There are only two languages in the world: Human and Animal. While humans and other obviously sapient creatures (such as Ridiculously Human Robots
, Petting Zoo People
, and, yes, even Funny Animals
) are always portrayed as having many different languages even within the same racial ethnicity (except in space
, in older works), all animals speak the same language, regardless of species. In Real Life
, much as with people, things like a cat's meow or a gull's cry often sound different in historically isolated populations around the globe.
Sometimes the trope only applies one way: the animals can understand the human language, but not vice versa, like in Garfield
. In some other situations, very young children can understand animals, either meaning that Baby Talk counts as a type of "Animal", or that Animal Talk is just one of those things that's Invisible to Adults
Are you a Friend to All Living Things
? Or turned into an animal
? Maybe found a Babel Fish
, or simply Speaks Fluent Animal
? You can now speak to all living things, from whales to paramecia (plants usually excepted). Is this a work about largely normal animals
? In that case, all of them will share some kind of crazy common tongue (except the ones that aren't cute enough, sometimes
), even if they can't talk to people
, they will still all be able to communicate equally well to disparate species as with their own kin.
Made particularly strange if the Translation Convention
is in effect around humans: when perspective shifts to humans, the Real Life
(and completely dissimilar) vocalizations of the species involved will be heard, but then when it switches to the perspective of said animals, everything will become intelligible with no Bilingual Dialogue
problems at all, as the same language
In a comic book Thought Bubble Speech
may be used.
Not to be confused with Talking Animal
, where the animals actually speak and the humans understand them.
This is Level 3 on the Sliding Scale of Animal Communication
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Anime and Manga
- Aquaman is famous for having the embarrassingly lame superpower of talking to fish. While he can communicate telepathically with any sea creature, his powers are useless on land animals, suggesting at least two incompatible dialects of Animal Talk.
- Subverted in recent series by having him able to affect the parts of the mammal brain that predate land life— to a limited degree— suggesting the separation is merely a psychological block. Of course, given the recent Cosmic Retcon, and the general lack of research of most writers at DC these days, who knows if that's still canon.
- Moot point anyway, since he got turned into a squid monster and replaced with a lookalike.
- He's back!
- Swedish comic series Bamse has a huge Furry Confusion thing going on, but still plays this trope completely straight: You have anthropomorphic animals (who walk on two legs, live in houses, have jobs and basically stand in for humans) and non-anthropomorphic animals. It's clearly and repeatedly shown that all the non-anthros can and do talk to one another, regardless of species or nationality, though the anthros don't understand them.
- Happens with Krypto in the old Superboy comics. Modern comics featuring Krypto have averted this by making him think in fragments like one might expect from an animal.
- In Orphanimo all animals can speak with each other, but not with humans. It's called Global Animal Language in the last album.
- Walt Disney's 101 Dalmatians exhibits this trope, as does the original novel on which it's based.
- Although apparently the animal kingdom has languages that mirror human languages, at least in the book. Pongo cannot communicate with the gypsy dogs because they can only bark in Romany, but can communicate with a horse that can neigh in both Romany and English.
- For the most part, Dumbo seems to follow this trope, as animals of all species can communicate, as well as understand what the humans are saying but not vice-versa. However, at one point Timothy Mouse is able to whisper intelligibly into the ringmaster's ear as he sleeps. Either Timothy is special, animals just pretend they can't speak when humans are around (which you'd think would be an even bigger claim to fame than a flying elephant if one ever spoke up), or the fact that the man was asleep meant he only heard the mouse subconsciously.
- In a similar vein as Dumbo, The Little Mermaid has all manners of fish being able to communicate with each other, mermaids, invertebrates, and even birds. Sharks appear to be the only animals that can't speak. They avoid interaction with humans for most of the movie, yet Eric appears to understand Sebastian when he whispered Ariel's name at him.
- Quite badly, though, as what Sebastian says ("arr-ee-ELL") has little to do with how Eric pronounces it ("Aerial?")
- Also shown in the first Ice Age movie, where all animals understand each other, but "humans can't talk".
