Gratuitous Foreign Language
"I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse."
— Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (King Carlos I of Spain)
Truth #1: Foreign languages sound more exotic. Buying some body lotion is not the same as buying La Creme Luxueuse
, and driving a car is not the same as driving a Motorwagen
Truth #2: Unfortunately, not many people are even that good with foreign languages they have been taught, and now people can use babelfish to translate things into languages they do not even know in the slightest.
The result: random dialog, often awkward or incorrect, thrown around to make a dialogue seem more exotic. It will often be heavily biased toward extremely basic words that are the most likely to be understood by monolingual readers and authors: "yes," "no," "hello," "please," "good", "sir," "ma'am," etc.
In Japan, the most common of the languages is English. In America, Spanish and French are more likely to be used. Rarely will this result in a full Bilingual Dialogue
Commonly used gratuitous foreign languages include:
of this is Poirot Speak
, where the gratuitous words are always the language's "simple" and recognisable
ones. Surprisingly Good Foreign Language
, the total opposite of this one, is considered a trope because seeing it is not very common. Gratuitous foreign language in a work is sometimes corrected
in translations of that work. See also Foreign Language Title
Compare Black Speech
, when authors feel like adding an evil language to better designate an enemy.
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Anime and Manga
- The character of China from Axis Powers Hetalia speaks in simple Chinese phrases on occasion (things like "Good morning!" and "No problem!") His Japanese voice actress adds to this by speaking with an exaggerated stereotypical Chinese accent.
- Terriermon's Catch Phrase, "Moumantai" from Digimon Tamers (Cantonese for "no problem").
- Ranka Lee from Macross Frontier sings "Ni Hao Nyan" during one of her concerts. The writers likely assumed this would translate to something like "Hello (meow!)", since "Ni hao" is Mandarin for "hello", and "nyan" is the Japanese onomatopoeia for a meowing cat. However, in Chinese, "nya/nyan" means something akin to "sissy" or "gay".
- That's not the only problem: placing an adjective after "ni hao" translates to "you're very [adjective]"...
- Shampoo in Ranma ½, and many other Chinese Girl characters. Gratuitous Chinese is usually, if not exclusively, Mandarin.
- The main characters of Senkou No Night Raid speak quite a bit of thickly accented Chinese.
- And Russian...and French...and English. Probably would be justified given the setting and veristic approach of the anime. However given the horribly incorrect accents...
- On the other hand, most Chinese characters, and also the English, American, German and Russian ones, were voiced by native speakers.
- The latest arc of Black Lagoon features a lot of Chinese being thrown around, small wonder as it's dealing with the People's Liberation Army.
- In The Remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), Klaatu meets with another of his species who had been living on Earth for a long time in the guise of a Chinese man. The two proceed to converse in Mandarin, and while Keanu Reeves tries pretty hard, he doesn't get it quite right.
- An episode of Bones has a plot revolving around a Chinese family's burial ritual. In contrast to Hugh Laurie, Emily Deschanel's Chinese is at least understandable.
- A season 4 episode also had some rich kids trying to sass Booth in (horrible) Chinese. Booth wasn't amused.
- There is a CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode that has a one-sided conversation in Mandarin (on the phone) and a plot point in Chinese characters.
- In the futuristic society of Firefly, the melding of societies has caused languages to become intermingled. Most prominent, alongside English, is a "Mandarin" dialect consisting mostly of cuss words.
- And there's a House episode with a Chinese girl and her mom, who can speak English almost as well as Hugh Laurie can speak Chinese.
- Justified in a Touched by an Angel two-part episode where the persecution of Chinese Christians is the focus, but since most of the actors were American-born (or American-raised) Chinese their accents were atrocious.
- In Awkward., the Alpha Bitch leader of the so-called "Asian Mafia", Becca, often taunts Ming in Chinese.
- In Corvette, the player must periodically enter auto races against various sexy models, some of whom will gratuitously issue a challenge in French, German, or Italian.
- In Deus Ex, one of the locations in the game is Hong Kong. Most people you meet there speak English, though there is a monk that speaks Cantonese with no translation given. ("Please give way" and Can you speak Cantonese?") There's also some Chinese text, unfortunately most of it is complete nonsense copy-and-pasted repeatedly.
- There's also some untranslated French lines lines in Paris.
- Done much better in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.
- In Fallout 3, you will run into recordings, holograms and whatnot, all using the Chinese language...and every single one will make you cringe. Considering Bethesda habitually uses a small pool of voice actors for very, very large casts of NPCs, it seems unlikely that they couldn't find one guy who could actually speak the language and still stay on budget.
