Asian Speekee Engrish
"Goddamn Mongorianzh! Shtop breaking down my shitty warr!"translationOh, herro! Talkee 'bout Asian Speekee Engrish here. This is a trope about race that is now largely a Dead Horse Trope. This trope is in play when an Asian character (sometimes, but not always a recent immigrant) uses stereotypical mangled English, either for comedy or to establish their foreignness. Common mistakes they make in their English include:
— Tuong Lu Kim, South Park
- Swapping "L's for "R"s and vice versa;
- Omitting articles and particles like "the", "this", "that", and "it";
- Adding "ee" to the end of nouns or replacing the actual final consonant with "ee" ("ticket" becomes "tickee");
- Dropping the leading "A' from words ("about" becomes "'bout"; "across", "'cross"; "away", "'way" and so on).
- Eliding entire verb clauses ("With no ticket, you can't get your laundry" becomes "No tickee, no laundry.")
- Extreme politeness to the point of obsequiousness;
- Extreme self-denigration;
- Complete lack of tense differentiation ("he takes", "he will take", and "he took" all become "he take").
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- This Jell-O ad
- This Calgon ad, though in a subversion only one Asian speaks this way (and it might be an act).
- Kellogg's Corn Flakes at one point had a tie-in for a "Cornfucious say" jokebook (complete with Chinaman stereotype) along with Cornfucious tagging along with country comedy duo Homer & Jethro (their normal spokesmen at the time).
- When the Isuzu car came out, TV ads placed a Japanese dealer with a customer who was unable to say "Isuzu" properly. It ends with the dealer saying "It's all right, bud. I can't say 'Chevroret'!"
- So-Hi shills for Post Rice Krinkles. You won't believe the premium.
Anime And Manga
- Axis Powers Hetalia does this to some extent in the Gag Dub with China and Japan. They seem to become slightly more grammatically articulate when speaking to each other or monologuing than when they speak to the Europeans, which implies switching between languages, though they keep up the Japanese Ranguage.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist, Ling's English is normally perfect, but he briefly does this as part of his Obfuscating Stupidity; after his bodyguards have a fight with the Elrics that destroys half the town, the Elrics try to tell the increasingly angry mob that it's Ling's fault. He replies "So sorry! I no understand much language of this countly! Ok, bye-bye now!" and scarpers.
- Shenhua of Black Lagoon speaks like this in both the Japanese and English dubs, something Revy makes fun of whenever they see each other to the point of nicknaming her "Chinglish."
- Unsettlingly, many American comics used a Japanese variant of this, especially during WWII, as a form of propaganda. It's enough to make most modern readers flinch.
- The Tintin villain Mitsuhirato talks like this, and is depicted with all the worst Japanese stereotypes, including buck teeth, thick glasses, big ears, bad pronunciation etc. At the time the character was written, Imperial Japan was at war with China, and engaged in a very brutal occupation of much of its territory. Hergé sympathised with the Chinese, and made no attempt to conceal it. This even carried over to the Nelvana adaptation . Thankfully, he got better, as The Crab with the Golden Claws features a far more heroic Japanese police officer who, despite speaking with a stereotypical accent in the Nelvana version, is not portrayed as being stereotypical at all.
- Chin-Kee from American Born Chinese talks like this.
- A Chinese character in The Sandman uses this as Obfuscating Stupidity, switching from perfect English in a private discussion to "velly solly, me no speakee" in order to get rid of an opium addict.
- In The Legend of Total Drama Island, Duncan invokes this trope when the Asian or half-Asian Heather tries to sit with him and Ezekiel during the Awake-a-thon. Duncan says, "She so horny, love us long time" with a stereotypical Far Eastern accent and a bad imitation of Heather's voice.
- Mickey Rooney's "Mr. Yunioshi" in Breakfast at Tiffany's is one of the more enduring (and, to a modern audience, excruciating,) examples of this.
- Hoy, the Chinese servant in Red Dust, is a very unpleasant Asian stereotype, complete with broken English.
- In Full Metal Jacket, a Vietnamese prostitute offers her services to the main characters with statements like "Me so horny," "Me suckee suckee," and "Me love you long time."
- One of the crew in the original King Kong (1933) is a Chinese stereotype who plays this trope constantly.
- Charlie Chan dropped pronouns and articles, called himself "humble self", and uttered wise proverbs, but used few of the other conventions, which are typical of "pidgin". Earle Derr Biggers, his creator, specified that Chan learned English by reading poetry. In one story a man he's been working with catches a fake pretending to be him over the phone because he says "savvy," which Chan would never do. Sidney Toler and Warner Oland, who played him in the movies, for the most part kept to this characterization.