- Neither can the dinosaurs from the third film, but they are just as intelligent as other animals according to their facial expressions.
- In Lady and the Tramp, the dog characters can talk to each other and to most animals in the zoo. Interestingly, they cannot converse with apes as they are too close to humans in nature. Birds and rats are also shown to not communicate with dogs.
- Reversed in Ratatouille: Remy the rat can understand humans and has even taught himself to read but must use physical gestures to communicate with them. Also, he was never shown to communicate with any other animal, other than his rat family.
- Remy actually tries to talk to Linguini when they first meet, but all Linguini can hear is a very high-pitched squeaking. This could mean the difference is in timbre rather than language.
- In Happy Feet, most animals speak to each other, even most predators, but humans cannot understand. Unless one happens to be a penguin that can communicate via tap-dance.
- Used weirdly in All Dogs Go to Heaven as well. Dogs can only communicate with other dogs, and the orphan girl Anne-Marie, is able to speak to all animals. (This is made explicit when it's clear that Anne-Marie is being exploited by Carface -and later by Charlie, before his Heel Face Turn- to bet on animal races, since she can inform him who will win.) This is held pretty consistent throughout the film... except when it isn't (i.e., King Gator and Charlie's big Disney Acid Sequence duet.)
- It's not much of a duet, since the alligator is doing all the singing, and there is little sign that Charlie is understanding any of it.
- Though he does eventually start singing along.
- Disney's Tarzan subverts this: gorillas and elephants seem to share a language, unintelligible to humans, but other animals like baboons or leopards seem to have their own language of grunts and growls. This carries on to the animated series, where Jane has been taught to speak to gorillas and elephants, but she simply cannot communicate with any other non-human animal. She also cannot understand when Tarzan is speaking to a different animal. Tarzan, apparently, is just multilingual.
- On Madagascar, there are a couple of scenes where Alex the lion tries to talk to the humans. All they hear is roaring, and are understandably horrified.
- But in The Penguins Of Madagascar, it is unclear whether or not the human characters can understand the animal characters. Sometimes, the humans seem to understand the animals, sometimes they do not.
- But Santa Claus (who shows up in the Christmas special and the TV series) is human and he definitely understands the animal characters when they speak. Probably because he is magical.
- In the first film, the animals are in the New York subway. The only passenger who didn't run away screaming is a scared little man hiding behind a newspaper. He pulls the paper down to see Alex roaring. Alex is actually groaning because of something he read in the paper.
- In Bolt, animals can talk with one another, but not to humans.
- A variation is used in the sequels to The Land Before Time, where there are apparently two dinosaur languages, one used by the T. rex characters (and possibly other "Sharpteeth") and one used by everyone else.
- An odd exception to the rule is Chomper, the baby 'Sharptooth' who (presumably) learned to speak the 'conventional' dinosaur language and the exclusive 'Sharptooth' language (shown when translating his parents language to Littlefoot).
- In BIONICLE, Nuju learns bird language. There is also kikinalo language and Visorak language.
- Inverted in Enchanted, Animals can clearly communicate amongst each other AND to other "human" characters in Andalasia, but once we cross into the "real world" of New York, this ability ceases.
- Arguable. All animals in Andalasia are intelligent, speaking and friendly, neat. We don't see animals chatting in New York, but they follow the protagonist's choreographies in New York in a way that is way out of normal animals' feats - this should be a case of A Wizard Did It. Pip the chipmunk keeps its intelligence, losing just the verbalization: the way it pantomimes is clear as a spoken language for all but the moronic prince.
- Brother Bear: When Kenai is turned into a bear, he suddenly gains the ability to speak to all animals, but loses his ability to speak with other humans.
- However, there is a siberian bear that only speaks what is translated into Russian, to the confusion of every other bear.
- The Princess and the Frog: All animals can speak with each other but not with humans. However, when Naveen and Tiana are transformed into frogs they gain the abilities to talk to the animals yet do not lose the ability to communicate with other humans. Mama Odie appears to be able to understand Animal Talk in her human form.
