Created By: Premonition45 on November 9, 2012 Last Edited By: Premonition45 on February 24, 2014
Troped

Trolling Translator

The translator intentionally tells someone something completely ludicrous in a foreign language.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
In a scene between two or more characters, one of them might ask another to translate for them, but they give them "translations" that are so off-the-wall and far from the original meaning that it shocks the other party.

Compare My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels, which is when someone trying to speak a foreign language does this accidentally, regardless of whether they're using a translator to do it or not.

When it happens only to subtitles, that's Fun with Subtitles.

Sister trope to Translation with an Agenda.

Contrast Tactful Translation.

Examples

Anime
  • In Space Dandy, Meow intentionally mistranslates the barks of the dog they find on Planet Machinia, because he's a cat and she's a dog... After Dandy activates his Universal Translator, Meow shuts himself up quick as Dandy gives him a Death Glare.

Comic Book
  • A serious example in Stitched, Corporal Twiggy says her translator told the Afgani villagers she was addressing that the Americans were bad people, and if they listened to her they deserved a beating, instead of translating what she said.

Film
  • In The Goonies, Mrs. Walsh asks Mouth, who can speak Spanish, to translate her instructions to Rosalita, who doesn't know any English.
    Irene Walsh: Mrs. Walsh: Pants and shirts are in the second. Just throw them all into cardboard boxes. Forget the suitcases. Clark, can you translate all of that?
    Mouth: Why certainly, Mrs. Walsh.
    Mrs. Walsh: That's wonderful.
    Mouth: (to Rosalita, in Spanish) The marijuana goes in the top drawer. The cocaine and speed in the second. The heroin in the bottom. Always separate the drugs.
    Mrs. Walsh: Now Rosalita, this is the attic. Mr. Walsh doesn't like anybody up here, ever. That's why it's always open.
    Mouth: (in Spanish) Never go up there. It's filled with Mr. Walsh's sexual torture devices.
    Mrs. Walsh: This is my supply closet. You'll find everything you need: brooms, dustpans, insect spray. I would really like the house clean when they tear it down. Clark, can you translate?
    Mouth: (in Spanish) If you do a bad job you'll be locked in here with the cockroaches, for two weeks without food and water.
    Mrs. Walsh: Okay, Rosie? Okay? You're going to be very happy here. Come on, Clark, we've got much more to do. You're so fluent in languages!
    Rosalita: (in Spanish) My God, I'm in a crazy house!
  • Lampshaded in Big Trouble in Little China, as Jack Burton and Wang Chi are sneaking around David Lo Pan's base.
    Jack Burton: (pointing to Chinese writing on elevator) What does that say?
    Wang Chi: (speaks Chinese) "Hell of Boiling Oil".
    Jack Burton: You're kidding.
    Wang Chi: Yeah, I am. It says "Keep Out".
  • In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, this is Ian's Running Gag; in one memorable scene, he asks how to say "dinner's ready!" in Greek, but the phrase he's told actually means "I have three testicles!"
  • Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. Ace's translator understood the dialect of the other tribe perfectly. However decided to make a sound crazier and dangerous with what he told them he said. Including "I am a Princess".
  • In Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Captain Corelli is one of a group of Italian soldiers occupying a Greek village. At one point, wanting to make a good impression on the villagers, he asks a villager who speaks Italian to teach him a greeting in Greek. The villager instead teaches him a spectactular insult, which he goes around cheerfully giving to everyone until he figures out something's gone wrong.

Live-Action TV
  • Scrubs
    • Dr. Cox asks Dr. Reid for help speaking to a German patient. She gives a line that means "Your wife has nice boobs" when he wanted to tell him about his condition.
    • In another episode, Carla's brother gives The Todd a pickup line for Spanish chicks. It doesn't work.
    Yo tengo herpes genital...para ti. (Said with a cocky attitude. Translates to, "I have genital herpes...for you.")
  • The "Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook" sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus had a phrasebook that gave bogus translations from Hungarian to English, such as translating the Hungarian "Can you direct me to the station?" into the English "please fondle my bum". The publisher of this phrasebook was taken to court for "breach of the peace".
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Howard would "translate" for the selectively-mute-around-girls Raj via Raj whispering in his ear. At one point Penny and Bernadette ask the guys how Amy found out they went brides maid dress shopping without her. Howard immediately blames Raj. When Raj angrily whispers his protest to Howard, Howard takes the opportunity to put more words in Raj's mouth. It's this trope and not quite Translation With An Agenda because everyone knew Howard was being ridiculous.
  • In a 1987 sketch on Saturday Night Live Kevin Nealon plays a translator live-translating a joint press conference by Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev, but he doesn't speak Russian very well. To cover Nealon "translates" Gorbachev saying "I'm now going to start speaking in a very obscure Russian dialect that very few have ever heard of and it will be impossible for your translator to translate." (paraphrased.)

