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As Long as It Sounds Foreign
You can't say the Swedish Chef doesn't have a way with (made-up vaguely Swedish) words.

Sol Dibbler: I don't think "bwanas" is the right word, Uncle.
CMOT Dibbler: It's Klatchian, isn't it?
Sol Dibbler: Well technically, but I think it's the wrong part of Klatch and maybe "effendies" or something...
CMOT Dibbler: Just so long as it's foreign.

Many shows and movies don't bother getting a foreign language right when they portray them. The incidence of this increases along with the obscurity of the language. It is easily explained as native speakers are hard to get, especially if the country of origin is on the other side of the globe and the language is fairly obscure. And that's assuming any native speakers are still living, as many languages have died out for one reason or another.

A variation on this is that the foreigners speak English, but are identified as foreign by an accent or are parading universally known national images.

Names appear especially hard to get right, even European ones, which is all the stranger as most American naming conventions haven't ventured far from their origin. This is why we see female Russians with masculine surnames and patronymics used as names or surnames. This could be explained if their name was anglicized, though the practice has fallen out of favor in recent decades. In most cases, the author just didn't care.

Contrast with Gratuitous Foreign Language (and all its subtropes), where the writers take care to give characters lines in a foreign language — which are often poorly rendered by the actors. Contrast also with Poirot Speak, where everyone in the native country has only an elementary education in their native language but can only say the hard words in heavily accented English.

Contrast also with Famous-Named Foreigner, when in an attempt to avert this trope, the author manages to give his foreign character a real name... albeit belonging to a famous historical character, which often leads to ridiculous results. When a work is named with this trope, it may result in a Word Puree Title.

See also Foreign-Looking Font, Fictionary, Black Belt in Origami. See also Speaking Simlish. Canis Latinicus and El Spanish O are subtropes specifically dealing with Latin and Spanish affixes, respectively. Also consider Esperanto, the Universal Language.

For hilariously deconstructed examples of this trope, watch here (fake German) and here (fake English).


Examples:

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  • An ad for Bertolli features an "Italian" chef lamenting that Bertolli is stealing his business, to the tune of the Habanera from Bizet's Carmen, a French opera that's set in Spain (and a Spanish form of music).
  • An ad for Dunkin' Donuts has a Take That jingle from They Might Be Giants aimed at Starbucks, complaining about the gratuitous foreign-sounding gibberish in its drink orders:
    Is it French? Or is it Italian? Perhaps Fritalian?
  • A German commercial used quasi-Italian sentences that really were German phrases spoken with a strange tone, like "Pasta ber prima" (=Passt aber prima / That fits [you] really good!)
  • A South African ad for an Italian restaurant / coffee place had a husband pretending to say romantic things to his wife. Actually, he is surreptitiously reading the take-away ("takeout") menu, only with dramatic / passionate intonation. The wife goes all weak-kneed and says that she loves it when he speaks Italian to her.
    "Oh Frikkie, I love it when you speak foreign!"
  • An Israeli insurance company has a series of commercials featuring the secretary of a sleazy independent insurance agent who can’t keep up with the competition, bemoaning how he would have to give up the preposterous luxuries he’s accustomed to. A Running Gag involves his daughter’s deteriorating English (because her parents can no longer provide a tutor for her); among other things, this involves frequently misusing the word ‘felicity’ in a variety of ways, including ‘skin’.

     Anime and Manga 
  • Partially averted by Hayao Miyazaki in maybe a full half of his productions. Those which don't take place specifically in Japan have a sort of Not-Quite-Japanese, Not-Quite-European flavor that leaves the viewer to wonder where, exactly, he's supposed to be. But in the end, we rarely care, because the storytelling works for us.
    • Word of God says that most of his films are set in an alternate version of Europe, one in which World War II never happened. Except Porco Rosso, which is explicitly set on the Adriatic coast of mid-20's Italy, and whose protagonist Marco Paggot is named after Miya-sensei's Real Life Italian friend, who's also a pilot (but obviously not a pig).
  • Excel♥Saga: Although the English used by the paramilitaries in the action movie episode is grammatically perfect, it's apparently delivered by actors who haven't a clue what the words are intended to mean (and only the vaguest grasp of English pronunciation). This is deliberate parody of the trope - the Japanese subtitles (which the English subs of the scene follow) are far more eloquent, often to the point where they have very little to do with what is spoken. It's also lampshaded in the English dub. Originally, when the soldier asks her "What is your purpose?" in a really strong Japanese accent, Excel just responds "I don't know." In the dub, she says "A big fish?"
  • ARIA: Singer Eri Kawai admitted that a lot of songs have nonsensical lyrics, in an attempt to make them sound vaguely Italian. One song, a canzone sung by Alice during her graduation ceremony, has some verses in Esperanto, likely to achieve the same effect without becoming too silly.
  • The Tales of Symphonia OVA has the song "Almateria", and while it has some significant words thrown in here and there, it's mostly pleasant-sounding gibberish.
  • Done to a ridiculous degree in episode 52 of Hayate the Combat Butler where "Italian" ranges from reciting Italian foods to saying anime/manga related references with bad pseudo-Italian accents. Considering the nature of the show, this trope was almost certainly done deliberately.
  • There are panels from Urusei Yatsura of Lum's mom speaking in Mah-Jong tiles that combined with her Chinese-style dress (implies "As Long As It Looks Chinese") and a French lady speaking in... interesting picture combinations in Lupin III. And early in the manga, where French and Chinese commentators on Ataru's game of tag with Lum spoke in, respectively, inane phrasebook style questions and Chinese food names.
  • In the manga Peace Maker, which is set in the American Southwest during the late 1800s (you know, a Western), a lot of the character names are... unlikely. The main character (who is male) is called Hope, and his Disappeared Dad's name is Peace. At one point, they encounter an elderly woman named Joshua. The series is otherwise enjoyable, but it's apparent that the mangaka didn't know what names were for what.
  • In Macross Frontier, the on-screen displays populated with English filler text use completely irrelevant excerpts from, for example, the Adobe Flash Player (or Adobe CS?) EULA and an article about the appearance of Oakley sunglasses in some bicycle or motorcycle event.
  • Similarly, the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's movie has a screen on-board the TSAB ship display text taken from a commercial web publishing site. It's obfuscated further by being mirrored (see-through screen seen from the back) and in the usual Lyrical Nanoha pseudo-runes script.
  • In Eve No Jikan, what are supposed to be a robot's error messages are actually from Micro Soft Exchange Server.
  • Sharon Apple's pop song "Idol Talk" in Macross Plus is completely untranslatable into French. The words are French, but the actual meaning is total gibberish.
    • Much of Yoko Kanno's music from Cowboy Bebop also has a similar affectation: the lyrics are in a pseudo-Frenchish language.
  • Some of the non-Japanese characters in Shaman King. The big standout would be Chocolove, an African-American shaman who joins the main cast in once the tournament begins. For obvious reasons, the English dub and translations of the manga change his name to "Joco".
  • In Gash Bell, Kiyomaro is running "tests" on a stone tablet (petrified demon). After a while, he starts shouting random spells and demon names at it, since it has writing in the same foreign language as the spellbooks.
  • Code Geass. Many characters from the Britannian Empire, that is supposed to be an alternate-reality version of either UK or US, have ridiculously non-English names (such as Rivalz), even surnames as first names (Nunnally sounds like an Irish surname, Lelouch is a French one). On the other hand, there are some characters with quite acceptable names, such as Gilbert G.P. Guilford.
    • With a lot of the surnames, it seems like the writer just opened up a French furnishing catalog and picked whatever words he thought sounded good, so we end up with names that translate to things like Lelouch and Nunnally Red Lamp, Shirley Window, and Rivalz World of Wool Brushes.
    • And then there's Rolo, which could be a candy bar or a character from Sanford and Son.
  • FLCL, or ''Fooly Cooly," was thus entitled because the meaningless phrase, according to the design staff, "sounded English."
    • The character "Atomsk". Word of God says the director chose that name because he saw it in English on a book cover (presumably this one) and thought it looked cool.
  • Hellsing's Walter Dollneas has a surname consisting of two Welsh words that don't often appear together, let alone appear in a surname. Hirano has all but admitted that he had absolutely no idea what he was doing with the foreign names.
  • Death Note:
    • Light's name is not a translation of hikari (光), the Japanese word for "light". The kanji for "Moon" (月) has the English word "light" as a possible pronunciation for it when used as a name.
      • "Possible pronunciation for a name" in Japan is "whatever you want to call your child", but using "月" to be pronounced "Light" is... unusual, to say the least. Apparently the author chose that name so that it wouldn't cause bullying of someone with the same name as the character.
    • Most of the victims' names are examples of this trope, as was L, whose real name is L Lawliet. In Death Note 13: How to Read, the writer of the manga admits that he made up the names of the victims randomly, so that no real names would show up as having been written down in the Death Note.
    • The bizarre Quillsh Wammy, which is Watari's true name. No wonder he used an alias...
      • Oddly, his English voice actor's name is French Tickner, which is just barely an improvement.
  • Freesia Yagyu from Jubei-chan 2 is half-Japanese, half-Russian. Her first name, however, does not exist in either culture.
  • Train Heartnet from Black Cat is one of the goofier examples of this trope.
  • Rally Vincent from Gunsmith Cats, although Rally is her nickname (her real name is Irene). In-story her name is intended to actually be Larry since she didn't think anyone would hire an obviously female bounty hunter, but due to the L/R confusion it would up translated as Rally, which still fit due to her fondness for cars.
  • Baccano! - Expect characters to be given names like Jacuzzi Splott and board a train graciously named the Flying Pussyfoot.
    • "Claire Stanfield" is a perfectly normal woman's name. The problem is, Claire Stanfield is a man. This one got lampshaded in the dub during an episode preview. In the thirties, when the series took place, that could be a man's name. The problem is that the masculine version of the name was spelled Clare.
  • In Plawres Sanshiro, the closing titles song ends with the lyrics "Craft Love", that make absolutely no sense either in the context of the song or indeed any context.
  • Saiyuki gives the female name Hazel to a male priest... Slightly offset by the fact that he is rather Bishōnen, anyway.
    • Word of God said it was by combining the words "Beisun" (a type of alcohol) and "angel" and mucking with the pronunciation until you get "Heizeru." His full name is "Hazel Grouse," a type of bird, thematically linking him to Ukoku, who is heavily associated with crows.
  • In Bleach, the Quincy names are all vaguely German-sounding things that translate to nothing. They do get credit for Seeleschneider, "soul-cutter/tailor", however. While the words are correct, the grammar is a little off. It should be Seelenschneider.
    • The Arrancar have Spanish-named zanpakuto, with a few strange exceptions, such as video game-exclusive Arturo Plateado having a zanpakuto named "Fenice" (not "Fénix" as has been erroneously claimed), which is Italian. Gantenbainne Mosqueda's zanpakuto, though, is named "Dragra", which doesn't seem to mean anything in any language.
    • The Hollows have some reasonable variation names such as "Demi Hollow", "Huge Hollow", and "Menos Grande", but the names of the Menos stages, "Gillian", "Adjucha", and "Vasto Lorde", just seem to be made-up words. For a Spanish or Portuguese speaking viewer, the "Menos Grande" hollow reaches Narm levels since its name translates to the hilariously unfitting and broken "Less Big".
      • It makes more sense if you know that the term for a "Whole" - a normal, non-Hollow ghost — is actually "Plus" in the original Japanese. "Menos" doesn't just mean "less"; it means "Minus." So "Menos Grande" is likely meant to be interpreted as "Giant Minus (Hollow)".
      • This is also the case with the enemy of the final arc, the Vandenreich - the pronunciation is listed besides kanji meaning "invisible country," and while "reich" is German, Vanden doesn't appear to be an actual word — possibly a misreading of Vonden, meaning "of the". It might also be an example of Kubo's musical fanboyism as a nod to German metal band Vanden Plas (who themselves were car fanboys who named their group after the famous Flemish coachbuilders that eventually gave their name to a brand of Jaguar). Several members' names are similarly foreign sounding, and by far the most unusual has to be BG9.
  • All of the Mobile Suit Gundam series are positively rife with foreign-ish names, some more successful than others. Might be justified because most of the series take place at an undetermined point in the future where Earth has become a One World Government and half of humanity lives in orbital colony superstructures. The one series with a date solidly pinned down in relation to modern day does fairly well with the names.
  • Gundam Build Fighters meanwhile takes place in the "real" world (albeit Twenty Minutes into the Future), and yet features an African-American character named Nils Nielsen. Unless he has some Scandinavian ancestry, the name comes off as kind of odd.
  • In one episode of Sailor Moon, Ami gives a student a printout of what she says is a NASA website. The printout is not gibberish. What it is, however, is the lyrics to "Danger Zone" from the movie Top Gun.
    • There are English-spoken phrases being a combination of English and Japanese or simply very grammatically incorrect. "Let's dancing" is actually rather common in Japan.
  • Fafner In The Azure has a supposedly Irish character named "Kanon Memphis", which doesn't sound like the sort of name anyone would have, let alone an Irish person.
    • Might've been meant to be Conan, which IS the name of an Irish Anti-hero (Conan MacMorna).
  • Somewhat subverted in episode 10 of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, where in-show foreigners Suzuki Sato and Tanaka Watanabe, both CIA agents, don't bother to check their Japanese aliases for simple things like using two surnames as a full name before entering the country. The Japanese officials with whom they interact are understandably befuddled upon seeing their calling cards. They're obnoxious Americans with their own sinister agenda and we're supposed to dislike them anyway. To add insult to injury, they look and act very much like some racist stereotypes of the Japanese, which is probably supposed to reflect their opinions of the country they've been assigned to.
  • D.Gray-Man, spectacularly so with the "Portuguese" Tyki Mikk's name. There are at least 4 blatant errors in this name alone.
    • "Arystar Krory" was named after a real person called "Aleister Crowley", but the author deliberately went with a different spelling. There is also a Mexican man with the name "Winters Socalo", a German woman named "Miranda Lotto", two Chinese siblings named "Lenalee" and "Komui", and an American man named "Tup Dop". "Marie" is a man, and it seems that's his last name, meaning his first name is "Noise". A woman whose name was spelled "Crea" in the series itself has her name more correctly spelled "Claire" in a data book. "Jasdevi" are supposed to be American and while "Devitto" is apparently "David" mispronounced his brother "Jasdero" did not get so lucky.
  • Mai-Otome has most of its characters with obviously Japanese given names, but because they all come from Fantasy Counterpart Cultures, a lot of their surnames are non-Japanese.
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn! is a repeated offender for its attempts at Italian names, most notably Bianchi is used as a (female) first name - it is actually a surname.
  • Aura Battler Dunbine has a classic example of this. A female character is introduced as "Marvel Frozen", to which the Japanese lead hero responds, "'Marvel Frozen'? You must be American!"
  • In the Kyoto Arc of Rurouni Kenshin, Yahiko come across three girls who say nothing but "chow" while gushing over a dog (an official Chinese translation just went with wingdings); he thinks to himself that they can't possibly be speaking Japanese. Considering the time period and that Yahiko, born and raised in Tokyo, is in Kyoto, it's probably a (rather well-known, actually) Kansai Regional Accent joke. ("Chigau", a word meaning "that's wrong", gets shortened to "chau" in Kansai, and since the dog they're talking about is a Chow-Chow, Watsuki just had a little too much fun with it.)
  • In Chrono Crusade, most of the English names of the American characters make sense, like Joshua and Rosette Christopher. But then you have the German character Satella Harvenheit (which might have been meant to be "Stella", but is officially spelled with the extra "A"), and the Portuguese immigrant Azmaria Hendrich...(although to be fair, her last name is her adoptive father's....but it still doesn't sound right).
  • For Weiß Kreuz, Takehito Koyasu apparently picked the name because "Weiss" sounded cool, and "Kreuz" sounded cool with it. Randomly from a German dictionary. This was after the producers firmly vetoed his original title: "Cat People". In English. It really could have gone much worse.
  • In the Tokyo Mew Mew anime, Ichigo meets an English speaking pianist and is only able to say a few English words, one of them being her own name translated, which is "strawberry".
  • 07-Ghost is a series set in a European-style world. That explains the use of western words and names. Especially when the names in question aren’t actual names. Usually they are random German words, or just Gibberish. Combined with proper Japanese names. And in cases of in-universe terms, they probably just pick a word from a random language. One example would be the god of death, who is from some reason named “Verloren” which means “lost” in German. Or the terms “Kor” and “bascule”. Or the seven ghosts, who are called Zehel, Fest (means firm/firmly/feast in German), Profe, Randkalt (German again. “Rand” is edge and “Kalt” is cold, and therefore “Randkalt” means “edge cold”) , Rilect (maybe it’s supposed to be “Relict”), Ea, and Vertrag (contract in German).
    • And then there are the names Wahrheit Tiashe Raggs (Wahrheit means truth in German), Weldeschtein Krom Raggs (Krom means “furthermore” in Czech, but that’s probably not what they meant. And Weldeschtein could be “Waldstein” which sounds enough like a German surname, or a rather believable Yiddish surname, though they probably weren’t meant to be Jewish with all the crosses around the place). Fea isn’t a word, but it resembles a few real name. Female ones.
    • And Frau. Okay, he’s a womanizer, but is that really a reason to name him “woman”?!
  • Used for humorous effect in G-On Riders: two American street thugs speak entirely in random quotes from the Gettysburg Address. "Government!" "Of the people!"
  • The episode titles of Eleven Eyes were also written in Hungarian on the title cards, most of them badly translated, so we got such gems as: The maiden of Crystal Palace -> In a girl crystal; Twisted Awakening -> Curving/Zig-zagging awakening; The choice called destruction -> Sleep off to allstars, etc. Admittedly they're based on the Japanese titles, not the English ones, but they're still wrong.
  • The one character of European racial stock on Ichigo Mashimaro, Ana Coppola, is said to be from England despite having an obviously Italian surname, though it's not that rare for real Brits to have Italian surnames, to be fair.
  • Silent Möbius: Katsumi Liqueur, Kiddy Phenil, Lebia Maverick, Rally Cheyenne, Robert "Roy" De Vice, Ralph Baumers/Bombers, Ganossa Maximillian, Gigelf Liqueur.
  • In Mai The Psychic Girl, one of Mai's enemies is the daughter of the East-German ambassador. Her name is Turm Garten — Tower Garden. In German, Tower is a male noun.
  • The manga Jackals is set in America at the tail end of the 19th century. Its main protagonists are Nicole D. Heyward (a Puerto Rican man) and Huya Godfrey (a white guy). Some translations try to soften the blow by romanizing the first guy's name as "Nichol", but they're not fooling anyone. Also, his mother, who is actually from Puerto Rico, is Lokishii Heyward. The fan translation has tried to make that less ridiculous by changing it to "Roxy", but that's not quite what the kana spells out. And no, she's never been married. Roxy Heyward from late 19th century Puerto Rico. Sheeeeesh. This also ovelaps with Unfortunate Implications if you take into account how the many countries outside the American continent looks Puerto Rico.
  • Transformers Super God Masterforce doesn't even try to give believable names to characters who aren't the Autobot Headmaster Juniors. The Decepticon Headmaster Juniors, for instance, are Bullhorn, Wilder, and Cancer — respectively Mexican, American, and Chinese. That said, since those names are bizarrely appropriate for their transtectors' altmodes (a hellish bull, a crazed wolf, and a sickening crab creature), they might simply be aliases — not that there's ever any indication of this being the case. Most of the other characters who hail from the west are only afforded, well, Transformer names like "Road King" and "Doubleclouder".
  • Averted in Nodame Cantabile. When German director Stresemann uses the alias Milch Holstein, which sounds and is correct German. Chiaki, who speaks German, realises that Milch (Milk) is not a name Germans would use, especially in combination with Holstein, which is a cattle breed well-known in Germany.
  • Fay's language in an early episode of Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle. Apparently the director wanted it to be French-sounding gibberish, which it most definitely is. In the manga, it's written in Cyrillic.
  • In BECK, two of the main characters are American and speak English because it's easier for them. This becomes hilarious because they don't actually speak English correctly, none of the characters do, and the entire series suffers from a severe case of this.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has a strange mishmash of numerous European cultures, names, and words in the fictional country of Amestris in which it is set, resembling many northwestern European locales but not really fitting any. This may have been an attempt to make Amestris less of an obvious Fantasy Counterpart Culture for Imperial Germany, but the pieces just don't fit together right, resulting in awkward things like a man named "Basque Grand". The translation makes things even worse by virtue of some questionable romanizations. Edward Elric's home town is Rizenburu in the original Japanese. The most obvious transliteration would be "Riesenburg", which is valid German (although "giant city" is a most inappropriate name for a small rural dairy farming community), but the translators dropped the ball and called it Resembool, which is complete gibberish.
    • The second anime, at the very least, makes the romanization Resembool official. But there's no telling if that's official by the manga's Word of God (or Executive Meddling) and imposed on the English translation, or contrariwise the anime studio based their romanization on the English translation.
  • Invoked by the Ooji family's mochi shop in Tamako Market, which uses this trope as their theme. They changed the name from Ooji-ya to Ricecake Oh!Zee, staff wear western-style chef contumes, and labelling their mochi with romaji tags.
  • The characters in Claymore often have more or less vaguely European names. They can be perfectly reasonable, like "Priscilla" or "Beth", but then there is also a female Warrior called "Dietrich", a distinctly male German name, a random Red Shirt named Queenie, or one of the Abyssals called "Riful" (sometimes rendered "Rifle" in translations, which does not make for any better a name), whose companion's name is commonly rendered as "Dauf".
  • Queen's Blade has this in spades, despise the setting being in a Fantasy Western Medieval world, especially with the few characters with full names: We have the main heroine and her sister Leina and Elina Vance respectively (Spanish first name with a American English last name) and her elder sister Claudette (French), and from the sequel Rebellion, we have Annelotte Kreuz (French first name with German last name). The rest of the cast aren't better: We have Menace from the Egyptian-inspired Amara (a pun from the Pharaoh Menes), Airi, despite from not being from the Japan-inspired Hinomoto (From which Tomoe and Shizuka came from) or even being alive for that matter, and many others.
  • In the second season of Digimon, this happened in the dub. Yolei sounds Japanese to non-speakers but can't actually be written in Japanese characters.