- You can barely make out the words they are saying, but most of it sounds like blur mumbling due to poor pronunciation.
- In Persona 2, Lisa Silverman is a white girl who only knows Japanese as her only language but she loves to use random Chinese phrases.
- In Anarchy Reigns, Feirin and Airin pepper their dialogue with Chinese words with fairly accurate pronunciation. Their sister Rinrin however doesn't do this.
- Sleeping Dogs has a bunch of "peppering Cantonese cuss words into English" and background NPCs who speak accurate but unsubtitled Cantonese, though Mrs. Chu is the only named/plot-relevant character to only speak Cantonese.
- Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat has a little of this, usually basic words and phrases. The pre- and post- show funding thanks were ended in the Chinese word for "thank you".
- Ni Hao, Kai-Lan features this much in the same way Dora the Explorer uses Spanish.
- Inverted to high freaking Hell in Avatar: The Last Airbender . All those Chinese scrolls and signs that you see throughout the show (Some appearing only for a split second) not only say exactly what they are meant to say, but with proper grammar and even proper calligraphy.
- Discworld fic The Black Sheep is set in the Discworld Holland. As well as Dutch, the related-but-different Afrikaans is used.
- In Friends, there's an episode with a lot of Dutch in it. Due to horrible pronunciation, it can take Dutch people a while to figure out it's actually Dutch. Particularly funny is when Gunther says, 'Jij hebt seks met ezels' ('You have sex with donkeys'); the Dutch audience laughs, but the 'television laugh' doesn't start until Ross starts looking up what it means in his 'How to: Dutch' book.
- Jacques Brel's "Marieke" has the choruses sung mostly in Dutch ("Zonder liefde, warme liefde...").
- More precisely Flemish, often considered its own language, but more technically a dialect of Dutch. The song specifically mentions Flanders.
Anime and Manga
- The English dub of Ranma ½ has Principal Kuno peppering his speech with Hawaiian (in the original, he just used Gratuitous English).
- The opening of Lilo & Stitch uses an upbeat Hawaiian chant — except that it's actually parts of two chants about two different people. The translated result is a bit weird. Another song, Hawaiian Rollercoaster Ride, uses Pidgin English and surfer slang. Nani and Paul use Hawaiian Pidgin English, but their voice actors grew up in Hawaii.
- According to a Hawaiian friend, the singer gets a lot of flak due to his style of forcing the Hawaiian language to match western music by pausing in the middle of words and "putting the emphasis on the wrong syllable". Potentially, he may have caused the chant(s) to become complete gibberish to Hawaiian speakers.
- What everybody is speaking in the Millennial Kingdom in the Left Behind book Kingdom Come, though for the sake of the readers it's all translated into whatever language the book is published in.
- The Ars Goetia and The Key of Solomon include random Hebrew words for their pentacles.
- Noel, who supposedly speaks Hebrew, tells Frasier that "yeshiva" is the word for school. It is not — it means a full-time institute where Jewish law is studied. (The word for school is beit-sefer). While "yeshiva" is originally a Hebrew word, the way he pronounces it with the stress on the middle syllable is the pronunciation derived from its Yiddish importation, something no Hebrew language teacher would do.
- Some examples of (get this) incorrectly translated tattoos may be found here.
Anime and Manga
- An episode of Gokujo Seitokai features a girl from India. The only word she ever says is "Namaste", even in inappropriate situations.
- The Simpsons episode "Kiss Kiss Bang Bangalore" has plenty of this. Which is doubly odd, because the language spoken in Bangalore is not Hindi at all, it's Kannada. Then again, the voice actors would have probably had an even harder time with Kannada, because it sounds like this.
Anime and Manga
- Hungarian shows up a lot in 11eyes. The most noticeable places are the subtitles for the episodes and the Opening Narration.
- Actually the Opening Narration is Surpisingly good thanks to a Hungarian actor, but the rest seems to made with Google translate or similar.
- Sayonara Piano Sonata has this on a label of a cassette player. At least the author excuses. See it here
- The Dragaera novels created by Hungarian-American Steven Brust have a fair bit of this, as the "Fenarian" culture which predominates among Easterners (humans) is Hungarian and has that as their ancestral language, although it's often written phonetically in the novels. For instance, in one novel, Vlad uses the pseudonym Lord Maydeer. The "Maydeer" is supposedly a phonetic spelling of Magyar, what Hungarians call themselves. Unfortunately, that's not how you pronounce it. For phonetic spelling, it's really bad. The real pronunciation is more akin to "Madyar" (rough approximation, since the "gy" consonant has no easy equivalent in English - it can be best described as the sound of the "d" in the English word "dew").