- Inspector Sidney Wang (a parody/Expy of Charlie Chan) talks like this in Murder by Death. This is apparently Lionel Twain's Berserk Button:
Milo Perrier: What do you make of all of this, Wang?
Sidney Wang: Is confusing.
Lionel Twain: It! It is confusing! Say your goddamn pronouns!
- Subverted in the "Mr. Moto" films. The title character can speak perfect English with virtually no accentnote , but he sometimes adopts the stereotypical pidgin style as a form of Obfuscating Stupidity.
- Team America: World Police had Kim Jong Il speaking exclusively like this. He also sings like this. Specifically, the song "I'm So Ronery".
- At the end of A Christmas Story, the waitstaff of a Chinese restaurant attempt to sing Christmas carols to Ralphie and his family, but their accent is so thick that they sing the "fa la la" line in "Deck the Halls" as "fa ra ra." The maitre d', whose accent is respectable, keeps trying to correct them, but they get no better. When they start to butcher "Jingle Bells," he shoos them away.
- Usually avoided with Fu Manchu. Despite being the archetypal Yellow Peril villain, he speaks perfect English.
- The women in The World Of Suzie Wong do some of this, mostly dropping pronouns.
- 7 Faces of Dr. Lao:
Ed Cunningham: Hey! How come you speak perfect English all of a sudden?
Dr. Lao: Oh, it comes and goes. Whatever dialect the mood requires.
Ed Cunningham: Oh, it just comes and goes?
Dr. Lao: Whassa matta you? Alla time asking silly questions! Wise guy!
- In Impact (1949) detective Charles Coburn tries to question an aged Asian played by Philip Ahn. When he doesn't answer immediately the detective asks him "Savvy English?" To which he replies (in perfect English): "Yes. Also French, Italian and Hebrew")
- The Departed: Jack Nicholson's character says, "No tickee, no laundry," to insult some Asian gangsters with the broken English and Chinese laundry stereotypes.
- In Keeping The Faith, Ken Leung plays a One-Scene Wonder karaoke salesman who appears to be full of this trope. It turns out to be an act that he quickly drops when he realizes Ben Stiller and Edward Norton's characters aren't buying his sales pitch. From that point on, he speaks perfect English.
- Parodied in Lethal Weapon 4:
Riggs: Maybe we can get some food. Flied lice?
Benny Chan: Flied lice!? It's called "fried rice", you plick!
- The Indian Taxi Driver in TRON: Legacy speaks with broken English when Sam lands on his roof while escaping ENCOM HQ at the beginning of the film.
- The Pest: The Chinese Restaurant scene.
Manager: (to Pest) Why I no understand any you chinese?
- Su-Chin from Juno speaks in mangled English that evokes this trope, but no accent whatsoever, to rather surreal effect.
- In The Cobbler, when the hero shapeshifts into an Asian man, he is surprised to hear himself talk Engrish.
- A joke making the rounds has a Chinaman at his broker wondering why the stocks he invested in were losing money. The broker tells him "Fluctuations." The Chimaman responds "Fluck you Amelicans, too!"
- What time is it when a Chinaman goes to the dentist? 2:30 (Tooth hurty).
- One joke mocks and subverts this trope. A (presumably white) woman at a banquet is sitting next to an Asian man. Turning to him, she asks, "Likee soupee?" He nods and they continue eating. After dinner, it turns out that the Asian man is actually one of the speakers. Approaching the podium, he gives a speech, intelligently discussing difficult subject matter in perfect, unaccented English. Returning to his seat, the man turns to the woman and asks, "Likee speechee?"
- Subverted and deconstructed in John Steinbeck's East of Eden. The character of Lee seems to be this, but is actually faking it to go along with white people's expectations.
- Lampshaded in the Phryne Fisher stories, when Lin Chung plays 'stage Chinaman', usually to tease Phryne. She isn't amused.
- In Shanghai Girls , Pearl speaks English perfectly, but reverts to this trope because tourists tip better when she speaks stereotypically.
- In The Dark Tower, a group of Japanese Tourists in New York City speak Engrish while trying to get a character to take their picture.
- One of the many racially insensitive things edited out of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys books during their rewrites in the 60's.
- Sing the cook in Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Monster Men. To be sure, he's from Southeast Asia and would have had little practice speaking English.
- A prostitute in Lawrence Block's Tanner's Tiger spoke like this - until Tanner revealed that he spoke perfect Vietnamese.
- Wu in Star Bridge initially talks like this ("No killee poor Chinee boy!"). Until Horn calls him on the act by noting that Wu's parrot speaks perfect English. From then on, Wu does as well.