     Comic Books 
  • Batman example: Ra's Al-Ghul's daughter, Talia, uses the "surname" Al-Ghul, despite the Arabic patronymic not working that way, but kind of makes sense as her name would thus be "Talia, of the Demon". The trouble is that she then uses the "Anglicized" variant, "Talia Head", which translates the wrong word. Maybe "Talia Demon" wasn't subtle enough.
  • The time-displaced DC character Manitou Raven is said to be from the native American tribe that eventually became the Apache. Manitou (meaning "spirit") is actually an Algonquin word. For Europeans and others who may not know where the Apaches and Algonquins live relative to each other, this is about the equivalent of assuming a Norwegian word or myth can equate to a Georgian one.
    • Manitou Raven's power word for becoming a giant is the same as the Super Friends character he's an Expy for, Apache Chief: "Inukchuk". There is a word that is very similar to this, "inukshuk", which in its language means "something that substitutes for a human", and is applied to giant stone columns and statues. So it would almost be viable as a symbolic magic word, in the vein of "make me as big as an inukshuk", if it weren't for the fact the language in question is Inuktitut, an Inuit language. To carry on the example above, this would be like taking that Norwegian-Georgian mythological mix and throwing in a dash of Swahili. Then there's the fact that Inuit did not build giant stone columns or statues: inukshuks are only a few feet high. "Becoming as big as an inukshuk" would cause the average human to shrink.
  • Hendy of the Blackhawk squadron is a nice example too, Hans is OK, Hendrickson is slightly un-Dutch, fitting a Dutch-American better than an unhyphenated Dutchman, "Hendricksen" is genuinely Dutch, but "Ritter" is the German word for "Knight", Dutch would be "Ridder", a title, not a name.
  • Marvel Comic's character Silver Samurai's real name is Kenuichio Harada. You won't find a single person in Japan called Kenuichio.
  • The X-Men's Cajun mutant, Gambit, likes to toss some French into his dialogue. He sometimes calls Rogue "chéri" (dear)... which would be nice if he weren't using the masculine form of the word. Luckily for our grammatically-challenged hero, there is no audible difference between "chéri" and "chérie".
    • He's not the only one that gets this, unfortunately: Kurt (aka Nightcrawler)'s Gratuitous German often gets misspelled so that he ends up calling girls "camisole" instead of the intended "sweetheart" or "darling" ("Liebchen"). Hudlin had him utter "Lieberstesh".
    • Blackwing (previously known as Beak) is a mutant who was said to be from Rotterdam, the Netherlands. His real name is Barnell Bohusk, which isn't much of a Dutch name at all.
    • Sunpyre has the highly implausible first name of Leyu, which isn't even remotely Japanese.
    • New Mutants' Roberto da Costa sometimes says sentences in Spanish... even though he came from Brazil, where the language is Portuguese.
  • Bushido from Teen Titans has the civilian identity Ryuku Orsono. Ryuku is the name of a chain of islands, not a given name, while Orsono is simply not a real Japanese surname by any stretch.
  • In-media example: In one Lucky Luke album, the Daltons disguise as Chinese. Jack decides to make his disguise by speaking "Chinese". Which means that he says "ching chang chong" all the time. A crowning moment of funny is when he is talking to a Chinese man who dislikes Rin-Tin-Can very much:
    Averell: Ching chang chong.
    Chinese man: While I agree, I would not use such words even about someone as horrible as Rin-Tin-Can.
  • In X-Men, Colossus' real name is Piotr Nikolayevitch Rasputin. Rasputin is a common surname in the area of Russia where he's from, which is fine. And the patronymic is correct, even better. Then his sister Illyana Rasputin is introduced. Slight oops; her last name ought to be Rasputina. The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe eventually gives her full name as "Illyana Nikolaivitch Rasputina (Anglicized to Rasputin)."
    • That isn't right — Nikolayevitch is a masculine middle name, translating as "son of Nikolai." Since Ilyana's a girl, her middle name should be "Nikolayevna" (daughter of Nikolai).
  • Similarly, Black Widow was first introduced as "Natasha Romanov." One writer finally got her name right, "Natalia Romanova." About half the writers still get it wrong, and it's still wrong in her film adaptations.
  • Fear Itself introduced Splitlip, a dwarf blacksmith whose speech is peppered with profanities, covered up by writing them in Norse runes. If you actually translate the runes, you will find out it's gibberish. Even the Asgardean version of the old norse language probably does not have words like "eabrkmthw".
  • When being interviewed about Mandrake The Magician, cartoonist Lee Falk reportedly explained that he named the African sidekick in the strip "Lothar" because that sounded like an African name to him. "Lothar" is actually a name from Germany, which, both geographically and culturally, is about as far from sub-Saharan Africa as one can get.
    • Although there were a number of German colonies there until 1918, which left a bit of a cultural imprint that e. g. in Namibia lasts until this day.
  • Michael Morbius is supposed to be Greek, but his name really isn't—probably because it wasn't decided he was Greek until 19 years after his introduction. On at least one occasion it's questioned why his first name is not Michalis (the Greek version of Michael), the answer simply being that "[his] mother preferred Michael". As for his last name: there is no 'b' sound in modern Greek (the letter β is pronounced as a fricative and often Romanized as "v") and -ius indicates a Latin origin. Moreover, his mother is referred to as Mrs. Morbius, while the feminine version of Greek surnames is generally the genitive of the woman's husband's name; so, for example, Mr. Yannatos and Mrs. Yannatou.
  • X-Men villain Apocalypse's birth name is said to be "En Sabah Nur", which is said to mean "The First One", hinting at the fact that he's one of the first documented mutants in history. Not only does "En Sabah Nur" not actually mean "The First One" (it roughly means "The Morning Light"), it's an Arabic phrase; Apocalypse was born in Egypt around 3,000 B.C., several millennia before the Arabic language existed.