- Hunyak in the musical Chicago has a few lines in Hungarian (mostly in "Cell Block Tango"); Ekaterina Chtchelkanova generally mispronounces them in the movie version. In the script of the musical, many of the vowels in those lines carry incorrect accent marks, some of which are not found in the Hungarian language.
- In Halo: Reach, the colonist farmers you encounter on some levels speak Hungarian. Jorge, as a Reach native, acts as translator. Most of the planet's locations and both of its moons are named in Hungarian as well. Jorge mutters a line in Hungarian as he watches large portions of Reach being blown up from orbit. He says "Megszakad a szivem..." which translates as "This breaks my heart..."
- Though subtitled, all voiceovers in Sine Mora are in Hungarian.
- The Clone Wars had the Nelvaans. The pronunciation was horrible, but the words did match up. Except for the nickname they gave Anakin. I mean "Holt Kezet" isn't even in the form of a subject.
- In The 13th Warrior, Antonio Banderas' character Ahmad Ibn Fadlan learns Norwegian by listening to men speaking (heavily accented) Norwegian around a campfire, which gradually evolves into English as he starts to learn more words. He eventually speaks up, alerting the men that he has learned their language. While they actually speak English to one another from that point onwards, they are — as far as the story is concerned — still speaking Norwegian.
- The Bones episode "Mayhem on a Cross" opens with a Black Metal Concert being interrupted by Norwegian police. Luckily, the show used a Norwegian actor and a Swedish actress for the Norwegian speaking parts. However, a running gag throughout the episode is that Brennan attempts to instruct her coworkers how to correctly pronounce the word "skalle" (skull). Ironically, though, Brennan's pronunciation attempts are arguably the worst of the lot, making the whole thing absurdly amusing to Norwegian speakers.
- The most hilarious moment was when Dr. Edison said it and she corrected him. If you didn't know what she was trying to say you wouldn't have understood it at all, while he pronounced it quite well for someone with no knowledge of the language and it was very much understandable.
- The pilot episode of Twin Peaks contains a visiting delegation of Norwegian businessmen. Their presence and behavior in the state of Washington is apparently an attempt at a joke. They are there to buy lumber, and they are also very appreciative of the local nature and fresh air. For Norwegians to go to Washington to get lumber, nature, and fresh air would be strange, as they can get those in abundance in Scandinavia.
- The title of The X-Files episode "Død Kalm" itself is an example of this. It supposedly means "Dead Calm"; død is Norwegian for dead, but kalm is not a Norwegian word. Kalm is probably made to look like a Norwegian word for calm, since there are several examples of Norwegian and English words being similar with the main difference being that the c is replaced by a k. The episode itself is littered with egregious examples of Norwegian, with one particular dialogue between the ridiculously named Trondheim and Olafsson having achieved a certain degree of infamy among Norwegian X-files fans.
- Doctor Who has "Dårlig Ulv Stranden" in Norway, which the characters inform us that means "Bad Wolf Bay" in Norwegian. While "Dårlig" can be literally translated as "Bad", it does not work at all in the context they're talking about, as the word actually means something like "inferior in quality" or "feeling sick". Also "Stranden" means "the beach". A more correct translation would have been something along the lines of "Slem Ulv Bukten".
- Twilight 2000 mishandles Norwegian by using Norse words and names that probably are picked from Viking sagas taking place in Norway 900 years ago. It is like using "Beowulfian" words for modern English.
- In the Trylle Trilogy, the Trylle words seem to be Swedish. They call the changeling human children mänsklig ("human"), the village where the Trylle live is called Förening ("compound"), the village where the Vittra trolls love is Ondarike ("evil empire/kingdom"), and the royalty titles include Markis and Marksinna ("Marquis" and "Marchioness").
- Guy Gavriel Kay's The Fionavar Tapestry has a very important Dwarvish dagger called Lökdal — which means "onion valley" in Swedish. It's unclear if it is a result of Critical Research Failure or if Kay Just Didn't Care? Could be seen as Epic Fail or Crowning Moment of Funny.
- True Blood has Eric and Pam conversing frequently in Swedish. Thank heavens they used Alexander Skarsgård.
- Although apparently there is no Swedish translation for "you gold-digging whore."
- There is "Din guldgrävande hora" (literal) or "Din giriga hora" (not literal, closer to "You greedy whore"). (The colloquial expression is "Du är ett jävla girigt fnask", i.e. "You're a bloody greedy hooker".)
