When a group of people whose native language is not English are together, away from any English speakers, the audience may nonetheless hear them speaking perfect English.
This is not a case of Translator Microbes, in which an in-universe device is performing actual translation: We are meant to assume that the characters are really speaking their own native tongue, and it is being translated purely for our benefit (or the benefit of the casting director who is then free to hire English-speaking actors), like the dubbing of English dialogue onto foreign-made films.
It is not strictly necessary for there to be no English speakers about; we can sometimes infer from context that they too are speaking a different language. (As in the MacGyver episode "A Prisoner of Conscience", unless we are to believe that the entire population of a Russian state psychiatric hospital speaks English as their preferred language). In such cases, it can be difficult (or almost impossible) to tell whether it is the Translation Convention or Translator Microbes at work.
This also works for any work that has been dubbed into a different language from the original. French characters in an originally French film are assumed to be speaking French to one another, even if everything has been translated for the convenience of an English-speaking audience. This goes for many anime dubs, too.
In some cases, the actors will begin speaking in the characters' native language, then perform a switch-over to English. This is usually accompanied by some sort of camera-move to cue the audience in to the fact that the characters should still be assumed to be speaking in their native language. This technique was used in The Hunt for Red October (see below for context). Also common is characters speaking their own language when addressing English-speaking members of the cast, but accented English at all other times, giving the curious impression that foreigners only speak their own language when they think an English speaker is listening. Black-and-white war movie Germans are particularly fond of doing this.
If done in poor taste, the characters may retain ridiculous accents, resulting in giving the impression that they have no other language, Just a Stupid Accent.
When the actors speak with English or other British accents for effect, despite the story being set in times past, they are speaking The Queen's Latin. For example, every other adaptation of one of William Shakespeare Italian plays.
Naturally, this also happens when translating works into other languages. However, languages left untranslated in the original may still be left untranslated in the translation. (Of course, in literature, this can cause problems if the language left untranslated in the original is the language being translated into, though translating that into the original language often works. On TV, you can just use gibberish.) Because of this, English-speaking viewers are actually the least likely to be the most shocked by this trope. For example, in the French version of Pearl Harbor, the Americans speak French while the Japanese speak Japanese.
Most works of fantasy operate under the Translation Convention, given that English isn't exactly the Common Tongue. In cases like these, the language being spoken will occasionally be namedropped for the reader's benefit (especially in scenes where more than one language is being spoken).
Sometimes, despite the characters supposedly not speaking English, puns, jokes and wordplay are present that only work in English. Sometimes there's a handwaving explanation that equivalents have been replaced by the translator. Can be really egregious if the way a character speaks is pointed out, and the remark simply doesn't work in the language they should be speaking.
If the characters start in one language then switch to English for one reason or another, it is Switch to English.
In Text based mediums, Comics especially, different languages are often set apart by Fonts or symbols, usually by enclosing them in ‹angle quotes›.
See also Aliens Speaking English. Compare Bilingual Dialogue, Animal Talk, Common Tongue and Think in Text.
When the work itself is supposed to have been translated, see Fictional Document, Literary Agent Hypothesis.
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The world(s) of Cowboy Bebop can be seen as highly multilingual, though the language preferred by the protagonists is most likely Chinese:
The Bebop can frequently be seen anchoring in a Martian Chinatown.
In one scene, 'No Smoking' signs can be seen in various languages. Out of all those, Jet picks the one in Chinese to point his finger on.
Faye is from Singapore.
Jet can be seen reading and writing e-mails in Chinese.
Spike used to work for the Triads.
Presumably, the Tachikomas in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex are being translated for the viewers' benefit while actually communicating electronically (since, in the first Tachikoma Special, one of the Tachikomas suggests that they should all use language, while the viewers hear them "speaking" Japanese).
In Black Lagoon, all the characters "spoke" in Japanese, despite being an international cast; it was assumed that they were actually speaking English. Then things got complicated in a specific arc where they visited Japan: the dialogue would switch back and forth between the English they were actually speaking and the Japanese they weren't. The general rule seemed to be English when they were speaking to those who couldn't understand it and Japanese when they could (the audience only understood when someone else did), but the pattern was broken in both directions several times.
The English dub, meanwhile, averts this... With the exception the first arc and the above Japan-visting arc, where a lot of dialogue that's actually supposed to be entirely in Japanese was rendered into English in accordance to the trope.
At least 90% of the dialogue in Monster is translated for the (Japanese) viewers' benefit from German. There are also near-singular cases of translation from English and Latin.
Since the characters come from all over Europe (with a Japanese protagonist), there are a handful of confusing scenes where the translation convention suddenly switches from Japanese-for-German to Japanese-for-English, or Japanese-for-Czech. One episode actually does this repeatedly, with the audience's perspective switching back and forth between German speakers and English speakers who are travelling together.
That particular scene becomes even stranger in the English version. One of the characters only speaks German, the two one-shot characters only speak English, and the protagonist speaks both. There is a bit where the German-speaking character thanks the English-speaking ones in Gratuitous German, but immediately afterwards he begins asking the protagonist, in English, what the other characters are discussing.
And let's spoof that up a bit by reading the manga in German.
Hunter × Hunter is a bit odd about this. They use a different lettering system, so it could be assumed they're not really speaking Japanese, but they also use kanji (albeit a bit differently) and occasionally Gratuitous English as well.
Apparent in Simoun early on when Aer and Rimone are captured by an enemy soldier, with most of his tragic dialogue flying over both girls' heads as (the audience realizes) neither speak his language.
In Mai-Otome, nearly all text that appears on screen (including newspapers, computer screens, and diaries) is in Gratuitous English, while the spoken dialogue is (obviously) in Japanese. It is never mentioned explicitly what the "real" language spoken in this far-future setting is. Sometimes it leads to bizarre language-specific dialogue that wouldn't make much sense if the language was indeed English, like Mashiro mentioning that she was named after (the Japanese name of) Fumi's GEM, which is called "Pure White Diamond" in English. Not to mention characters occasionally slipping into speaking English...
In the Japanese version of Death Note, the scenes at which Interpol convenes and speaks with a British detective, as well as Near's dealings with the American SPK and Mello's conversations with the US Mafia are all presented in Japanese; presumably, they're actually speaking English.
However, in the live-action movie, Lind L. Tailor, L's decoy, was voiced by an American, while a Japanese translator made a voice-over.
This is how it was done in the manga as well, although only the voice-over is shown.
This is assumed to be in effect for Wammy's House as well, unless we are to believe that all the residents of an orphanage in England speak Japanese as their default language.
In Zero no Tsukaima, the first episode involves the lead hero falling into the heroine's world, and isn't able to understand anything they say until she accidentally uses a translation spell. In the dub, they meet and ask each other what language the other is speaking in...in perfect English.
To their credit they represented this by having Saito speak with an echo effect applied to his voice until Louise spelled him, at least in the Japanese version. It had to be Saito even though he's the actual Japanese speaker because just imagine how annoying it would have been to have the entire cast apart from him using the echo effect for the entire episode up to that point.
They were both speaking perfect Japanese to each other in the original too. Saito wonders if they're speaking English for a second, but realizes they're not. Apparently they're speaking French.
Got kind of confusing in the Samurai Champloo episode "Baseball Blues", which had Americans speaking English. It was easy to know what language was which in the Japanese episode—the Americans spoke English with Japanese subtitles (and the Americans' interpreter speaks Japanese with a laughably bad accent)—but in the English dub, everybody speaks English. The Japanese subtitles were kept. I assume that's supposed to make an English viewer understand the Americans speak English and/or they couldn't remove them.
Azumanga Daioh had its difficulties when dubbed into English, since the main classroom scenes take place ... in an English class. The manga had less difficulty, with different typefaces (or the artist's attempts at writing in English), but for the anime series, Yukari goes from an English teacher to a 'language' teacher, with the English-spoken lines in the original usually being turned to French or Spanish. Incongruous when the 'language' teacher has difficulty with talking to a German, or the fact that all the non-Japanese text is in English, or that the textbooks are English books.