    Film 
  • Charlie Chaplin
    • In the classic semi-silent comedy, Modern Times, Charlie is expected to sing a song, but loses his cuffs that have the lyrics written on them. Desperate, Charlie improvises a song using gibberish that sounds like a mix of French and Italian and pantomimes a story as he sings. That product of his quick thinking brings the house down. Chaplin did this to keep his Tramp character international and not limited to a specific language.
    • Chaplin's Hitler-like role in The Great Dictator delivers a foaming-at-the-mouth speech in Tomanian, one of the funniest fake foreign languages ever: a pastiche mixture of English, German, and Yiddish nonsense in which such words as "Sauerkraut" and "Katzenjammer" recur.
  • In Team America: World Police, anything that wasn't English was nonsensical gibberish, apart from random French that amounted to the same thing. The terrorists, for example, only use 3 words: 'Durkadurka', 'Muhammed', and 'Jihad!' Except for the cries of "NO ME GUSTAAAA!" at the Panama canal and a North Korean pilot shouting "KAMSAHAMNIDA!".
  • The James Bond film Live and Let Die is supposed to happen at a fictious island named San Monique. While a female saint Monica of Hippo does indeed exist, the name is pure gibberish. "San" is masculine adjective in Spanish language, while "Monique" is the French name of the saint. The correct name would have been either "Santa Monica" (Spanish) or "Sainte-Monique" (French).
  • Sacha Baron Cohen takes full advantage of this trope in his Borat sketches and movie; his spoken "Kazakh" is actually Hebrew, with some Polish sprinkled in. His written notes are also in Hebrew. His sidekick in the film, Azamat, is actually speaking real Armenian. Almost all the Cyrillic writing used in the film and marketing materials is gibberish created by typing English words into a keyboard set for Cyrillic letters. The film's title on the DVD case is in Faux Cyrillic.
  • Few of the Turkish characters in Midnight Express are actually Turkish. Most were local Maltese actors, since the movie was filmed in Malta. Most of the Turkish characters have pseudo-Arabic names, like Rifki and Hamidou. Real Turkish names sound different and are not limited to names of Arabic origin.
  • In The Court Jester, the English Hubert Hawkins (Danny Kaye) pretends to be a jester from Italy. When a guard asks him why he doesn't have an accent, he replies that he is fluent in many languages and demonstrates it by talking a lot of nonsensical gibberish that sounds very much like French, Italian, and German. (This skill was then known as "double-talk", and Kaye was a famous master of it.) The guard, who doesn't understand any of this, allows him to pass.
  • The Spanish movie Bienvenido Mr Marshall has a whole segment parodying The Western movies in faux-English except a few words like "Whiskey", "Hey!" "Howdoyoudo?"
  • In Top Secret!, most of the German spoken is completely irrelevant Yiddish phrases. For example, when supposedly ordering at a restaurant, the love interest is in fact telling the waiter, "Folg' mich a gang und gai in drerd" — "Do me a favor and drop dead." At one point, a German soldier does respond to an order in German, severely intoning "Ich liebe dich, mein Schatze" — "I love you, darling." More fake languages abound: the Swedish lines are English run backwards, and a priest reciting the last rites for a condemned man speaks mostly in stock Latin phrases, throwing in one sentence in Pig Latin ("ou're-yay oing-gay to get ied-fray in the air-chay").
    • There's also the bit where Nick is riding the train to East Germany, and is learning German from a language tape.
      Tape: Eine blitz - A pen. Eine blitz - A pen [...] Der ist Sauerkraut in my Lederhosen [...] I want a Schnauzer with my Winerschnitzel.
    • The names of the French Resistance fighters are all French loanwords:
    Du Quois (introducing the American to the men): This is Chevalier, Montage, Détente, Avant-Garde, and Déjà-Vu [...] Over there, Croissant, Soufflet, Escargot, and Chocolate Mousse.
  • In The Bourne Identity, the name on Bourne's Russian passport is written "Foma Kiniaev" in Latin letters and "Aschf Lshtshfum" (Ащьф Лштшфум) in Cyrillic letters. Apparently, the designers of the prop just typed the fake Russian name in the Russian keyboard layout without actually translating it. The name was corrected to proper Фома Киняев in The Bourne Supremacy. The Russian name itslef is quite correct, albeit rare.
  • Certainly true of the sort-of Indian cult in Help! Made funnier by the fact that the British actors make essentially no attempt to conceal their... Britishness.
  • In Fantastic Four, there's a cargo ship named "Головка пальца ноги", which means "Head of toe" (not "toe head") in Russian. The ship's owner must be a very original joker.
  • The Princess Diaries and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement play this trope straight over a cliff by inventing a European country, "Genovia," in which the queen (Julie Andrews) is English, the peasants speak either French or English with French, English, and American accents, and the princess's name is Princess Amelia Mignonette Thermopolis Renaldi.
    • The books do give some explanation — for some reason, it's a Francophone country which used to be part of Italy. And the Amelia and Thermopolis parts come from her (American) mother. And no accents, obviously.
      • Mignonette is a flower.
      • Queen Clarisse (Julie Andrews) could very well have been an English princess who married the Genovian King. The fact that she is styled "Dowager" would usually mean that she was a queen consort (married into the royal family) rather than queen regnant (ruling in her own right).
  • The execrable The Wild World of Batwoman (given a sound thrashing by the guys on MST3K) had the main characters' seance frequently interrupted by a Chinese spirit. The spirit's Chinese mainly consisted of saying "ching", "chang", and "chong" over and over again in random combination, causing Tom Servo to deadpan "You know, that may not be real Chinese." As Mike says, "To every Asian and every human being, we apologize for that last scene."
  • In Blazing Saddles, the Indian Chief (played by Mel Brooks) speaks Yiddish. This was done on purpose, as the movie is a parody.
  • Alien language examples abound in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. The Ewok speak Tagalog, a Philippine dialect. Huttese spoken by Greedo, Jabba, and others is bad Quechua, spoken in a variety of dialects. Lando's copilot Nien Nunb speaks the African language of Haya.
  • Apparently, those Westerns which cast Native Americans in speaking roles told them to speak their own language to add some authenticity, which would either be subtitled or translated by another character. The actors complied, but said whatever they felt like, often saying obscene or insulting things about the director, the other actors, etc. There are apocryphal stories of Native American audiences (in)explicably cracking up laughing during scenes that were meant to be dramatic.
  • Trey Parker's college film Cannibal The Musical is a film set in Colorado in 1883. At one point, they come across some "Nihonjin" Indians who are clearly Japanese people masquerading as Indians. "Nihonjin" means "Japanese person/people." At one point, the chief tries to assure the dubious main characters that they are, indeed, legitimate Indians by pointing out their teepees, one of which is made out of a Japanese flag.
  • Movies made during World War II that took place in the Pacific Theater usually had Koreans and Chinese as stand-ins for the Japanese. They were told to say phrases like 'I tie your shoe, you tie my shoe' faster than normal to sound like they were speaking Japanese. This was much more common during the war, when actual Japanese people were... unavailable. note 
  • In the Blade films, Esperanto is used for the street signs and posters in "foreign" cities to make the locale seem "generically European". Kris Kristofferson seriously studied speaking Esperanto for his brief scene buying a newspaper. In another scene, Hannibal King rests in a hospital watching Incubus, starring William Shatner, one of only two Esperanto feature films in existence.
  • The Libyan terrorists from Back to the Future speak some vaguely Arabic-sounding nonsense language.
    • In Back to the Future II, the older Marty's Japanese boss has a name equivalent to "Mr. General Motors." Also, the Japanese street signs in the town square were found hilarious by Japanese tourists during filming.
  • In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Willie Scott sings Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" in what is apparently some made-up version of Chinese.
    • This trope is averted for Mola Ram, who speaks flawless Hindi and whose lines make perfect sense in the context of the plot. On the other hand, he is played by a Bollywood actor who did his own translation.
    • However, whenever an extra speaks, it's Sinhalese. This is because the Indian government didn't allow them to shoot such an inaccurate portrayal of Indian culture in the country, so the production moved to Sri Lanka.
  • The "Japanese" villain in the 1940s Batman serial is named Tito Daka. Except the ti sound does not exist in Japanese phonetics (the closest is "ち/チ", usually romanized as chi).
    • "Chi" is Hepburn romanization, this syllable is rendered as "ti" in Nihon-shiki, Kunrei-shiki and JSL romanization systems. Still pronounced more like "chi" than "ti", though.
  • Skewered in Maverick, as, when the heroes are set upon by a band of Indians, Bret Maverick "translates" the chief's words, informing the rest of the party that they have trespassed on sacred ground, and the Indians' gods demand a blood sacrifice. As Maverick well knows (and the subtitles tell the audience), however, the chief just wants to know if Maverick has come for the money he owes him.
  • In one children's movie, the young English protagonists found themselves in New Zealand watching Maori 'savages' dancing around a fire whilst chanting "Tahi! Rua! Toru! Wha!" repeatedly. As any New Zealand schoolchild should be able to tell you, this actually is genuine te reo Maori (Maori language). It translates to "One! Two! Three! Four!".
  • Parodied in Scary Movie 4 with two characters having a subtitled conversation consisting of random Japanese words ("Karate judo sumo samurai!") and trademarks.
  • Austin Powers
    • In the third film, Goldmember is a Dutch character, but he only ever uses bad German.
    • There are also the twins Fook Mi and Fook Yu, whom Austin identifies as Japanese, but their names could more easily pass for Vietnamese or some other East or Southeast Asian language. The franchise is made of Rule of Funny.
    • This trope is toyed with when Austin and his father converse in their native dialect (thick British accents) in order to have some privacy while discussing an important matter in public. It starts off with some genuine slang and British idioms but, being Austin Powers, eventually even the subtitles themselves give up on making sense of what these two are actually saying to one another.
  • Million Dollar Baby: Mo chuisle is mispronounced as "muh kwushla" rather than the actual "muh khushleh". The phrase is shown spelled in a nonstandard way. Also, Clint Eastwood's character claims to be translating William Butler Yeats' poetry from Irish into English, but Yeats had only basic Irish and never wrote any Irish poetry.
  • The Italian 1970 western Compañeros had a main character that was supposed to be Swedish and was named "Yodlaf Peterson". Yodlaf is total gibberish and does not even remotely sound like any Swedish or Scandinavian names (the closest real name probably being "Jonas", or "Olaf") and while Petersson and Pettersson are common surnames in Sweden, Swedish surnames ending with -son almost always have two S's (as in "Peter's Son" contrived to Petersson). The surname would probably be excusable since occasionally people prefer to have their surnames written with only one S for aesthetic reasons, but the film does this more than once, also introducing an (fictional) brand of Swedish Safes named Svenson. The film also contains some Swedish speech, which was done surprisingly well - while badly pronounced, all the lines where grammatically correct.
  • In The Terminal, Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) is from Krakhozia, a made-up Warsaw Pact country . He speaks passable Bulgarian, adequate to the situation. The Ruritania he comes from is a minor Genius Bonus : several Slavic languages have similar sounding words for "collapse", usualy written as some variation of "krach" (spelled vaguely like "krakh"). "Collapsia" would be a pretty apt name for the protagonist's home country, given the movie it is the collapse of communism that strands the protagonist.
  • Zulu: According to legend, the Zulu messenger was instructed to simply 'say something' in his native language as he collapsed at King Cetewayo's feet. This was a mistake, as what he chose to say was 'kiss my behind' or words to that effect. The Zulu actor playing the king managed to keep a straight face. But audiences of their compatriots didn't.
  • In Charlie's Angels, there's a scene where the angels speak Finnish to each other. They discuss what a bad idea it would be to sleep with a client, but this is not what it says in the subtitles. I'm guessing the scene was rewritten after it was shot. Things get increasingly weird if you watch the movie with Finnish subtitles, which also don't match what's said.
  • Kal Penn has said that when filming the scene where Taj loses his virginity in Van Wilder, the filmmakers told him to "say something in Hindoo [sic] — something religious." Instead, he said in Gujurati: "There's a white bitch under me."
  • The Producers: While Uma Thurman certainly tries to speak Swedish, it fails to the point of her lines having to be subtitled on Swedish releases. The whole thing is a bit odd since they managed to get some stuff right and some stuff plain odd. Like her "catchphrase", "God dag min vännen", which translates into "hello my the friend". Probably it's a mistake for "vänner", which would make it "hello my friends." But her accent is no way Swedish, just generically North European, and apart from baby grammar, she indicates foreignness by referring to herself in the third person. Why this should sound "foreign" is anyone's guess, since pronouns are the first thing one learns.
  • In The Incredible Hulk, the thuggish Brazilian who harasses Bruce Banner in the early scenes speaks Portuguese with a horrible, horrible foreign accent. It's grammatically correct (or correctly incorrect for the setting), though.
    • Really, every Brazilian not played by a Brazilian actor (there are quite a few) speaks in a barely understandable accent. Bruce Banner's emergency Portuguese actually sounded better than most of them.
  • In Stripes, the Soviet soldiers of Czechoslovakia all speak with vaguely Russian-sounding grunts.
  • A Lzherusskie flavoured example would be "general Radek", a minor antagonist from the movie Air Force One. Radek sounds like an awfully Russian name, da? Well... nyet! "Radek" is not a Russian name — in fact, it's not even a (usual) surname in any Slavic language. It's a given name, specifically a typical Czech diminutive of the male name Radoslav (as a certain Dr. Radek Zelenka will tell you). On the other hand, there was an actual person named Karl Radek, who was a genuine Communist at the time of Red October. On the other hand, it was a self-selected name; he was born Karol Sobelsohn.
    • Had Radek actually spoken a word in the film, he would've sounded more German than Russian, given that he was played by Jürgen Prochnow, although the actor's English is pretty good.
  • In Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Agent Simmons' "German" is simply a string of meaningless consonants and vowel sounds that sounds closer to Geonosian than German. So bad it was probably intentional. If not...
    Rifftrax: The Swedish chef did a better job of faking a foreign language.
  • Victor Spinetti had the possibly unique ability to do this with English in English language films. In Oh! What a Lovely War and Magical Mystery Tour, he plays drill sergeants who bellow incomprehensible gibberish at high speed (although in Magical Mystery Tour, the phrase "And get your bloody hair cut!" is very audible). Spinetti was also able to do this with Italian.
  • In Muppet Treasure Island, during the "Cabin Fever" number, a group of German sailors sings a bit that goes "Ach du lieber, Volkswagen car; Sauerbraten wienerschnitzel und wunderbar!", a word salad of German words well known to Anglophones.
  • You Don't Mess with the Zohan. The hero is called "Zohan Dvir". While "Dvir" is a real Israeli surname, "Zohan" is... well, not. The closest first name to Zohan Hebrew has is "Zohar".
  • In King Ralph, John Goodman's titular character is introduced to King Gustav and Princess Anna of Finland. Neither name is Finnish in origin, though Anna is still fairly common, and there is a Swedish-speaking minority in Finland. The fact that Finland has no royalty was an intentional break from reality.
  • In Joss Whedon's Firefly and movie Serenity, the major languages are English and Chinese, and do indeed have gratuitous Chinese that is more or less grammatically correct, though not pronounced correctly (and completely ignoring the way profanity works in Chinese). However, Japanese katakana is used instead of Chinese characters because Whedon thought it looked cool.
  • Parts of Eli Roth's horror movie Hostel take place in Amsterdam, capital of The Netherlands. But the scenery doesn't look like Amsterdam at all and the people talk German instead of Dutch. In the German translation, it is supposed to be somewhere in eastern Europe. Except for the businessman, who is supposed to be Dutch. He speaks Dutch in the film, even though the actor, Jan Vlasák, is Czech and didn't even speak a word of English before getting the role. He learned all of his lines, both English and Dutch, by writing them down phonetically and just cram it in...and it was awesome.
  • Inglourious Basterds played with in-universe when the Basterds try to pass themselves off as Italians in spite of speaking only a few words of Italian and having atrocious accents. It turns out that at least one Nazi has enough of a passing familiarity to notice - and, tragically, this recognition leads directly to the death of Bridget von Hammersmark.
  • Averted by the filmmakers as best as they could in The Mummy Trilogy, where they had an official Egyptologist professor coaching actors on how to pronounce their lines in Ancient Egyptian — a reconstruction of it, anyway. This video, on the other hand, reveals that Ardeth Bay may have said the same Arabic line on three separate occasions to mean three different things.
  • Both an in-universe and media example from The 40-Year-Old Virgin: Paula, the store manager, while in a conversation with Andy, reminisces about the time when she lost her virginity to a Hispanic boy. She remembers he used to sing her a song, which is in entirely correct Spanish, but the lyrics are nowhere as romantic as she actually thinks they are. It translates to: "When I get to my room, I can't find anything. Where are you going in such a rush? To the soccer game." She thought it was a beautiful lullaby, while Andy just didn't get it.
  • The bad guys in Die Hard speak in pseudogerman gibberish.
    • This was fixed in the re-release, where the bad guys' lines were overdubbed with German native speakers – except Alan Rickman's character, who now sounds terribly out of place.
  • In The Dark Knight, all of the Asian characters in Hong Kong speak flawless Chinese... in the wrong dialect. The standard dialect used in Hong Kong is Cantonese, and the only one to speak Cantonese in the film is the random guy at the front desk.
  • An intentional (as in "it actually fulfills a specific purpose") example is the German Language movie Almanya - Willkommen in Deutschland. It is the story of a Turkish family (speaking German, but only due to Translation Convention) who emigrate to Germany, where they initially have no clue what the natives are saying. In order to convey this, all Germans only speak vaguely German sounding gibberish instead of actual German. (To summarize: The audience's own language is supposed to sound foreign.)
  • ''Rescue Dawn':, the actors who are supposed to portray Vietcong fighters are actually from Thailand and as a result, they all speak Lao and Vietnamese in the wrong accent.
  • In the Astérix animated movie Asterix Conquers America, the Native Americans are saying a random mix of North American place names that were taken from words in the languages of the Native American tribes that lived in those regions. Leading the medicine man to say such things as "Minnesota Manitoba. MIAMI!"
  • In Congo, Tim Curry plays an ex-Romanian philanthroper named Herkemer Homolka. However, Herkemer Homolka is so not a Romanian name. Homolka is actually a Czech surname.
  • Invoked by Jackie Chan's character Passportu in Around the World in Eighty Days, who pretends to speak French. Most of what he ends up saying is mere gibberish.
  • Whatever the translator is using for Rocky's speech from the ring at the end of Rocky IV, it sure doesn't sound like Russian.
  • Limitless has a scene where Bradley Cooper is speaking Chinese to a waiter at a Chinese restaurant. There aren't any subtitles, but ask any Chinese person what he said and they'll tell you that it's incomprehensible.
  • Averted in Titanic. The Swedish emigrants speak perfectly correct Swedish, including situationally appropriate levels of formality. The actors' accents are hit-or-miss so it's hard to understand more than singular words for a native speaker, but once you get through that, it's apparent that research was done.
  • In one scene of Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Robin Hood is saying goodbye to Maid Marian in different languages. All of them are correct besides the final one, "Ting tao tay!", which sounds like Chinese but means nothing. Rule of Funny applies, though, as the joke is about how ridiculous Robin sounds saying it. "Zài jiàn" is less amusing.
  • Averted in Blade Runner: Edward James Olmos' character Gaff speaks in a mixture of Spanish, French, Chinese, German, Hungarian, and Japanese. Olmos created a small dictionary of words for the so-called "City Speak".
  • In the film Fierce People, the actor portraying the Shaman in Finn's dream was actually speaking Filipino.
  • Averted in the original Red Dawn (1984). The Russians generally speak Russian among themselves, and the Cuban/Central Americans speak Spanish. At one point, Colonel Bella switches effortlessly from Spanish to Russian when speaking to both types of troops.
  • In-universe example in Despicable Me: After carefully checking that Miss Hattie doesn't know Spanish, Gru tells her in a romantic tone "You have a face como un burro." ("You have a face like a (male) donkey.")
  • In the Tagalog-language film Film/Super B, the titular superheroine, played by Rufa Mae Quinto, has a mysterious ring with an inscription on it in an unknown ancient language, which she recites to transform from her civilian identity to her heroic identity. That inscription is "I wanna be, I wanna be - Super B!", in English.
  • In The Gods Must Be Crazy, the filmmakers allowed the bushman actor N!xau make up all of his own lines because the audience is never expected to understand him. The narrator always explains what his character is saying instead. Because N!xau was disgruntled by the filmmaking process, the lines he says are often critical of the scene or the film as a whole. For example, when his character triumphantly returns to his village, he starts chastizing the tribe for not rushing up to embrace him, as a real tribe would do.
  • Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, one character sports a tattoo. It is neither the language nor the meaning that he claims it to be when asked about it.
  • Toto in The Palm Beach Story speaks an indistinguishable (presumably European) language.

    Literature 
  • Subverted in the Russian translation of Dune. The original novel contains a Fremen funerary hymn, which is actually a real-world Serbian song. The translator mistook it for garbled Russian, and, in the preface, he chastised Frank Herbert for "picking up the most pleasant-sounding words out of a Russian dictionary"; to convey the purported As Long as It Sounds Foreign effect, he translated the song into (grammatically-correct) Hindustani.
  • Nanny Ogg of the Discworld novels usually manages to make herself understood no matter where she goes, although her linguistic approach is described as "gabbling away in her own personal Esperanto". "Excuse me, young homme! Trois beers avec us, silver plate", or 'Mein herr! Mucho vino avec zei grassy ass', for instance.
    • A straight example in The Colour of Magic, where Rincewind's identity in our world is a Swedish scientist named "Dr. Rjinswand", which is nothing like a Swedish name. (In the Swedish translation, his nationality is changed to Dutch; though, confusingly, they left in the bit about his language sounding "Hublandish", the Discworld's equivalent of "northern".) Twoflower becomes a German tourist with the last name "Zweiblumen", which is correct, but translates to "Twoflowers" (a straight translation of his name would be "Zweiblume").
      • In the Dutch version, he is named Tweebloesem (Twoblossom); the literal translation of Twoflower would be 'Tweebloem'.
      • Possibly the "Rjinswand" discrepancy is justified, as he's also said to have been raised in New Jersey. Ethnic naming conventions are so intermingled in the United States, he could've had a Dutch-American dad and a Swedish immigrant mom, who happened to give birth to him while visiting her family.
      • In any case, it's an instance of "as long as it looks foreign". Real Dutch has ij as a frequent digraph, not ji.
  • In Tales of MU, the Yokai Girls from Japan-like "Yokan" fall into this category, with names like "Maliko" that almost sound Japanese but not quite. However, a recently revealed bit of plot indicates that all Yokano names are originally Japanese-derived, but that there is a story-related reason why all 4 of the characters introduced from that region have "jarringly" un-Japanese nicknames.
  • Harry Dresden, of The Dresden Files, uses mostly fake and/or ungrammatical Latin for magic words. This is explained as a sort of emotional boundary from the spells, and it's noted that, when working spells, the important bit is not so much the words themselves, but rather that the words sound right to the individual using the spell. (It's also established in one of the novels that Harry's grasp of actual Latin, used instead of English in meetings of the White Council of wizards, is terrible. As he repeatedly says, "Damn correspondence course.")
    • In another book, he mentions that a female wizard he grows up with prefers using pseudo-Egyptian in her spells.
    • It's likely that this is intended as a joke in a very Genre Savvy series, since the author clearly knows proper Latin.
    • It isn't exactly a joke; the words themselves don't matter to the spell itself, but they are the way a wizard's mind relates itself to magic. Thus, every wizard uses some kind of fake, foreign-sounding nonsense-words for spells, in order to avoid shooting magic around by accident when simply speaking normally. In other words, if Harry's spells were in proper Latin, he'd run the risk of triggering them while speaking Latin to other wizards. (That is, assuming his real Latin wasn't so horrific.)
    • In Dead Beat, there was a book titled Die Lied der Erlking. Presumably Jim got a lot of mail correcting him, because when Harry runs into the guy who wrote it, he mocks him for his terrible grammar.
  • In Daniel Pinkwater's Alan Mendelsohn, Boy from Mars, Samuel Klugarsh responds to the protagonists' skepticism by stating that he knows way more than they do: "Waka waka. Needle noddle noo. Hoop waka dup dup. Baklava. That's Turkish." Actually, that's one Turkish word ("baklava") among a whole lot of nonsense.
  • The French policeman in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code is named Bezu Fache. While Fache is a real French name, the first name Bezu comes out to most French people as a. unheard of — there is not one Bezu X in the Paris phonebook, and b. hilarious, as the name evokes André Bézu, a "comic" singer from the eighties, mostly known for the very corny tune La Queuleuleu. Making things worse, Bézu — the singer — usually donned a caricatural French attire complete with a beret and a blue, red, and white bowtie, perhaps making Dan Brown's choice of a name an elaborate joke on cliches about France — or not.
    • Aringarosa is not a Spanish name either. It means Pinkherring in Italian.
    • Let us quietly draw a veil over any foreign-language dialogue in Dan Brown's books, which is almost invariably wrong. For example, one character asks another "Dov'è la plata?", which is supposed to mean "Where is the dough [money]?" in Italian. "Plata" is not even Italian — it is Latin-American Spanish.
  • In The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter is eventually given a dead little sister named Mischa, which is ordinarily a diminutive form of a male name Mikhail (Michael). (However, as the website hannotations.com explains, this may be deliberate due to various symbolic elements in the name.) This is one of the many reasons why among fans of The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal is often excluded from canon.
    • However, "Mischa" (or "Misha") has migrated over to being largely a female name in the US, especially as a nickname for a girl named "Michelle".
  • In H.P. Lovecraft's fiction, the Necronomicon was penned by an Arab named Abdul Alhazred, a fictitious name Lovecraft came up with in his childhood. The name "Alhazred" doesn't exist in Arabic and couldn't exist, given that "Abdul" ends with a suffix synonymous with the prefix of "Alhazred", so if the name were real, then it would be something like "abd-el-Hazred".
    • It is quite common however, for Arabic names to be mangled as they get sifted through European/American sources.
      • In Arabic, "'abd" ("عبد") means "servant". "El" is "the" or "of the", depending on context, and "Hazred", obviously, looks just like the English word "hazard", which means "danger". So, "servant of the danger"... amazing Fridge Brilliance on Lovecraft's part, if intentional, and spooky if not.
      • Not that surprising since "Alhazred" was coined after "Hazzard", Lovecraft mother's maiden name. (Oh, and by the way, the english word "hazard" come from the arabic "az-zar": "dice game".)
  • In Twilight, the name of the Quileute chief in the legend about "the cold ones" is Kahela. Kahela was the name of a semi-legendary Hawaiian chief.
    • Twilight fails foreign languages in general throughout the series. There are scenes that feature characters speaking, say, Spanish or Portuguese (which they are supposedly fluent in) that feature text that was clearly written in English and then run through an online translator.
  • In Lazarillo de Tormes, the seller of indulgences speaks in faux-Latin around people who won't know better, in order to win their trust.
  • Stephen King's novel, Thinner, contains passages supposedly in the Romani language. In fact, they're in Swedish, and mostly gibberish.
    • On the other hand, Song Of Susannah features a supposedly Swedish character with the distinctly Dutch-sounding name Mathiessen van Wyck.
      • Best of all is King's little-known short story "The Crate", where the evil crate is found on a remote island in the mid-Atlantic. The name of the island is... Paella.
      • His Italian (or Italian-American) mafia characters speak a language which is not Scillian dialect and not much like Italian. It does have a bit of Spanish in it, though.
  • In the short story "Seventh Grade" by Gary Soto, a boy is in his first French class on the first day of school and tries to impress the girl he likes by pretending he already knows some French. The teacher tries to start a conversation with him, and he mumbles, "La me vava me con le grandma" and "Frenchie oh wewe gee in September." The teacher is nice enough not to rat him out, and the girl is fooled.
  • In Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens, a character shouts confusedly in a number of languages. While "Sprechen Sie Deutsch" and "Parlez-vous Francais" are German and French for "Do you speak German/French?", the following "Wo bu hui shuo zhongwen" is Mandarin Chinese for "I can't speak Chinese". The fact that it's followed by a question mark makes it all the funnier.
  • In the parody travel guide Molvania, travellers are advised to add random j's and z's to words if they get stuck. For example, the Molvanian for 'hotel' is 'hotjl'.
  • Journey to the Center of the Earth features an Icelandic alchemist named Arne Saknussemm. Evidently, Verne had heard of Nordic -sson names...
  • In Spike Milligan's first novel, Puckoon, the Irish parish priest muses that his parishioners are all ignorant bumpkins. He recalls once giving a sermon in Latin, at the end of which everyone said "Amen". He'd actually just told a dirty story.
  • R. J. Rummel ran into this a lot regarding his non-historical, foreign characters in his Never Again series. Chinese and Muslim characters got the most of this (and perhaps coincidentally, they were the villains of the second and third books.) The Mole of the second book (who is also the Evil Counterpart of the female lead) is a Chinese assassin named Khoo Jy-ying, which is gibberish. She has Vietnamese ancestry as well, but that doesn't justify the name as it is still gibberish in that language also.
  • Robert Ludlum is a faithful practitioner of this with Russian names like Nikolai Yurievich Yurievich. The English equivalent of this would be someone named Peterson Peterson. Russian middle names are patronymic, derived from the father's name, and Russian family names rarely end in -vich, unless the person is of Polish heritage.
  • The Japanese-sounding name "Moto" has been adopted by the fictional character Mr. Moto and by Filipino-Japanese actress Iwa Moto, though "Moto" is not a Japanese name. Iwa Moto's real name is Eileen Iwamoto.
  • In the Gemma Doyle Trilogy, French was clearly provided courtesy of a translation website. The (apparently) French Mademoiselle La Farge asks the titular character "Comment vous appelez-vous?" instead of just saying "Comment t'appelle-tu?" For those who don't speak French, "vous" is used when addressing strangers, elders who are not your family, and "tu" is used with acquaintances, and those of your own age and below. Google Translate always use "vous" whatever the situation.
  • Some of the German names in Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow sound quite odd to a native speaker. Gnahb?
  • The Railway Series: The Welsh-sounding name of Ffarquhar (The town where Thomas' branch line terminates) is in fact derived from "Far-away quarry".
  • In Speed Racer Royalton's German is off when quoting a phrase from his childhood "When I was a child, we used to say: Pänkuchen sind Liebchen! —— Pancakes are love."
  • The Mortal Instruments: Raphael, being Mexican, tends to interject phrases in Spanish when he speaks. In City of Ashes, he tells Clary that Simon "no es muerto," which is incorrect; it should be "no está muerto."