- As a Heroes Tie-In Novel, Hiro's English is as poor as it is on the show in Saving Charlie. Part of the plot is that spending so much time in Texas teaches him better English, as he's forced to practice with everyone he speaks to except Charlie (whose Photographic Memory lets her pick up phrases in languages with ease).
Live Action TV
Roz: We're gonna get sued this time for sure.
- An episode had obnoxious sports host Bulldog invoking this while attempting an ad for a Chinese restaurant.
- He does it again in "Ham Radio". When KACL puts on an old-time radio murder mystery for the stations anniversary, Bulldog plays a Chinese man named Mr. Wing. When Frasier asks if Mr. Wing saw anything suspicious, he responds, "Oh, me no lookee, me go very by chop-chop." Roz responds with "Chinese Embassy on Line 1." Not that it mattered, because Bulldog got such a bad case of stage fright he completely clammed up.
- MADtv had the character of Ms. Swan.
"Yeah. I tell you e'ery-ting! He look-a like a man!"
- 2 Broke Girls has Han "Bryce" Lee own the diner at which the two main characters work. He sometimes talks like this.
- Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report occasionally trots out his character "Ching Chong Ding Dong," who speaks in an exaggerated Engrish accent, spouting stereotypical lines like, "Ooooh, me rikey tea!" Colbert admits that the character is incredibly racist, but also insists that he's not racist for performing the character, because, "The character is speaking through me."
- Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch "Erizabeth L." portrays a Japanese man, Yakomoto (sic) posing as Luchino Visconti. As well as his own speech, the entire dialog of his play is in R/L swapping.
- "I bling a dispatch flom Prymouth."
- "When you have a rine, ling your berr. Ling ling. Rike this."
- "Me vely impoltant Itarian firm dilectol. 'Alliveldelchi Loma...'"
- Some Korean characters in MASH, though others speak English normally or don't speak it at all.
- Dr. Park on Monday Mornings is Korean and speaks in extremely broken English, but other than that, he's nothing like this stereotype. He's an extremely self-assured and brilliant neurosurgeon with blunt-to-rude bedside manner. Rule of Funny comes into play, because his Catch Phrase "No do — dead" and its variations are quite hilarious.
- Hiro Nakamura from Heroes. Especially at the start of the series, he does not speak English very well and frequently needs his buddy Ando to translate for him. Ando, however, speaks normally, and Future Hiro does as well.
- Played with in the Doctor Who serial "The Talons of Weng Chiang." The Anti-Villain stage magician Li H'sen Chang has an accent, but he plays it up during his stage performances because his Victorian audience would otherwise doubt that he's actually Chinese.
- "Hawaiian Detective Harry Hoo" (played by a Caucasian man) from an episode of Get Smart speaks like this. Smart unintentionally imitates him a couple of times. The same episode introduces a Yellow Peril KAOS agent named The Claw (again, a Caucasian guy).
The Claw: Not "The Craw"! The Craw!
- Subverted in an early episode of Gunsmoke. A Chinese immigrant character speaks this way when dealing with most whites he meets. It then turns out that he can speak English flawlessly, but that hard experience has taught him that racists are more likely to bully him for speaking English properly than for just acting the way they expect him to. He only drops the pretense around people he trusts.
- Similarly subverted in a Sanford and Son in which Fred walks into a clothing store. When he spots a Chinese-American, he asks to see the manager and engages in some "Engrish" before the man (who happens to be the manager) responds; again in perfect English.
Manager: You don't need me. You need a speech therapist.
- In Canada's Worst Driver, Jason Zhang from Season 2 would employ such speech and pretend he barely spoke English so he could get out of driving tickets.
Jason (demonstrating): "Solly! English... no!"
- Rucka Rucka Ali's Song Parody "I'm A Korean",note in addition to playing Interchangeable Asian Cultures for all its worth, is sung entirely in this style.
- Invoked in Utada Hikaru's song Dirty Desire where she sings "In my fantasies I love you long time". Presumably she has N-Word Privileges.
- Parodied at the end of Allan Sherman's song "Lotsa Luck", where he sings thus...
When you buy a tape recorder of the automatic kind,
Lotsa luck, pal, lotsa luck.
If it's simplified for folks who aren't mechanically inclined,
Lotsa luck, pal, lotsa luck.
There's a small instruction booklet that's a hundred pages long,
And on page one, you get stuck.
It says, "If unsatisfactory,
You must bring this to the factory,"
But the factory's in Japan,
So rotsa ruck!
- U.S. Acres: In one strip, Orson sneezes and later receives a phone call from China. The caller says "Bress you".