Most ironically, the teacher's English in the original Japanese dub is actually terrible. That may count as an 'extra' joke, though, given her character.
More accurately, she speaks, apparently, fluent English with an extremely thick accent, as evidenced by the fact that she is shown conversing comfortably with an American tourist.
Every Gundam series features English text (with varyingdegrees of quality), but the characters themselves speak Japanese - except, of course, in the dubbed versions. It's generally assumed that English is the lingua franca for all seven universes because, to quote an example from one Gundam Wing fansite, it doesn't make much sense for a Chinese woman to speak to a group of Arabs in Japanese.
In Origin, The Federation is apparently bilingual, with most things being labelled in both English & Russian.
Similiarly, all printed material in the Macross universe is shown on screen in English (often Surprisingly Good English), and it is assumed that, especially after the first series, English is the spoken language in the context of the show, even though it is always produced in Japanese.
The manga for Mahou Sensei Negima! provided an elegant solution to the problem of how to imply to the reader that some characters were speaking in English while others were speaking in Japanese. Japanese dialogue was written as normal but English dialogue was written backwards, that is, left to right - as one would expect to see English written. The English Translations provided their own solution by putting the words that are spoken in English (as opposed to being translated to it) in a different font.
Blood+ features this trope hard. Over the course of Walking the Earth, the characters go from Okinawa, to Vietnam, to Russia, to France, to England and finally to America. Granted some of the characters are old enough to have learned all the languages, but it boggles the mind to wonder how two not particularly intelligent highschool students like Kai and Mao know all of them.
Not to mention the United States soldiers speaking to one another in Japanese when no other Japanese characters are present.
The Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha series has a bizarre partial application of this trope. Humans and familiars always speak Japanese, but their Devices speak either English or German depending on whether they are Mid-Childa or Belkan. This results in a number of conversations where one side is Engrish and the other Japanese.
In Noir, the main characters speak so many different languages fluently, that it can be hard to tell what language they are actually speaking at a given time: Most of the series is set in France, but when they go on a mission they speak whatever language is there because that's what assassins do so they don't look suspicious. But they still always just speak Japanese for convenience.
In general, a lot of that take place in more western settings like Gunslinger Girl or Madlax have the characters speak the language of their viewers for convenience, but inevitably causes erupt confusion when other languages come into the picture.
In The Five Star Stories, signs & other things are labelled in Engrish, though everybody seems to be speaking Japanese (or whatever language it's translated into). The use of English lettering is particularily odd, as the people are aliens who evolved to be identical to humans apparently through sheer coincidence & have no connection whatsoever to Earth. Stranger still, the language of the ancient, mystical Farus Di Kanarn civilization is rendered as Chinese and the Kingdom of Fortune's as French. When Mugumica recites a poem from there it's written bilingually, but earlier when Lachesis changes into her final form for the first time & begins speaking it, it is left untranslated.
Another oddity is that Ssizz & presumably the rest of Balanche's "Oriental-Style" Fatimas often have their dialogue left untranslated in English editions.
Code Geass is a bit strange about this. For the most part, it's blatantly clear that the characters are actually speaking English, though there are some scenes where the true language is Japanese (and a few in Chinese, and possibly German), and a number of characters are implied to be bilingual. On the other hand, Britannian soldiers use the phrases "Yes, my lord!" and "Yes, your highness!" in English, even in the original Japanese version.
The same thing happens in the English dub; in this case, characters will use Japanese Honorifics to indicate when they're actually speaking Japanese.
This video plays with this interestingly. It uses the original Japanese audio whenever the Japanese characters talk, and mixes it with the English dub whenever the Brittanian characters talk, switching between the two if a character is assumed to switch languages based on the plot.
Fridge Brilliance: Zero, fighting for Japan freedom, speaks Japanese. Lelouch, being a Britannian student, speaks English. This explains partly why so few people figured Zero was Lelouch.
However, everything gets thrown out the window when the Chinese are in the picture. They also speak Japanese or English depending on which version you're watching, but thanks to the interplay of them, the Britannians, and the Japanese, it can be assumed that most of the cast is proficient in three languages, which can stretch the Willing Suspension of Disbelief. It's fine for politicians like Schneizel, Kaguya and Tianzi, and both politician and linguistics genius, Lelouch. Not so much for the blue collar Japanese.
Virtually all text in Ergo Proxy is in English, all the way down to Re-l's personal notes. A curious exception is the episode "Who Wants To Be On Jeopardy!", where the game show is in entirely Japanese.
Since Chrono Crusade is set in America, it's safe to assume everyone's speaking English instead of Japanese.
In Princess Tutu there's only a small monologue in German, but almost all of the on-screen text is in the language, implying that the show is set in Germany and the characters are speaking German. (In fact, taken to its logical conclusion, that means neither Ahiru nor Duck is the main character's real name.)
Her name is actually shown in German text: Entchen. It also means 'Duck', of course.
The same can be assumed for Gunsmith Cats, which is set in 1990's Chicago.
An odd example towards the end of Blue Seed, which features a number of scenes set within a US Carrier Group. The original apparently had English voice actors, with a Japanese translator speaking in the background. The Japanese translation can still be heard in the dub.
In Planetes, despite being presented in Japanese, most of the dialogue is presumably actually in English. In an episode where three of the characters pay a visit to Japan, Hachimaki's mother complements Yuri on how well he speaks Japanese; in the English dub, this let the viewers know that the characters were actually speaking Japanese, similar to the Evangelion example above.
Shaman King has characters from all over the world (the Japanese hero's True Companions, for instance, include shamans from China, Germany, and the United States as well as other Japanese people). Somehow, everyone can understand each other.
Although, you have to consider that most of these shamans had been training for the Shaman Fight for their whole lives, and since it was to be held in Tokyo, they probably learned to speak Japanese as part of their training. There still are several times when this trope would be active, though (namely Chocolove's flashbacks where Americans are conversing amongst themselves in Japanese).
Another possibility is that the Oracle Bells act as Translator Microbes. Although, once again, this doesn't explain any flashbacks in the character's home countries.
There was this nice little one in Funbari no Uta, while in America, Hana, the son of Yoh and Anna, mistakes two thugs for trying to rob him. The lines for the two thugs were actually written in English and if you knew English, you found out right away that they weren't trying to do anything to Hana.
In Gurren Lagann, all the text is in a made-up alphabet, indicating that the characters are probably speaking a language which does not exist on Earth today (The text, in all meaningful instances, is a cypher for roman characters).
At one point in Trigun, Vash is shown to be unable to read Japanese, indicating that while the dialogue is presented in that language, it isn't the one the characters are speaking. The American Wild West based setting and the frequent use of Gratuitous English implies that the language being spoken is English.
Darker Than Black has Contractors and Dolls from a number of countries, and one, Maki, is supposed to not know Japanese and based upon the type of phrases he is shown studying, is at a rather remedial level in the language. So, you have a character speaking in Japanese about not knowing Japanese. Also notable are Hei's apartment mates who are practically a Five-Token Band in terms of diverse nationalities, and even if Tokyo Is the Center of the Universe, might not be expected to be fluent. While it's never stated that characters are actually speaking English, it seems likely that it would be the common language of characters from differing nationalities, rather than Japanese.
Since the five are living in Japan and even work there, they can probably speak Japanese at least well enough to get by.
Hei (Chinese), Yin (Finnish), Suo (Russian/Japanese), and Mao (probably from a country that can speak Spanish) are all very likely able to speak fairly fluent Japanese as they have been shown speaking to Japanese residents normally.
In Ryuusei no Gemini, it isn't completely clear each each time Suoh switches between Russian and Japanese since we hear Japanese the whole time. There is a notable example where someone who doesn't know Russian checks whether she has German, French, or English as a second language before trying actual Japanese and not the secretly-Russian Japanese Suoh had been speaking up to then.