- That wasn't Swedish but Russian, spoken to an Estonian woman. Unfortunately Estonian is a Fenno-Ugric language and completely unrelated to the Slavic language family, although it's perhaps within the limits of possibility that she belongs to Estonia's Russian minority.
- In the episode "Frinkenstein", Lisa spouts some gratuitous Swedish, which is correct albeit mispronounced: "Tack för att ni förärat vår stad" (Thank you for honoring our city) becomes "Tack for att ni forarat var stad." Mentioned should be that substituting vår for var would bring the sentence to mean "Thank you for honoring every city."
- A Korean advert for Finnish-themed bubble gum had an old man in a green suit dancing around and yelling "Hyvä hyvä!" which is Finnish for "Good good!" This became a meme in late 90s Finnish internet circles.
- Snow Queen of Fables is called Lumi. Which is Finnish for snow.
- Her siblings are called Kevat, Kesa and Syksy, respectively - "Spring", "Summer" and "Autumn", albeit missing the umlauts. Why the Snow Queen isn't called Talvi ("Winter") is anybody's guess.
- A Cybertronian martial art in Transformers is called Metallikato, which translates to "loss of metal (via rusting and/or deficiency)"
- Every non-English name in Mezolith.
- At one point in The Movie version of Charlie's Angels, the angels were having conversation in Finnish so that others would not understand them. They succeeded because the English subtitles had nothing to do with their actual words, and the best part was that in Finland the subtitles were also added in Finnish. They were translated from the English ones, because not many Finnish could understand what the girls were saying or even that is was Finnish.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe has random bits of gratuitous Finnish. For example, the name of the martial art Teräs Käsi means Steel Hand (and should be conjoined). Juhani is by the way a male name. There's also the planet Taivas - sky/heaven.
- His Dark Materials:
- In The Golden Compass there's a reference to the Nälkäinens, which means "the hungry ones".
- The witch Serafina Pekkala has a distinctly Finnish last name, which is justified as she is from Lake Enara (Lyra's world's counterpart of Inarijärvi in Northern Finland). Pullman took the name from a Finnish phone directory.
- Serafina names Will's daemon Kirjava, which means "multi-coloured".
- The Finnish character Piirka in the Norwegian sitcom Borettslaget speaks Swedish with gratuitous Finnish while attempting to speak Norwegian.
- The character's name is Gratuitous Finnish in itself, actually impossible by the grammatical rules of the language. Perhaps they were aiming for 'Pirkka'.
- In an interview with a Finnish TV channel about to air the show subbed, Stoltenberg, the show's writer and Piirka's actor (as well as the actor portraying most other characters on the show) mentioned that since most Norwegians, himself included, only knew 10 words of Finnish at most, a good portion of Piirka's "Finnish" was just Finnish sounding gibberish.
- Exalted has the monsters Niljake (approximately "icky/slimy thing", could also be a family of mushroom species) and Karmeus ("horribleness").
- Several Ko-Matoran have names that are actually Finnish words related to cold:
Arktinen: Means arctic.
Jaa: Jää means ice, jaa is what you tell someone when you want them to split something up among multiple recipients.
Jaatikko: Jäätikkö means glacier.
Kylma: Kylmä means cold.
Lumi: means snow.
Pakastaa: means to deepfreeze.
Talvi: means winter.
- The Swedish comic book series Bamse has the daughter of the main character say 'hakuna matata' as her first words. (This was written before The Lion King was created - so at the time it was written, it wasn't an easily recognized phrase.) Only a single other character can understand this phrase, and it becomes a secret motto between the pair. The author never specifically told his readers what the language was, but they all figured it out by the time Disney got through with them.
- "Hakuna matata" is a Swahili phrase that is translated as "There are no worries".
- That's just the tip of the iceberg for the Lion King series- the characters' names are often just Swahili words, and the sequel has another Swahili titled song, 'Upendi' (Swahili for love). Plus the time Rafiki tells Simba 'Wewe nugu, mimi hapana' ('you are a baboon and I am not'). The songs also often have some Zulu in them, along with a few other African languages.
- The opening lines to "The Circle of Life" are also in Swahili. Also, in the Broadway musical adaptation of the movie, there is an additional song "He Lives in You", which has Swahili lyrics.
- In the film The A-Team, there is a memorable scene involving Swahili.
- In George of the Jungle, Lyle's guides use Swahili, and Lyle tries to speak it, but ends up in a My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels situation.
- Madagascar 2 has a few instances of gratuitous Swahili- for example, the name of Gloria's newly introduced love interest is Moto moto, which is Swahili for 'hot hot'.