Newspaper Comics
  • This Dilbert strip has translators at the UN intentionally giving wrong translations as a "reckless prank" in the words of the narrator.
    Turban-wearing translator: He says "Who wants my parking space by the elevator?"

Web Original
  • In Red vs. Blue, Lopez tricks O'Malley into calling himself a pendejo among other things, thinking that he's giving orders to his robot army.

Western Animation
  • In The Simpsons episode "Midnight Rx", after Homer, Ned Flanders, Apu and Smithers are arrested by Canadian Mounties.
    Canadian Mountie: We've confiscated your car and its contents.
    French Translator: Nous avons confisqué votre voiture et son contenu.
    Mountie: You may leave Canada, but never return.
    French Translator: Vous pouvez quitter le Canada, mais ne retournez jamais.
    Mountie: I am a big fat French idiot.
    French Translator: Je suis un grand gros - HEY!
  • In a Robot Chicken Star Wars parody, Evazan does this for Ponda Baba's innocent question to Luke Skywalker. (The two are architects, according to the skit.)

Community Feedback Replies: 89
  • November 9, 2012
    Chabal2
    You might want to look at Translation With An Agenda.
  • November 9, 2012
    BrokenEye
    Subtrope of My Hover Craft Is Full Of Eels, which is when someone trying to speak a foreign language does this accidentally, regardless of whether they're using a translator to do it or not
  • November 9, 2012
    Premonition45
    Is it still worth troping?
  • November 9, 2012
    dvorak
    In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, this is Ian's Running Gag; in one memerable scene, he asks how to say "dinner's ready!" in Greek, but the phrase he's told actually means "I have three testicles!"
  • November 9, 2012
    reub2000
    • In Scrubs, Dr. Cox asks Dr. Reid for help speaking to a German patient. She gives a line that means "Your wife has nice boobs" when he wanted to tell him about his condition.
  • November 10, 2012
    zarpaulus
    ^ I recall at least one other example in Scrubs.
    • At Carla and Turk's wedding Carla's brother gave The Todd a Spanish pick-up line that translated to "I have a blazing case of herpes, just for you."

    • Also this webcomic
  • November 10, 2012
    surgoshan
    ^ Tengo herpes genital, [finger guns] para ti. Muchas herpes. Grandes.
  • November 11, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Live-Action TV

    The "Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook" sketch from Monty Pythons Flying Circus had a phrasebook that gave bogus translations from Hungarian to English, such as translating the Hungarian "Can you direct me to the station?" into the English "please fondle my bum". The publisher of this phrasebook was taken to court for "breach of the peace".
  • November 11, 2012
    Sligh_Br
    Yes, it is tropeworthy.

    In the movie Slap Her She Is French some girl is mean to another by making her say "ai une bouche comme dix doigts et dix doigts comme une bouche" to a teacher during a French exam. The translation? "I have a mouth like ten fingers and ten fingers like a mouth." Yeah.
  • November 11, 2012
    StarSword
    @Chabal2: I think it's a similar trope, but not the same. Translation With An Agenda seems to be a translation that is technically accurate but slanted. This is intentional in-universe Blind Idiot Translation.
  • November 11, 2012
    PaulA
    • In Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Captain Corelli is one of a group of Italian soldiers occupying a Greek village. At one point, wanting to make a good impression on the villagers, he asks a villager who speaks Italian to teach him a greeting in Greek. The villager instead teaches him a spectactular insult, which he goes around cheerfully giving to everyone until he figures out something's gone wrong.
  • November 11, 2012
    PaulA
    Come to think of it, there are several examples under Sabotutor.
  • November 11, 2012
    MorganWick
    Would this Dilbert strip count?
  • November 12, 2012
    Premonition45
    Do you think Trolling Translator or Teasing Translator sounds better?
  • November 12, 2012
    JohnDiFool
    Whose Line Is It Anyway had this as one of their games.
  • November 12, 2012
    zarpaulus
    This is the opposite of Tactful Translation I assume?
  • November 12, 2012
    Premonition45
    This is unrelated to Tactful Translation.
  • November 12, 2012
    Premonition45
    It happens in The Simpsons episode between a Mountie and his French-Canadian translator.
  • November 13, 2012
    HeroShepherd
    Ace Ventura When Nature Calls: Ace's translator understood the dialect of the other tribe perfectly. However decided to make a sound crazier and dangerous with what he told them he said. Including "I am a Princess"
  • November 13, 2012
    StarSword
    @MorganWick: Yep that would definitely be a translator giving a wrong translation on purpose, in this case For The Lulz.
  • November 15, 2012
    Premonition45
    Bump.
  • November 16, 2012
    Premonition45
    What do you guys think so far?
  • November 16, 2012
    FantasyLiver
    There is a joke where Mr. White wins three million dollars in the lottery that he places in a suitcase. One day, he comes home to find his window broken, his suitcase gone, and footsteps leading to his neighbor, Harold's house. Furious, and knowing Harold did not speak English, Mr. White hired a translator to come with him to speak to Harold. Mr. White, with a shotgun in hand, knocked on the door and told the translator to tell Harold to reveal where he hid the suitcase or he would blast Harold's brains out. The translator did as instructed and Harold confessed that he hid the suitcase in his attic. The translator then told Mr. White that Harold said that he would rather die than reveal where he hid it.
  • November 16, 2012
    tustin2121
    Not sure if I understand the Trope here: is it a deliberate mistranslation? Because the description doesn't say either way...