Considering Baccano!! is set in 1930s America, it's probably safe to say that they are not speaking Japanese — although Firo does eventually become fluent in the language in the books
Furthermore, during flashbacks to the Advena Avis, it's probably safe to say that the characters are speaking French, which would have been the most likely common language for such a wide variety of nationalities in 1711.
The "Digimon World Tour" part of Digimon Adventure 02 varied between averting the trope and playing it straight. In the US and Australia everybody can understand each other for no reason (which is ACCEPTABLE in the Australia case, as both Iori/Cody and Jou/Joe are very intelligent and probably knew English, but not in the US case, as Daisuke/Davis most likely knows no English and the dozen American children probably don't speak Japanese). In the Mexico case, the only characters they found were a guard (Spanish-speaking) and little Chichos/Rosa, whose Spanish-speak was a plot point (in the group only Ken knew Spanish, and only he could understand her). In the France case, Takeru/TK's grandfather surely knows Japanese, and Catherine addresses in dialogue that she does it too. In the Russia case the trope was averted completely, as the Japanese children couldn't communicate at all with the Russian children. The China case, though, was a complete mess - at first the inability to communicate was the challenge for the Japanese children, but less than a minute later they were perfectly able to understand the Chinese children with no explanation to why. Notice that, in the dub, the cultural shock (except for the Russia case) was replaced by a hurricane of accents.
Fullmetal Alchemist can't seem to decide which language it is. It's spoken in Japanese, everyone writes in English, and it's implied they're all speaking German.
The manga uses differently shaped speech bubbles to tell whether people are speaking Amestrian/English or Xingese/Chinese. If the speech bubbles are vertical (as is normal in a manga) then it's English, but if the speech bubbles are horizontal then it's Chinese. The fonts used are also different.
It's not really the shape of the bubble, it's the orientation of the text. Japanese text in manga is usually written as traditional, that is, top-to-down, right-to-left. That's why in manga most bubbles are vertical. But to remark foreign speech it's common in manga to use left-to-right, top-to-down text, as common in Western countries (it's really become a convention, even when the language supposed to be spoken here is Chinese, which is written in the same orientation as Japanese).
In the voice actor commentary for Conqueror of Shamballa, Sonny Strait commented that they weren't going to add on German accents to the characters — they're speaking German, so they just translated it as if it were regular speech.
In Yakitate!! Japan guest bakers speak in heavily accented Japanese to Japanese characters but unaccented Japanese amongst themselves, suggesting that they are speaking their own language to each other.
Kaleido Star takes place at a circus in the U.S., so of course everybody is speaking English even if what you're hearing is Japanese. It gets confusing at times when the two languages cross paths.
What language is spoken in Last Exile is unclear but it is not set in Japan (or even on Earth), so one would assume it is not Japanese being spoken. The written language is English but using Greek letters (a = Alpha, b = Beta, etc). To a Greek person, the text would not make sense, and to someone who can read English, they would need to decipher the characters first. All numerals are represented by Roman numerals.
English is what's being spoken in Hellsing. In one of the OVAs Seras uses some Japanese tourists to distract Anderson and Alucard and complains about them... while still speaking 'Japanese' for the benefit of the audience. Presumably, they're still speaking English even though half the people there are Italian.
In Black Butler, set in Victorian-era London, the reader is meant to assume the characters are speaking English, even when it's actually Japanese
In Night on the Galactic Railroad, while the dialogue is in Japanese (or English, or whatever), the background text is in Esperanto, so presumably that's what the characters are speaking.
In the anime-only American Competition arc of Prince of Tennis, the Americans speak Japanese, but it's supposed to be English, Of course, they still have Gratuitous English in their speech, which makes it confusing...
In the Filipino dub, the Americans actually speak in English.
Major. After Goro joins the Minor League or whenever he's in America in general (except for when language is the issue being discussed). One wonders when he learned English though.
Have we not mentioned Axis Powers Hetalia yet? Almost every single character is a speaker of a different language. So what on earth are they speaking in? Who knows, just run with it.
Word of God implies that they all speak their own official languages, and use a language they all know with each other. It's apparent from the strips as well: America and England talk to each other in English (re: the rubber incident, England correcting America's English), America apparently speaking in English on world meetings (so it seems all of them speak English), China and Korea singing the same song in their own languages, America and Japan needing an interpreter to communicate when they first meet, and later on America speaking in a very accented Japanese.
Fairy Tail has signs and place names in English, plus everyone's names are in western order (even the protagonist Natsu Dragneel), thus English is implied to be the official language of the Fairy Tail universe.
Heroman is implicitly set in America with American characters. This is probably because the original concept was created by an American. There's also a fair bit of Gratuitous English, but that's another trope.
In Read or Die a good number of the characters is British (and there are several Americans as well, including the US President). We can only assume they're not really all speaking Japanese. And in R.O.D The TV, the three main characters are Chinese, although we know they speak actual Japanese as well (Anita even gets complimented on her Japanese skills at one point). R.O.D The TV also features a scene set in school where the children are learning English. In the English dub, this was changed so that they're learning Japanese...
The animated adaptation of Crest of the Stars has this in full force. For the most part the characters are all speaking Baronh but it is rendered into Japanese for most scenes (the opening narration is in Baronh as are a few preview scenes). A lot of the time English is used to render Martine which the novels make explicit is descended from English. The opening scenes of the first episode add another layer starting off in English to represent Martine then sliding into Japanese.
A case of translation convention occurs in Yu-Gi-Oh!. Much of the show takes place in Japan, but when the main characters are in the US or Egypt, people there seem to speak perfect Japanese. Pegasus, an American character, is known for his use of Gratuitous English.
It's heavily implied in Queen's Blade that the language the characters speaks (at least the western ones like Leina, Elina, Nowa, etc.) is not Japanese at all. But the characters from Hinomoto (Tomoe and Shizuka) are a very special case: according with a episode in the second season (The one when Shizuka writes a letter to Tomoe before challenging her to a death duel) they both speak Ancient Japanese, but it's never explained how both girls are able to communicate with the rest of the cast without any problems, since neither Tomoe nor Shizuka even leaved Hinomoto in all their lives.
A throw-away scene early in the first season implies that the western girls may speak Russian, and shows Shizuka and Tomoe trying to learn basic Russian greetings from an old scroll.
Except that, in the same case with Fullmetal Alchemist, the characters speaks Japanese for viewers' benefit, but they speak Russian, yell their attacks in English (Except Tomoe and, oddly enough, Claudette, who yell their attacks in Japanese) and everyone writes with glyphs.
From Far Away deals with this nicely by having different outlined panels for the different languages of the characters. For example, near the beginning of the series the main heroine, who is learning said language would have a double outlined talk bubble to represent her speaking Japanese; whereas everyone else would have normal talk bubbles.
Fractale takes place in what appears to be Ireland in the far future. All written text is in English and it can be assumed that this is what the characters are speaking as well.
Inconsistent in Soul Eater - in the American school where most main characters have grown up in that country (all but Tsubaki, in fact), Japanese is presumably spoken for the viewers' benefit. Yet text is shown both in English and Japanese (such as American (more-or-less) Kid writing a letter in Japanese to Liz and Patti...who come from New York. It is read aloud.)
What's more, all of the text in the series is in Surprisingly Good English, so much so that it provides some handy foreshadowing and details for the English-speaking viewer.
In Hikaru no Go, when the show cuts to scenes of Go players in France, America, China, etc. talking among themselves, one can assume they are speaking their native languages, although the dialogue continues to be in Japanese.
In Thermae Romae it is obvious that Lucius, the emperor Hadrian and the other Romans would talk to each other in Latin, and would know no Japanese, but they speak in Japanese for the benefit of the anime's audience.
The manga Club 9 feature a girl who moved from her country town in Akita prefecture to attend college in Tokyo, and work in a high-end hostess club. In the English translation of this manga, all the characters from Akita speak with a country 'hick' accent, and all the characters from Tokyo speak with urban slang. It would be interesting to learn how these language differences are depicted in the original Japanese.
