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Just a Stupid Accent
"We do not even have a language! Just a stupid accent!"
"She's right! We all talk like Maurice Chevalier!"

Occasionally, a film or TV show will be set in a foreign country, where another language is spoken. Instead of having the actors speak normally, or having them attempt to speak in their characters' actual language, the characters instead speak English - except in a ridiculous accent to constantly remind viewers that these characters are foreign. A Translation Convention that bats you over the head with the Rule of Perception.

Occasionally, their speech will be peppered with some words and phrases from the language they are attempting to emulate via accent, but these will be rare, and only the simplest ones that the audience is intended to know, such as "oui" or "hai" (and perhaps a Foreign Cuss Word or two, if only to Get Crap Past The Radar).

This is not to be confused with Poirot Speak, where a foreign character speaking English will pepper their speech with words and phrases from their native language. Although the effect is much the same, Just a Stupid Accent can grate a little more, as the viewer is left to surmise that Doktor Von Evil speaks flawless English but somehow never learned the word for "yes" (though this is somewhat justified in that a spontaneous response to something is likely to trigger your mother language, especially if it's something that can be said without the need for sentence building in your head).

This also occurs when two foreign characters who speak the same language meet up in another country. Instead of conversing in their native language, they still converse in their broken second language.

Rarely used outside cartoons anymore, although once more prominent in live-action comedy films.

For the written version, see Foreign-Looking Font. Not to be confused with What the Hell Is That Accent?.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • The accent on English publicity for the French yogurt "Perle de Lait" is hilarious. And definitely not French.
  • The "Opulence" DirecTV ad, wherein a Russian Oligarch brags about saving big cash with DirecTV.
    "Opulence. I has it."
    "I also like savings ze mahhney."
    "Most premiums televisions peckidge...I jump in it."

     Anime and Manga  
  • Super Atragon: Lead female protagonist Annette has a British Accent in the English dub for no reason beyond the producers ensuring the lead female protagonist isn't mistaken for American.
    • The Ra's chief engineer has a vaguely German/Eastern European accent for no reason.

    Comics 
  • The Astérix comics do this with the font of the foreigner who was speaking. The Greeks would use angular letters, the Germans would speak in Fraktur, and the Normans would use Nordic-looking letters. Sometimes the differently-fonted speech can be understood by the Gaulish protagonists, but not always. The Egyptian hieroglyphics were often pictionary but sometimes just random drawings or French visual puns, and they weren't understood by the Gauls. In one hilarious scene, when Gaulish sidekick Obelix asks an Egyptian to tell him to say "speak" in hieroglyphics, Obelix's speech is rendered as crude stick figures instead of hieroglyphics.
    • The Vikings use diacritics (Ø and Å), which the Gauls can't understand. Astérix tries to speak it, but places the diacritics on the wrong letters. Later on, a Gaul slave to the Vikings places the diacritics on the correct letters, but the bar on the O is inverted and the ring on the A is a square. One Viking comments on his horrible accent.
    • Played with in Astérix and the Picts: the Pictish warrior MacAroon speaks in vaguely Scots gibberish in a Celtic-looking font. At first this seems like the usual Asterix style of depicting accents, but we soon realise that he's struggling with low confidence and a bad throat, and as a result, he's mumbling everything he says - when he's feeling more confident and healthier, he speaks in a normal font. The Foreign-Looking Font here is a way of indicating that he can be understood by the other characters so long as he's speaking clearly, but if he mumbles or stammers at all, his thick accent makes it impossible for the Gaulish characters to understand him. (In Real Life, Pictish and Gaulish were probably mutually intelligible, in much the same way as British English and the Scots language are today, but, just as in the comics, understanding it if spoken badly would have been quite hard work.)
  • Whenever creator/artist Sergio Aragonés addresses readers in his comics, he "speaks" with a heavily-accented English. This has occasionally caused him trouble in real life. Once when he was invited to be a speaker for a panel at a convention, the con organizers politely provided him with a translator... despite Aragonés knowing perfect English and only using the goofy accent as a gag. He politely pretended not to speak English so as not to waste the translator's time.