     Live Action TV  
  • The A-Team: In the Season 5 Episode The Crystal Skull, the Aboriginal natives pay homage to Murdock with chanting. While it's supposed to be in a native language, the words are clearly, Who wrote this? Who wrote this?
  • In the season six finale of 30 Rock, we see Hasidic Jews speaking in their native tounge (presumably Yiddish) and complaining about the sale of pork hot dogs in a Jewish area. The actual language that they're speaking is surprisingly decent Hebrew. It's also possible that the writers thought Hasidic Jews from New York speak Hebrew (they generally do not).
  • This sketch on Saturday Night Live. It's all complete gibberish except for Anna Faris's line "ninhonjin", which is very close to the actual Japanese word for a Japanese person, nihonjin.
  • In Bones, season 5, episode 5, the team finds an engraving in hanzi (Chinese characters) that Angela deduces comes from a pair of chopsticks. Angela then comments that she found out they're Chinese and claims that she could only find the meaning of one out of the two characters. "beauty", and that it related to... hair. Except the second character was clearly the character for "person". Not only that, said second character is written in two strokes, whereas the first one was closer to seven - which means she would have probably found out what the SECOND character meant much more easily than what the FIRST one meant.
    • When Hodges asks her what those two characters mean, since she's half Chinese, she replies something along the lines of "Why does white man think I speak Chinese?"
  • The Special Act of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon has Ami speaking in some kind of pseudo-English. Previous episodes had real English when required, however.
  • The classic example is Latka Gravas, played by Andy Kaufman in Taxi. Carol Kane has said in interviews that, when she was hired to play Latka's girlfriend Simka, Andy had to teach her how to "speak" his gibberish language so that the two actors could make it appear that both characters were speaking the same language.
    • And he did it by taking her to dinner and conversing entirely in his "language", refusing to speak or "understand" English, and Kane was not allowed to speak in English, either.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus
    • In the killer joke sketch, a joke so funny anyone who hears it dies laughing is rendered in mock German as "Wenn ist das Nunstück git und Slotermeyer? Ja, ober der beierhund und flipperwald gersput", which is nonsense, but several of the words are actually German. Translated, the joke is: "If is the nun piece git and slotermeyer? Yes, sputted over the meadow-dog and flipper-forest". It loses something in the translation.
    • In the Cycling Tour episode, where we get a Soviet General saying things like this: "Shi musks di seensand dravenka oblomov Engleska Solzhenitzhin." One of the Pythons seems to have remembered his Goncharov.
    • Also, the apparently offensive Hungarian phrase mistranslating "This will cost you six shillings" in the phrasebook sketch is "Yandelvayasna grldenwi stravenka," which doesn't even sound like Hungarian.
    • The French scientists in the French Lecture on Sheep-Aircraft sketch intersperse real French with French-sounding mumbling and lots of sheep noises, and again, minus sheep noises, at the end of The Ministry of Silly Walks ("La Marche Futile?!").
  • In an episode of Friends, Phoebe dates a prince from an unidentified (although presumably European) nation. Throughout the episode, the prince and his translator converse in total nonsense.
    • Played with in another episode when Phoebe tries to teach Joey French. While Phoebe can and does speak French (Lisa Kudrow's husband is French, which is probably where the plot idea started), Joey speaks gibberish like "Je de plee bloom"; he can't tell the difference between the gibberish and real French. Ironically, Matt LeBlanc is himself a fluent French speaker (the clue is in the name).
  • Ranjit, a recurring character on How I Met Your Mother, is supposed to be from Bangladesh, and should therefore speak either Bengali or at worst Hindi. however since the actor is of Iranian origin, the rant he performs in the episode Rabbit or Duck is in Persian
    • In another episode, Robin convinces Lily to get Thai food, by naming various Thai dishes before slipping into this.
    Lily: "You're justing saying random syllables and it still sounds delicious!"
    • In "Cupcake" Barney and his tailor exchange a few words at which point Marshal is surprised that Barney speaks Ukrainian. They were actually speaking Russian.
  • The Swedish Chef of The Muppet Show and other Muppet-based features speaks gibberish (peppered with the occasional English word to let the audience in on what he's doing) in an atrocious faux-Swedish 'accent' that mirrors vocal inflection in Swedish but little else. The crowning example is his Catch Phrase, "bork bork bork", which means absolutely nothing in either language. (Jim Henson got himself in the right frame of mind for the Chef's accent by listening to Berlitz tapes in Swedish.)
    • In one episode, Jean Stapleton (of All in the Family) and the Chef conversed fluently in what she explicitly identified as "jerky Swedish." The abashed Swedish Chef reverts to his "native tongue," at which point Stapleton throws her hands up and admits she doesn't speak 'jerky Japanese.'
    • In one episode of the show, a gypsy lady puts a curse on the show, the final stage of which turns everybody Swedish. Before long, the whole cast is talking like the Chef.
    • Whatever it is the Swedish Chef speaks, Björn Borg clearly does too. Fluently.
    • One story Brian Henson tells in a DVD special feature is about a Swedish business man who was in the UK for work and saw the show, and wrote a letter informing the writers that the Swedish Chef was not actually speaking Swedish. The writers responded with a letter thanking him for the information and saying that they had considered firing the Swedish Chef, but he had a family to support and they decided to show mercy.
      • In one sketch, Danny Kaye (see above) played the Chef's uncle.
    • The Muppet Show also featured occasional appearances by the Flying Zucchini Brothers, an acrobat troupe that spoke Italian-sounding gibberish with the occasional broken English inserted. ("Ay, Fettucini alfredo! Light-a da booma-booma!")
  • Lt. Hikaru Sulu from Star Trek: The Original Series combines a Japanese given name with a completely made-up surname that kind of sounds Japanese (the fact that it's got an L in it notwithstanding).
    • The Sulu Strait is in the Philippine archipelago. The Japanese dub of the original series considered Sulu to be Filipino.
    • Gene Roddenberry mentioned it being an affectionate rendering of Solow, as in Herb Solow, the executive who helped get Star Trek off the ground, "without the W."
    • The StarTrek wiki says that the name "Sulu" comes from the Sulu Sea; a making-of special said the same, elaborating that Sulu was chosen because of the sea's proximity to many Asian regions, and only after they had finalized the name did the production team find out that it wasn't a real name.
    • On the other hand, in the Japanese dubbing of Star Trek, Sulu was renamed Kato, a common Japanese surname.
      • And then they cast a Korean-American actor to play him for the film.
    • Although Klingon is a language unto itself, writers of Deep Space Nine or Star Trek: Voyager often didn't have the time or inclination to work out the proper Klingon translation, simply looking up the words and using them in a grammatically incorrect manner.
      Marc Okrand put a lot of effort into creating a coherent language given the preexisting words, yet the TV show still mangles the language, forcing retcon after retcon and Holy Wars between sects of Klingon language speakers.
  • Parodied in Angel. A Mexican wrestler, who goes by the name of Numero Cinco, explains that he got that name from an earlier time in his life, when he and his brothers called themselves "Los Hermanos Numeros." Angel's reaction to this name: "The Number Brothers? Huh?"
    • Another episode has Angel talking to two Koreans. One of them speaks Korean fluently, but the other has lines that are technically correct but very simplistic and childish. When Angel speaks to them, his lines are complete nonsense that sort of sounds like an Asian language.
  • Averted in many series broadcast by Australia's SBS like Pizza, thanks to the massive translation facilities that network has. It's funny knowing that Pizza puts more effort into its foreign dialogue than its (tongue-in-cheek low quality) special effects.
  • An odd version appeared on Emergency! from time to time. Firefighter Marco Lopez (played by Marco Lopez) would sometimes be called upon to translate for a Spanish-speaking victim or witness. However, for some inexplicable reason, some of these conversations consisted of nothing but meaningless babbling between Lopez and the extra, even if the extra obviously could speak Spanish.
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?
    • The American version featured a game called "Foreign Film Dub", in which the language was specified by the audience. Two of the actors would pretend to be in a movie made in a language other than English (French, Japanese, etc.), speaking nonsense words meant to sound like that language, while the other two actors would improvise humorous English "translations" of their gibberish. On at least one occasion the language was Klingon. On another occasion, the language was Canadian.
    • There was also a Bilingual Bonus playing where the foreign language was Spanish and Jeff Davis spoke real (if somewhat silly) Spanish.
    • They would often use well-known words and intentionally mistranslate them.
    • Subverted when Stephen Colbert was actually speaking German.
    • Comedian Sid Caesar has gotten much mileage out of this technique. He shows it off on his guest appearance.
  • Have I Got News for You: On this topical news quiz Paul Merton felt that the trick to speaking French was 'all in the shoulders', probably referring to a French stereotype of shrugging while speaking.
  • Mash
    • Whenever Korean was meant to be spoken, Japanese was used instead. Apparently it was easier to find actors who knew Japanese than Korean. Not that surprising, considering that three of the most often recurring characters were played by Noriyuki "Pat" Morita (Japanese-American), Mako (Japanese) and Rosalind Chao (Chinese-American).
    • The character of Nurse Kellye was self-described in one episode as "part Hawaiian and part Chinese," but in a later episode she mocks Charles (who is wearing a kimono) in Japanese. However, given that before WWII, there were many Japanese immigrants in Hawaii, it's conceivable that she might have picked up a Japanese insult or two...
  • Late Night with Conan O'Brien: Gustavo, a smug European elitist who makes occasional appearances, is a shining example of this trope ("They're not shoes! They're flexifussen!"). This is played with by having him continuously refuse to name which country he's from.
  • Subverted in My Name Is Earl, where Catalina occasionally speaks in Spanish, implying to the non-Spanish-speaking characters that she is insulting them. She is actually saying things like "Thank you to our Spanish speaking audience, as I understand how difficult it is to learn a foreign language like English, and we appreciate your loyalty to our show".
  • The The X-Files clearly tried with the episode "Død Kalm". The Norwegian spoken is atrocious when it comes to pronunciation, and filled with grammatical errors and archaic words, but the general meaning can be identified with patience. For the title, however, they failed twice, first by attempting to translate an idiom directly, and then failing to do that by using a word that doesn't actually exist.
    • They rendered "Go to Hell!" as "Walk to Hell!", and used painfully stilted school-Oslo Norwegian... in the far North. Giving it much the same effect as seeing two "Texans" converse in broken British English. The fact that they placed the mysterious evil spot in the middle of Norway's most heavily trafficked tourist sea lane, though...
    • A few seasons later, this appears again. In season 6's "Triangle," every character is playing a different role than usual in Mulder's WWI fever dream. Skinner pops up as a Nazi, and as a result, speaks fluent German. In the DVD extras, Mitch Pileggi, who played Skinner and speaks German, said that at one point, he was reading his lines and a few of them didn't make any sense in the context of the scene. He brought it up to Chris Carter, who agreed that it didn't make sense and for him just to make up something that fit in that moment.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • In the episode "Selfless", there is a sequence that takes place in Viking-age Scandinavia somewhere, with the extras speaking gibberish and the two main characters speaking almost completely incomprehensible Swedish. According to the behind the scenes extras on the DVD they had been told that their dialogue would be dubbed over by native Swedes, but the actors went and actually learned their lines in Swedish, which was used for the final episode since they had gone to so much effort. Unfortunately, despite learning the words, their pronunciation and rhythm is terrible, so only parts can be understood by a native Swede.
    • The episode "Passion" also gives the pseudo Latin phrase "Formatia trans sicere educatorum" as the school motto. Most other samples of Latin in the series are accurate.
    • And yet one episode has a spell in real Sumerian. Sumerian! A 3-millennia-dead linguistic isolate! Linguists HAVE managed to "decipher" Sumerian vocabulary by way of Sumerian-Akkadian tablet.
      • If the above sounds like gibberish to you: There is no known language related to Sumerian, either spoken at the same time, or descending from it; which obviously makes its study difficult. Linguists have figured out its vocabulary and grammar from translations, but no one has too much of a clue about how it was actually pronounced.
    • Then there's the episode where we get to see what is supposedly the testimony of the first person to encounter Hansel and Gretel (it makes sense in context). The German in it is... let's say, erratic.
    ich, eine Geistlicher von nahe die Schwarz Wälder, tat finden das körper von das kinder meine selbst. eine wurde von die junge, die anderen von und mädchen. darauf meine eigene erforschen ich lernte... ("I, a male female priest from vicinity them Black Forests, made to find the one bodies of the childs myselves. One became from the girlboy, the others from and girl. Thereupon my own to perform research I learned...")
  • The Flight of the Conchords play a song "Foux Du Fafa" that consist only of beginner French phrases in the "Girlfriends" episode.
  • The Kids in the Hall had a game show called Feelyat! presented entirely in ludicrous fake Dutch, complete with Der Nederlander Footchoir (a bunch of people hiding behind a curtain except for their hands, which were dressed with socks and wooden shoes, clomping rhythmically).
  • CSI: Crime Scene Investigation is guilty of that in all incarnations. All too often, the Chinese people spoke Korean, the Japanese Korean, and when finally Korean people came up they spoke Chinese!
  • Averted, though, in the Season 1 episode of The Shield called "Carnivores" which featured Korean-American actors actually speaking Korean.
  • Subverted in the episode "Suckers". The victim of an apparent art theft identifies himself as a Japanese businessman named Yuri Yamamoto. He is eventually revealed as a Con Man.
  • There is a rare English Language occurence of this in the CSI: Miami episode "Dishonour". A woman's father, who is a Hindu, says that she has 'dishonoured the sacrament', which, if you know Catholicism, is wrong, seeing as a sacrament is a Catholic ritual. That's the most common usage, but the word itself can be used more generically for sacred rituals of any sort. Even the Christian usage isn't limited to Catholicism, for that matter.
  • Meanwhile CSI NY features some odd choices for character names from time to time, like that one girl named Risa Calaveras ("Laugh Skulls" in Spanish).
    • The Egyptian suspects in 'Seth and Apep'. An Egyptian viewer posted on another site that their names weren't Egyptian at all, but another Arabic-speaking area. Both are in fact Ancient Egyptian names for evil gods.
  • The Fast Show's "Channel 9" sketch, inspired by baffling Central European televison, has monologues like "Et-eth-etth-thethet-Chris Waddle." (A British footballer, chosen for no good reason.) It started out as a news broadcast, and expanded into adverts, dramas and a nativity play ("SPROG!").
    • The lottery skit - where the "random" numbers were clearly visible before being light up, and the sequence went something like: 9 - Tosis, 20 - Myxama, 29 - Myxama-Tosis.
    • "Scorchio!" Brrrr.
    • Boutros-Boutros-Ghali!
  • A visual example of this appears on Korean television on variety programs when a foreign person is speaking in their native language and the network doesn't think the words are important enough to translate. The foreign speakers are usually subtitled with something like "!@%$$#@%* &
  • In the original Land of the Lost, the Kroffts were actually ordered by the network not to do this for the Pakuni. So they hired Victoria Fromkin, a Ph.D. linguist out of UCLA, to create the Pakuni language: A grammar, a syntax, and a two hundred word vocabulary. The language is fully detailed in the DVD extras for season 1.
  • 'Allo 'Allo!: Parodied on the (British) comedy. A German spy, attempting to infiltrate Britain, is asked to demonstrate his supposedly realistic English accent. It comes out as something to the effect of "Fafafafafa, fafafafafafa, Big Ben".
    • Good moaning!
  • The Prisoner episode "The Chimes of Big Ben" introduces an allegedly Estonian Soviet Agent called Nadia Rakowski. Rakowski is a (masculine) Polish name, Nadia a name used by many cultures, but not by Estonians. A case of Fake Nationality and The Danza, since she was played by the Romanian Nadia Grey.
  • The Wild Wild West. A director once asked some Native American extras to use their own language for a scene, but decided not to use it as they didn't sound 'Indian' enough.
  • Both played straight and averted in the 1990s Get Smart revival series. Agent 66 disguises herself as a Swede named Dr. Heynadeggjadeggi - not a remotely Swedish last name. Then averted as both she and another doctor speak grammatically correct Swedish.
  • Sid Caesar, Howard Morris, and Carl Reiner frequently did sketches for Your Show of Shows in a fake European-sounding gibberish.
    • Caesar's ersatz German, in particular, was said to be so convincing as regards inflection, cadence, and sound that, even though it was mostly gibberish, some German-speaking viewers reportedly had the uncomfortable and disconcerting feeling that they should be able to understand him.
  • On The Colbert Report, Colbert parodies this with his K-pop hit single He's Singing in Korean.
So get into my Hyundai. We can eat some Kim Chi. What else is Korean?
  • Occasionally used on The Daily Show, when unpopular foreign news-makers (particularly dictators) are shown making speeches, coupled with an obviously incorrect voice-over translation. Usually in a silly voice.
  • Hogan's Heroes is full of it when our heroes choose "German" names for themselves, and simply stick "-burg", "-meier", "-berg" or "-muller" after their own surnames. And the Germans never see through that? The "real" Germans all seem to have properly researched surnames, though.
  • In the Eureka episode "Show me the Mummy", the purported hieroglyphs on the tomb aren't. At least, not Egyptian ones. The name of the queen, Nyota would have been in a cartouche, and would have ended in two glyphs not part of the name, that would indicate, that it was a female name. Not to mention the fact that Nyota is Swahili not Ancient Egyptian.
    • And in "Welcome Back, Carter", Sherrif Andy is supposed to speak Dutch at one point. He's not, the first line is pure gibberish.
    • The second line was hard to decipher, but the third is actually Dutch, albeit with a near incomprehensible accent.
      Sheriff Andy: "Ik ben net in de stad gekomen. Wie zou mij willen vermoorden?
      • It's: "I've just arrived in the city. Who would want to murder me?" It's Dutch all right, although the first sentence is not 100% grammatically correct.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of The Golden Girls: "Sometimes I think you make half those ["Italian"] words up"
  • Justin and Zeke's "alien language" in Wizards of Waverly Place. Lampshaded by the actual aliens (who speak fluent American English, anyway) in the episode "Wizard for a Day".
  • In the All in the Family episode "Gloria Poses in the Nude", there's a Hungarian painter called Szabo Daborba. While "Szabó" is a common Hungarian family name meaning "tailor", Daborba is not a name in Hungarian. Szabo is also used as if it was his given name (in Hungarian name order, family name is followed by the given name). Gloria also says a sentence which is supposed to be in Hungarian, but actually isn't.
  • The contestants on The Amazing Race are guilty of this every season, especially when they get into Eastern Europe or Asia.
    • Mirna Hindoyan (Seasons 5 and 11) became famous for her mangling of the English language, such that her "version" of Spanish was called Mirnish.
    • Sometimes it doesn't even sound foreign. In season 8, while asking for directions in Costa Rica, Linda Weaver asked a local "On righto or lefto?"
  • The Big Bang Theory: There's a strange example. At the end of one episode, some Chinese university students are remarking (in Mandarin) that their Internet-enabled dorm room lights are being controlled "by someone called Pasadena, California, in Wolowizard". It's probably just a typo in the script, since the actors' pronunciation is pretty decent and the rest of the dialogue is in passable Mandarin.
    • Also, an aversion: in one episode Sheldon is learning Mandarin. He's listening to a music player while checking the mail, and Penny surprises him from behind. He shouts out "Ai yo! Xia si wo le!" (哎哟!嚇死我了! ; "Gyah! You scared me to death!") in surprisingly good Mandarin.
      • Which makes you wonder why all other instances of him speaking Mandarin were completely out of translation.
  • Dollhouse: When Echo tried to speak Russian, you'd be hard-pressed to find a native speaker who could understand half of what she's saying. Particularly Egregious because she was supposed to infiltrate the Russian mafia. The words are mostly correct. The accent is pretty bad though.
  • The rare moments of comic relief in Mission: Impossible frequently came from the intentionally incorrect pseudo-Slavic (called "Gellerese" after creator/showrunner Bruce Geller) that features in almost every episode taking place behind the Iron Curtain; it sounds — and more importantly looks — just English enough to be followed accurately by an English-speaking audience. The writers had a lot of fun coming up with gibberish like "machinawerke" for "machine shop", "zona restrik" for "restricted area", "entrat verbaten" for "no admittance", and (one of the perennial favorites) "gaz".
  • Heroes is pretty accurate considering it's an American production, but there are a few name-related items that you'd think someone would have brought up when being translated into Japanese:
    • Yamagato (Industries) is not a Japanese name. This was likely taken from "Arigato." The writing in the show is 山形 which is "Yamagata": a surname, and city and prefecture in Japan, which would have been more accurate.
    • Ando Masahashi's name has caused some debate. Both names are surnames, and "Ando" (安藤) is a very common surname. There is no Japanese custom of giving a traditional surname as a given name like there is in English speaking countries. "Masa" is a common component of a Japanese given name, but "hashi" (meaning "bridge") is almost always in a surname. In the Japanese version, they write his name in katakana, usually reserved for non-Japanese people.
    • Similarly, "Kaito" (海藤) isn't a Japanese given name, but a surname. Also, George Takei's Japanese is very rusty (but far better than HRG's!)
    • "Hiro" is usually part of a given name in Japanese (like "Masa"). When the character is by itself, it is usually "Hiroshi." In Japan, "Hiro" would be used as a nickname, very informally. Typically, Japanese people do not introduce themselves with a nickname. His name is used because "Hiro" sounds like "Hero."
  • Castle features a female Czech victim called Eliska Sokel. While both names are legitimate Czech names - lacking diacritics and misspelled, respectively - the latter one is male. The female verson of the Czech surname Sokol is Sokolová.
  • This skit about an international radio show co-moderated by several european radio hosts. Except for the first German sentences, everything is pure gibberish. Hape Kerleking used a lot of fake accents and As Long as It Sounds Foreign in all his shows.
    • And he does it so convincing he has fooled:
      • Moderators into thinking he is part of a Finnish Rap Band called Ripuli, which he told the moderator means Diarrhea.
      • A Panel of Music Theory Professors and Doctors that he is a Russian Opera Singer.
      • Numerous people that he is Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.
  • Alias is — unsurprisingly, with five seasons of jetting around the world with a new suspiciously Californian foreign location in each episode — a repeat offender, with dodgy background signage, made-up foreign character names and unintelligible pronunciation of whatever the local tongue is supposed to be. To the writers' credit, though, they often get the dialogue right in the script at least.
  • The Student Bodies episode "Stand-Up Chris" featured an elegant, expensive, and pretentious French restaurant called "La Vielle Chaussette." Viewers who could speak French undoubtedly wondered why anybody would name a restaurant "The Old Sock."
  • Played with in the Glee episode "The Spanish Teacher", in which it is revealed that As Long as It Sounds Foreign is perennial incompetent Will Schuester's strategy for teaching Spanish: whereas the Spanish spoken by David Martinez (played by Ricky Martin) is both accurate and accurately translated in subtitles, Will's Spanish is appallingly pronounced and riddled with errors, and the errors are transcribed accurately in the subtitles, just to make the point really clear.
  • Impractical Jokers: When challenged to get free yogurt, this was Sal's weapon of choice.
  • Parodied in The Nanny in a flashback where Fran went to Israel as a teen. Fran hooks up with an Israeli guy and he asks her a question in Hebrew. She replies with "Uh, yeah, yeah, bagel bagel, shalom, matzo ball, shalom."
  • Frasier: One episode had Ros break up with a French boyfriend who didn't speak English so Frasier translates. The boyfriend immediately reveals he was planning to break it off himself, so the French parts of the conversation drift off into where he can find a good steak while Ros works through the whole speech she had prepared.
  • The IT Crowd: An in-universe example, played for laughs. Jen convinces her boss she can speak Italian by using a translation program, which works fine until she's asked to provide translation for a visiting Italian businessman and can't bring her laptop into the meeting. She bluffs her way through by babbling a mixture of Italian-sounding words and heavily-accented English, to the confusion and eventual anger of the visitor.
  • In Far Scape, D'Argo's Luxan langauge is very clearly the actor simply spitting out some vaguely harsh and alien-sounding syllables, usually the same three or four ones repeated over and over. Averted, however, with Aeryn Sun's Sebacean language, which is the actress speaking English in reverse. (Not reversing the words, but actually reversing the sounds.)