Marginal Prince is set in an international boarding school, and the texts on books, newspapers and TV make clear that the language of consent is English and the characters are most likely speaking English with each other, which is rendered in Japanese so the audience can understand it. The only exceptions might be when Yuuta talks to his sister back in Japan on phone, and in the same vein, when Haruya talks to her. In this case, the speech level is noticeably different from how he speaks to other characters on the cast, switching from casual to relatively formal whenever he picks up the phone. A strange case is Sylvain, who is a declared fan of anime and manga and speaks on relatively formal speech level with the others. While it doesn't convey any meaning in contact with the American, French, Russian and other characters on the cast, one might assume that he tries speaking textbook Japanese with Haruya and Yuuta.
In Gankutsuou, most of the characters are French. In fact, The Previously is always spoken in French by Gankutsuou, himself. In the finale, Gankutsuou speaks French to Albert, who apparently understands him perfectly, but still answers in Japanese, making the translation convention a pretty messy affair.
In Legend of Galactic Heroes, people from the Alliance presumably speak in English, and their Imperial counterparts in German, though it is just as likely that they are all speaking in a yet-unknown future language which is rendered in Japanese for the benefit of the viewers.
Neither the people of Gargantia nor the Galactic Alliance in Suisei no Gargantia are speaking Japanese. Who is speaking gibberish and who is represented as Japanese depends on the viewpoint character at the moment.
Most Comic Books often put "< >" brackets around plain English to represent when a character is talking in another language. This is usually accompanied the first panel it shows up in by an editor note box stating what language they're speaking. This is usually carried over to Webcomics as well, such as MegaTokyo, which uses it when characters speak in Japanese.
Interestingly done in Prince of Tennis, where this is used when the main character is speaking in English.
The same occurs in The Great Ten, where the dialogue of tourists is enclosed in the brackets since they aren't speaking Chinese.
This gets confusing in Yoko Tsuno, because no indication is ever made of the language actually spoken by characters, so that when the actual language spoken is relevant to the plot or discussion, things can get awfully confusing.
There is a major and concerted effort to do this well in the Tintin series, and it for the most part succeeds. For the few times when the characters are at home instead of around the world, the English translation relocates it from France to England, changing the names of all (French) characters to British ones that fit the theme, and altering a Merovingian burial ground to a Saxon one, among other things.
Astérix does this well with each language being represented as their own font. Exceptions include Egyptian which consists of a bunch of symbols vaguely resembling hieroglyphics. For humour, certain expletives are left "untranslated", simply being shown as a bunch of symbols.
The exception being the unremarked-upon distinction between the legionaries' Latin and the villagers' Gaulish - unless of course you're reading a translation into something like Swiss German, when Swiss can be used for Gaulish and the more 'official' Hochdeutsch for Latin.
Another exception is whenever someone makes a classic Latin quote ("Alea jacta est", "O tempora o mores", etc) which appears untranslated (Pegleg the pirate does this Once Per Album).
However, the expletives can still have national flavor - a Goth's expletive will have slightly more angular symbols, and the skulls will wear Goth helmets, for example.
Presumably, the characters in Nikolai Dante are speaking some form of Russian, but the speech bubbles are always in English.
In the Strontium Dog "Max Bubba" story, both the English and Old Norse are represented as English. It is mentioned that Johnny was given a crash course in the language right before being sent back in time, which is why he is able to speak with the Vikings. Bubba doesn't speak Old Norse, and instead has his Viking captain translate for him.
This is played to the T in Ronin. Japanese characters speak English while in feudal Japan. Once the title character makes the jump to futuristic America, he is blatantly shown to only be able to speak Japanese.
Of course, those "feudal Japan" scenes are actually the English translations of a Japanese television show.
Early issues of The Flash (volume 2 — Wally West) used different fonts for different languages. The "Russian" font had backwards Rs and other tricks to make it look like Cyrillic, while the "Chinese" font was done with kanji-like brushstrokes.
Editors can sometime get confused about what constitutes Translation Convention. In the first New 52 issue of Blue Beetle, a conversation has an asterisked note saying, "Translated from the Spanglish." Except, it's not translated from the Spanglish: "Lo siento, mijo, pero there's no way I'm letting you go to la casa de amparo cardenas!" There's no translation in effect here!
Code: Pony Evolution has a strange one. Since the story takes place in France, all the French is translated to English. However, "Fancy" is translated into... French
Used in chapter 3 of Racer and the Geek. As it turns out, Telny and Keffiyeh were holding a conversation in a language other than Equestrian, as revealed by Goggles asking Telny what language he was using. It is later revealed to be Zebrische, which is the zebra language and spoken in Zebricy. This is a massive plot point.
Harmony Theory: There are at least three languages in the fic. All three are represented by English in the fic. A switch in languages is represented by writing the language which is spoken less in that scene italics.
Chapter four of Bait and Switch (STO) has a conversation between two Bajoran characters that is written in English but stated to be in Kendran dialect.
Dominus Anulorum, a Latin language fanfilm of Lord of the rings uses English to represent elvish, leading Gandalf to open the gates of Moria by saying "Friend" in English.
In A New World: Story of a lost Shinobi, everyone's speech is in English, at least from our perspective. However when Naruto lands in Earthland, he is The Unintelligible (implied to be speaking Japanese). Levi manages to start working on making a dictionary for him via rune magic (the runes hear what he says and try to find the closest word that fits) and Naruto spams dozens of clones to either study with her or listen to everyone talk and work out the language. At first all he talks in is broken English, but by the time he can speak "Earthland", he's already crammed 3-4 years worth of studying the language thanks to clones and Levi's dictionary.
In Madagascar, all of the animals can understand each other and they can understand humanspeak. But humans can't understand them, so when shown from the animals' POV, they're all speaking English as well as the humans for our listening pleasure, and when shown from the humans' POV, they can of course understand each other, but the animals just sound like they're making animal sounds.
Ratatouille is set entirely in France, but everyone only speaks English (although Colette has a heavy accent). Similarly to the Madagascar example above, when the rats are shown speaking from a human character's point of view, all we hear is a bunch of squeaking.
Strangely done in Pocahontas - for almost the entire movie, both the Algonquians and the Brits speak English. However, when John meets the title character, she speaks Algonquin - until the magic tree tells her to 'listen with [her] heart', at which point she can understand Smith. The movie carefully avoids having other Native Americans and Englishmen talk to each other — only Smith and Pocahontas are shown communicating.
The Disney Animated Canon does this a lot, what with these films taking place in many different countries but being shown all over the world and thus re-dubbed into many languages other then the ones the characters should logically be speaking (for example, there are versions of Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame in English and many other languages besides French, even though both are set in France, The Princess and the Frog being translated into many languages other then English despite it taking place in America, everyone in The Lion King speaking whatever language is spoken in the version you're watching despite the film taking place before any human languages were invented, etc.).
In the TinkerBell films, Tink speaks English as do all fairies, a stark contrast to the jingling bell sounds made by the mute Tink in the Disney Peter Pan movies. You can imagine how that went over. However, when Tink leaves Pixie Hollow and meets a human, when she tries to communicate, we find that the human hears only jingling when she talks. This makes all fairy dialogue that we can understand Translation Convention - they do talk, but humans just can't understand.
In the second Mulan movie, Mushu tells Mulan some rather alarming news, which she parrots back at him in shock, and he irritably asks, "Don't you speak Chinese?"
The "Huns" referred to in the first movie are almost certainly the Xiongnu, who were similar in many ways and often identified with them but actually different. This is presumably because 'Huns' is much easier to rhyme in English; the Mandarin version at least does call them the Xiongnu.
Played with in The Land Before Time V. Although most movies, including the fifth movie, had the dinosaurs speaking English, the Sharpteeth spoke in growls and snarls, with subtitles translating the conversation.
Films — Live-Action
It's to be assumed that this is in effect in Slumdog Millionaire, where all the Indian characters, including uneducated "slumdogs", speak fluent British English to each other.