- Space Chimps, although it only applies to chimpanzees and aliens. No other animal can talk to them.
- In Rio, the animals can't talk to people, not even the parrots ironically.
- Over The Hedge
- Open Season
- The Disney version of Underdog
- Subverted actually, as some humans can understand what the dogs say.
- In Bambi, the animals (except the dogs) can talk to each other, but they are never shown talking to humans. Even though humans don't actually show up, they are mentioned to exist in this movie.
- In Dinosaur, all animals, whether dinosaur or lemur, can talk to each other, but for some reason, the film's Big Bads, a pair of Carnotaurus, cannot talk at all! (They instead communicate using roars and screams.)
- Played with in Spirit Stallion Of The Cimarron: none of the animals speak human language in-story, but there seems to be an implied horse language above and beyond horse communication in the real world.
- In A Bug's Life, all arthropods can talk to each other, but larger animals such as birds cannot.
- The pillbugs communicate in some sort of gibberish rather than English, though. Perhaps because they are crustacean.
- Barnyard and Back at the Barnyard take this even further: Not only do the animals have the ability to talk to each other but not to humans, whenever they're left alone they all start walking on two legs, but if they're all spotted by humans, they all revert back to walking on all fours!!
- Actually, the animals can talk to humans, but they choose not to, except when they don disguises.
- And they sometimes even talk to humans without their disguises on.
- In The Jungle Book, all of the animals can talk to each other, but with the exception of Mowgli due to him being Raised by Wolves, they actually cannot talk to people.
- The animals in ''The Brave Little Toaster To The Rescue'' can actually talk to each other and even electronic devices, but like said electronics they cannot talk to people.
- Finding Nemo
- The Marmaduke movie.
- The Garfield movie has the animals sounding like normal animals to humans rather than being totally silent to them like in the comics.
- In Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Ron's dog Baxter talks with some bears to dissuade them from killing Ron and Veronica. However, it's portrayed as regular animal noises with translation subtitles.
- Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey goes back and forth on this. Dogs and cats are able to communicate with each other but don't seem to understand other animals, wild or domesticated. They don't seem to be able to understand humans either save for maybe a few words and phrases, which of course, leads to the conflict of the movie.
- The book Watership Down, never content to leave an animal trope as it finds it, has its rabbits speak Lapine amongst themselves. Local creatures share a crude woodland vernacular (referred as "hedgerow lingua franca"), but other ones have to be taught; these are represented by broken language, strong accents and unintelligibility of simple concepts such as Lapine's "silflay" or Keehar's 'Gullish' "sea" to other species. Different rabbit populations have words and concepts for things others do not: for example, the Watership crowd has no comprehension of the "great messenger of Frith" that scattered their pursuers, but the Efrafans know it was a train.
- Played straight in Richard Adam's The Plague Dogs, where apparently all animals can talk to each other (a caged rabbit clearly requests to "be left to die in peace") but animals cannot talk to humans. However, the titular dogs have trouble understanding the Tod, a fox whose animal speak is translated into a particularly hard-to-understand English dialect.
- In Xanth, each species of animals, plants and inanimate objects has its own language. Interestingly, for instance language of the dragons is related to the language of snakes, and centaurs can in theory converse with pegasi. Also, some beings might have magical gifts to be able to talk the languages of other species, like Grundy.
- Played straight in most of Dick King Smith's books; for instance in The Sheep-Pig sheep, dogs and pigs can all communicate, and in Magnus Powermouse, the mice have no problem talking to a rabbit. Averted in The Fox Busters, which includes the mutually incomprehensible languages of Vulpine, Hennish and Rodent, with no lingua franca.
- In the first Dinotopia book, it is explicitly stated that different genera of animals speak different languages. There is one lingua franca that is understood by a few species, including humans and Protoceratopsians. The thing is, whether you are able to understand this language or not depends seemingly on your biological classification. Fortunately, James Gurney seems to have outright dumped this in later books (exactly how it was supposed to work was never clear).