- In They Knew What They Wanted, Chinese cook Ah Gee introduces himself as a "velly good cook."
- Brian's Japanese fiance/wife Christmas Eve from Avenue Q, particularly her use of Rs in place of Ls and the exclusion of certain articles in her sentences.
- In the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, Bloody Mary talks like this, but her songs are excellent, sometimes complex English in construction. Here's her talking to Billis:
Bloody Mary: [giving a Shrunken Head to Lt. Cable] You like, I give you free!
Luther Billis: Free? You never gave me anything free!
Bloody Mary: You no saxy like lieutellen.
- Compare with her song, Bali Ha'i;
Bali Ha'i will whisper
On the wind of the sea:
"Here am I, your special island!
Come to me, come to me!"
- However, it may be worth nothing that other characters sing "Bali Ha'i" at other points in the play as well, so she may just be parroting a popular song, not making it up herself. Bloody Mary's song "Happy Talk" is much more of a piece with her dialog.
- Billy, Reno, and Moonface's disguises at the climax of Anything Goes definitely falls into this category.
- Hogs of War plays this to comedic effect with the Japanese squad members.
- The Interactive Fiction game Recluse sports a hulking Asian butler with a pronounced physical resemblance to Oddjob and utterances such as "Next time, have appointment!"
- Deus Ex has been criticized for the stereotypical accents all Chinese characters employ in the game's Hong Kong chapter.
- Bioshock's Dr. Suchong shows some of these habits: he doesn't use 'be' verbs, tense differentiation, or plurality, he refers to himself in the third person, etc. One example: "You can no reuse protector suit. Take a man, graft skin and organs straight into suit, otherwise suit not work. Ryan say Big Daddy too expensive. Ryan can go suck egg."
- Although some of his audio diaries have near-perfect syntax, indicating he's exaggerating his affectations to some extent: "I can't seem to get the damn Big Daddies to imprint on the little brats. The protection bond is just not forming..."
- Played straight in Vietcong, where any Vietnamese character speaks this way, except the Hue Mayor, Captain Soat, and Major Thu, all of whom speak English fluently.
- In Police Quest: Open Season, the Korean 7-Eleven owner talks like this. "No steal from me, you pay!"
- The announcer of Kasumi Ninja speaks like this. Unfortunately, it's not even the most offensive stereotype in the game.
- Averted in The Matrix: Path of Neo, all the Asian characters speak perfect English except for the fact that they have accents.
- In Rallo Gump, the expository notes found in blocks are sometimes narrated by a person with a heavy East Asian accent.
- Yuffie in Ansem Retort talks this way so that people will be under the impression that she knows martial arts.
- Liu Kang in the Mortal Kombat sprite cartoons speaks like this.
"I am Ruu Kang!"
- Though to be fair, he IS voiced by an in-character Peter Chao, who uses an overly exaggerated Chinese accent.
- Used among many Asian YouTubers, usually to imitate and satirize their parents/culture.
- The Game Grumps Let's Play series has made frequent use of racial humour of this nature. They invented a character called Sad Hoshi, a depressed Japanese man who doesn't want to burden anyone else with his problems ("It's my responsibirrrrity!"), who they subsequently decide has a lolicon porn stash and is attracted to children. In a later episode they acted out a telephone call with Shigeru Miyamoto, who speaks in garbled English and basic Japanese ("Yessu! Watashi wa Mario Maker desu!") and calls the show 'Glame Glumps'. These examples and their animated adaptations attracted some controversy and accusations of racism in the comments section.
- ''Morny! Ruin sorbees!''....This joke was going around the web for a while. When Asian Speekee Engrish & room service collide. Stupidity ensues!
- Random Assault: The hosts are not above doing offensive Asian accents. Played straight with the title of episode 020: "Ret's Get Lacist!!"
- Family Guy: Tricia Takanawa, Quahog 5 News' reporter who is Asian-American and speaks in a nasal, blatantly Japanese monotone. Her vocal qualities and placement in various situations are done to play up the "Asian enunciation of English" stereotype.
- South Park has featured this trope a number of times:
- South Park's resident Chinese-American is Tuong Lu Kim, who owns the City Wok restaurant and whose thick accent causes him to repeatedly call it "Shitty Wok." Many seasons after his introduction it's revealed that he's actually a white man with multiple personality disorder.
- Subverted in "The China Probrem," where the Chinese people at the restaurant speak with an American accent, while Cartman and Butters adopt a stereotypical Chinese disguise and speak like this. Cartman is wearing a paddy hat, while Butters is wearing a fez. They're both squinting and wear large fake front teeth. The real Chinese man tells them they're not Chinese.