This happens pretty liberally in Lawrence of Arabia, where Lawrence (and some other characters) switches pretty seamlessly between English and Arabic (and maybe Turkish). Some Arab actors are actually dubbed into English, despite their characters quite likely speaking Arabic.
Interesting side note: In real life, Lawrence had to serve as a translator between General Allenby and Prince Faisal. This was especially awkward for Lawrence, since it meant he had to be the one to inform Faisal that the British weren't going to honor their commitment to an independent Arabia. Needless to say, the film has Allenby and Faisal speaking English to each other with no need for a translator.
In The Hunt for Red October, this is used to great effect. The actors playing Soviets speak to each other in Russian early in the film. Then one character (the protocol officer) begins reading the Book of Revelation, switching to English when he comes to the word "Armageddon," which is the same in both languages. Apart from the Soviet National Anthem, the Soviets all speak English at this point, but we are to understand they are still speaking Russian. Furthermore, when the Americans board the Red October, they are greeted by a Soviet sailor who is speaking non-subtitled Russian. Russian-speaking characters remain without subtitles until it is established, minutes later, that Jack Ryan speaks Russian, and that Marko Ramius speaks English. They consistently keep characters using their understood/spoken languages after that point (with the exception of the Konovalov, whose crew can be assumed to still be speaking Russian even though we hear English).
In Clear and Present Danger, Ernesto Escobedo and Felix Cortez speak Spanish at the beginning of the movie. They switch to English during Escobedo's batting practice.
Decepticons speak to each other in Cybertronian, subtitled in Cybertronian glyphs which morph to English. Later, we hear Megatron and Starscream speak to each other in English, but one would assume they're not really holding a conversation in the language of "insects". The Autobots, on the other hand, speak English exclusively, even to each other, as well as in Prime's broadcast to any surviving Autobots at the end, but he's probably not really. Presumably, this was all so the various voice actors would have perhaps three lines instead of Zero.
The Italian adaptation of Transformers offers a variation of this. Right before Megatron says (the Italian equivalent of) "You failed me yet again, Starscream", he pronounces two unintelligible words, to give the impression that he cussed in Cybertronian and pronounced the rest of the phrase in Italian. However, the two words are merely an insult in Italian ("maledetto bastardo" = "you goddamn bastard") played backwards.
The World Is Not Enough subverts this trope. While Bond is undercover as a Russian nuclear physicist, one of the nuclear technicians speaks to Bond for a while (with both of them speaking in perfect English), only to point out near the end of the conversation in Russian, "Your English is very good for a Russian". Bond is naturally unfazed and replies (in Russian) that he studied at Oxford.
The protagonist of I Am David knows several languages, but we only hear him speak English as he travels through Bulgaria, Italy, Switzerland, and finally, to Denmark. At one point, in Italy he meets an American tourist who's trying to tell him his car needs gas. The tourist his heard speaking broken Italian from his own perspective, and saying "My wine cellar needs steak" in English from David's.
Where Eagles Dare begins with the Allied operatives in a meeting being briefed on their mission to infiltrate a Nazi stronghold. The leader helpfully reminds them, "All of you speak fluent German," which they presumably did not need to be told; it's just a line thrown in only to explain to viewers why all of the dialogue afterwards is in English.
Judgment At Nuremberg features Maximilian Schell's defense attorney speaking German for the first few sentences of his opening statement, then waiting for his words to be translated before continuing. When he gets to a more dramatic part of his speech, the camera abruptly zooms in on his face and we hear him speaking English, which he and other German characters continue to speak for the rest of the film. There aren't even any more pauses for translation, though we can assume they are happening in the "real" version of events.
It's more than a zoom— it's a brief use of a deep-focus lens.
The system of headsets and simultaneous interpreters has been explained for both the participants and the audience, and the viewer can tell which language is being spoken by which characters are wearing headsets. If Spencer Tracy, an American, is not wearing a headset, English is being spoken. If the Germans on trial are not wearing them, then German is being spoken. If both are, then it is some other language, such as Polish. The headsets and simultaneous interpreters eliminate the need for pauses.
Lampshaded in the 1983 Mel Brooks version of To Be or Not to Be. The actors speak mangled Polish with cartoonishly exaggerated accents, until the announcement, "In the interest of clarity and sanity, the rest of this movie will not be in Polish."
Generally played straight in the The Lord of the Rings movies. The movies made a point of having characters speak in J. R. R. Tolkien's invented languages when appropriate, with English subtitles for the 99.9% of viewers who don't speak Elvish. However, when native speakers were talking among themselves, they reverted to English. Thus Galadriel speaks to Elrond in English rather than Sindarin; the Witch-king addresses his orc minions in English rather than Black Speech; et cetera.
Averted in The Hobbit, though, for anybody not communicating in English/Westron. So Tauriel and Thranduil stick to subtitled Sylvan, Azog and Bold to the subtitled Black Speech etc.
In Moonstruck, many scenes begin with a few sentences in Italian before switching to English. This is presumably intended to indicate when the characters are actually speaking Italian.
Plein soleil (or Purple Noon, a French/Italian version of The Talented Mr Ripley) inverts this — Tom Ripley and Philippe Greanleaf speak French to each other, when Ripley, at least, would surely be far more comfortable with English. It's not clear whether this French dialog represents the English they're actually speaking to each other, or whether these two Americans are speaking French.
The Scandinavian Arn films uses a variant of this where English represents most languages aside from Swedish (the native language of the central characters) and Norwegian. Throughout the film English represents Arabic, Latin and French, to mention a few. Often an initial line or two is spoken in the intended language, and then they switch to English.
Excellently deployed in The 13th Warrior where Ahmed ibn Fadlan (played by Antonio Banderas) is a middle eastern character exiled to Viking lands. Ahmed hears authentic Icelandic (initially incomprehesible to him) and in a scene at a campfire, more and more English words are dubbed over the Icelandic, illustrating to the audience that Ahmed is learning the local language by immersion. Once all the Vikings are heard speaking fluent English, the audience is informed that Ahmed has learned to speak and understand Old Norse. By contrast, in the book his character spends most of the story slowly learning the language and having most things translated into Latin by a bilingual Norseman.
The film Valkyrie opens with Stauffenberg writing a letter and reading it to himself in German, which slowly morphs into English as he continues to speak.
Ip Man was originally in Cantonese, with the Foshaners speaking Cantonese while Jin's Northerner troupe speaks Mandarin instead of a true northern Chinese dialect. In the Mandarin dub, both the Foshaners and the Northerners speak Mandarin. However, the Japanese characters still speak in Japanese with subtitles.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock has Klingon commander Kruge and his officers, Torg and Maltz, confer in English, but Kruge speaking in Klingon to the rest of his crew. Though whether the convention applies in full or they're actually speaking English to conceal their converation from the non-English-speaking crew is never made clear.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country uses a technique similar to Red October in places. In the trial scene, General Chang begins his arguments in Klingon, and then it cuts to Klingon translators rendering it into English, and then cuts back to Chang continuing in English. After one question, he demands that Kirk answer before waiting for the translation. Another scene of the Klingons conferring also has Chang switch to English midway through.
Sky Blue's original dialogue is all in Korean, but the background text is all in English. Given the ending, it seems that they are in fact speaking English throughout the film.
In Space Camp, the robot Jinx and the NASA mainframe communicate through voice-synthesized English, even when no humans are around.
In Outlander, all Norse dialogue is given in English. Interestingly, Kainan speaks with Jim Caveziel's American accent, while the native Norse speakers all have English accents. Kainan's native language is shown as subtitled Icelandic (except in one Flash Back, presumably because Kainan is describing it to his Norse love interest).
Used in Critters, where the good-guy aliens' speech is presented in English, even before they speed-download a datafile on Earth's native languages and culture. The carnivorous Krites' speech is in growly gibberish with subtitles, and is played for laughs when one Krite's swearing is likewise translated.