- One of Allan Dean Foster's Dinotopia novels had a human-and-stegosaurian nomadic community where, despite the stegosaurians and all other dinosaurs being as intelligent as humans (it's part of the setting) and the community having existed for years, the dinosaurs and humans could not understand what the other species was saying.
- It may or may not have been Gurney who dumped it, but the digest novels left it behind to make them easier for younger readers to comprehend.
- In Animal Farm, the animals all understand each others' different noises, but the humans and animals don't seem to understand each other. No human ever speaks to animals, so it's not clear if animals can understand what they say.
- There is one exception: Napoleon (and pretty much the other pigs) can talk to humans, as he hired a man to serve as their adviser for trades.
- For sure all the animals can read human language (example: the writing on the furgoin taking Boxer the horse away). And (most of) the animals can write and read the animal manifesto on the barn wall, even if it's not necessarily in human language.
- The movies do this differently (the '54 film has very little speaking from either species, while the '98 version has the other farmers discovering this. The novel never really explains how this is possible though, so it's quite possibly similar to the Barnyard example in the film section).
- Either played with or subverted in Tamora Pierce's The Immortals series, where all the animals could talk to each other with relative ease, but it was implied that each species has its own distinct dialect.
- Unlike a lot of examples, the language the animals speak seems to be directly mind-to-mind, separate from their vocalised communications, so perhaps it operates more like telepathy than language. Inter-species communication happens in the books (squirrells talking to wolves etc) but it's implied that this is very unusual and due to the effect of the human main character, contact with whom makes animals smarter. So while apparently all animals are able to talk to one another, it wouldn't normally occur to them to speak to another species.
- Averted somewhat in Garry Kilworth's House of Tribes. The different classes of animals speak different languages; mouse speech is rendered into English as the main characters are mice, feline speech is "translated" into French and canine becomes Japanese. The mouse Little Prince does pick up canine speech from being kept as a pet in a house also containing dogs, and a fox displays some very basic knowledge of mouse-speak.
- Kilworth also plays with this in The Foxes of First Dark, where it's fox-speak (and dog-speak; the two species share a common language) rendered as English, feline as French, and so on; human speech is described as sounding like barks and growls. Vulpine also features regional dialects: Camio, a North American fox, is described as having a different accent than the rest of the foxes, who are all native to Great Britain; he also has different names for some vulpine concepts (longtrekker as opposed to rangfar to describe a fox who has journeyed far from home, etc.).
- Averted in the Doctor Dolittle series, in which it is made clear that each animal species has its own language. Polynesia, the Doctor's parrot, is multilingual and taught Dolittle his first animal languages. Much of the book The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle actually deals with Dolittle attempting to learn the language of shellfish and several other aquatic species and requires a scene in which a giant sea snail has to talk to the doctor through a sea urchin, who translates for a starfish, who translates for some dolphins, who translate for Doctor Dolittle.
- Though the Doctor's household consists of (among others) a dog, a horse, a goose, an owl, a pig and a mouse, and they can talk with each other easily, so there is some lingua franca going on. Polynesia is the only one who can speak human languages.
- In Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Books each species apparently has its own language but most can understand each other. Curiously, the Wild Child Mowgli can't talk to water-buffalo in Book 1, but he can in Book 2. In the non-Mowgli story "Her Majesty's Servants" the human narrator is able to overhear what the animals in an army camp are saying to each other.
- In the Mrs Murphy Mysteries by Rita Mae Brown animals can talk to each other freely but humans can't understand them. The reader gets Translation Convention, but much like real life while the animals can understand human speak (though oft putting it into their own mental terms) humans have no clue what animals are really saying and make up their own cutesy interpretations.
- In Percy Jacksonandthe Olympians there are several variants. Grover can speak to all animals, as he is a satyr—a spirit of nature. Percy Jackson is capable of communicating with sea creatures, because they live in Poseidon's domain, as well as horses, who were created by Poseidon. Presumably this holds true for other demigods as well—Annabeth could in theory speak to owls, etc.