    Film 
  • Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, showing that it is at least Older Than They Think. Clouseau goes on to avert it by speaking in an accent which not only bears little or no resemblance to any French accent real or imagined ( "whit is zis minkey??" ) but never actually speaking a single word of actual French, although Sellers himself spoke the language fluently.
    • Of course it's repeatedly lampshaded where even his fellow countrymen can't understand his accent, and most French individuals portrayed in the films speak completely accent-free.
  • Sellers again, as the eponymous Dr. Strangelove
  • Mel Brooks likes this trope.
    • Lampshaded in History of the World Part I, the source of the above quote.
    • Also present in Young Frankenstein, where the (ostensibly Romanian) townsfolk speak English with bad German or Cockney accents. Inspector Kemp's is the worst - like Inspector Clouseau, his own countrymen can't understand him half the time.
  • Slumdog Millionaire. To the extreme extent that Pop-Cultural Osmosis from London has somehow seeped all the way to the slums of Mumbai.
    • Not entirely though, much of the first part of the movie, when the main characters are kids, has them speaking in subtitled Hindi. This does strangely vanish once they grow up, though.
  • Also used in the Miami Vice movie. The Colombian drug lords only speak English with an accent.
  • Bond films used to do this quite often with Russian characters. See Octopussy or GoldenEye for two particularly blatant examples. It was so pervasive in the Bond movies that apparently no one on the set noticed when Bond managed to convince a German military officer that he was German just by putting on an accent. There is a notable aversion in The World Is Not Enough. Bond is set up as a Russian scientist, partnering him with Christmas Jones (American). For most of their introductory dialogue, he speaks with a thick Russian accent, making it almost this trope - until she comments, in Russian, that he speaks remarkably good English for a Russian. He responds that he went to Oxford in Russian that is apparently unaccented enough to pass without comment.
  • Channel 4's documentary about the Hindenburg disaster, Hindenburg, was very powerful - apart from the awful German accents spoken by the passengers and pilots of the airship.
  • The film version of Memoirs of a Geisha is extremely bad about this. Not only do the Japanese characters speak Engrish with a bit of Gratuitous Japanese thrown in, but they actually hold conversations with an American (who was Japanese in the book) with no explanation given as to how they can understand each other.
  • Daniel Day-Lewis in The Unbearable Lightness Of Being is an Irishman portraying a tragic Czech lothario by putting on an accent that is a mixture of TV-presenter British and cold-war-spy-movie Russian. The effect is less than suave, more like distractingly ridiculous.
  • In The Mask of Zorro, almost all of the Spanish noblemen speak English in Spanish accents for the entire film, except for one whose accent is British, but there is a translation scene in which Catherine Zeta-Jones is addressed by a Mexican peasant woman who does NOT speak English. She speaks Nahuatl for a moment, and then her daughter translates into Spanish-accented English. It's a pretty good choice, in that no California Spanish noblewoman would be expected to speak an Indian language.
    • Lampshaded in the second movie. Zorro is annoyed when his horse refuses to obey his command until he speaks actual Spanish.
  • In Edward Zwick's Defiance all the main characters, who are Eastern European Jews, speak in heavily Slavic-accented English when speaking amongst themselves, presumably in Yiddish. However, they switch to Russian when conversing with Soviet partisans.
  • K19: The Widowmaker has Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson hilariously attempting Russian accents. However, they still manage to sound just like Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson.
  • Used extensively in Ratatouille. None of the voice actors are actually French.
  • This is especially glaring in The Sound of Music where the Austrians (good guys, but definitely German-speaking) speak normal English and the Germans (bad guys, ALSO German-speaking) speak English with a German accent. Possibly justified on another level - German as spoken in Germany sounds quite distinct from Austrian German (especially to an Austrian), so representing that difference this way makes it an Accent Adaptation.
  • The 2002 film Amen also has Germans speaking English with a German accent, while the Americans speak normal American English.
  • Catalina Caper as observed by Tom Servo in MST 3 K: "Oh, what are you, Creepy Girl? Are you French, Italian, or one of those swarthy Gypsy types, heh heh? Your accent certainly implies a Romance language but I just can't be sure! But we can definitely rule out a Germanic language..."
    • Amusingly, Tom is wrong. The actress (though not necessarily the character) was from Sweden, and thus her native language was indeed a Germanic one.
  • The Lord of the Rings - Utterly subverted. Background: J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-Earth has lots of languages spoken by different peoples and nations; in the Third Age, Westron (the "Common Speech") spread as a lingua franca for trade and politics (and also as mothertongue for some, e.g. the hobbits). In the novels, Westron names and speech are always rendered as English, while other languages may stay original or be rendered English too depending on the situation.) When the live-action films were made, a great deal of time and thought was put into what accents each character should use, because it reflected their background. They * do* speak their own languages from time to time, not just "we're representing someone speaking in Russian by having him speak in English with a heavy fake Russian accent". Because the Hobbits only speak Westron and they are the viewpoint characters, most of the dialogue is in English. The accents they figured out are:
    • Gondorians - speak with a Received Pronunciation accent, proper London English, because Westron is a descendant of the language of their Númenórean ancestors (Adûnaic, no longer in use), and thus Gondorian is the "correct" version.
    • Rohirrim - Horse barbarians from the North that settled next to Gondor and allied with it, they speak with a Rhotic accent (some think this is an "American" accent, but other English-speaking regions like Cornwall also sound like this). The actual language of the Rohirrim is always represented through Old English in the texts (to convey a lingual familiarity to the hobbits/readers), so their Rhotic accent is a hint that Common Speech really isn't the mother-tongue of Théoden (who is actually mentioned as having a very odd accent in the books, since he grew up speaking Elvish in Gondor, due to his father's political exile, and only learned Rohirric when he returned), Éomer, and Éowyn.
    • Elves - you'd think Elves would speak drastically different like in other fantasy stories, but in Tolkien's storyverse the Elves are master-linguists, able to perfectly learn any language. So the hint of this is that they actually speak very formally and very precisely, sort of like the Gondorians but you can tell they're concentrating on what words they use.
    • Hobbits - "Hobbitish" is a regional dialect of Common Speech, which they represent with a West Country English accent. Sam and all of the "standard" Hobbits speak this way. Bilbo and Frodo are book-educated so their accent isn't quite as pronounced. The movie-makers ingeniously decided that Pippin has a Scottish accent because Tookland is hilly like Scotland (and so actor Billy Boyd's Scottish accent fit in with Pippin). Merry sounds like a complete oddball, because Buckland is nothing like the other parts of the Shire.
    • Dwarves - Funny story here: by Word of God, just as the Rohirrim are Middle-Earth's counterpart to the Anglo-Saxons, Dwarves are the counterpart to the Jews. That is, just like Jews, Dwarves in Middle-Earth are dispossessed of their homeland, and while speaking the language of the land, have their own private language which is nothing like it: Tolkien constructed Dwarvish (or Khuzdul) according to the rules of Semitic, including triconsonantal roots. Their origin story (in The Silmarillion) even echoes the sacrifice of Isaac. So logically, you'd think they should have Yiddish accents or something. However, in the movies, they decided to give Gimli a Scottish Lowlands accent, because it has "an old-sounding feel to it". (This takes after pretty much every fantasy dwarf since Tolkien. Heaven knows where they got it.) However, because Gimli's actor was Welsh, Gimli's accent is Welsh, not Scottish.
  • Especially perplexing in The Karate Kid Part II: Most of the film is set in Okinawa. There are quite a few scenes where Daniel is nowhere around, and every character on-screen is Okinawan. However, they persist in speaking in broken, heavily accented English rather than subtitled Japanese, the most notorious example being Miyagi-sensei and Sato. The few times anyone DOES speak Japanese, it's either translated for Daniel's benefit by someone else (the elder Miyagi-sensei's words upon waking to see his son sitting beside him), or not translated at all (Chozen's rant as he runs away during the storm).
  • Averted in Irma la Douce: for once, a comedy (in English) set in Paris where no one tries to put on a frog-eating accent.
  • Parodied in Duck Soup. Chicolini (Chico) has disguised himself as Firefly (Groucho), and when Mrs. Teasdale (Margaret Dumont) asks why he's talking like that, he replies, "Well, I think maybe sometime I go to Italy, and I'm practicing the language." Impressed, Mrs. Teasdale gushes, "Your dialect is perfect."
  • In Congo, Tim Curry speaks the entire time in Vampire Vords.
  • Completely invoked in Captain America: The First Avenger, which takes the style of a 40s war film. Nazis and members of eventual-Nazi-offshoot HYDRA never seem to speak in German at all, whether they're speaking to each other or to Cap, whether they're healthy or taking their last, cyanide-laced breath.
  • The Debt (American version): Played straight when the characters are supposed to be speaking Hebrew. Other languages are subtitled.
  • The remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has most of the cast speaking in a Swedish accent. Daniel Craig is the only exception, speaking more or less in his natural British accent.
  • Lampshaded in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. "Of course I am French. Why do you think I have this outrageous accent". (Made funnier when later dialogue implies most of the French knights don't actually understand actual French).
  • The English dub of Night Watch has almost all of the Russian characters speaking English with a Russian accent.
  • Disney's Beauty and the Beast takes place in France, so presumably everyone is "really" speaking French. Except Lumiere and Lumiere alone has a French accent, apparently just because he has a stereotypical French personality.
    • Cogsworth and Mrs. Potts are obviously supposed to be a British valet and a British maid, respectively, so at least their accents make sense.
  • Played straight by Tom Cruise in Valkyrie, with a German accent, but then averted by the rest of the cast, who speak plain English. All the characters in the movie are German, but Cruise is the only American actor, so it almost makes sense, sort of...
  • In The Eagle Has Landed, Michael Caine uses a thick German accent in the beginning of the film, but switches to his normal one later on to indicate he's speaking English.
  • In the film adaptation of The Book Thief, everybody speaks English with a German accent and the occasional German word.