    Music 
  • The Beatles song "Sun King" contains three lines of Italian/Spanish-sounding nonsense (which people will nevertheless insist is actual Italian or Spanish). It includes a fair number of kind-of-in-jokes; for instance, what sounds like Italian is in fact "chicka ferdy," which is playground Scouse for "na na na na-na!"
    • A parody of this song uses the line, "Wonder if I should start singing gibberish to complete this silly song..." They do.
      • They first experimented with this trope on their 1966 fan club Christmas record, which briefly features a "Corsican" carol called "Orowanya".
    • John Lennon continued this years later in his solo work, with "No. 9 Dream", which has a chorus in a completely made-up language (the words supposedly really did come to Lennon in a dream).
  • Dream Theater's "Take The Time" has Gratuitous Italian, and although the Italian is correct (sampled from a movie), the rendition of it in the lyrics booklet is horribly mangled.
  • Gladiator: The 2000 epic movie's ending theme, titled "Now We Are Free", has lyrics that many claim to be either Latin/Hebrew/Arabic/German/Old Irish. The singer, Lisa Gerrard, points out in her website that the lyrics are from the language of the heart, a personal language she made up when she was 11 (heard also in some her songs with Dead Can Dance, fact fans). That doesn't stop people from arguing about it, though.
  • Some of Yuki Kajiura's music, such as "A Song of Storm and Fire" from Tsubasa Chronicle, have lyrics that sound like a real language, but mean absolutely nothing.
    • That's Kajiuran, an invented language that sounds just similar enough to Italian to be confusing.
    • Some? Try most of her vocal stuff.
  • Chicago's song "Saturday in the Park" refers to "A man selling ice cream/Singing Italian songs," followed by an improvised and incomprehensible line in pseudo-Italian.
  • Nellie McKay's "Lali Est Paresseux" has accurate but largely nonsensical French lyrics.
  • Boney M.'s "Rasputin", though about a Russian figure, throws in some German words: "...the kasatschok he danced really wunderbar". Partly excused by the fact that Boney M. was formed by a German.
    • An especially bad mismatch as well; although both the Czar and Czaritsa had German ancestry, they never spoke German at court due to the long-standing antagonism between the two countries. Alexandra's best language was English, but most court business was conducted in French.
  • "Ue o muite aruko" by Kyu Sakamoto was on the top forty in Japan and the U.S., where it was given the Non-Appearing Title "Sukiyaki" simply because the DJs who played it didn't know Japanese. It's been pointed out that this is more or less the equivalent of releasing "Moon River" in Japan under the title "Beef Stew".
    • What's even more exasperating is that they made a follow-up called "china nights." Japan is NOT China.
  • "Spanish Bombs" by The Clash has a refrain which is supposed to be Spanish but is not actually a complete, comprehensible phrase.
    • To a casual listener, in fact, the background lyrics of "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" barely even qualify as gibberish as sung.note 
  • Lemon Demon's "Hyakugojyuuichi 2003" has a whole verse of Mark "Toxic" Hughes talking pseudo-Japanese gibberish in the style of the announcer from Pokémon Image Song "Pokemon Ieru Ka Na?" (also known as "the Japanese Poke-Rap"). This was so the gibberish could be Mondegreened into dadaist lyrics in the Animutation style for the flash cartoon made of the song.
  • Coraline's soundtrack has some random made up language for at least one song.
  • Madonna's Greatest Hits Volume 2 album has "モヂジラミミヂ" written on the packaging. Those katakana spell "mojijiramimiji". This means nothing in Japanese; however, it is what one gets when one types "Madonna" on a Japanese keyboard set to kana mode...
  • The Twelfth Man's comedy albums are practically built on this trope with the foreign players names.
    • For the non-initiated, The Twelfth Man parodies cricket commentary with dead-on impressions of legends like Richie Benaud, with a smattering of "foreign" names like Jarvegemite Fermeeandad or the batting partnership of Kuttis Arminahf and Soonil Havaskar. He even does it with English names like grounds curator Bob Durunkel and Doug Deep, but his Crowning Moment Of Awesome was his impression of NRL commentator Ray "Rabs" Warren reading out the upcoming New Zealand ruby side. Impressive, though NSFW.
  • The rock group Blondie is notorious in certain circles for gratuitious French lyrics that, while not exactly gibberish, tend to be painfully literal and non-idiomatic translations from English. To a fluent speaker, the French verse of "Sunday Girl" in particular is little more than a Dick and Jane level translation of one of the English verses; other songs are almost as bad, and "Call Me" throws in random stings of gratuitous Spanish as well.
  • Averted on Manowar's "Thunder in the Sky" EP, which features sixteen versions of the song Father, each sung (correctly) in a different language
  • "Rock of Ages" by Def Leppard starts out with a German nonsense phrase "Gunter glieben glauchen globen". This was later sampled by The Offspring for "Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)".
    • Which was, in turn, parodied with the equally nonsensical psuedo-Yiddish phrase "Veren zol fun dir a blintsa" in Weird Al Yankovic's "Pretty Fly (For a Rabbi)"
  • Prisencolinensinainciusol, all right oll raigth! The lyrics are what the Italian singer thinks American English sounds like.
  • Similarly, the opening from the Hellsing TV series, "The World Without Logos". Yeah, there are a few distinguishable English words in there, but most of that is just nonsense.
  • The song, "Nazuki", by the Japanese rock band, Nightmare, features a chorus made of completely nonsensical gibberish that can be misheard as everything from Dutch to Portuguese to just really awful, phonetically-written English. (It's apparently just a language that was made up for the song.)
  • The backing vocals on Paul Simon's "The Boy in the Bubble" - sung by Simon himself - consist of nonsense words that sound vaguely African.
  • You don't seriously think the lyrics of The Arrogant Worms' "Gaelic Song" actually mean anything, do you?
  • Request-a-Song's "Ancient Chinese Secret (from Japan)" contains a line of pseudo-Japanese and two lines of pseudo-Chinese, but it's all genuine gibberish.
  • Somewhat inverted with Adiemus. The language for this series of albums was deliberately stylized, 'not'' to be in any recognizable tongue. Instead, the intent was for the listener to percieve the voices as instruments, as The Other Wiki explains.
  • Billy Joel's song "Don't Ask Me Why" inexplicably drops "parlez-vous francais" ("Do you speak French?") for no other reason than it rhymes with the word "away".
    Yesterday you were an only child
    Now your ghosts have gone away
    Oh, you can kill them in the classic style
    Now you parlez-vous francais
    • The song is one big "I know what you really are", so that's probably intended to mock the subject for learning French and using it to pretend she's from France or at least grew up there.
  • German metal Band Knorkator is well known for hilarously silly lyrics and the song "Maj Khao Djaj" is only an exception in so far that it's entirely in Thai. However when translated, the lyric starts with i'm thai and have a german boyfriend / he asked me writing a songtext and later directly references the trope with it's no problem if people can't understand the lyrics / so then they wont realise that it's a bad text.
  • David Bowie uses the phrase "Ouvre le chien" in two different songs. The literal translation from French is "Open the dog."
  • The Red Hot Chili Peppers song Around the World has parts of the chorus sung in a fake stereotypical Chinese sounding language.
  • Played for humor in the Angry Salad cover of Nena's "99 Red Balloons": their version is mainly in English (based on the translated version released as a single), but towards the end vocalist Bob Whelan starts throwing in stock German phrases, as a tongue in cheek nod to the original German version: "99 o tannenbaum, weinerschnitzel Fahrvergnügen..."
  • Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" features some African-sounding gibberish in its breakdown section. Richie originally wanted an authentic translation, but after learning there were thousands of languages spoken in Africa, he decided it was easier to just make something up.
  • As part of the satire, the "Inuit" chanting in The Residents' Eskimo is actually strangely enunciated English: Most famously the track "Festival Of Death" includes a garbled chant that is actually "Coca-cola adds life!".
  • The Lady Gaga song "Scheisse". While the title is the German word for "shit", the German-sounding refrain is meaningless.
  • Sophie B. Hawkins' "As I Lay Me Down" has the exotic-sounding but nonsensical syllables "ooh la kah koh" as backing vocals. She once claimed it meant "wash your feet before you sleep" in "an indigenous language of the Ballantine tribe" note , and this joke tends to get taken at face value.
  • Stephen Stills (who attended a school in Costa Rica during his youth) has supposedly claimed the "Spanish" at the end of "Suite:Judy Blue Eyes" is meant to be incomprehensible even to Spanish speakers, and that he arranged the "doo doo doo doo doo, dat doot doo doo doo dit"s over them to obscure it and make it even more difficult to decipher.
  • The Cocteau Twins built their career around this. Sometimes, in Elizabeth Fraser's euglossolalic vocalizations, you can hear fragments of actual words in English or some other languages (supposedly odd bits of obscure Scottish slang), although the albums Heaven or Las Vegas and Four-Calendar Café contained slightly more comprehensible lyrics ("Bluebeard" is actually identifiable as English!). Robin Guthrie says the Japanese audiences, when they played shows there, sort of inverted the trope in that they'd all actually thought she was singing in Japanese.
  • "Tsamina mina eh eh Waka Waka eh eh Tsamina mina zangalewa Anawa aa This time for Africa."With the exception of the last 4 words, the rest is complete gibberish; and have no meaning in any spoken language. And yet, some brilliant minds decided to select the song "Waka Waka", by Colombian singer Shakira as the official song for the 2010 FIFA world cup in South Africa. Because, you know, it sounds "African" enough, and South Africa is the entire continent.
  • Queen's "Mustapha" is sung in a mixture of English, Arabic and complete gibberish made up by Freddie Mercury (often claimed to actually be Arabic or Farsi but isn't).
  • The choruses of the Ying Tong Song sound to English speakers like Chinese (or nonsense Chinese), but were never intended by Spike Milligan to be aanything other than pure nonsense. The lyric was derived from the name of a friend of Milligan's called Edgington (nicknamed "Edgyingtong") who bet Milligan that he couldn't get a song with only two chords into the record chart.
  • Karl Jenkins' "Adiemus" is sung in vaguely Latin-sounding nonsense.
  • The singer/drummer of Finnish rock group Hurriganes notoriusly did not know any English, yet they decided to sing entirely in English. This meant that all the lyrics had to be written out phonetically, and a lot of the songs came out as barely English-sounding gibberish.
  • The entire point of the self-titled album Caramba by the Swedish nonce band of the same name: Every single track is a comedic version of a particular ethnic group's music and language. Spoytnik, for example, is a pseudo-mazurka performed in pseudo-Russian, and Fido (pronounced fee-do) is a pseudo-mento performed in pseudo-English in a pseudo-Caribbean accent. In the case of the best-known track, Haba Haba Zoot Zoot, the ethnic group in question appears to be Martians.
  • The Black Lips song "Hippie Hippie Hoorah" is a cover of the song "Hippie Hippie Hourra" by French musician Jacques Dutronc. All of the French lyrics are completely discarded except for a fragment of the chorus "Je suis hippie, Je suis hippie" (I'm a hippy, I'm a hippy), which the singer garbles into "Je suis, Je suis... Le pee... le peepee" in a mock French accent.
  • From the Missy Elliott song called Work It: "Boys, boys, all type of boys / Black, White, Puerto Rican, Chinese boys / Why-thai,-thai-o-toy-o-thai-a-thai / Rock-thai,-thai-o-toy-o-thai-a-thai."