    If it is a deliberate mistransltion, then: Web Original
    • In Spoony's review of Rocky IV, at the end when Rocky is giving his "All We Are Saying Is Give Peace A Chance" speech, Spoony adds subtitles as to what the translator is really translating... and it doesn't bode well for Rocky.
  • November 16, 2012
    Premonition45
    This is intentional In Universe mistranslation.
  • November 16, 2012
    MorganWick
    On the other hand, the Spoony example arguably still belongs.
  • November 17, 2012
    Premonition45
    The Spoony example doesn't fit.
  • November 25, 2012
    Premonition45
    Bump
  • November 25, 2012
    lilliterra
    Real Life: My Spanish teacher told us once that when she studied at a university in South America, some prankster students would teach new arrivals who only knew English to introduce themselves with, "Soy Feo!" ["I'm ugly."]
  • November 25, 2012
    StarSword
    The Dilbert example needs to be expanded since Web Links Are Not Examples.
  • November 25, 2012
    Dacilriel
    Literature:

    In The Marvelous Land Of Oz the Scarecrow summons Jellia Jamb to act as a translator between himself and Jack Pumpkinhead because he assumes that Jack speaks the language of the Gillikins while the Scarecrow speaks the language of the Munchkins. Jellia makes ridiculous translations. The catch? There is only one language spoken in the Land of Oz. Jack and the Scarecrow can understand each other perfectly well, and they play the absurdity of the scene (including taking issue with the translations) to extreme levels.
  • November 26, 2012
    BlackDragon
    Less comedic, more unpleasant trolling, but in Gunnerkrigg Court, Zimmy usually 'translates' english for Gamma (who only speaks polish) via their telepathic link. However, due to being a very insecure and altogether unpleasant individual, she basically tells Gamma that everybody hates her and thinks she's stupid, so she won't make any other friends and thus have less time for Zimmy. Unfortunately for her, Annie speaks Polish - along with numerous other languages both living and dead. The fact that Gamma doesn't care even after finding out that Zimmie's been lying to her just serves to underline how unnecessary it was to begin with...

  • November 27, 2012
    reub2000
    Another scrubs examples:
    • Carla's brother gives The Todd a pickup line for spanish chicks. It doesn't work.
    Yo tengo herpes genital...para ti. (Said with a cocky attitude. Translates to, "I have genital herpes...for you.")
  • November 29, 2012
    zarpaulus
    ^ Didn't I mention that one already?
  • November 29, 2012
    dvorak
    • A serious example in Stitched, Corporal Twiggy says her translator told the Afgani villiagers she was addressing that the Americans were bad people, and if they listened to her they deserved a beating, instead of translating what she said.
  • December 19, 2012
    Chabal2
    In The Nostalgia Critic's review of Rocky 4, he uses subtitles to make the Russian translator give a completely different, grounds-for-diplomatic-incident speech at the end of the movie.
  • December 19, 2012
    Premonition45
    ^ Somebody already suggested that example, and I've already mentioned that doesn't fit the trope.
  • December 19, 2012
    StarSword
  • December 20, 2012
    randomsurfer
    I've seen a version of Fantasy Liver's joke on The Benny Hill Show in a sketch spoofing The A Team, with Benny as B.A./Mr. T being the one who speaks the foreign language (French, I believe). He leaves the baddies to be beat up by the rest of the Team while he gets the goods.
  • December 20, 2012
    shoruke
    If the subtitling for movies counts, there's the first Rebuild Of Evangelion movie. At one point during Unit 01's launch sequence, the subtitler got sick of translating all the technobabble, wrote "BALLSBALLSBALLS", and just left it there for about 60 seconds until plot-relevant stuff started happening again.
  • January 3, 2013
    Premonition45
    For the last time, subtitling itself does not count.
  • January 3, 2013
    Larkmarn
    How is this not the inverse of Tactful Translation?