An interesting question: Is this in effect entirely through the flashback narrative of Interview with the Vampire? Obviously, Louis is translating everything for Daniel's benefit, and we can assume naturally that the scenes in colonial Louisiana and Paris are in French, but what about after the Time Skip when New Orleans became American?
Done partially in Beowulf, where everybody speaks modern English except for Grendel, who does speaks Old English.
In The Reader, a film set in Germany, the actors speak German accented English (to the ears of the audience), but the true language they are speaking is German. This includes written text which appears to even look English.
In the South Korean film Joint Security Area, Swiss and Swedish members of the United Nations stationed in Korea speak English instead of Korean or their native language. A Swiss character of Korean nationality speaks English with a heavy Korean accent rather than a Swiss one.
In the original French version of Just Visiting - Les Visiteurs - this was played in an unusual way. Jean Reno and Christian Clavier would speak modern French when they were alone, but archaic French when they interacted with modern Frenchmen.
At first cleverly averted, but then played straight in the Russian sci-fi comedy Kin-Dza-Dza. The Earthling transplantees are initially confounded by the language of the titular system apparently only having one word, coo. As it turns out, the Humanoid Aliens there have a limited telepathy: with consent, they can read each others' minds, so coo is just a way of getting attention and indicating that you have something to communicate. The two (relatively) helpful aliens who take the Earthlings in use this ability to learn Russian over a handful of scenes to make things easier... but then, even when they're seperated later, every alien speaks Russian instantly with no explanation.
Oliver Stone intentionally hired Irish and British actors for many of the roles in Alexander, as he wanted them to not only sound natural in their roles, but to represent the many divisions and differences in ancient Greek dialects. For example, Alexander and the Macedonians speak with an Irish accent (which Stone justifies by the historical evidence that Macedon had Celtic influence from the Gauls' passage into modern-day Turkey) while several other of his soldiers sport a variety of British accents, notably Cleitus who speaks with the actor's native Liverpool accent.
In The Dark Crystal: In a couple scenes where the Chamberlain speaks to the Gelflings (i.e. trying to convince them he's their friend), his speech goes from cultured to halting, suggesting that he's speaking to them in their own language. The film was originally going to include artificial languages.
In Time Bandits everyone speaks English in every location and time period.
Basically every Disney animated film where the characters are obviously not from an English-speaking country. They often sound like Americans or Brits, depending on who is doing the voicing.
In Defiance, Yiddish is English with Just a Stupid Accent. Although Russian and German remain the same and are often subtitled, occasionally the main characters will speak English with Soviet soldiers, who are unlikely to have known Yiddish.
In The Last Starfighter, when Alex first arriaves on Rylos, he (and the audience) initially hears everyone speaking "Rylan", until Alex gets his "translator device". The Rylans speak are heard in English after that. An exception is Centauri (played the late Robert Preston) who already knew English when he first meets Alex.
Strangely, Grig at the end of the film is able to greet the humans at the trailor park and speak with them with no problems, when it is unlikely he actually speaks English.
Makes an especially awkward appearance in the Holocaust drama The Grey Zone. The Jews are Hungarian and the guards are Germans, but everyone speaks in English. Normally we're probably expected to understand they're all speaking German, but on at least one occasion the Nazi commandant barks at prisoners who have been speaking to one another to stop speaking in Hungarian. The only indication there had been any change in the language being translated was this order.
The Jeremy Sisto movie Jesus has all characters, including the title character, speak English. (Compare this to The Passion of the Christ, a trope aversion—see "Exceptions" below)
In the 1930 and 1979 film versions of All Quiet on the Western Front, the German characters are played by American actors, who speak English without a German accent. This was to show the audiences how much the Germans were like them.
An especially complicated one in Last of the Mohicans. When characters who speak French are alone, it's spoken in English; the French general, who speaks English anyhow, retains a villainousFrench accent throughout. Meanwhile the Native Americans slide in and out of three different languages, which are subtitled as Bilingual Dialogue, while other characters don't understand, and some asides go untranslated. Magua in particular, due to being a Fish out of Water, seems to speak more languages than any other character; in the final parlay, he alone understands the whole conversation, which is both subtitled and partially translated by another character.
Almanya - Willkommen in Deutschland is a German Language movie dealing with a family of Turkish immigrants in Germany. The Framing Device is the youngest family member getting told by his cousin the story of the immigration of the grandparents and their kids. Because he hardly understands any Turkish, the cousin changes all Turkish dialogue in the story into German, thus establishing the Translation Convention. The Germans' dialogue in turn, in order to illustrate the initial language barrier, is a vaguely German sounding gibberish.
Any animated work featuring animals as the main characters will have the animals speak human language when left alone, but will revert back to speaking animal language if they see humans.
The English subtitles for Johnny Stecchino (sometimes retitled "Johnny Toothpick") cover the entire movie, including one scene where Dante is trying to convince the hotel staff he's an American tourist by speaking in broken English.
A rather unique method is used in the Danish-Swedish-Norwegian-German drama Hamsun about the Norwegian author Knut Hamsun. Most of the characters in the movie are Norwegian and are understood to speak that language. Hamsun himself is, however, played by the Swede Max von Sydow and his wife is played by danish actress Ghita Nørby, These two actors speak their dialogs in Swedish and Danish, while everyone else, including their children, speak Norwegian. From the perspective of the characters however, they all speak the same language.
In Little Big Man Dustin Hoffman's character speaks like a hick as the aged Narrator and in the company of whites, but speaks in clearer, nobler sounding English when in the company of native Americans (presumably speaking in Sioux).
In the Hitman movie, 47 kills the Big Bad Belikov's brother in order to lure him out to attend the funeral - Belikov's speech starts with about two lines of subtitled Russian before switching to English for the rest of it. The rest of the movie sticks with English for everyone from FSB agents to a hooker (47 is presumed to be an omnilinguist as a job requirement).
Memoirs of a Geisha starts out with Japanese without subtitles then converts to full English for the remaining of the film.
Played straight, subverted, averted then spanked like a naughty child in Top Secret! where East German officers speak English while the rest of the citizens speak Yiddish. A little German is thrown into the dialogue but does not make sense in context. And in the Swedish bookstore scene, the dialogue is in English...played backwards.
K19: The Widowmaker follows the example of Red October: the characters speak Russian for the first couple of minutes, then switch to English.
Enemy at the Gates wavers on this. In a scene from the Soviet point of view, there is a shot of German soldiers shouting at each other in German. Later on, a German propaganda van is heard broadcasting in English with a heavy German accent. Germans and Soviets speak amongst themselves in English, but written documents we see are in Russian or German.
Those Wacky Nazis made a film about the sinking of the RMS Titanic, to be used as anti-British propaganda. Watching the Nazi Titanic, and hearing this quintessentially English story told in German, is a little disconcerting.
The 2010 Turkish comedy Yahşi Batı ("The Mild West," a play on Vahşi Batı, "The Wild West") follows two Ottoman agents tasked with delivering a valuable diamond to the US. The Translation Convention of English to Turkish is heavily lampshaded early on; after a scene entirely in English, one of the characters in the Framing Device remarks that he can't follow the story, so up comes a DVD-style options menu switching the language to Turkish and switching off the subtitles.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is set in Zubrowka, a fictional Eastern European country. Most of the on-screen text (signage, newspapers, documents, etc.) is in English (with several instances of German), so is the dialogue (with some instances of subtitled French), leading to the conclusion that English stands in for Zubrowkan language for the viewers' convenience.
Played straight for the most part in Captain America: The First Avenger. With the exception of the scene between the two Norwegians in the village that Red Skull attacks in the beginning of the film, most of the dialogue between German characters (i.e. Johann Schmidt (aka Red Skull) talking with Zola) is said in English.
In Guardians of the Galaxy, all the dialogue between alien characters (even the villains) is delivered in English, even in scenes where Peter Quill (aka Star Lord) is absent.