    Literature 
  • In Rudyard Kipling's story In the Rukh (1893) Muller, a German forest ranger in India, speaks with a highly-exaggerated accent unless he's speaking the local Indian dialect. Observe:
    If I only talk to my boys like a Dutch uncle, dey say, “It was only dot damned old Muller,” and dey do better next dime. But if my fat-head clerk he write and say dot Muller der Inspecdor-General fail to onderstand and is much annoyed, first dot does no goot because I am not dere, and, second, der fool dot comes after me he may say to my best boys: “Look here, you haf been wigged by my bredecessor.” I tell you der big brass-hat pizness does not make der trees grow.
    • Not just the accent, but also the grammatical mistakes and occasional German words.
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: Not Gunther, please. Gunther is certainly not Count Olaf, please, and hasn't even heard of a Count Olaf, please, though he is sure this Count Olaf person is very handsome, please.
  • Justified in Starplex- the computer that handles the translations assigns alien languages an accent so listeners can tell what language is being spoken.
  • Referenced in the Animorphs book "Elfangor's Secret", when the Animorphs have time-travelled to 15th-century France.
    I helped the green knight get to his feet. "Sorry," I said. "How do you say 'sorry' in French?"
    "Sorreeee?" Marco offered. "Ah em verreee sorreee."

     Live Action TV  
  • Used all the time in Mission: Impossible. Possibly combined with Translation Convention — as the show would frequently feature signs and lettering in the background written in foreign-looking gibberishnote , we can assume that the characters are actually speaking a different language rendered as accented English in the show.
  • Also common in other spy shows of the 1960s.
  • Taken to the ludicrous extreme by Siegfried in Get Smart.
    • Even more extremely ludicrous in light of the episode that establishes he was born and raised in Florida.
    • Also parodied in one episode where Maxwell Smart is suddenly confronted by a KAOS mole who up to then was speaking normally. When Smart asks why he's suddenly talking with an accent the mole replies: "Vat accent? Zis is my veal voice!"
  • Played with in the British sitcom 'Allo 'Allo, set in France at the time of the Second World War. Everyone speaks English but the two British Air Force officers speak with a posh accent, which is meta-English, and can't understand the rest of the cast who speak meta-French. The British policeman also speaks with a posh accent when talking in "English" but when addressing the other characters in "French" (which was a second language) he has a deliberately distorted accent leading to some of the humor in the show such as saying "Good morning" as Good moaning and "passing by" as pissing by. Surprisingly this wasn't censored by the strict regulations for pre-watershed BBC programming, and this joke was used almost every time his character was on screen. All of the German characters speak with German accents (strength varies between characters).
    • Michelle of the Resistance, the only French character who speaks "English", does so by putting on the same posh accent as the RAF officers and the policeman, usually beginning the conversation with an RAF briefing-esque "listen up, chaps".
    • In one episode, the 'ghost' of Renee speaks actual French "J'accuse! J'accuse!"; when talking about it later, the accused guy wonders, 'who is this 'Jacques Hughes'?
    • And another when ze Colonel and Hans are forced to pretend to be British, they try to speak English, but it comes out as "Wafflewafflewafflewaffle"
  • The cast of Whose Line Is It Anyway? often make fun of their own difficulty at rendering realistic foreign accents.
  • The BBC seems very fond of dubbing over Japanese speakers in Jonathan Ross's Japanorama with people speaking English, but with very pronounced Japanese accents.
  • Used in Hogan's Heroes for the Germans, bar the occasional use of well-known German phrases. This is averted with French, however, as LeBeau talks to himself and other Frenchmen in actual French. One reason for this may be that every character on the show (including the Allied prisoners) understands German, but only LeBeau understands French and so the audience is left in the dark like everyone else.
    • Also, the (American, British, and French) prisoners seem to be able to pass themselves off as German when the situation calls for it simply by speaking English with a heavy German accent
  • Shows up on LOST with Iraqi characters, but entirely averted with the Korean characters (because their actors actually speak Korean.)
    • Well, one of the actors speaks Korean. Daniel Dae Kim, whose character speaks nothing but Korean for the first 4 seasons, is a native English speaker who hadn't spoken Korean for years.
  • While the original English indeed uses a foreign language, the Brazilian Portuguese dub of "How I Met Your Mother" has this exchange:
    • Ted :You can't even speak another language!
    • Victoria: (Portuguese with a British accent) Yes, I can.
  • Parodied in Arrested Development when it becomes apparent that Buster thinks you speak Spanish by putting on a Mexican accent.
  • In one episode of The Brittas Empire, Gordon claims to know French when answering a phone call and simply puts on a silly French accent.
  • The short-lived, little-seen 1988 series adaptation of The Dirty Dozen had a bizarre and memorable example. The squad was behind enemy lines in Italy, and it was an important plot point that some (but only some) of the Dozen could speak fluent Italian. Instead of actually having the actors speak Italian on screen, the use of Italian is indicated by having the American actors speak English with an absurdly exaggerated Italian accent. It's not meant to be Played for Laughs.
  • Invoked and lampshaded on The A-Team, when they go on a mission in Ecuador and need to negotiate transportation with a villager. Hannibal can actually speak a little Spanish, but can't establish a dialogue with the man. Murdoch, on the other hand, makes himself understood perfectly well... simply by speaking English with a ridiculous Spanish accent!
  • A Monty Python sketch features a United Nations meeting where everyone listens to translations of what is being said...which are all just English in different accents, except for a Nigerian representative who just hears drums.
  • Jack-of-All-Trades takes place on a French colony, but French characters inevitably just speak English with a silly accent. One could conceivably justify this as characters speaking English for the benefit of the American and English leads, but the trope is in force even during scenes where every character is French.
  • MacGyver tended to do this with Russian characters.
  • Mocked in Mock the Week during a segment on "unlikely lines to hear in a war film":
    Hugh Dennis: *In heavy German accent* ...Vy are we speaking English?
  • Parodied in Doctor Who. The cast constantly find themselves in different parts of Time and Space, but blending in isn't really a problem, as the Translator Microbes will handle the language. That won't stop the Doctor's companions repeatedly trying to use the stereotypical accent and mannerisms of wherever they land, just for the Doctor to tell them, deadpan, "No...no, don't do that." When Donna tried speaking real Latin to Romans, the translator got confused and they heard what they thought was Celtic.
  • Season 2 of The Wire is face-palmingly full of these. You've got Greek, Ukrainian and Israeli characters all speaking with the same heavy, vaguely-east-European accent - with an unmistakable American accent underneath. All three actors are, of course, Americans. As a bonus, the various Greek characters speak English with one another half the time (though, Greek the rest of the time). But of course, they are not even Greek.
  • In Season 2 of The Almighty Johnsons, Eggther speaks in a clichéd Norse accent
  • The Showtime miniseries The Feast of All Saints (based on the Anne Rice novel of the same name) uses this to get the effect of French Creole characters living in antebellum Louisiana. Most of the cast speak English peppered with French using French accents, with the example of one character who is from Mississippi and uses a "standard" southern accent.