    I also think this is covered in in-universe versions of Translation With An Agenda as well.
  • January 3, 2013
    Premonition45
    This is unrelated to Tactful Translation. That deals with summing up some translation. Nor is this the same as Translation With An Agenda.
  • January 3, 2013
    zarpaulus
    ^ I'm pretty sure that the point of Tactful Translation is that the translator is intentionally translating incorrectly for diplomatic reasons, this appears to be an intentional mistranslation for "un"diplomatic reasons.
  • January 23, 2013
    Premonition45
    Bump
  • January 23, 2013
    Larkmarn
    And... how is this not the inverse of Tactful Translation? Your response didn't actually make sense.

    And how is not covered by Translation With An Agenda? You didn't even explain that at all.
  • January 23, 2013
    StarSword
    @Larkmarn: Can't speak to the former, but I think the distinction between this and Translation With An Agenda is that TWAA seems to be a translation that is technically accurate but slanted. This (for instance) the translator tricking the person into calling himself an idiot when he thinks he's saying Take Me To Your Leader or whatever. Basically, the translator is pranking the translatee.

    For instance:

    Web Original:
    • In Red Vs Blue, Lopez tricks O'Malley into calling himself a pendejo among other things, thinking that he's giving orders to his robot army.
  • January 23, 2013
    Larkmarn
    Well, the Translation With An Agenda specifically says that it includes intentionally mistranslating some or all of the words which... seems like it counts. This just seems like a needlessly specific subtrope where someone is doing it for laughs instead of personal gain.
  • January 23, 2013
    Dragonmaw
    There's an example of this in Scud The Disposable Assassin

    When Scud and Sussudio are transported to a future where nobody can hear, Sussudio has to translate for Scud as he has no mouth and they all hear via lip-reading. They ask Scud to help, he says yes, and Sussudio tells them Scud said no. They start cursing and yelling at Scud, and he keeps saying he'll help while Sussudio keeps saying no.
  • January 23, 2013
    MrInitialMan
    Okay, Translation With An Agenda is mistranslating to put forth a specific point of view. I believe THIS is simply mistranslating to cause trouble and/or be a jerk. For The Evulz and/or For The Lulz, as it were.
  • January 24, 2013
    femmefan1946
    In an episode of Castle, Beckett demands of some uncomprehending (or possibly uncooperative) Chinese workers where the suspect went. Castle translates into Mandarin "My partner is crazy and has a gun. Better tell her what she wants to know". Then he tells her that he learned Chinese from a program he used to really like, a reference to Nathan Fillion's previous work on Firefly.
  • January 24, 2013
    lakingsif
    do Real Life examples count? Because what Shakira does here is priceless.
  • January 24, 2013
    lakingsif
    And in How I Met Your Mother what Ted does when he first meets Barney, using sign language.
  • January 24, 2013
    StarSword
    @femmefan1946: Not an example. Castle's translation isn't trying to cause trouble for Beckett.
  • February 23, 2013
    Premonition45
    Still worth troping?
  • April 6, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    ^ With all these wicks i'd say yes.
  • June 13, 2013
    Premonition45
    Bump.

    This should still be worth troping.
  • June 13, 2013
    JohnnyCache
    • In a Robot Chicken Star Wars parody, Evazan does this for Ponda Baba's innocent question to Luke Skywalker. (The two are architects, according to the skit.)
  • June 24, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Not sure if this counts: In a 1987 sketch on Saturday Night Live Kevin Nealon plays a translator live-translating a joint press conference by Ronald Reagan and Gorbachov, but he doesn't speak Russian very well. To cover Nealon "translates" Gorbachov saying "I'm now going to start speaking in a very obscure Russian dialect that very few have ever heard of and it will be impossible for your translator to translate." (paraphrased.)