- Averted to an extent in both The Sight and Firebringer by David Clement-Davies, in that animals of different types cannot talk to each other. All deer breeds can inter-communicate, as can most sea animals. Only animals of exceptional ability, such as the deer Rannoch can understand all animals, and his speaking to them shocks them greatly. It is stated however that any animal can learn this ability if they try. Humans are an exception however. Even Rannoch cannot understand his captors, despite his innate ability for every other language around him.
- In the old Sonic novel Stay Sonic, the animals can talk to each other but not to humans. Eggman later uses a machine called the Lingua Scrambler to make Sonic able to talk to humans.
- Mostly averted in Warrior Cats, where the badger, Midnight, is one of the few non-cats that can speak cat.
- It's also mentioned that there are different languages even among cats (Midnight can speak a couple of those others too). The Tribe of Rushing Water, for instance, speaks the same language, but are mentioned to have a strange accent and use different idioms.
- Selma Lagerlöf's The Wonderful Adventures of Nils and its sequel The Further Adventures of Nils, originally published in Swedish in 1906 and 1907, plays this straight. All animals inherently understand each other, but only domesticated dogs and cats can understand Swedish. Elfs are the only creatures able to actually communicate with both humans and animals, and the boy Nils gets this ability when shrunk to elf-size.
- Sorcerors in The Belgariad instantly learn the language of an animal on transforming into it. Wolves have a language that is primarily dominated by body language, while birds are noted to spend a lot of time yelling that a certain nest is theirs.
Live Action TV
- Played with in Sabrina the Teenage Witch: trying to reason with a giant dinosaur that more than slightly resembles Godzilla, Sabrina tries Japanese. As it turns out, the dinosaur actually speaks French (a reference to then recent US Godzilla movie).
- Lampshaded in Mongrels. When Nelson spots the Springwatch crew, he goes talking to them as he is a huge fan of the show. From the perspective of the presenters, he is just a fox who is making the usually fox sounds at the crew.
- In all the Garfield comics, movies, specials, and series except The Garfield Show, the animals can understand human language, but not vice versa.
- Odie is an odd exception, he is incapable of any form of communication other than barks and such in all media he appears in, and with the exception of a couple isolated incidents is unable to do animal thoughtspeak, though he is the only animal in the comics who isn't able to do so, including other dogs.
- Snoopy is capable of Animal Talk in the Peanuts comics, but not so much in the movies and specials.
- Seems to apply in Beetle Bailey, but rarely comes up. When Otto (Sgt. Snorkel's dog) and Bella (Sgt. Lugg's cat) first meet, they seem to be able to communicate through their thought bubbles, which humans can't "hear". Another time in a much newer strip, Otto communicates with some cats with normal speech bubbles.
- In The Far Side, being that it's a Mind Screw comic strip, this trope is subverted, inverted, played straight, and so on in every possible way from strip to strip.
- Usually averted in Dungeons & Dragons:
- Played mostly straight with the Speak With Animals spell which allows the caster to communicate with any animal, but it doesn't last long and is really no more linguistically unusual than the Tongues spell, which allows speaking any language.
- And certain versions only function for a subset of animals. The racial spell-like ability of Gnomes only permits communication with burrowing mammals (which cuts haphazardly across taxonomical lines, explicitly including foxes but not necessarily all canids, and badgers but not all mustelids).
- The animal companions of druids and rangers have no special communication abilities apart from an empathic link to their masters.
- A sorcerer or wizard's familiar can speak with animals and translate for its master, but the communication only works with animals of its own kind.
- Though certain familiars, such as ravens, can speak Common, the language of most humans.
- A paladin's mount, unless of a "unique" type obtained through non-core means, can magically command animals of its own kind (Which really only has any practical benefit against cavalry) , but it doesn't extend to all animals.
- Lycanthropes can communicate with animals in a way normal humans can't, but only with their own kind.
- Most versions of "polymorph other" explicitly state in the spell rules that the transformed spellcaster can't speak while in animal form, and mentions that parrots are not an exception, because they don't really speak.
- The Legend Of Zelda Twilight Princess — as a wolf, Link can talk to any friendly animal, including Epona.