     Professional Wrestling  
  • TNA poked fun at this trope with the Curry Man character, who was supposedly Japanese, but was actually NOT Christopher Daniels, an American white guy. Curry Man's Japanese was actually just Daniels reciting names of famous Japanese pro wrestlers. Late in the gimmick's life, Curry Man did pick up some English skills, but not without the over done accent.
  • In WWE, during the later part of William Regal's career, he was portrayed as a regal, high-class, British snob, which included mispronouncing wrestlers's names, such as calling Triple H "Haitch." The funny thing is, that pronunciation of the letter H is actually less posh, going against his "British Snob" persona for those in the know. It makes it sound like Corporate just told him to "sound as British as possible."
    • That could be interpreted as Fridge Brilliance, since Regal was acknowledged even in kayfabe as a rough-and-tumble carnival wrestler from Blackpool, and the "haitch" could be explained as him reverting to his boyhood dialect.
  • Mitsuharu Misawa's powerslam Finishing Move is sometimes written as "Emerald Flowsion" and sometimes as "Emerald Frosion". There's no one correct way to spell it, since the second word is not actually English.
  • From 2007 to 2009, the Samoan wrestler Eddie Fatu portrayed "Umaga," a "Samoan savage" with tattoos, face paint, dreadlocks, and a sarong (technically called a lavalava in Samoan). His name was pronounced "oo-MAH-gah" by everyone except William Regal, who pronounced it "oo-MAHN-gah" - which, amusingly, is much closer to actual Samoan pronunciation (it'd actually be "oo-MAH-ngah", with the "ng" from "thing" not from "congo"; no syllable in Samoan can end on a consonant).
  • Japanese female wrestler Rieko Amano changed his ringname to Carlos Amano to sound more Mexican. The problem? "Carlos" is a Spanish name just for males.
  • MVP's entrance theme in New Japan Pro Wrestling is named "Most Valiantly Person".

    Radio 
  • Internet radio show 2 Sense tends to replace foreign names the hosts can't pronounce with "Schleigelhoffen".
  • The Reduced Shakespeare Company's radio show included a purported Japanese film version of Hamlet by Akira Kurosawa, which included phrases like, "Ah, Subaru!" and "Sony tapeplayer!"
  • Tony Hawks' attempt at singing Psy's Gangnam Style in series 58 of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.

     Tabletop Games 
  • The plot of the first chapter in Pathfinder: Rise of the Runelords depends on a certain noble family: the Kaijitsus.
  • Legend of the Five Rings has guidelines for players and Game Masters to name their own characters, and so the accuracy of the names used by players varies.
    • There was also Kurohito, a guy born with stark white hair and fair blue eyes, whose name means "Black Man".
    • The name "Toturi" is meaningless in Japanese, even if you see it as an alternative spelling to "Totsuri". Many other names are completely made-up Japanese-looking nonsense.
    • Sometimes the names aren't even Japanese-looking at all, very easily getting into Chinese and Korean territory, resulting in cases where characters have a Japanese surname with a Chinese personal name. Even the Kami haven't escaped this; their names all have a Japanese sound to them (though most of them are nonsense), and then you got Fu Leng.
  • The Warhammer Fantasy RPG called the Big Bad of the "Enemy Within" campaign "Zahnarzt". Yes, that's German for dentist. The first edition was full of such jokes. It had a family named Untermensch (Sub-Human), an inventor named Kugelschreiber (Ballpoint-Pen) who lived in a house called Geflügelsalad (Chicken Salad), a fire wizard named Hals Roch...The bad guy is named "Klaus P. Verräter" (Traitor). Allegedly, there is also a good guy named Goebbels in the same publication.
  • Kindred of the East has the authentically Chinese character 氣 qi ("life force") on the cover. On most of the interior illustrations though all the Oriental writing is represented by meaningless scribbles.
  • The Yu-Gi-Oh! card Des Volstgalph. "Des" is used in place of "Death", but "Volstgalph" doesn't mean a thing in any language, only done to make the monster's name seem cool. (Indeed, the card isn't very useful in a deck, just collected because of its neat artwork.)

    Theatre 
  • In the musical Of Thee I Sing, six French soldiers enter singing this French-sounding nonsense chorus (which also slips in the Yiddish phrase "tut dir veh"):
    Garçon, s'il vous plait,
    Encore, Chevrolet Coupé
    Papah, pooh, pooh, pooh!
    A vous toot dir veh, à vous?
  • The Mikado:
    • "Miya sama" from Gilbert and Sullivan's musical is a subversion, as it is actually a Japanese folk song (though not a dirty one, as the Urban Legend has it). However, in one production the song was sung straight once, then repeated using lyrics made up entirely of Japanese brand names ("Mitsubishi Datsun Honda, Kawasaki Toyota...").
    • Then there was the character named Yum-Yum, which is completely not a Japanese name..
    • With the exception of the Mikado himself, all the characters' names are just vaguely Asian-sounding silliness. Though Gilbert was not aware at the time that Ko-Ko is a legitimate Japanese name.
  • Christmas Eve in Avenue Q chose that name when she moved to America because she thought it sounded good.
  • In Maurice Ravel's opera L'enfant et les sortilèges (The Child and the Spells), the song sung by the Chinese Teacup is made up of Chinese- and Japanese-sounding syllables. Some correspond to actual words, many don't.
    • It's even lampshaded in the end of the song : Hâ! Hâ! Ça-oh-râ toujours l'air chinoâ. (Ha ha, it'll still sound chi-neez !)
  • In The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged), the Tower of Babel scene has fake Spanish ("Taco sombrero Antonio Banderas!") and fake Japanese ("Buddha shinto mushy-mushy, Godzilla killy-killy sukiyaki?").
  • Cirque du Soleil uses invented lyrics in many of its songs and some of its dialogue (referred to as "Cirquish" by fans). That said, the lyrics are never supposed to pass for a specific real language; in fact using invented song lyrics is something of a Cirque trademark, first appearing around the time the company began to make a name for itself as a different kind of circus. As well, Cirque has quite a few songs in real languages, to the point where (depending on the show) one can never be quite sure whether or not they're listening to music in a real language.

     Video Game 
  • Resident Evil 4 is set in a nameless fictional European country apparently set in Spain. Despite this, all the Ganados speak Spanish with a Mexican accent.
  • The de-facto Big Bad of The Umbrella Chronicles is a Russian man named "Sergei Vladimir". Anyone with even a passing knowledge of Russia will realize his name is complete nonsense.
    • Equally implausible was "Mikhail Victor" from RE3: Nemesis.
  • RedAlert runs on this trope, complete with Perevod Slepovo Idiota and What Do You Mean It Does Not Sound Glorious.
    • One of the examples: АПОСНО! НЕ ВИХОА! note 
    • Red Alert 3 trailer also throws this one for a second. A rebel board that says "Изменение". note 
    • Good luck understanding the pseudo-Soviet hymn played at the menu screen. Apparently, they did try to use real Russian words, but none of the people who actually sang it spoke the language. The music does, however, make it sound like something similar to the Red Army Choir.
    • However, they are the first to correctly use the phrase "do svidania", which is normally used in movies to mean "good bye". To be fair, that is what it means, but in the context of "see you later". It means "until (our) meeting". Which means you wouldn't say it to a guy you're about to shoot (unless you're very religious). The proper word in this case would be "proshchai" (a final goodbye). Premier Cherdenko uses it correctly.
    Cherdenko: I will not say "do svidania", commander, for I can assure you... we will never meet... again!
  • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney and Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth feature cases with characters who speak Borginian, a "language" which consists of dingbats.
  • The creators of Ico, to facilitate the important gameplay/plot point of the two main characters being unable to verbally communicate or (in Yorda's case) be understood by the player, came up with not one, but two fictional languages for their protagonists. Yorda speaks something vaguely reminiscent of French, and Ico's language sounds a bit like Korean. The Queen speaks both tongues fluently, a talent she puts to good use in her little chats with Ico.
  • Jagged Alliance 2 is a notable exception. The demo has characters Gasket (a moron), and Ivan (a Russian with little patience). When Gasket displays his stupidity, Ivan finally says "I've never worked with such an idiot before" in perfect Russian, AND the game correctly displays what he said in text as well. Considering that excluding Ivan is the only exception to a game fully in English, it's impressive they took the effort to get it right.
    • He speaks plenty of Russian during the entire (full) version of the game as well, with occasional "bouts" of broken English. Amusingly, whenever Russian is used, the English subtitles are followed by Russian subtitles which don't always match Ivan's speech.
    • In the original Jagged Alliance Ivan only spoke Russian.
      • He was also subtitled only in Russian. The new Nintendo DS version of the game has his subtitles (unfortunately?) only in English.
    • Ivan is the not the only character who speaks his native language, although most foreigner characters (there are many, from different nationalities) simply use the customary Poirot Speak.
  • Bangai-O includes a man woman who only speaks in childish doodles of happy meadows and underwater scenes.
  • The soundtrack of the game Loco Roco is composed of happy singing in complete and utter nonsense that nonetheless sounds very much like a real language. If, you know, you don't listen to closely. This was done intentionally, so the lyrics "wouldn't have to be translated" for foreign audiences.
    • The songs specific to each variation of Loco Roco tend to also pull from specific langauges. For example, Pink sounds vaguely French.
  • Beyond Good & Evil also features numerous songs in very convincing-sounding nonsense. Specifically, the nonsense is meant to sound "Belgian, with a little Spanish and English mixed in." Even though "Belgian" isn't a language. However, there are songs with real Spanish and English words mixed in with the gibberish, as well as the game's pseudo-arc word, "Shauni."
  • Averted in an example of Reality Is Unrealistic in Street Fighter. Although Zangief's name sounds odd to a Russian ear and has no meaning in Russian language, it is borrowed from an actual Soviet wrestler. Real-life Victor Zangiev was Ossetian.
    • Lampshaded in Russian dub for Wreck-It Ralph, where Zangief is voiced with a heavy North Caucassian accent.
  • "Simlish", the language of the characters in The Sims and its sequels is meant to be English foreign-sounding gibberish. Apparently the company that makes the games frequently receives calls from customers who think they've gotten the game in the wrong language. Simcopter was the first game to feature it.
    • In Sims 3 Simlish includes (correct, but irrelevant) phrases in French, Spanish and German. It also features licensed music from various bands... "translated" to Simlish. The cadance and intonation of the nonsense words follows the actual lyrics, and sometimes, the gibberish sounds almost like actual words.
  • Every Civ leader in Sid Meier's Civilization Revolution speaks in themed foreign sounding gibberish... Intentionally.
    • The same thing happens for every governor in "Sid Meier’s Pirates!". Notably, it's the same nonsense phrases, just inflected differently for the various nationalities.
    • On the other hand, the only main-line Civ game to incorporate talking units, Civilization IV, has each of the units respond in the appropriate language. There was a little bit of "Blind Idiot" Translation, but the fact that they bothered to come up with good translations—and find native speakers where applicable—is rather touching. On the other hand, it also reinforces—to some degree—As Long as It Sounds Foreign: for instance, the Egyptians, who are very clearly based on the Ancient Egyptians, speak modern Egyptian Arabic. Similar situations are found with the Greeks (whose units speak modern Greek) and Persians (whose units speak modern Persian). The Vikings one-up these: modern Norwegian instead of Old Norse — and the faction leader, Sveyn Forkbeard, was Danish (so not only do they speak a modern version of the language, they don't even speak the right modern version). The Roman units, however, speak actual Latin—and remarkably well-rendered, with all the "c"s and "g"s pronounced hard, the vowel lengths and qualities properly distinguished, and a voice actor who really gave his all to creating a living-sounding Latin (the end result sounded—surprise, surprise—like a particularly energetic Italian).
    • Civilization V did away with the talking units. They just grunt now. Instead, they introduced talking leaders. The phrases the leaders say and the subtitles are completely different, even for leaders like George Washington and Queen Elizabeth I. There is still the problem of Rameses II not using proper Ancient Egyptian (this is justified by no one knowing what it's supposed to sound like) and other historical characters using modern-day versions of the languages. For example, Catherine the Great sounds like a modern Russian woman despite being born in a 18th century German principality (her subjects often complained at not being able to understand her heavily-accented Russian). Washington also sounds like he could be living in the 21st century.
  • The events of Half-Life 2 take place in an unspecified Eastern European location, so the game features quite a few inscriptions in Bulgarian.
    • More specifically, one of lead designers was Bulgarian and modelled most of City 17 over Bulgaria's capital city. The square leaving the train station is an almost exact duplicate of a major plaza... Minus the Combine checkpoints. For a Bulgarian, it's actually a little creepy.
    • Nevertheless, most in-game posters and signs featuring cyrillic letters are in fact in (sometimes mangled) Russian. Bulgarian usage of vowels is drastically different.
    • Bizarelly, though, despite the otherwise Eastern European theme, City 17's gas pumps are labeled in Swedish. As long as the texture reference photos look foreign...
  • In the 1996 adventure game Call of Cthulhu: Prisoner of Ice a Norwegian character is introduced early in the game, but his lines are just barely comprehensible to Norwegian, Danish or Swedish speakers. In one scene he screams "I have never loved anybody" in horribly mispronounced Swedish (even though he is supposed to be Norwegian).
  • Fire Emblem: Path Of Radiance and Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn have the Ancient Language, which the Herons use to sing their galdr. The language is just Japanese being reversed.
  • Maybe this is a common theme in Tom Clancy games, but in the air combat game HAWX, the game opens with the squad facing a set of Bolivarian insurgents named "Las Trinidad" attacking Brazil. The problem with that is that Las Trinidad does not mean "the trinity" (that's la trinidad), but Trinidad. As in Trinidad and Tobago.
  • The Panzer Dragoon series has the so-called "Panzerese," which is a combination of Japanese, German, English, and either Latin or Italian. Example: One song of the Panzer Dragoon Saga Soundtrack is called "Ecce Valde Glorious Ale." Make of that what you will. (does not qualify for Fictionary because it uses actual words from other languages)
  • Modern Warfare features Arabic graffiti in some levels, of varying accuracy. In one particularly amusing case, "Infinity Ward", the game's developer, is spelled out phonetically.
    • Call of Duty: Black Ops mostly gets it right for the VC speaking Vietnamese, except for the one over the loudspeaker in "The Defector", who, when not speaking accented English at the US soldiers, is shouting one-syllable gibberish that kinda-sorta sounds Vietnamese, and, some of the multiplayer voices, which sounds more like Chinese. Naturally, many Vietnamese-speakers doesn't understand them.
  • The Half-Japanese, Half-Russian male lead of the first two Shadow Hearts games had the name "Urnmaf" or "Urmnaf"—depending on who you ask—in the original JP releases. For the US and EU releases, it was changed to Yuri, which is genuinely a name in both languages—although usually a girl's name in Japanese.
    • It could be meant as "Yuuri" in Japanese (as well as "Yuri" in Russian)- which is a legitimate male name. English speakers don't necessarily pay attention to Japanese-style short versus long vowels.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Midna's spoken language sounds like some strange merge of Asian accent with French, while employing neither the grammar rules nor words of either language. We think it's gibberish, anyway. Although, it's gibberish to us, in-universe she could easily be speaking speaking perfect Hylian.
  • Age of Empires villager: "Roggan? Homus!", and the priest: "Ayohyoyoo... Wololo!"
  • The Star Ocean games have some terrible names (including 'Fayt' Leingod, romanized with a Y to save us from laughing out loud) but nothing, nothing beats the protagonist of Star Ocean 4, 'Edge Maverick'. Really.
  • The Star Wars game Masters Of Teräs Käsi features the martial art "Teräs Käsi" that's inexplicably and ungrammatically Finnish. It means something like "steel, hand". If you must have a Finnish title, try "Teräskäsi" for "hand of steel".
  • The Mario & Luigi series often has the eponymous brothers speak to each other in Italian-sounding gibberish.
  • Daikatana has this before you even install the game. The front cover features two prominent Japanese characters 大刀. This can in fact be pronounced daikatana, but no one in Japan would pronounce it that way. 大刀 is properly pronounced daitō, and simply means "long sword".
  • Assassin's Creed I has perfectly well spoken modern Turkish... for the decidedly European and Christian Templars.
  • Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis features a sequence on a German submarine. The controls on the boat are labeled with terms like "Flugeldufel", "Krauskefarben" und "Ausgeschnitzel". All these 'words' are actually gibberish that sounds like German.
    • "Ausgeschnitzel" looks suspiciously like it may have been intended to be a "Blind Idiot" Translation of "cut it out", and "Krauskefarben" looks something like the button you should press if you want a rainbow afro.
  • Grandia II's ending theme, "Canção do Povo". This goes beyond merely singing with a Japanese accent, the singer doesn't even try to sound Portuguese, it's as if the lyrics had been converted to kana for her to read.
  • Arc Rise Fantasia has a handful of very short songs sung by Ryfia and another Diva, which they use for various purposes, including as their attacks in battle. Each one of these is in a significant-sound and very pleasant, but completely gibberish "language."
  • Originally Kim Kaphwan from Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters was going to be called Kim Haifon, which admittedly sounds cool but is not a possible Korean name.
  • NieR:
    • The soundtrack has lots of indeterminantly-foreign sounding gibberish, most prominently in the recurring theme "Song of the Ancients". Devola, who sings it around the village, says that it's in a language that has been long forgotten otherwise and no one knows what the lyrics actually mean, since the song is so old.
    • The residents of Facade also speak in a language that was apparently created by shuffling hiragana around, which sometimes makes it sound like actual Japanese.
  • Pokémon Colosseum and its sequel Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness have characters whose names go from just slightly off normal names to a random string of letters. (Then again, with Loads and Loads of Characters the series may have ran out of "normal" names by then.)
  • The aliens which do not speak English (or "Basic") in Knights of the Old Republic actually just repeat the same few stock phrases for audio. The subtitles claim a completely different story. This is a somewhat clever way of saving disk space and money on recorded speech, but you quickly notice the repetition. Here's a drinking game: Take a shot every time an aliens starts a line with something that sounds like "nonda tiihuu tongaa" or "choko-laka-baka". You'll be sloshed within an hour.
  • Mortal Kombat is known for this trope, starting with Raiden's bizarre scream when performing his Superman move in the very first game. With the exceptions of "Get over here!" and "Gotcha!" most of what the kombatants say is gibberish shouted very loudly. Especially in Mortal Kombat 4.
    • The creators also admitted that Bo' Rai Cho is simply a Punny Name ("Borracho" is Spanish for drunk) that sounds vaguely Chinese.
    • Raiden is a real name...except that even in modern games, it's still pronounced "Ray-din" instead of "rye-den". And Scorpion's surname (Hasashi) isn't even a real Japanese word.
  • Team Fortress 2: Appears here, most likely due to Stylistic Suck. The map Kong King contains some very bungled Chinese. There's also this bit from the German Medic in Mann vs. Machine mode:
    Medic: Uppengraden, everyone!
  • This promotional poster for Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of the Superheroes doubles as a parody of the Mega Man (Classic) series. Several of the Marvel vs. Capcom characters are featured as Robot Masters and some of their names have even been changed to follow the Robot Master naming scheme (aka "[insert word here] Man"). The problem is Morrigan, who is referred to as "オイロケマン", which reads "Oiroke Man" ("oiroke" is Japanese for "sexy"). It should be "オイロケウーマン" (Oiroke Woman). Thankfully, they didn't make the same mistake with Splash Woman from Mega Man 9.
  • Hearts of Iron III has an expansion "Dies Irae: Gotterdammerung". That's "Day of Wrath" (Latin): "Destruction of the Gods" (German). And it's a content expansion for playing as Nazi Germany. Is the title supposed to be Latin? Is it supposed to be German? Is the player supposed to lose?
  • In Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, the player has an option to have the NPCs speak with their native language of whatever country the mission is set in. Anyone who speaks Spanish will instantly recognise the (supposedly Peruvian) guards' accent in the first two levels as being European.
  • Wachenröder, a Japan-exclusive Turn-Based Strategy game for the Sega Saturn, has a title that sounds German but doesn't really mean anything.
  • The Mafia of Cooks in A Hat In Time are vaguely Italian and vaguely Russian, but definitely foreign.
  • The tribals in Fallout: New Vegas: Honest Hearts speak a pidgin that sounds like a mix of English, Spanish, and Native American tongues.Which is exactly the language which would be spoken in southern Utah after three-hundred years of cultural intermingling, isolation and linguistic drift.
  • The Austrian guards in Nightfire speak gibberish that sounds vaguely German. Similarly, the Yakuza substitute high pitched yells for Japanese.
  • In Magicka, everyone speaks in a made-up language that sounds like like a mix of german, russian and turkish words. Well, turkish might be pushing it, but some words sound suspiciously like it. And no, i don't speak any of the aformentioned languages; the description is based on sound. In fact, the language is so well made that many people think they have accidentaly installed the non-english version of the game.
  • From Biohazard Marhawa Desire we have... Merah Biji. Sure, "merah" Translation  and "biji" Translation  are legitimate words in Indonesia. Thing is, they probably thought every languages in the world uses adjective noun word order like English and Japanese. Indonesia uses noun adjective word order. Maybe they were just looking up on Japanese-Indonesian dictionary without bothering to learn the grammar.