    EDIT: corrected date, actor, and president. Can't find a video or transcript online though.
  • June 24, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    ^ Sounds kosher to me. The translator is intentionally giving a wrong interpretation. There's no political subtext as in Translation With An Agenda; here he just wants to cover his own ass.
  • November 30, 2013
    Premonition45
    Bump
  • November 30, 2013
    dalek955
    • Mr Welch has been warned about this.
      76. I am not allowed any artistic license while translating.
  • December 15, 2013
    lakingsif
    Shakira on Carson Daly (the link is somewhere on her creator page).
  • December 15, 2013
    StarSword
    Flag it as a Sister Trope of Translation With An Agenda (same procedure, different motive).
  • December 16, 2013
    DAN004
    ^ What's the "different motive" here?
  • December 16, 2013
    Snicka
    ^ As explained above, in Translation With An Agenda, the translator wants to gain something. Here all the translator wants to get is a good laugh.

    Contrast Tactful Translation.
  • December 16, 2013
    crazysamaritan
    For Saturday Night Live, they mocked the Fake South African Sign Language Interpreter by having Keenan gesture behind SNL's fake Obama.
  • December 16, 2013
    StarSword
    @DAN: Here they're giving a wrong translation as a prank. In Translation With An Agenda the translation is actually pushing a personal (political, religious, whatever) agenda in their translation and is (usually) just slanted, not outright wrong.
  • December 16, 2013
    DAN004
    Okay I see.
  • December 16, 2013
    DRCEQ
    ^ As explained above, in Translation With An Agenda, the translator wants to gain something. Here all the translator wants to get is a good laugh.

    So the translator wants to gain something. You're back at square one, because getting a good laugh is gaining something.
  • December 16, 2013
    MorningStar1337
    ^ kay, Translation With An Agenda is where someone deliberately mistranslates to further a goal. This is where some does it to troll the guys they are talking to.
  • December 17, 2013
    Koveras
    Would following count as this or as Translation With An Agenda?

    • In Fifty Two, the space dolphin accompanying Lobo deliberately mistranslates Lady Styx's words of gratitude to him as grievous (and rather ludicrous) insults, in order to goad Lobo to break his vow of non-violence and to attack Styx, thus saving the heroes she has captured.
  • December 17, 2013
    Snicka
    ^ This sounds exactly like Translation With An Agenda. The dolphin wants to make Lobo attack Styx to gain a further goal: rescue the heroes.
  • December 17, 2013
    Koveras
    But Laconic.Translation With An Agenda currently reads "Willful mistranslations used for an ideology." There is no ideology behind the dolphin's actions...
  • January 23, 2014
    Premonition45
    This has been in Development Hell for over a year. At this point, I'm sorely tempted to launch it.
  • January 23, 2014
    StarSword
    It needs example sorting first.
  • January 24, 2014
    Arivne
    Formatted the Examples section, sorted the examples by media, namespaced and italicized work titles and corrected an improper Example Indentation in the Scrubs example.

    The Dilbert example violates Weblinks Are Not Examples because it has no description.

    The Simpsons example is not a straight example of this trope because it's not about the translator deliberately mistranslating something. It might be a form of Playing With A Trope.

    I don't whether the Stitched example is from the Comic Book, Film or both as the example doesn't say.
  • January 24, 2014
    StarSword
    Fixed the Dilbert example
  • January 31, 2014
    Premonition45
    Thanks for formatting the examples. Is it ready to go?
  • February 8, 2014
    Premonition45
    Okay, I'm sorely tempted to launch it.
  • February 8, 2014
    DAN004
    Hat.
  • February 9, 2014
    paycheckgurl
    In The Big Bang Theory Howard would "translate" for the selectively-mute-around-girls Raj via Raj whispering in his ear. At one point Penny and Bernadette ask the guys how Amy found out they went brides maid dress shopping without her. Howard immediately blames Raj. When Raj angrily whispers his protest to Howard, Howard takes the opportunity to put more words in Raj's mouth. It's this trope and not quite Translation With An Agenda because everyone knew Howard was being ridiculous.
  • February 17, 2014
    Snicka
    Again: Contrast Tactful Translation.
  • February 23, 2014
    DRCEQ
    • In Space Dandy, Meow intentionally mistranslates the barks of the dog they find on Planet Machinia, because he's a cat and she's a dog... After Dandy activates his Universal Translator, Meow shuts himself up quick as Dandy gives him a Death Glare.

    This just needs one more hat and it can be launched.
  • February 23, 2014
    JonnyB
    Would the old Saturday Night Live sketch count, where Chevy Chase is giving the Weekend Update news report and Garrett Morris is giving the "news for the hard of hearing" translation - by shouting?
  • February 23, 2014
    Premonition45
    ^No, it doesn't.
  • February 24, 2014
    Premonition45
    I'm going to launch it.
  • February 24, 2014
    Snicka
  • February 24, 2014
    Premonition45
    Will do.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=3v5st6sgpghckgecjbfv6f1t