- Notable that while Link can speak to them, the animals don't understand humans. Early on in the game, if you fail to listen to a human conversation without being spotted, the humans run off, and a dog nearby remarks "wow, you can understand human talk?"
- Averted in Okami. Although the protagonist is a wolf, she can't talk to any of the animals present in the game, including any of the dogs. However, Issun can, in his words, "Sorta understand" the 8 Satomi Warriors, which are canines, when none of the human nor humanoid characters can, and translates to Ammy. Additionally, Amaterasu can understand the language of humans (and the various other races of the game), but she herself cannot speak and only her companion Issun and his grandfather seem to be able to understand her.
- The fact she can understand everything is explained quite simply by the fact that Amaterasu is the sun goddess, in the form of a wolf.
- The Poncles are heavily implied to be able to talk to every animal, so it's not only Issun and his grandfather who can understand her.
- Present in the Tekken series. Yes, Tekken. That's what happens when you have
one three five six actual animals (plus King and King II, who seem to prefer snarls and roars over their native Spanish). Here, though, it seems that everyone retains their language (or something they've picked up) and just understand each other: Paul (English) and Kuma II (bear) trading insults, Raven (English) and Heihachi (Japanese) discussing storyline, and so on.
- In the first major twist of Crusader of Centy, the protagonist is rendered capable of talking to animals and monsters... and incapable of understanding human speech. Half the game goes by before he becomes bilingual.
- Contrary to the anime and manga, the main Pokémon video games have mostly avoided the subject... right up until Black and White, where we have N, who actually speaks the Pokemon language more easily than he speaks the local human language.
- The Pokemon Mystery Dungeon games are a little vague on the subject; there are very few humans around and they've all been transformed into Pokemon, so it's not clear whether the Pokemon characters would understand humans or not.
- Played straight in Hey You Pikachu and Pokemon Channel. The first even focuses on efforts to translate Human into Pokemon (or at least Pikachu), and the second features Pokemon-hosted TV shows with human-language subtitles.
- Reversed in the webcomic Little Dee: The title character, a human preschooler, can't talk but her animal guardians, as well as every other animal they encounter around the world, all speak English.
- Subverted in The Order of the Stick: When Vaarsuvius is turned into a lizard, he/she is surprised a black dragon can understand his/her speech. This is because the dragon actually studied Lizard, because his mother told him "it was important to study other cultures".
- Woo and all other animals in Sandra and Woo, including Woo's friends Shadow and Sid, speak the same language, but only Woo is able to communicate with humans. However, he's only talking with Sandra since he is afraid of ending up in a laboratory otherwise.
- The cats can talk to one another in Papi Nyang but the humans can't understand them. It hasn't quite been confirmed if they understand the humans, due to Chev not listening to them. They haven't tried talking to other animals yet.
- While human-like language is unique to humans, many forms of animal communication do function cross-species. Many mammals (humans included) express emotions such as fear, anger, pleasure, disdain, aggression, happiness, and challenge using similar body language and facial expressions, and as a result are able to communicate with each other to some extent.
- And with us, if we're observant enough. Ask anyone with an animal companion.
- It doesn't (necessarily) cross some species though, even species as closely related as humans and chimpanzees. A chimp who "smiles" at you is not actually happy- it's a "look how sharp my teeth are" threatening gesture.
- Actually, many primates are taught a primitive form a sign languages and can easily communicate basic ideas with humans...and even teach this language to their kids.
- Though calling it "language" is questionable; they are capable of signing, but what they do does not constitute "language". One of the more famous examples is Koko the gorilla, who "speaks" a kind of pidgin version of American Sign Language ... Sloppily and with so many idiosyncrasies, that even people (who themselves know ASL) have to rely on her handler to translate Koko's own words. It's been suggested by a number of authorities that most of the more coherent statements Koko was "quoted" as making are somewhere between 'wishful thinking' and entirely made up by her handler, based on selectively deciding which gestures to assign a meaning, and ignores some of her other gestures. There's clearly something like an attempt to communicate going on, but calling it 'language' is definitely a stretch.