    Music 
  • Pink Floyd's "A Spanish Piece" from More has the very-British David Gilmour attempting (and failing comically) to imitate a Spanish accent to tell us, that, yes, this piece is supposed to be taking place in Spain. Because there's no way we could have known that from the title, right?

    Pinball 

    Radio 
  • The Reduced Shakespeare Company Radio Show adds a flashback scene to Romeo and Juliet, performed in a ridiculous Italian accent ("don't-a mention the spaghett'").

     Stand Up Comedy  
  • Lampshaded by Dylan Moran in Monster — the bit where he's talking about the common view of the French:
    "I 'ate my painteengs. I 'ate them! I 'ate your painteengs too!"
    "You ate my painteengs?!"
    "No, I hate zem; why do we have to talk fahkeeng Eenglish?"
    • And again, when his accent begins to slip:
    (laughing) "Where are you from, exactlee?"
    "Ah danno, I'm Eurotrash, shaddap!"
  • And by Eddie Izzard on several occasions, when attempting a foreign accent and then realising it's just not going to work. Hence sulky Soviets deciding 'we dahn't wunnuh ga tuther moohuhyun' and Pavlov (during his cat experiment) becoming Welsh.
    • During a James Bond bit he lost control of the accent he was doing for a SMERSH goon. He ran with it and gave the goon an electronic voice disguise gizmo that was stuck in shop demonstration mode.
  • British-Iranian Omid Djalili will often start his act with a generic Middle Eastern accent before abruptly snapping into his natural English accent.

     Tabletop RPG  
  • In Feng Shui, based on Hong Kong movies and involving time travel, everybody speaks Cantonese. Even in Ancient Rome, the Wild West, modern New York and Victorian England.
    • (Translated into English subtitles for English-speaking players, of course.)
  • In Paranoia, Communists often speak English (well, "Clonish") with stereotypical Russian accents and broken grammar— but the characters generally don't know what that is or what it means, and displaying such knowledge about Commies is a good way to get accused of being a Commie yourself.
    • One mission involves everyone playing Commies in a Commie-dominated Alpha State. The book actually explains the stereotypical broken grammar in formal terms, followed by "If having trouble understanding, not to be worrying, merely to be imitating helpful examples given throughout book".

    Theater 
  • Used in the play Translations by Brian Friel. The characters seem to alternate between English and Irish accents. The audience eventually realizes that the accents represent the English and Gaelic languages. We can understand everyone, because it's Just A Stupid Accent, but the characters can't understand each other. This becomes especially devastating in a scene involving an English man and an Irish woman who have fallen in love and only wish they could communicate.
  • Gilbert and Sullivan's The Grand Duke, which features a German theater troupe with an English lead actress, plays with this one: everyone speaks unaccented English, except for the English character, who is written with a thick German accent.
    • An amusing subversion of Real Life Writes the Plot: the role of Julia was originally played by Ilka Von Palmay, who had an impressive singing voice but a Hungarian accent.
  • The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) does Macbeth in (deliberately) terrible Scottish accents.