- The Imaro series uses numerous Swahili words as names for people and places. The location of the book series is an expy for ancient Africa. The word 'imaro' itself is derived from 'imara', the Swahili word for power.
Live Action TV
- In Star Trek: The Original Series, one of the characters is named Uhura, an anglicized version of 'uhuru', the Swahili word for freedom. She is fluent in Swahili, and situations involving her would occasionally involve Swahili being spoken.
- A song by Michael Jackson titled 'Liberian Girl' opens not only with Swahili, but with a South African singer singing it.
- A song by Lionel Richie titled 'All Night Long' features actual gratuitous Swahili mixed in with gibberish.
- Before The Lion King was even created, a German group called Boney M. wrote an English song titled 'Jambo- Hakuna Matata' which featured gratuitous swahili.
- In the X-Men: Evolution episode "African Storm", kiswahili is used by the Hungan, as well as by members of the tribe he leads.
Anime and Manga
- The ending theme to Dragon Half has not only Gratuitous English, but also Gratuitous Mandarin ("yi er san si") and Gratuitous Korean ("kamsa hamnida"), all within the same song. Hey, we said it's a Surreal Theme Tune...
- RahXephon features copious amounts of gratuitous Nahuatl, of all languages, as well as a bit of gratuitous Esperanto.
- The Bleached Underpants remake of Fate/stay night was given the inexplicable subtitle "Réalta Nua", Irish for "(A) New Star".
- CLANNAD managed to do the same. They were aiming for "clann", the Irish word for family.
- Axis Powers Hetalia usually tries to get the characters to use at least one word of their native language on occasion (they all embody countries). Their being the embodiment of those countries almost excuses them. The few sequences that were spoken in heavily, heavily accented English are somewhat less so. You get phrases like "a little shit cleaning" as a term for cleaning out the shed. It is probably the only time you will ever see a Lithuanian character with a better accent than the American one. This did NOT make the Lithuanian's English GOOD.
- The anime version of Lilo & Stitch titled Stitch! has gratuitous Okinawan in place of gratuitous Hawaiian.
- Mahou Sensei Negima! manages to avert this (at least in the original manga) for the most part; almost all the magic spells being in Latin or Greek, and are accurate the vast majority of the time. Unfortunately, the anime adaptation wasn't so lucky.
- However the first anime adaption also averted this with the characters in English class reading passages in perfect English, pronunciation wise anyway.
- The anime of Ah! My Goddess has Senbei, who shifts rapidly to Gratuitous French, Russian, Spanish, & Italian, as well as engaging in Brief Accent Imitation.
- Durarara!! has a conversation in Russian between the black Russian Simon and and a couple of Russian tourists in Russian. It's obvious that none of the voice actors actually speak Russian.
- Yami Marik from Yu-Gi-Oh!. In the Japanese version, when activating the various effects of The Winged Dragon of Ra, he chance Heiratic Phrases.
- Nichijou has Yukko with her "Selamat Pagi!" which means good morning in Malay and Indonesian.
- Gratuitous Welsh can be found in Torchwood fanfiction, despite creators and actors stating the characters probably don't know it, at least beyond simple phrases like "Croeso i Gymru".
- Also in Stargate SG-1 fanfiction. Although in part this is due to how the Ori arc was introduced (the legend of Excalibur and a very badly mangled pronunciation of "Myrddin"), some of it does predate that due to the Series 5 episode "2001" (the Volians' language was related to Welsh).
- Like the source material, expect at least some Axis Powers Hetalia fanfic to make use of this, regardless of language.
- The Son Of The Emperor uses both German and French mixed in with English. The characters are speaking in a foreign language and this is shown through the use of foreign words.
- Red Fire, Red Planet, being a Star Trek fic, uses a lot of alien words (particularly the Klingon tongue of thlIngan Hol), not all of which is translated.
- Legacy of ch'Rihan likewise liberally peppers the dialogue with words and phrases in Rihan, and doesn't even use the word "Romulan", preferring "Rihannsu".
- While the film itself is a complete and utter aversion, the script of Inglourious Basterds plays the trope straight. Most of the dialogue is written in English (with instructions regarding the actual language to be used during filming, and whether the exchange is subtitled or not) but some gratuitous phrases are left in. Example (French dialogue, subtitled):
- COL LANDA: Merci be coupe Monsieur Lapadite, but no wine. This being a dairy farm one would be safe in assuming you have milk?
- CHARLOTTE: Oui.
- COL LANDA: Then milk is what I prefer.
- Wait...does he really say "be coupe" or does he say "beaucoup" (bo-koo) correctly?
