of the malfunctioning translators.
  • May 22, 2011
    captainbrass2
    Comes up a lot in movies/TV series about the Mafia, with Italian-American gangsters throwing in some Italian at moments of high excitement. In at least one scene in Casino, for instance, mob boss Remo Gagi goes into Italian in an animated conversation with another gangster who's beaten him at cards. He doesn't seem very happy.

  • May 22, 2011
    peccantis
    Webcomic
    • Richek in Jack switches rather easily back to Russian when he's surprised.
  • May 22, 2011
    Warlock
    I remember there was an episode of Scrubs where Carla was upset because she had a dream in English (normally she dreams entirely in spanish). She was upset about this because she felt she was losing touch with her spanish-language heritage.
  • May 22, 2011
    sgamer82
    • This was a trademark of I Love Lucy's Ricky Ricardo. Once he got into a rage he'd go into his native Spanish.
  • May 22, 2011
    McKathlin
    Inverted in The Parent Trap (1998 remake). When Annie (posing as Hallie) hears that her father is planning on marrying Meredith, she starts ranting in French, which is not her first language. This threatens to blow Annie's cover, since Hallie doesn't know French.
  • May 23, 2011
    LobsterMagnus
    • A sort of reversal was in an episode of Star Trek Voyager. A dead Voyager crew member was "adopted" by an alien species. Their way of procreating involves reviving corpses and somehow physically turning them into one of their own. However, the crew member in question flees from her new home, reunites with Voyager and tries to re-adapt to her old life. It slowly turns out that this isn't going to work, hinted by the fact that she begins to lapse into her adoptive parents' language when stressed.
  • June 5, 2011
    TBeholder
    • Was a plot point in Seventeen Moments Of Spring -- Kat was going to scream on her native tongue while giving birth.
      • Naturally, the anecdotes "improved" this into Germans planning to impregnate Stirlitz himself, just to check once and for all whether he's a spy.
  • June 5, 2011
    Nibbles2
    Inheritance Cycle: In Brisingr, both Fadawar and Nasuada were born in the same clan, and so can speak both their native clan language and the common Human language. However, Nasuada was not part of their clan for long though, and so has trouble speaking the clan language. During an argument, Fadawar deliberately switches from Human to their clan language, knowing full well that Nasuada has trouble speaking it to mock her.
  • June 5, 2011
    randomsurfer
    • Mentioned via aversion in Tarnsman of Gor (the first in the Gor series). Tarl and his trainer (also named Tarl, aka "the older Tarl") realize his fluency in Gorean is proceeding apace when he doesn't switch to English.
      I had begun to dream in Gorean...I was fluent in Gorean. Once, when struck by the Older Tarl, I had cursed in Gorean, and he had laughed.
  • August 13, 2011
    SteamGoth
  • September 17, 2011
    Andygal
    Happens at one point in The Stormlight Archive when Rock momentarily lapses into his native language due to shock.
  • January 22, 2012
    KTera
    • Sgt. Baptista, the Brazilian Marine from Generation Kill, occasionally lapses into Portuguese when he's under stress. Like during combat.
  • January 23, 2012
    Unknown Troper
    The father in The Brothers Garcia, a short-lived Nickelodeon show, always reverted to Spanish when he was really angry.
  • January 23, 2012
    randomsurfer
    WCW: Shortly before the Latino World Order arc Eddie Guerrero briefly reverted to Spanish while ranting at an official backstage before reminding himself, "English, English."
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