- Taken to extremes in one episode where a Japanese man and Chinese man argue with each other with the nearly the exact same accent and can't understand each other.
- Surfaces occasionally (along with other Asian stereotypes) in "Fortune Cookie Caper," the Chinese master-villain episode of Mister T.
- In The Simpsons, a staple of Krusty The Clown's archaic, offensive comedy routine is a "Chinaman" impression, complete with fake buck teeth and catchphrase ("Me so solly!").
"Mr.Simpson! You good man! We happy see you! You not come long time! Come sit, drinky-drinky!"
- In the season 18 episode "Yokel Chords" there's a one off gag with a Chinese restaurant owner who speaks English without an accent to his wife but then puts on an exaggerated Chinaman act, complete with a hat with a long braid to get Homer to come drink at his restaurant.
- Joe Jitsu from The Dick Tracy Show.
- In The Aristocats, Scat Cat's jazz ensemble is made of cats from all countries. While the American, English, Italian, and Russian cats are fairly mild stereotypes, the Chinese Cat not only talks like this, but has buck teeth, wears a cymbal like a coolie hat, and in the song about how great being a cat is, sings only about Chinese food, while playing the piano with chopsticks. Seriously.
- Danger Mouse: In "The Wild, Wild Goose Chase," DM and Penfold are in Hong Kong looking for Baron Greenback, when they happen upon a native who tells them "he pack glip and take tlip. He give you lunalound!" As DM and Penfold leaves, the guy says to himself, "Insclutible Blitish. Clazy, man...clazy!"
- In "The Brothers Matzoriley" segment of The Super 6, Wong (the middle head of three) was a chinese stereotype,particularly when he went "Confusion Say . . ."
- In the made-for-TV Mr. Magoo cartoons, Magoo had a Chinese houseboy named Charlie. He spoke in fractured Chinese, but when USA Network ran the cartoons in the 90s, Charlie's voice was redubbed with a clearer English accent.
- When MTV and the Disney Channel ran The Beatles cartoons in the late 80s, the opening of the first season was left out because of a scene where Ringo eludes a gaggle of fangirls by impersonating a Chinaman with a garbage can lid as a hat. Similarly, many first season episodes were not aired because of their presentation of Oriental stereotypes. (e.g.: In "It Won't Be Long," a botanist has a sign reading "Dr. Ah So—Honolable Ploplietor.")
- The war time cartoons Tokio Jokio, Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips and The Ducktators all depict Japanese people talk in this manner.
Soldier: (to us) Ooh, honolable ah-ha! That no Japanese general. That Bugs Bunny. I see him in Walner Blothers-Reon Schresinger-Mellie Merodies cartoon picture. Oh, he no fool me!
- In Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips, a Japanese soldier is presented trying to attack Bugs and rambling in incoherent Japanese. When Bugs impersonates a Japanese general, the soldier tries to commit hari-kari when he almost kills him, but then Bugs gives himself away by eating a carrot:
- In American Dad! Francine's (adoptive) parents are very much the first generation stereotype of Asian Americans, speaking in short, curt, sentences and dropping articles.
- King of the Hill has the Souphanousinphones, who are Laotian, and the man of the family, Khan, frequently slips into the curt-rudeness as well as having an accent and dropping the occasional articles. Played with in that most of his curtness is him deliberately being rude because he is just a massive jerk and he's playing it up just to mess with Hank Hill's head.
- Played straight and subverted in the same sentence on an episode of Archer
Archer: With who? 'Cause that bucktoothed little shit doesn't even speak English.Bucky: I do a rittre note bit.Archer: No you don't!Bucky: And correct syntax is 'with whom!'
- The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan completely averts this. Chan himself speaks good English with just a hint of Oriental flavor. His ten kids speak perfectly clear English (Henry, the eldest has a noticeable Oriental twang in his voice but otherwise perfectly understandable).
- The Daffy Duck vehicle "China Jones" goes to town with this. Porky is Charlie Chun, whom Daffy thinks is a detective who he thinks wants in on the possible reward for capturing the deadly criminal Limey Louie. At the end, it turns out Chun is Jones' laundryman, come to collect on a big laundry bill. The cartoon has Jones' encounter with the Dragon Lady.
Jones: And why might they be calling you the Dragon Lady?Dragon Lady: (breathes fire on Jones) Is answer question?Jones: (wearily and defeatedly) Yes...is answer question!
- The Josie and the Pussycats episode "All Wong In Hong Kong" invokes this trope from the title alone, but also later when the team is at a Hong Kong hotel and Melody is paged for a phone call.
P.A. speaker: Phone call for Missy Mewody. Phone call for Missy Mewody.