     Web Animation 
  • Zigzagged with one Japanese-speaking delinquent in Girl Chan In Paradise. He only has two lines, one of which is complete gibberish, and the second ("Oh shit! Sore wa Kenstar-kun, senpai! Hayaku, iku ze!") is actual Japanese.

     Web Comics 
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! pokes fun at this when two French waiters converse in mock French.
  • Irregular Webcomic! has goofed on foreign languages a few times (such as in strip 30 where a German talks about his "bad plans for world domination" and uses the non-German phrase "with extreme prejudice"), to the point that David Morgan-Mar has started asking for help when he's doing them. To give him credit, he does admit it when he's goofed and he's stated his use of German articles is purely dictated by humour purposes.
  • Magellan: When creating an illusory world Maya needed some Russian sounding place names, Chang is quick to point this out.
  • The Order of the Stick features this trope as author Rich Burlew grabbed for Azure City characters various names from different Asian cultures without really caring about what they meant, which is how we got a Daimyo named Lord Shojo (Lord Girly, in effect.) Word of God is that while most of the Azurite names are real, Rich picked up "Shojo" from Legends of the Five Rings, and "Hinjo" is his own invention.
  • The title character of Princess Pi is an Egyptian princess named after a Greek letter. It didn't take long for the creator to realize it didn't make sense to name an Egyptian princess after a Greek letter, so he decided the entire comic shouldn't make sense either.
  • Scandinavia and the World: What Denmark does when asked to speak Swedish.
  • The Spanish spoken by Something Positive 's Pepito intentionally read like English phrases were simply run through Babelfish, with nonsense words and Engrish thrown in at random. At first, everyone assumed it was just another one of Randy Milholland's potshots at his Unpleasable Fanbase, but it turned out to also have plot-relevance as well. (Pepito was faking being English illiterate.)
  • PvP's Brent Sienna took a semester of mock German in college once.

     Web Original 
  • The YouTube video "What Languages Sound Like to Foreigners" is this trope.
  • While Ilivais X has this in abundance. Iriana and Seyne Estchell are supposed to come from Serbia, but their names are vaguely French if anything, and Estchell doesn't come from anything. Essen Dywell isn't an English/Chinese name at all, Sura Verandis is more nonsense than Scandinavian or Arabic, and plenty other examples that come from vague backgrounds. Mille Chanteau, while a bit archaic in French, is perfectly valid though.
  • Similarly to Looney Tunes, in ''Avatar: The Abridged Series" Spanish is rendered mostly as English with "El" tacked on. "El Gasp!" Sometimes they also add "-o" to the end of words and maybe put in a real Spanish word in there.
    • "I challenge you to an Agni Kai!" "Don't you mean a duel?" "No, an Agni Kai!" "Why don't you just call it that then?" "Because it sounds Asian... ish?" (FYI, Agni is the Hindu god of fire, and Kai means meeting in Japanese).
  • As Long As It Looks Elvish... J. R. R. Tolkien invented the tengwar script as a writing system for Middle-Earth. The rules for writing in tengwar are complicated, vary a lot across languages, and some languages can be spelt in several different ways: one sign could stand for a few different sounds depending on the writing mode. So when people started making fonts to let them write tengwar on the computer, they usually mapped them to the keys in the tengwar's "grid"-formation. This is relatively easy to use, if you know what you're doing. Unfortunately, there are still people who don't know what they're doing who make fanart/fansites/whatever with little decorative bits of tengwar floating around, and who get the tengwar just by grabbing a font and typing things in literally. This leads to drawings of Elwë Singollo that are labeled, in beautiful and elegant Elvish lettering, "Febw Gywnghweehw".
    • Approximately the same thing happens to Hebrew, Cyrillic, and katakana/hirigana fonts. Some characters represent sounds that require more than one character in the Latin alphabet, and some sounds simply don't exist in the other language. Complicating things further is that in some modes the Elvish languages use accent marks to represent vowels rather than having separate characters for them... something that looks like an m with a dot over it could be intended to be read as the equivslent of in, en, ni or ne depending on mode.
  • Does de Puffincat count? Adventures of the Puffincat
    • "Puffincat have clever-smart-mind-concept!"
  • There was (and possibly still is) a fad on YouTube for taking a scene from Downfall and subtitling the German to make Hitler appear to be ranting about World of Warcraft, his Xbox, shoes, Fords or whatever the author feels like laying into. It's a sort of inverse Godwin's Law, in that you start with Hitler, then begin the discussion.
  • Chaos Fighters is extremely rife with this in almost everything. As in case of character names, the only normal sounding name is Kenny Fanal from The Secret Programs and Clair Tyranof in Route of Land. It doesn't help that those oddly sounded names are completely made up by mixing syllables. But considering that they were all set in foreign planets, this may be justified.
  • On a Cracked Top 5 list, it was mentioned that, to Americans, the Japanese language sounds like "ching chong." Neither of those two phonemes exist in Japanese.
  • The Time... Guys mostly averts this, except for the odd British accent, but played straight with Julius Caesar and King Confucius.

     Western Animation 
  • Occurs frequently in a lot of cartoons from entirely different creators, when it comes to mocking Glorious Mother Russia... oh god. Apart from having traditional things about Russia, you also get their even more traditional language grammar rules. For instance, one of Timon & Pumbaa series, Russian Hour, added pointless suffixes to every word, like in "Hospitalses", which would make absolutely no sense to a Russian guy who CAN read English. Alternately, Fender Bender 500 had The Russian Around 500 that suffered from the same epidemy. Its' variation, to be exact, that added "-ski" to the end for not only masculine adjectives, where it would make more sense in context, but EVEN for the nouns.
    • I thinkses thiski phraskis would makeses no pointsalis.
  • Mel Blanc's Looney Tunes renditions of such characters as African Witch Doctors and Aborigines are a classic case of pure gibberish that sounds correct, to an uncritical (and very un-PC) ear. In several wartime cartoons, "humorously" fractured German or Japanese is spouted by the villains and is the same thing. Also, most of the spoken and written "French" in the Pepe' Le Pew cartoons is undisguised English with "Le" tacked on front and an "e" on the end.
    • One wartime cartoon that averts this is Disney's Education for Death. All the German is real, done almost certainly because it was meant as a completely serious propaganda piece.
  • In Metalocalypse, Toki and Swiskgaar speak gibberish Norwegian/Swedish at several occasions, even if they are supposed to be Scandinavian. Neither of their names are usual Scandinavian names. To be fair, the three American members of the band don't have usual names either. There aren't very many Murderfaces in the phone book.
  • Tex Avery's Flea Circus also uses undisguised English for "French" words by tacking "Le" in front. However, this sounds wrong for french speaking people, as french has two articles, "Le" for masculine and "La" for feminine words. This is especially noticeable as one of the main characters named "Fifi le Flea" is a girl and "puce", french for "flea" is a feminine word. The same applies to other written "French" like Le Church, Le Maternity and Le End, which are all feminine in french. Had the writer done the research, Fifi la Flea would been to la Church, then la Maternity before the happy la End.
    • The mistake is a common one (Spanish works similarly, with "El" for masculine words and "La" for feminine.) because English is one of the few languages where the vast majority of nouns are genderless, thus the assumption by the English-speaking animators that one version of "the" works for all situations.
  • Bloo in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends takes it to an extreme of sorts in the misleadingly titled episode "Foster's Goes to Europe". (For one thing... they don't actually get to go!)
    • Fridge Brilliance: while it is misleading, it's still an accurate title; Foster (the old lady) does got to Europe...by stealing the tickets
  • Ling Ling in Drawn Together speaks vaguely Asian gibberish, called "Japorean" by the show's creators. According to "Drawn Together Babies", in-world he speaks a language he made up with his dead twin. In another episode, Ling Ling undergoes an operation to speak English.
  • In the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, Splinter often uses random Japanese words (and sometimes even obviously non-Japanese words, like "Sacajawea") in his battle cries.
  • One of South Park's creators is fluent in Japanese, so all speech in Japanese is accurate (albet on occasion slightly off, such as "sore no" instead of "sono" or "sonna"). Other languages are just gibberish, though. Lampshaded in "Good Times With Weapons", where the lyrics of the Japanese theme song are a Bilingual Bonus and a Take That to anyone who thinks that it's cool As Long as It Sounds Foreign.
    • 'Broflovski' is not a real Polish or Pole-Jewish surname, though this is probably intentional.
    • Done twice in Pinkeye. The first time, the astronauts on MIR speak Russian-sounding gibberish which consists of Russian last names. Later on, when Cartman watches a video on Hitler, the German gibberish consists of made-up and reversed phrases, including "You don't know shit," and "You have lovely breasts," ending with "Goddammit!"
    • The episode Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants features Afghan children and Taliban who speak fluent, accurate Persian, (albeit with Iranian accents), while Bin Laden speaks random Koranic words, such as "jihad," "Ramadan," "Mohammad," "fatwa," mixed with gibberish.
    • In The Movie, Cartman sings "Kyle's Mom's a Bitch" in several languages, which seem to be Chinese, French, Dutch and an African language, judging from the backgrounds and costumes. It sounds nothing like those languages. Justified in that Cartman is giving his interpretation of what those languages would sound like.
    • Also averted in "Passion of the Jew" in which Cartman speaks proper German (albeit horribly mispronounced).
    • In another episode, Mr. Mackey speaks correct Spanish, even down to saying "¿está bien?", a correct translation of his "mm'kay?" Verbal Tic.
    • Played for Laughs when Chef joins the Nation of Islam in "Chef Goes Nanners".
  • The opening song from How the Grinch Stole Christmas includes several lines of Seussian gibberish. After it aired, the studio got dozens of letters from people wanting translations for the "Latin lyrics."
  • In one episode of The Replacements, Tasumi says her favorite thing about field trips is "No parents around to say things like 'Ichi ni san shi go!'" Okay, why would her parents be saying "One two three four five"?
    • Possibly justified. Some parents use a count as 'you're this far from getting in trouble for whatever you're doing'.
  • Jonny Quest is notorious for this.
    • Hadji is supposedly a Hindu, but his name is a Muslim honorific for one who has made the pilgrimage to Mecca.
    • Any non-English language you hear on TOS is UTTER gibberish. For instance, the "Arabic" spoken by Kareem's men in "The Curse of Anubis", and the "Japanese" spoken by Dr. Ashida in "The Dragons of Ashida" are little more than cool-sounding nonsense.
  • The Amazing Adrenalini Brothers, who hail from Réndøosîa (a fiction Eastern European/Eurasian country) and speak in gibberish (e.g., "Groota Fizz", "Yazha" and "Jonka kriska navooti").
  • ''Family Guy: The time when Peter Griffin thinks he can speak Italian simply by virtue of his mustache. It sounds a lot like "Bippidy babbito bobbiti bobbidi boo" with accompanying hand gestures.
    • The Italian butcher he's arguing with, however, is speaking almost proper Italian: some of what he says does not make idiomatic sense ("What's this? You're crazy! ... I will kill you with this meat!"), some is badly translated ("I'm gonna punch you on the head" is translated as "ti dò un pugno nella testa" instead of "ti dò un pugno sulla testa"), and his accent is clearly not a native Italian one.
      • He actually said "I make a living of [selling] this meat" ("Io ci vivo con questa carne"), which is pretty accurate.
    • In another episode, the family pass a Chinese take-out shop with its name in both English and (although correct) Japanese katakana.
    • Despite supposedly being Portuguese, Santos and Pascoal (Peter's former fishermen employees) speak in heavily accented Brazilian Portuguese.
    • Consuela???? That name only exists in Tinseltown. There are plenty of women IRL called Consuelo, meaning "solace" or "consolation" (yes, it ends with an "O". ). Consuela is the third person singular conjugation of the verb consolar.
  • In Modern Toss, foul-mouthed signmaker Mr Tourette and his customers speak in a kind of gibberish that resembles French.
  • The Simpsons episode "Krusty Gets Kancelled" features "Worker and Parasite," a and mouse cartoon that looks like an old propaganda cartoon from an Eastern Bloc country. The title card and end credits feature fake Cyrillic text ("ENDUT! HOCH HECH!") that does not translate into anything.
  • In King Arthur's Disasters, when thanking Sir Martyn in his "language," King Arthur makes random Japanese-sounding noises.
  • The Daria episode Of Human Bonding features a Danish baloonist, Arno, who sports a heavy German accent. The Danish language - accent included - is actually very different from German, but is similar to both Swedish and Norwegian, as these countries belong to the Scandinavian part of Northern Europe.
  • King of the Hill: The Souphanousinphone family often shouts what is supposed to be Laotian, however, it is actually just foreign sounding gibberish.
    • Used in-universe in the earlier Khan episodes to show how little the guys knew about Asian cultures, which is in contrast to Cotton, who can tell Khan's nationality just by looking at him due to having fought Asians in the war.
  • Any signage shown in Aladdin is either English in a Foreign-Looking Font or meaningless scribbles that resemble Arabic. (There's a possible exception in a sign above Jafar's door that might possibly have his name and the word wazir on it, which leads to a bit of Fridge Logic; why would he need a sign that nobody else sees to just have his name and title on it?)
  • There is an ethnically Hawaiian character in Rocket Power named Tito. There is no letter "T" in the Hawaiian alphabet!) And while "Tito" is an actual name, it is a Serbo-Croatian one, not a Hawaiian one.
  • There is an African character in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, a zebra named Zecora. In her first episode, she speaks a few lines of what is supposed to sound like Swahili. Lauren Faust explained that they were originally going to find someone who actually knew Swahili, but due to time constraints, Zecora's voice actor was told to just say some Swahili-sounding jibberish instead. Points for trying.
    • The Breezies speak Swedish-sounding gibberish, which only Fluttershy can understand.
  • The alien Bounty Hunter Embo from Star Wars: The Clone Wars speaks the fictional Kyuzo language, which is really just Dave Filoni speaking intentionally bad French. Interviews say that he mostly just read it out of some French Smurfs books, but at least once (in the episode "Crisis on Naboo"), Embo actually says an intelligible French word that fits the situation he's in ("Allez", when telling the other bounty hunters to move).
  • Given an interesting spin in the previous Clone Wars series. The Nelvaan language is a mix of Russian and Hungarian, read phonetically by voice actors who don't speak the language, to give it a non-natural "alien" sound.
  • Viva Piñata had a scene with sumo hippos who are implied to be japanese. The words they spoke were japanese alright, but they spoke it completely out of context, especially since the words were like "Sushi" and "Sashimi" that most western audiences would know anyways. It's a funny steath pun considering what comes out of a pinata, but given that they speak perfect english, it's a bit of a Mood Whiplash.
  • Winx Club English dubbers like adding "-us" to normal words to make Latin-sounding spells. It happened more often in the 4Kids dub (e.g.: "Transportus Back Homus," "Getus Outta Hereus," "Cushionus Fallus"), but the Nickelodeon dub has done it, too (e.g. "Relocatus").
  • A dub-induced case in the italian dub of [1]: Boris was given a Sicilian accent despite being still portrayed as a generic-slavic spy from a fictional Soviet republic.
  • In Animalympics we have Bruce the Japanese penguin who only supposedly speaks Japanese, he is likely speaking gibberish.