     Video Games  
  • Team Fortress 2 has a couple. The Medic is supposedly German, the Heavy is supposedly Russian, and the Spy is supposedly French. Do they ever speak their respective languages? NEVER! Do they retain their accents? Of course they do!
  • Cooking Mama. The second, third, and Gardening Mama spinoff all have a woman speaking English with a heavy Japanese accent. The accent is much worse in the second, but still prominent in the later installments (A butterfry? Really?).
  • Deus Ex plays this straight for the Chinese people in Hong Kong, and also has it as a plot point: a supposedly French mechanic speaks with the wrong accent. It's a tip-off that he's an impostor... well, that, and the corpse of the real mechanic lying there in the open.
  • If Rome: Total War is an indication, the Greeks, Egyptians, Eastern peoples, Carthaginians, Numidians, and the various barbarian tribes, all spoke perfect English aside from their accents. Medieval II Total War takes this one step further: Scots speak in a thick Scottish accents, The Holy Roman Empire and France speak in thick over-the-top German and French accents and throw in Gratuitous German/French on a regular basis, the English speak in a posh British accent, the Moors, Turks and Egyptians speech is in an Arabic accent and is laced with Arabic terms, the Spanish, Portuguese, various Italians, and the Byzantines all speak in a generic Southern European accent, the Eastern European factions (and, for some reason, the Danes) speak in a generic Eastern European accent, and the Mongols and Timurids speak in an egregious East-Asian accent that makes one wonder how the creators didn't get their pants sued off their bodies.
    • Because Unfortunate Implications isn't something you can file a valid lawsuit over.
    • The Kingdoms Expansion to Medieval II Total War takes it one step further. The units all speak in English with an accent depending on their cultural type, e.g. when playing as the Vikings in the Britannia Campaign your Huscarl units will speak English with a vaguely Scandinavian accent, while any Bill Militia etc have a vaguely English Accent and so on.
    • Shogun 2 featured an odd variation of this as well. The units and generals speak entirely in Japanese, but the campaign and battle advisors speak English in ridiculously overblown Japanese accents.
  • Devil Kings (or Sengoku Basara). Arslan/Motochika and Puff/Itsuki? Whatever is Capcom thinking, using Canadian actors to voice these characters who don't have an accent in the original?
  • Call of Duty examples:
    • In Call of Duty: Black Ops, by some miracle of linguistics, everybody in a Russian coal mine/gulag can speak fluent, accented English. That, or Mason, having already been CIA by the time he was imprisoned, probably spoke Russian from the start, and the English we hear is a mere Translation Convention.
    • This was also the the case with the Russian soldiers in the earlier (that is, World War II themed) Call of Duty games, most likely because they were on the player's side, and having to read subtitles would probably have jarred with the game's generally fast-paced nature. This trope was also, however, completely averted with the German soldiers, who speak what is very definitely actual German.
  • Assassin's Creed plays this painfully straight in the second game where Ezio has a thick Italian accent and people will occasionally speak Gratuitous Italian for no real reason.
    • The explanation is actually that the Animus Desmond uses has translation software but it isn't perfect. In Brotherhood this can be mentioned in an optional conversation.
  • The Splinter Cell series uses this a lot, though Pandora Tomorrow had a lot of Not Even Bothering with the Accent instead.
  • Done cleverly in the English dubs of Metal Gear Solid 3 and Portable Ops, in which Snake is an excellent speaker of Russian. Russian characters speaking in Russian are translated to English using an accent that analogises to their Russian one (Volgin sounds American, Sokolov sounds British, etc), with the exception being Granin, who, when encountered, is drunk. Because his slurred speech is harder for Snake to understand, we hear him talking with a thick Russian accent.
  • The English dub of the Operation Flashpoint series gives the locals a fairly stereotypical Slavic / Eastern European / whatever accent. Oddly, Viktor Troska speaks with a British accent (maybe justified since he spent many years living outside of Nogova and working in various special forces, maybe even the British SAS). The Czech dub of the game features everybody speaking without accents, while the Soviet characters are mostly dubbed by Russian native speakers in all versions.
  • Played with in The Warriors, which greatly expands on the plot of the 1979 cult-classic film. You visit various neighborhoods around New York City, including two "ethnic" ones: East Harlem and Chinatown, which are, respectively, the home turfs of the Hurricanes and the Savage Huns. The Hurricanes are bilingual in Puerto Rican Spanish and American English, while the Huns likewise know both Cantonese and American English. Members of both gangs keep switching from one language to another, even when talking amongst themselves!