J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth works: All of our real-world languages do not exist in Middle-earth, and so the common Translation Convention applies. When not convention-translated, names and speech make use of Tolkien's constructed languages, or also of one of the real-world languages used as stand-ins for a fictional one (done do convey the relation of the respective 'proper' languages). Concerning the latter use: The lingua franca of the Third Age (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings), "Westron" (aka the "Common Speech"), is always rendered as English in the texts, as it is the POV-character's language. Others are regularly replaced by stand-in languages based on their relationship to Westron: Rohirric language by Anglo-Saxon/Old English (as it is an archaic version of Westron), and the language used by the Dwarves and the Men of Dale by Old Norse. Information on what these languages 'really' look like can only be found in additional texts. E.g.: Bilbo and Frodo Baggin's actual, 'non-translated' names are Bilba and Maura Labingi (yes, the 'real' hobbit names have masculine endings in -a, feminine in -e and -o).
He even does this with place-names. He wanted some places to have names that seemed homey, familiar (because they were in the language of the Hobbits, the viewpoint characters) and others to have mysterious-sounding names, because they were in languages unrelated to Westron (like the Elven or Dwarven languages or the Black Speech); occasionally, we hear two different names for the same place. If he'd left the place-names untranslated, they all would have sounded equally foreign to English readers—"Karningul," for example, is no more familiar-sounding to us than "Imladris". So he translated the Westron place-names into English-derived equivalents, e.g. rendering "Karningul" as "Rivendell".
We are told that in Westron, as in most European languages other than English, there are two forms of the second person pronoun, an originally plural one used for polite address (vos, you), and an originally singular one used to those with whom one is intimate or familiar (tu, thou). But whereas English uses only the plural (polite) form for all occasions, Westron as spoken by hobbits employed only the singular (familiar) form. The hobbits thus gave to speakers of more standard dialects of Westron a misleading impression that they were on close terms with very important people like Elrond and Galadriel, though this impression is lost in the English “translation” of the Lord of the Rings. (See the Appendix “On translation”, to LOTR.)
Curiously, many translations to languages that do make distinction between familiar and polite address nevertheless had the Hobbits use the polite address with these important people. The Finnish translators, for example, noted that using the familiar form made the scenes either unintentionally comical or apparently poorly translated to the reader.
In James Clavell's Asian Saga novel Shogun, the narrative makes clear that the characters are speaking in various languages — mostly Portuguese, but also Japanese, Spanish, and Latin — but all the dialogue is rendered in English. In the TV miniseries Shogun, all the dialogue which is really taking place in Portuguese is rendered in modern English. In moments of intimacy, the two main characters speak in Latin; this is rendered in archaic English, recognisable by the use of singular second-person pronouns (thou) and the "eth" ending.
Robert Graves' novel I, Claudius, notionally written in first-person by Claudius, is explained in the foreword to be written in Greek. This explains why Claudius explains the meaning and derivation of certain Latin words, particularly characters' names.
Also an example of Shown Their Work — someone who studied the period would know that a historical biography would have been written in Greek, not Latin, well into the 'Roman' era in Rome itself (rather like such a book being written in Latin, not English, in Mediaeval England- it was still considered the language of learning and more widely read).note For example, the second-century Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote his personal Meditations in Greek.
The Twelve Kingdoms have a completely different language from Japan, but even though two people who speak different languages can't understand each other, it still sounds like both are speaking Japanese. One character merely tells another that they are speaking another language.
The central character, Yoko Nakajima, starts off just speaking Japanese, but when she arrives in the other world she is able to speak and understand the language there, even though her two classmates (who have been transported with her) cannot. Oddly, she doesn't seem to notice that she is now magically fluent in a new language. There are others in the world of the Twelve Kingdoms that speak Japanese, either through the same sort of magic or because they too came from Japan, but you can only tell when the Japanese being spoken in the anime is really Japanese and not the language of the Twelve Kingdoms from the context.
A similar example occurs in the Discworld book Interesting Times, where the level of understanding between different languages of characters is reflected in how literal the text is, including translating names, leading to such name gems as the characters Pretty Butterfly, Six Beneficial Winds, and One Big River.
This is, of course, a gag that started with the first Agatean to appear in the books, Twoflower.
In another Discworld book, Jingo, the dialogue of the Klatchians using their own language in front of Morporkian speakers is simply English in a different font. The words "En al sams la Laisa" are not translated until later, to preserve a joke. (The translation turns out to be "The Place Where the Sun Shineth Not".)
When Carrot speaks Klatchian his accent isn't perfect, so some letters are still in the usual font.
Also note that Klatchian is in no way exactly identical to Arabic.
It is, in fact, a frequently recurring joke in the Discworld books that the languages are basically schoolboy-pidgin versions of their real-world counterparts. Pidgin Latin the most frequently seen. Pratchett uses approximations of the languages that are almost Latin, or Arabic, or French, but with "Blind Idiot" Translation in effect so we get the jokes in the other languages.
In Pyramids, there's a footnote to the effect that Ptaclusp's concern that his accidentally two-dimensional son will spend the rest of his life "sleeping cheaply in hotel trouser-presses" is a rather loose translation, as Ptaclusp's language doesn't even have words for "hotel" or "trousers". It does, oddly, have a word for "press for barbarian leg-coverings".
In the first book/film, when Harry talks to the snake we read/hear them both speaking English (aside from the word "amigo", used by the snake). Even Harry doesn't realise until the following story, where it's a plot point, that he was actually speaking Parseltongue. Even in the second book Parseltongue is represented as English. It's only in the second MOVIE that it's represented as a different language. This is because the books, while in third person, are told from Harry's point of view. Harry couldn't tell the difference between Parseltongue and English, thus neither can we. This can be seen easily in a scene later in the book where Harry is trying to speak Parseltongue to open the Chamber of Secrets, but since he doesn't know when he's speaking Parseltongue, it takes him a few tries. Every try, including the successful one, is written as "open" in English in the book. The movie doesn't have this because the movie is completely third person, and is not connected to Harry. Also, when Harry tells a snake "Get away from him!", all observers hear it as hissing and spitting.
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, while watching a flashback of the Gaunt house, Harry finds it odd that the Ministry of Magic official cannot understand the Gaunts when, to Harry, they're speaking very clearly. It's not until Dumbledore points it out that Harry realizes they're speaking Parseltongue and can begin to separate the hissing from the speaking.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry meets a snake magically disguised as a woman and does not realize it, even when they exchange a few words/hisses, because he still does not spontaneously perceive the difference between English and Parseltongue.
In L. Ron Hubbard's book Battlefield Earth, the book has a "translator's note" that it is printed in English because of the "unavailability of proper Psychlo fonts".
Compare and contrast that one particular preface at the start of each of his Mission Earth series of books is signed as being written by a machine translator (not technically a Translator Microbes system) created solely to be responsible for giving us the English version of the text. The MT openly wonders (largely safe from comprehension by the alien race allegedly responsible for publishing the book in the first place) why and how he is making such a translation, given that the very next Preface written prior to that book's main text (and thus also being translated by the MT for our benefit) is an official statement that the story within is entirely fictional and that the planet Earth (and thus the English language itself) does not actually exist. This bothers the MT, for rather obvious existensial reasons.
The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks has a rather long translation note on the proper rendering of the pronouns for a race that has three genders. Saying that Marain (the language of the protagonist) has one pronoun for males, females, sexless creatures, robots, and anything else, but saying the pronoun for the third gender will be translated as whatever is most appropriate in your primitive language.
Also, in Banks's novella "State of the Art" the story is recounted in a letter to a scholar of Earth culture and translated by a (very advanced AI) drone. The drone complains at the end that the narrator insisted on using untranslatable Marain words, some of which would need three-dimensional diagrams to explain.
Anathem contains characters who speak several different forms of the same language, due to being in monastic seclusion for varying periods of time. These are all translated as English, but with various nonsense words inserted to simulate the relations between the languages—e.g., "anathem" is used for a word which means something like "anthem" in older languages, and something like "anathema" in newer languages. One major plot point in the novel is foreshadowed by a character whose name is given as a phonetic spelling of "Jules Verne"—it turns out that he's actually from Earth, French, and named after the original Verne.