     Real Life  
  • Car companies have an awful habit of doing this, often naming models with words that sound foreign. An American example is "Bravada." Japanese examples include "That's", "Ist" (German for "is"), "Stepwgn," "March," "Probox" (a Dutch brand of roof boxes), "President," "Friendee," "Hijet," "Expert," and "Custom Move."
    • Whoever decided to keep the name Buick "Lacrosse" in Québec probably did some research (the English sport name is simply a French loanword), but the briefest of conversations with a Quebecer would reveal that they just called their car the Buick Jackoff in Québecois slang. It was originally known throughout Canada as the Buick "Allure" (another French loanword) for this very reason, but they dropped this rename after a few years.
    • The Mitsubishi Pajero is named for a wildcat, but in Spanish slang it means "wanker." Models sold in Spanish-speaking countries are called Monteros.
    • In an aversion, German car company Mercedes-Benz uses a "Kompressor" (German for "turbocharger" or "supercharger") badge to designate its turbocharged or supercharged car models.
    • The "Deora", Chrysler's concept pickup from 1965, was given that name because they thought it was the female form of "golden" in Spanish (it's actually "Dorada"). Maybe they got confused when they heard "de oro", which means "(made) of gold", and simply exchanged an "o" for an "a".
    • The Renault Le Car, the North American incarnation of the European citymini Renault 5. Doesn't help that "le car" would be literal French for "the because".
  • In the Latin language, hardly any words at all end in a long E, an "o" isn't masculine, and "-orum" signifies possession. Adding "-us" and "-um" at the the end of every word also does not make it Latin. On the subject of those Sses-yeah, double letters are pronounced as both letters side by side, and they DID have obscenities (whole book's worth, in fact). They also had slang—a lot of the Romance vocabulary is from Roman slang, not "proper" Latin, e.g. tête, the French for "head", is from testa, Latin for "pot" or "jug" ("proper" Latin has caput for "head").
    • On this topic, mandamus is a Latin verb form conjugation; it means "we order". Omnibus is a dative plural (meaning "for all"). A lot of Delusions of Eloquence involve omnibi, mandami, and other idiocy.
      • Shouldn't the plurals of caveat and imprimatur be caveant and imprimantur?
    • Simply appending -us to foreign proper nouns does make them Latin—specifically, it tends to mark them as men's names, e.g. "Yeshua" becomes "Iesus" and "Kong Fuzi" becomes "Confucius" (which is not pronounced "confyushus", but—in the Church Latin of the either Jesuits or Italian travelers who brought the word to the West—"confuchi-us").
    • One common error is to talk about computer viruses in the plural as "virii" — evidently those who do this believe that the singular is "virius". If the word had a Latin plural (which it doesn't) it would be "* viri"... if it were masculine. It's actually one of the rare neuter nouns of the second declension that end in "-us", so it's hypothetical plural would actually be "* vira".
    • Similarly, "tempo" (meaning "time", used in music and chess) is often wrongly pluralised as "tempii"... when it isn't even Latin in the first place!
  • Adding "El" at the beginning of a word and "-o" at the end of it doesn't make it Spanish-sounding.
    • It's a regular rule in the Television Without Pity recaps that the guy who tries to stick an "o" on the end of an English word and trying to pass it off as Spanish is El Douchebago.
  • Adding "-ay" or "é" to a verb doesn't automatically make it French. "Look-ay, I'm talk-ay-ing L-ay French-ay!"
  • Adding "-a" at the beginning and end of a word doesn't make you sound Italian. Except if you're Charles Martinet, which you most likely aren't.
  • Adding "-en" to the end of every word and sputtering random ümlauts everywhere while imitating Arnold Schwarzenegger's voice does not make you sound German.
  • Adding "-iau" at the end of every word and speaking bad English in a heavy accent doesn't make you sound Welsh. (for example 'I is Welsh-iau, bruv')
    • Also, many people believe that simply going 'chhhhggghahhhghahhgggh' sounds like Welsh.
  • Häagen-Dazs ice cream is famous for having chosen a name which sounds... Danish? Hungarian? Foreign — no matter what your native language is, but doesn't mean anything. In a bizarre and funny legal case, Häagen-Dazs tried to sue another American Ice Cream brand, Frusen Gladje (which is—aside from one missing umlaut—entirely correct Swedish for "frozen joy"), because the name was intended to fool consumers into thinking the ice cream was actually made in Sweden. Häagen-Dazs lost because of the "clean hands" doctrine - i.e., they were themselves equally guilty of using fake Scandinavian to sound old-timey and exotic, so couldn't blame others for using the same trick.
  • There's also Europanto, a "language" comprising random words and syntax of various European languages, depending on what languages the speaker happens to know. A sample sentence: "Europanto want nicht informe aber amuse." It started as a journalist's joke, but now there are forums dedicated to its use.
  • In Dave Barry Does Japan, Barry notices that many signs and t-shirts in Japan feature English text. However, this text is usually completely meaningless, and people apparently just like the way it looks. He also notices that Japanese rock bands seem prone to choosing bizarre English names, with some very interesting results.
    • Dave Barry's Money Secrets includes a series of allegedly useful phrases ("Where is the Internet?") for people who want to appear fluent in foreign languages to memorize. While the European phrases are Poirot Speak translations, all the Japanese phrases are represented by the same three kanji of the kind that could be someone's name, and the Chinese phrases are actually random Japanese characters put together (the kanji meaning "Japanese Language" occurs twice).
  • Despite what hundreds of books, movies and comics might tell you, Brazilians do not speak Spanish, they speak Portuguese (being originally a colony of Portugal). This is such a widespread belief that it's become a standard trick question in many kinds of trivia games, including televised ones such as Jeopardy!.
    • Inverted in the Afrikaans commentary for the FIFA 2010 World Cup. Afrikaans-speaking announcers consistently pronounced Mexican players' names to sound Portuguese ("Marquez" became "Markesh"). Makes sense: Mozambique is right next door to South Africa, and Mozambicans speak Portuguese. So Portuguese pronunciations come naturally to Afrikaans-speakers, especially near the border.
    • Spanish and Portuguese names actually have significant overlap, so many Brazilians do have "Spanish names," or more precisely, Portuguese names that are also common in Spanish, like Pedro. And to complicate the issue, a minority of Hispanics have distinctly Portuguese (or Galician) last names.
  • One of the biggest reasons that some people have a backlash against anime and manga fans is because, a good percentage of them, think adding "-umi" or "-aki" or "-oni" at the end of a bunch of garbled letters equals a Japanese name. Leading to character names like Tsashi Chizuru, Aeashi Tomeoko and Heashmi Concaro. Because if it's got a lot of colliding vowels in it, it must be Japanese! Also, while "-san" is an actual Japanese term, there are rules for using it.
    • Even when the names are made up of real kanji, they're often used wrong. Japanese names follow rules, and they're not actually hard to use.
  • Many "Spanish" place names in the American Southwest were actually invented by English speakers who wanted them to sound Spanish. In some cases, because these folks didn't actually know Spanish well at all, they turn out to be gibberish. For example, Isla Vista, California, Mar Vista, Los Angeles and Sierra Vista, Arizona are "Blind Idiot" Translations of "Island View", "Sea View" and "Mountain View" respectively that sounded foreign enough to their English-speaking christeners. So for example, in Spanish "Isla Vista" means the little-sensical "Seen Island" (i.e., "island that somebody has seen at some point in history"). Same goes for any American placename with "Vista" in it; the idiomatic way of naming places like that in Spanish would be ''Miramar'' for "Sea View" or ''Miramonte'' for "Mountain View."
    • Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is guilty of this. Before marrying Corina Raigosa he was just Tony Villar. He added his name to his wife's name to come up with the far more ethnic-sounding (but utterly meaningless) "Villaraigosa" when he went into politics (and re-adopted his ethnic birthname "Antonio" rather than the anglicized diminutive "Tony"), to appeal to the large Hispanic population in Los Angeles. The correct way of mixing both last names is Villarraigosa (with two r's), not Villaraigosa. And Villar is a perfectly good Spanish surname (it does exist in Spain). Villarraigosa sounds like a town name.
  • According to some scholars, the name of the US state of Idaho was invented as part of a hoax. It supposedly was chosen as a nonsense word that sounded vaguely Native American (never mind that that doesn't really make any linguistic sense). Wherever the name came from, a hundred and fifty years later, it became the basis for innumeral variations on the same Pun.
  • In Melbourne, Australia, there is an annual festival called Moomba, which was suggested as a name by local Indigenous Australians, who translated it as something along the lines of "let's get together and have fun". In reality, 'Mum' (pronounced 'moom') means 'buttocks/anus' and '-ba' is a suffix meaning 'on, in, at' in several Aborigial languages of the area. The result means, roughly, "Up yours."
  • Lorem ipsum is an inversion of the trope. It's originally a slice of random text from Cicero, modified from proper Latin to approximate the standard letter distribution of English. It's supposed to look like English, but not be distracting by actually meaning anything.
  • A variant of this trope happens in Ron White's recounting of when he got thrown out of a bar. The telegraph in Fritch, TX starts transmitting, which he indicates by making a bunch of beeps, as long as they sound like Morse code. The "shorthand" bit does give it away, but who cares?
  • The Tapestry of Dreams/Nations parade and Disney Theme Parks uses chanting that is meant to give an African feel, but it's completely meaningless.
  • Jennifer Lopez jokingly showed off her lack of Spanish knowledge, despite her Puerto Rican ancestry, during an interview for Sony Entertaintment Television. She spoke Spanish gibberish with a shrieking accent that some people found a little insulting.
    • "Spanish gibberish with a shrieking accent" is how most Mexicans (and probably Cubans) would describe Puerto Rican Spanish, if they were in an unkind mood.
  • Quite a few Chinese restaurants have Mandarin-ish or Cantonese-ish sounding names, but the name translates out to gibberish. This might be because actual Mandarin and Cantonese are quite difficult for non-speakers to pronouce.
  • "Arem shem beth sedal sacravalian ahad." According to Sylvia Browne this is Aramaic for, "Blessed be this Queen on high who is sacred to all who come to her." Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, it does not even resemble Aramaic and means nothing whatsoever.note 
    • "Sacravalian", which is probably supposed to be "blessed", or possibly "sacred", is rather plainly mangled Latin. The Levantine Semitic languages all use "baruch" for "bless" and something like "qodesh"/"qadosh" for "holy/sacred", and, at least in Hebrew, "may it be blessed" is "baruch hu", as in "haQadosh, baruch hu" (the Holy One, Blessed Be He, a Jewish epithet for God). "Blessed be this holy queen" would probably be something like "Molechet qodesh baruch hu", if Aramaic follows the usual "stick a -t on the end to make it feminine" rule ("Molech" is the usual word for "King"; "Moloch" was a Canaanite deity simply known by his title, much as the Jews called their god simply "The Lord").
      • Indeed, among Semitic languages, the roots "('}-Š-M" (name) "'-Ḥ-D" (one), "B-R-K" (bless) "M-L-K" ("King"note ), and "Q-D-Š" (sacred) are among the most conserved, appearing in Arabic, South Semitic (Ethiopian and Old Yemenite) and East Semitic (Babylon & Friends) languages. "S-M" is common Afro-Asiatic, appearing in the more distantly-related Hausa, Berber, Ancient Egyptian... So yeah. It's gibberish.
  • The hacker jargon term "blinkenlights" refers to the blinking lights on any computer. It comes from a sign that would be hung up in server rooms, which was written in mock-German designed to be perfectly understandable to a native English speaker (because geeks are weird, that's why). Full text and more details at Wikipedia.
  • The San Diego Wild Animal Park's monorail ride is called "Wgasa", a name that's ostensibly supposed to sound Swahili or something. In reality it's just the plain ol' acronym "who gives a shit anyhow?" http://www.snopes.com/business/names/wgasa.asp
  • "Asian" tattoos have become a a fashionable fad (not Vietnamese though, Latin-based text is not exotic enough) that will later embarrass whoever thought it was a good idea to permanently paint a word they don't know on their arm.
    "I got drunk and got a tattoo here (points to the side of his abdomen) in Mandarin that says 'Happiness and Laughter'. I think that's what it says, since I've never had a Chinese person that close enough to my balls to say, 'That's what it says.' But a friend of mine got a tattoo in Mandarin that said 'Golden Warrior' but later someone stold him, 'No, it says "Ass Monkey".' And then the same guy got a tattoo in Hindi that said 'Dawn of Enlightenment' but then someone told him, 'No, it says "Deliveries on Tuesday".' So he is now the ass monkey that delivers on Tuesday for the rest of his life.
    • A post on Failbook featured a girl who had uploaded a picture of her new Chinese Tattoo to Facebook. One of her Chinese friends commented that it translated as "picnic table".
  • Expect people who speak a little Chinese to fake their way through the tones and, as a result, say gibberish.
  • New Age "Native American spirituality" types often greet with "osiyo" and end with "mitakuye oyasin". The former is Cherokee. The latter is Lakota, thousands of miles away, and translates as "all my relatives" - which, without a verb, means nothing. (Cherokee and Lakota are not even known to be related; Cherokee is a Southern Iroquoian language, related to, well, the Iroquois languages of New York State—Seneca, Tuscarora, Mohawk, Onondaga, Cayuga—and elsewhere in the Northeast, while Lakota is a Siouan language. Relationships have been proposed between them—there is evidence that they either share a distant common ancestor or that their respective distant ancestors were in close contact with each other and formed a sprachbund, but either way, it's in the very, very distant past.)
  • Spammers will often pick one of two names to title their emails. They will either pick a stereotypical English name (often from the names of dead presidents), or they will pick some incredibly foreign name from the country they claim to be from.
  • In the Monk novel Mr. Monk Goes to Germany, Natalie Teeger describes an interesting an real example of this trope when she and Monk go out to dinner in Lohr, Germany: the California based hot dog restaurant chain Wienerschnitzel (its inclusion is somewhat justified as Monk and Natalie are from California).
    "We headed out for an early dinner at the same place we'd visited the night before. This time I was a bit more daring. I ordered the Wienerschnitzel and was pleasantly surprised when they didn't deliver a hot dog to the table.
    "When I was growing up in Monterey, there was a chain of fast-food places in California called Der Wienerschnitzel that served a wide array of lousy hot dogs that looked even worse than they tasted. I assumed, like every other ignorant Californian, that Wienerschnitzel was the German term for hot dog. But no, it's not. It's actually a lightly battered and fried veal cutlet that's similar to a country-fried steak, only a lot more light and tasty.
    "So why would somebody call a hot dog stand the "Fried Veal?" It would be like calling a hamburger place the "Chow Mein". It made no sense."
    • The source of this is that said chain was originally called "Der Wienerschnitzel", but they dropped the "Der" part in 1977 because it's a masculine article, and "Das" should be used to refer to neutral nouns (that Natalie refers to it with the "Der" makes sense since in the TV series she is played by Traylor Howard, who is in her early forties, and assuming Natalie is about the same age, she would be roughly 11 years old when this happened). Even so, "Wiener schnitzel" (as it should be written) doesn't refer to hot dogs, but rather a breaded Viennese-style veal cutlet, which the restaurant ironically doesn't sell. "Wiener" is actually short for "Wiener Würstchen", loosely translating to "little Viennese sausage".
    • Schnitzel is best known in the US as chicken-fried steak, which was invented when Austrian (or perhaps Bavarian) immigrants in Texas decided to make schnitzel with cube steak rather than veal cutlet (cube steak is far, far cheaper, and while beef is omnipresent in Texas, veal is less so for a variety of reasons).
  • Japanese composer Kouji Makaino has used foreign-sounding pseudonyms such as Mark Davis, Jimmy Johnson or Michael Korgen when composing music that would eventually used in commercials featuring foreign celebrities
  • Apparently as a gesture of some kind, Vitaly Mutko, the Russian minister of Sports, has given a public speech at FIFA committee event in December 2010 (the same day it was decided that FIFA World Cup 2018 will be held in Russia). In English. First time in his life. He read a Russian text abundant with the horrible coming-up-shorts caused by trying to squeeze proper English phonetics into the territory of Russian alphabet and rules of enunciation.
    Vitaly Mutko: "Lets mi spik from mai hart in inglish" [audience applause]


Hollywood ApocryphaArtistic License - LinguisticsBite The Wax Tadpole
AngrishWord Salad IndexBlack Belt In Origami
Accent RelapseArtistic License - LinguisticsBite The Wax Tadpole
Asian Speekee EngrishLanguage TropesAtomic F-Bomb
Anime Accent AbsenceAccent TropesAustralian Accent
Appropriated AppellationNaming ConventionsAtrocious Alias

alternative title(s): Foreign Sounding Gibberish; Its All Greek To Me
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