- Pick any speaker of Vietnamese and they would tell you that the title character's supposedly Vietnamese lines in Ultraviolet the movie are complete and total garbage.
- Die Another Day has, at one point "Icelandic". Except that... It's not. It's German.
- The Dune universe is positively riddled with words seemingly inspired by or derived from Arabic and Farsi (Justified Trope, seeing as most of the future religions have some Islam in them). Even Hebrew shows up once or twice.
- Qfisatz ha-derekh (compare to Dune's Kwisatz Haderach) is a magical ability ascribed to some real-world Chassidic holy men.
- The Star Wars Expanded Universe has random bits from a number of languages:
- Huttese is gratuitous Quechua.
- The EU is also fond of Hebrew (see: any body in the Endor system); at least one case was deliberate, however.
- The lyrics to "Duel of the Fates" are a gratuitous Sanskrit translation of a Gaelic poem about trees fighting each other.
- In Mark Twain's travel stories, his buddy starts to insert lots of Gratuitous Foreign Language (Fiji, various Indian languages and others) into his story. For no particular reason except that "every travel writer does it like that". Twain chastises him for doing this.
- German philosopher Oswald Spengler's non-fiction book The Decline of the West. There are Gratuitous Hebrew, Gratuitous Arab, Gratuitous Russian, Gratuitous Hindi/Sanskrit(?), Gratuitous Chinese, Gratuitous Latin and Gratuitous Old Greek (often, even with Greek letters). Mostly used for concepts which are genuine of one culture and would be misunderstood if a common but incorrect translation was used.
- Vlad Tepes in Count and Countess uses Turkish for all military terms. Makes sense, because he served as a Janissary for the Ottoman Empire as a boy.
- The web-novel Domina loves this trope. It starts with lots of Latin, including the title of the book itself and every chapter. Later one of the fey slips into bad Irish when she's angry, then Lizzy speaks Japanese to Akane. A few chapters after that, Lizzy and a giant have a conversation in untranslated Icelandic, and it's mentioned (and shown) that vampires tend to swear in Romanian. Considering that the city is supposed to be where the world dumps its criminals, it makes some sense.
- The Emberverse. S.M. Stirling sure loves doing his research, as is proven by the incredibly gratuitous Finnish, Irish, Icelandic, and Elvish. With debate on whether to use the Sindarin or Quenya dialects, or the "Common Tongue" (plain old English). Even using names taken directly from LOTR, like Dúnedain.
- It's a running gag that people like Astrid will deliberately speak Elvish when non-speakers are around, purely to piss them off. Makes them come across as kinda snooty as a result.
- Stirling also tends to overdo it on Funetik Aksent, but that's another trope.
- The main character of Phantalleum - Dual Crossage is called "Bodoh Sombong", which means foolishly arrogant in Malay.
- Letters to His Son by British statesman Lord Chesterfield had Gratuitous Latin, Gratuitous French, Gratuitous Italian, Gratuitous German and Gratuitous Spanish. And yes, he expected his son to learn all these languages.
Live Action TV
- Zelenka of Stargate Atlantis will often spout unsubtitled Czech, which is nearly always a Bilingual Bonus. The team is also, by concept, international, and due to the series being filmed in Vancouver, many of the extras are multilingual. You can hear snippets of French, Spanish, German, and others in the background.
- The new series of Doctor Who tried and failed multiple times trying to render "Bad Wolf" in German and cod-Norwegian. In both instances, the end result read as "Rubbish Wolf" or "Crap Wolf" to anyone even vaguely familiar with the languages. Not quite the effect they were going for, presumably.
- The title character of I Dream of Jeannie speaks Persian upon being released from her bottle in the series' pilot.
- JAG: Mac gets to speak Farsi on several occasions. Catherine Bell speaks that language for real.
- Horrible Histories' Owain Glyndwr song has gratuitous Welsh at the end.
- Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak is of Polish ancestry, and will occasionally say something in Polish if a contestant also happens to be Polish.
- Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek is multi-lingual, and will often read clues dealing with foreign words in as close to that language's accent as possible. He also likes to throw foreign phrases at contestants who mention fluency in another language.
- The Irish doom metal band Mael Mordha use gratuitous Irish. See, for example, the song "Realms of Insanity":
Ní h-anbhann ach lúbach
Gus a samhail ag lion mo cheann
Do na Realms of Insanity
Her evensong appeared to break
From serenity to winter gale
as control She took.