     Web Comics  

     Web Original  
  • Robert M. Price, host of The Bible Geek podcast likes to read questions submitted to him in fake accents of country of origin of people submitting questions.
  • Parodied in the blog novel Fartago. In Chapter 3, the protagonists Farta and Tago meet Artiste, a member of their tribe whose dialogue is written in a bad French accent (saying "zis ees" instead of "this is," for instance). When Farta asks him about this, Artiste replies, "Since monolith come, I become French." Although, of course, it is unclear - in fact, doesn't seem to be the case - if the words Farta and Tago are "grunting" are even English in the first place. But if they're not, then how could Artiste speak English words with an accent? Given that the novel frequently engages in Playing with a Trope of various forms, it's possible this could be one more example of that. It's also worth noting, given all the other often subtle references the author makes to evolutionary paleontology (even as he - apparently intentionally, according to comments he's made - incorrectly pluralizes "Homo habilis" as "Homo habilii") that Artiste's "transformation" into French is as much a reference to cave paintings - the oldest known human art, found in several famous sites throughout France - as it is a reference to the stereotype that the French are artists.

     Western Animation  
  • Used throughout Looney Tunes, especially "Speedy Gonzales" shorts.
    • Likewise the Pepe Le Pew shorts.
  • Used throughout the action/comedy cartoon Dinosaucers, some of the dinosaurs and humans have accents: Terrible Dactyl has a mock British accent while Dimetro has a Scotts accent.
  • Used more recently in the action cartoons Jackie Chan Adventures and Xiaolin Showdown, where Chinese people never actually speak any Chinese.
    • In the case of Jackie Chan Adventures it's understandable as the main characters live in America. In fact, in the first episode Jackie thinks Jade doesn't speak English and tries to talk to her in Chinese (it doesn't work since she's just being surly and not talking at all).
    • Also justified in Xiaolin Showdown, as all of the characters are from different countries. Clay is from Texas, Kimiko is from Japan, Raimundo is from Brazil, and Omi was raised at the monastery. Omi obviously has trouble grasping English, Clay would probably have problems with Portuguese, Chinese, or Japanese, but Rai and Kimiko grew up in nations that stress the importance of learning English.
  • In The Venture Bros., a group of Nazis apparently aren't even German, but they fake the accents to sound genuine. Dr. Venture points out that they suck at it.
  • Used straight in The Simpsons by a number of characters. However, Luigi Risotto, the Italian chef, is the only one to admit to this so far. He cannot speak a single word of Italian; instead, "I speak-a, how-a you say, 'Fractured English'. It's what-a my parents spokinthe home."
    • Averted in "The Crepes of Wrath", in which the French villains speak (terrible) French with subtitles when no-one else is around.
    • Lampshaded in a retelling of Joan of Arc, where everyone is speaking in French accents, peppered with French words. Lou gets confused and calls Chief Wiggum on it.
    Lou: Well you keep switching back between French and English.
  • Used by Oblina in Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. This is even pointed out by The Nostalgia Critic.
  • This was standard practice on Pinky and the Brain.
  • Sealab 2021 featured an obvious parody of Jacques Cousteau in one episode, whose "French" was actually English, with a ridiculous accent, spoken very slowly. "Eet teaaars open ze huuuuul lahk ah teaaar oh-pen aa croissaaaaaaaant!" "What did he say?" "I don't know, it's in French!"
  • Jonny Quest and its 1990s revival, Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures, practically lived off this trope.
  • Lampshaded in the South Park episode "Osama bin Laden Has Farty Pants." A group of Afghan children decide to help out Stan and the gang. When one of them points out that this decision makes no sense, another replies, "Dude, we're all speaking English right now! How much sense does that make?" The trope is also averted in the episode, as all the Afghan characters speak grammatically correct Farsi throughout the episode, albeit with Iranian (rather than Afghan) accents. Osama himself, however, just says "derka derka Mohammad jihad."
  • Skwisgaar Skwigelf and Toki Wartooth of Metalocalypse always speak broken English rather than Swedish or Norwegian, respectively. This makes sense around the other (American) band members. Even though Scandinavian languages are closely related, they probably communicate better using a shared second language than trying to decipher each others' native languages. However, for some reason, Skwisgaar continues speaking English when he goes back to Sweden and moves in with his mother and stepfather.
  • Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends:
    Bloo: Luckily I speak French fluently and for a small fee plus gratuity I'll teach you phrases necessary for survival. Repeat after me: EXCUUUUSE ME MADAME, THERRRE IS PERRFUUUME IN THE HOUSE-PLAIT!
  • All the Italian characters in the Futurama episode "The Duh-Vinci Code" speak English that comes straight out of the Chico Marx Accent School. Since the only Italian characters with speaking roles are a robot built by Leonardo da Vinci, and Leonardo himself, who is actually an alien, this makes slightly more sense than it might...
  • This is used throughout the "Peabody's Improbable Histories" segments of Rocky and Bullwinkle. The first segment implies that this is the result of some brand of Translator Microbes embedded in the Wayback Machine: Peabody travels back in time to ancient Rome, hears everyone speaking Latin, and then makes an adjustment and they're all speaking English instead.
  • In King of the Hill, Peggy frequently mispronounces Spanish words (such as saying pole-oh instead of pollo) despite being a Spanish teacher. But don't try to correct her.
    • The word is pronounced somewhat that way in Castilian Spanish (which, granted, is not often heard in North America anymore), and in Italian too (where the equivalent word means the same thing).
  • Disney's Pocahontas. Apart from a handful of words, all the native Americans speak English, and only the native American men have a sort of generic "Indian" accent. Pocahontas magically learns to speak English herself, but consistently speaks to her father in English, who maintains the accent even after addressing a crowd of English settlers in English. But that's really only one of the most minor problems with the movie.
  • On Phineas and Ferb, the Russian cosmonauts speak to each other in accented English.
  • In the Garfield and Friends episode "Learning Lessons", Billy Buddy Bear interupts Garfield when he asks Odie if he wants his picture painted by saying that "he is not speaking Italian, but English with a bad Italian accent". They then proceed by telling the viewers how to say "Please let me have some pickles!" in Italian.
  • This was played around with in the VeggieTales episode "Dave and the Giant Pickle." The French peas, playing the role of the Philistines spoke in their normal English with a French accent, but everything they said was subtitled as though they were actually speaking a foreign language.
    • Also, Scooter has a very heavy Scottish accent, lampshaded in Sheerluck Homes and the Golden Ruler.
  • Although in most retellings, Robin Hood is an English Saxon fighting the tyranny of French-descended Normans, in Shrek he inexplicably has a French accent. And is a jerk to boot.