- Closer to the spirit of the trope, they often insert random Irish words into their lyrics either because it rhymes or because it helps evoke a folksy feel. Observe:
Far beneath Mann is this land of Mac Lir
What a wondrous place, this magical Tír
- It might not seem "gratuitous" for an Irish band to use Irish lyrics...except that most Irishmen don't actually speak Irish. English is by far the primary language of Ireland, a result of centuries spent under English rule.
- The title of Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto appears to be gratuitous Greek. Mylo=mill, xyloto=wooden. Sawmill?
- Sound Horizon is particularly fond of using foreign languages of all sorts in their albums, particularly after Aramary left.
- P.D.Q Bach's "Birthday Ode to 'Big Daddy' Bach" has one part mixing not only German and English but also Spanish and Japanese:
Three times high! (High!)
Number one! (Yes!)
Three times high! (High!)
Nummer eins! (Ja!)
Three times high! (High!)
Numero uno! (Si!)
Three times high! (High!)
- One of the tables in Star Trek Pinball is named "Qapla'", which is Klingon for "success". As expected, the game itself is filled with Klingon voice clips.
- An American example of Gratuitous Polish: Twilight 2000 RPG. The first scenarios were set in Poland and to anyone at least familiar with the language it's clear that the authors simply ignored grammar and somehow assumed that Polish has no declination. Every word is in the nominative case even when the purported translation suggests that it shouldn't be, giving the impression they just looked up words in the dictionary and strung them together. They also ignored Polish diacritics (which is understandable as it was the eighties, and no text editor had them) - when the writers did remember that there was supposed to be a diacritic somewhere they sometimes put it on the wrong letter (no, there isn't a city called "Poznán"), misspellings were frequent, and sometimes displayed hilarious (to Poles) ignorance of the country. To wit: There's a ship called Wisla Krolowa, which supposed to mean "Queen of the Vistula". It really means "Vistula the queen". The engine of the ship is known Homar Piec, which is supposed to mean "Lobster cooker", and it means "Lobster Oven" or even (given the lack of diacritics) "Lobster Five". What's more, lobsters aren't even familiar to Poles (and especially not in the reality of the game). That Twilight 2000 is considered to be an example of Shown Their Work by RPG standards is an indication of how little research is really done in the medium.
- Dead Lands has Major Pilsudski... Well they did look up the names in the encyclopedia, so that's some kind of progress. Unfortunately, they used the name of one of the major Polish national heroes.
- The T2000 adventure taking place in Norway had indigenous characters with ridiculous names, sometimes taken from the Norse sagas (general Haardraada) or sometimes just made-up (prince Jungi).
- When Warhammer does a better job of accuracy (a fair number of the "Kislev" words in Realm of the Ice Queen look... decidedly familiar to Polish speakers) you know you're in trouble.
- For that matter, the nonsense lyrics of the Touhou fansong Marisa Stole The Precious Thing include Gratuitous English, Gratuitous German, Gratuitous Mandarin and arguably Gratuitous Japanese.
- Nitori's spellcard "Kappa Pororoca" is half-Gratuitous Portuguese, since pororoca is a Brazilian Portuguese term (actually Tupi term).
- All of the Arcana in Arcana Heart have attack names in many different foreign languages. For instance, Partinias, the Arcanum of Love, uses Gratuitous Greek (Roz Sfaira = "pink ball/sphere").
- The explorer named Pavel in Professor Layton and the Curious Village...well, where do we even begin? Apparently all that exploring foreign lands has led him to throw in random gratuitous words from the language of every country he's ever visited. Spanish, French, Japanese and Mandarin all show up.
- And the name Pavel is a form of Paul found in several Slavic languages.
- Suikoden loves this trope. With the world having elements of various real nations written in, it means you get a lot of this in terms of the names of people, places, weapons and others. Results in Gratuitous English, German, Russian, and any other language they thought was Foreign Sounding Gibberish.
- Most epic example of this is the ending song for the first game, which was supposedly Portuguese as written by a Japanese man before babelfish existed and pronounced by Japanese singers.
- When Suikoden Tierkreis came out, one of the end game songs sounded like German (which makes sense given the name), but was unidentifiable to the point that there was debate of which Germanic language/dialect was being mutilated as it was incomprehensible to German speaking Europe.
- The Viking speech files in Age of Empires II are mangled Icelandic. The builder for instance says "Hussasmiþur" which means house-builder, instead of just Smiður or even Húsasmiður. It makes playing the Vikings a hoot, since it's so horribly pronounced.
- Modern Icelandic is actually very close to Old Norse, the language of the Vikings. The mispronunciations could just be the original Old Norse words from which the modern Icelandic words were derived from.
- One could assume so, were there any proper dialog, but the few words used have not changed much. For instance, modern Icelandic húsasmiður would have been húsasmiðr in Old Norse, with the modern U being very nearly silent, rendering the pronunciation fairly similar, and very different from the in-game pronunciation.
- Thunder Force VI makes use of two Gratuitous non-Japanese, non-English languages: the Galaxy Federation's primary language is the ancient and long-obsolete Tangut script, and the Orn Empire's primary language is Mongolian.
- The Soldier of Fortune games have Gratutious Slavic (Russians and Czech mooks say the same phrases), Gratuitous Arabic, Gratuitous African language (mooks in Uganda and Sudan sound exactly the same), Gratuitous Spanish ("grenado" when throwing a grenade, which should be "granada"), Gratuitous Chinese, etc. Or it may just be Foreign Sounding Gibberish.
- The Wii game Punch-Out!! averts this. Every non-English-speaking foreign boxer (except for King Hippo) speaks in their legitimate foreign language.
- Similarly averted in Civilization V. As with Punch-Out!!, every leader speaks in their native tongue (within reason) from Alexander speaking Ancient Greek to Montezuma speaking Nahuatl.
- Ryu Ga Gotoku (Yakuza) 4 brings us Gratuitous Filipino in a massage parlor in the game. The title, "Pilipinas Masahe" ("Masaheng Filipino" or simply "Hilot") says it all. Oh, and would you like the "Bumalik sa braso sa likod ng mga paa sa likod?" (which makes no sense in Filipino! Translation ) Pretty sure you wouldn't want such a mouthful for a full-body massage, eh?
- Paarthurnax in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim peppers his English dialogue with phrases in Dragon language. He IS a dragon, so it's his native tongue. And it's a made-up language anyway.
- Star Trek Online: Practically everyone in the Klingon Defense Force peppers their dialog with phrases in tlhIngan Hol. Even characters for whom it makes no sense, like six of their seven playable races.
- Any instance of "Kekeke" in a game's chat is Gratuitous Korean if you're not actually up against a Korean player.
- Inverted in Chaos Fighters, where the gratuitous local language (read:Malay) is used in an English work by a Malaysian. RAKSA cranked this Up to Eleven with gratuitous Kelantan and Terengganu accented Malay as early as the first chapter.
- Ilivais X has Iriana make an elaborate speech while having an orgasm...except it alternates between Vietnamese, Icelandic, French, Serbian, and Creole. None of which she actually knows, and all of which were churned out with Google Translate.
- The Sidepork Pandemonium episode of Regular Ordinary Swedish Meal Time features the cook karate chop butter in half, indicated by a Korean flag in the top right corner and subtitles (in Korean).
- One of Astérix animated films, Asterix in America, had local language made of American geographical names.
- Which actually is less stupid than it sounds, when you realize that many of these names were of Native origin. That said, it's all Rule of Funny.
- The second page quote is suspected not to be from Charles V at all, but rather an invention of one of his biographers. The best evidence for this is the fact that Charles was born in Ghent (now in the Flanders region of Belgium), considered himself Dutch, and grew up speaking Dutch, which the Dutch themselves have called "not a language, but a disease of the throat." On the other hand, the distinction between German and Dutch was not as clear then as it is now, and it is very possible that he was actually insulting God (or at least the Church), women, and men: circumstances at the time would have forced him to speak the languages he mentioned (the Spanish Church was unusually powerful, custom dictated you speak to women in the "nicest" language you knew, and French was the language of diplomacy), leaving him able to speak only to his horse in his native tongue.
- When officials asked for the Welsh translation of a road sign, they thought the reply was what they needed. Unfortunately, the e-mail response to Swansea council said in Welsh: "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated". So that was what went up under the English version which barred lorries from a road near a supermarket. "When they're proofing signs, they should really use someone who speaks Welsh," said journalist Dylan Iorwerth.
- Sir Henry Longstaff, the first British governor of its Hong Kong colony, wondered why the Chinese natives got even more inscrutable in his presence and why he could hear the odd hastily supressed snigger as he passed. Rather like Biggus Dickus, a man who wanks higher than any in Wome, a clumsy atempt had been made to translate the name "Longstaff" into Chinese. Unfortunately, the pictograms chosen to sign proclamations in Chinese by the British rulers meant "Huge Erect Penis" rather than "Long Staff"....
- Weapons of foreign origin are often referred to by their local names (even if these names simply translate into "sword" or "knife" or the like) to make them sound a lot more exotic and/or emphasize said foreign origin. Also applies for other terms related to martial arts as well, which is why people will insist on, say, "kata" rather than "form."