     Real Life  
  • A language is a dialect with an army and a navy. In Real Life, the transition from one language to another occurs by dialect continuum, especially if the languages are related to each other. It is difficult to say, for example, where English ends and Lalland Scots begins, as there is a smooth dialect continuum at the North England and South Scotland counties.
  • Many English-language news sources, when dubbing a news report, will use a translator with an appropriate accent.
  • Some forms of the Scots language, which is similar enough to English to just about be understood by an Anglophone who's never encountered it before. Jamaican patois is similar.
  • Galician, a language spoken in the region of Spain north of Portugal, is almost literally Portuguese with a Spanish accent.
    • Likewise Portuguese spoken to a Spanish speaker comes off as Spanish with a lot of "g"s and "o"s thrown in.
  • Former Spanish prime minister (President of the Government) José María Aznar had a habit of speaking Spanish with different accents when travelling to other countries. The most famous example is of him speaking Spanish with a Texan accent when he was visiting Texas.
  • It is possible for two people from one country to meet in a foreign country, and be introduced by a native of the country they are visiting. If they both speak the second language well, and no one says anything, they may continue to speak in the second language after the person who introduced them has left the conversation. Sometimes when two hearing people who both sign very well are introduced by a mutual Deaf friend, they may continue to sign, even on a second meeting where no one else is present, before they realize they both can hear. It doesn't happen often, as it requires the coincidence of two people who are completely fluent in the same two languages, meeting, and no one noting the fact right away, but it does happen.
    • The same thing can happen when two deaf people who lip read very well are introduced by a mutual hearing friend who can't sign. They might not know that they're both deaf until after one of them sees the other not react to someting that a hearing person would react to.
    • It can also be easier for people who don't speak each others' language to communicate in a language that is a fluently-learned foreign language to both, such as an international haulage company with bases all over mainland Europe that, from the 1980s, communicated in English because, as one executive wryly put it: "It puts us all at a multiple disadvantage." More seriously, people speak a learned language more carefully and with less use of confusing idiom- so it's easier for, say, an English person and a German to speak French to each other than to a French person (in this case it helps that they will probably speak with similar mistakes of accent.)
  • After the Formula One 2007 Grand Prix of Europe, race winner Fernando Alonso got into a somewhat heated argument with his future (from 2010 on) Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa on the only (global) sport's TV feed. The two had more or less kissed and made up by the time the argument had subsided (they shared a personal friendship before and after the incident), but the most notable part of this altercation among the sport's viewers was that they were both talking to each other in Italian. Massa is from Brazil and Alonso is from Spain and obviously Italian is neither driver's primary language. Neither is Italian their secondary language, as both speak fluent English.
  • It is claimed that a Finn from Turku and an Estonian from Tallinn can understand each other fluently, while a Finn from Helsinki cannot understand the Estonian at all. This is due to historical linguistics; the Finnish south-west dialects and Estonian language stem from same stem language form, while the dialects of rest of Finland stem from the same stem language as Karelian language.

Recursive TranslationArtistic License - LinguisticsThe Big List of Booboos and Blunders
International Pop Song EnglishAccent TropesKansai Regional Accent
Ho YayAbridged Series TropesLampshade Hanging
Recursive TranslationArtistic License - LinguisticsPoirot Speak

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