Also found in Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle. The latter in particular makes extensive use of it: large parts of the book are set in France with everyone speaking French, and other large parts of the book have several characters speaking a pidgin called Sabir. The characters often reference what language they're speaking, just to make sure the readers get it.
Harry Turtledove's books render all dialogue in English when everyone present can understand whatever language is being spoken, though he typically makes an effort to replicate the real language's grammar and syntax.
All the dialogue in Anne McCaffrey's Cattenni series is rendered in English; however, early in the first book, one of the characters is giving out orders, and the narrator specifically notes that one of the words in his speech is in English. It is later stated that everyone actually speaks a creole of four or five different languages.
The Mrdini language in the Talents series is represented by a different font. The actual language, which contains no vowels, is described as sounding like clicking and clacking, with a couple of whistles thrown in. The only actual Mrdini speech we see are their names (like "Prtglm"), but even then the human characters come up with pet names for 'Dinis they know personally ("Gil" and "Kat" for "Grl" and "Ktg").
The world of Velgarth in the Heralds of Valdemar series is rather full of different languages, and the language being spoken (in English for the reader) is generally assumed to match the nationality of the speaker unless stated otherwise. It's no wonder telepathy is a common feature of the books.
Asimov uses the same device to represent the conversations of R. Daneel and R. Giskard in Robots and Empire.
And of course, there's the entire second section of The Gods Themselves, told about and by Starfish Aliens. The Earth/Moon language used in the other two sections may also be an example.
This applies most of Asimov's novels; as revealed in Pebble in the Sky, where a man is transported to the future, the people in Asimov's Galactic Empire speak a language that doesn't even resemble to English.
In some of the Left Behind books, the authors make it clear that the characters are using several different languages despite the fact that we very rarely read any foreign words.
Peter Pan once had a conversation with a Neverbird, who, naturally, spoke 'Neverbird.' The two had quite a screaming match, not being able to understand each other. (The scene really makes no sense in the stage play unless you've read the book first. But it was still pretty funny.)
In Michael Chabon's Gentlemen Of The Road, many of the characters are polyglots, which is implied to be par for the course of residents in such a crossroads of cultures. The main characters run through a wide range of languages, which are all rendered as English.
About half of all the conversations in Cloud of Sparrows are in English, and the other half are stated to be in Japanese, though it's all rendered in English. At one point, Genji greets Emily and Stark, and Emily apologises to him for not speaking his language. Genji then turns to Hidé and remarks, in Japanese, on how they think he was speaking Japanese, all of which we read in English. The author gives us a couple of instances in which Genji's heavy accent is explicitly represented, but for the most part leaves it up to the reader to figure out which language they're supposed to be speaking.
In The Night Watch, Anton read the Treaty to Egor. In the English translation, the Treaty is, naturally enough, written in English, but Anton mentions it's the official Russian translation.
The Conqueror books represent Mongolian, Chinese, Arabic, Pashto, Russian, and Korean as English. It also occasionally mentions when characters are using Chinese or Arabic as a lingua franca.
According to the foreword of Nightfall, by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg, the alien protagonists really use their own terms for ground vehicles, distance, time, etc. Asimov and Silverberg, however, choose to use Earthen equivalents for the sake of telling the story more effectively, without Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp" getting in the way.
Tim Powers's novel The Drawing of the Dark applies Translation Convention to 16th-century Italian and German dialects (the main language of the story), Old Norse, Welsh, Latin, and several other tongues. An added twist is that the main character himself is subject to this trope; he doesn't actually "know" most of the languages he gets involved with, but he understands them anyway. As you might expect, there is a plot-based reason for this: he's a reincarnation of an ancient hero, who speaks several dead languages but no contemporary ones.
Diane Duane used this trope a few different times in her Star Trek books featuring Romulan characters, the Rihannsu series. In the first book, My Enemy, My Ally, Duane has the main character Ael speaking to her subordinate on her own ship in the Romulan (or Rihannsu) language, but her own thoughts and the exposition are all in English. By the time she leaves the ship and reaches the Enterprise, she's using a subdermal translator, and her speech as translated as English except when a word without an English equivalent (thrai, for instance) is used. The next book in the series of five, The Romulan Way is actually set on Romulus (or, to give it its "proper" name, ch'Rihan), but apart from local expressions and the aforementioned words above, everything is in English until erstaz prisoner of war McCoy arrives, leading to lots of Translation Convention fun and frolic.
The novels of Bernard Cornwell often make use of this trope, particularly those set in a distant historical period. The Saxon Stories uses modern English to represent both Old English and Old Norse, while the Grail Quest series uses it to represent Middle English, Middle French and medieval Occitan.
Both averted and played straight in The Warlord Chronicles; averted in that the narrator actively asserts the text, effectively an in-universe autobiography, to be a translation, written in Old English rather than the Old Brythonic which supposedly comprises the bulk of the dialogue, while played straight in that both this and the Old English dialogue are rendered in Modern English.
Colleen Mc Cullough's Masters of Rome series has the characters all speaking in English, but the language will be referred to as Latin or Greek by in-universe characters.
Warrior Cats. It goes without saying that cats can't speak human, so all of the dialogue is written in whatever language you happen to be reading the books in.
The books of Umberto Eco are written in Italian and translated to English by William Weaver. In The Nameofthe Rose this trope is invoked in an interesting way - the narrator explains he has translated the text from the original language for the benefit of the reader, but to Italian of course. So someone reading the book in anything other than Italian is reading a book which has been translated to Italian and then translated to English for the ease of the reader.
In the Antares novels, the Ryall speak English in scenes from their perspectives. However, they cannot understand English, though one rather observant prisoner manages to figure out our military ranks. A number of Ryall eventually learn English, while some humans learn Ryall.
Played straight in His Dark Materials with the alien mulefa, who do learn a small amount of English, and with a few Siberian or Himalayan characters in the third book - however, everyone else seems to actually speak English. You can Hand Wave this with the angel characters easily, but when it's many, many humans over many, many different universes, one of which is specifically given an Italian/Mediterranean feel, it becomes harder to believe.
Annemarie in Number the Stars, thinks to herself on how the German soldiers have not learned "our language", Danish, despite occupying the country for two years.
Semi-example in The Bible: much of the New Testament was originally written in Greek, although it's likely Jesus and his disciples actually spoke Aramaic. A few words ("Eli Eli lema sabachthani" is the most famous example) are left in the original Aramaic and then translated in the text, and it's implied that different people speak with different accents, but these subtleties are lost in translation, which (obviously) are all in one language and dialect.
In the sci-fi novel The Sparrow, and it's sequel, the alien languages are presented this way in the text after a time-jump following first contact when the humans begin learning their language.
Several characters are explicitly THERE because they are linguistic experts adept in both the study and teaching of languages.
However, EARTH languages are sometimes left untranslated if/because the relevant POV character doesn't speak the language.
The Wheel of Time has a really cool scene in which Mat and Birgitte are speaking after Mat discovers that Birgitte is the heroine of legend, and he denies having his own secrets. She's not fooled, at which point she says, "Nosane iro gavane domorakoshi, Diynenï¿½dï¿½maï¿½purvene?" (Speak we what language, Sounder of the Horn?) and both Mat and the reader realize that the entire conversation was in the Old Tongue, which makes Mat's denial laughable. The whole conversation is done by Translation Convention and only works in print, but if you read it again, it's incredible because all the dialogue is written subtly with the the Old Tongue's poetic syntax and out-of-place idioms.
Most definitely in use in the Dragaera series. Lampshadedmany times in theKhaavren Romances, the beginning of each novel contains a translator's note apologising for using "he", "him" and "his" in place of gya, and states that the alternative was a lot of "he-or-she" constructs throughout the novels. A short piece near the end of the volumes consists of a conversation between Steven Brust and Paarfi of Roundwood note The notional author of the Khaavren Romances in which Paarfi lambasts and berates Brust for this and other changes, including the title.
Rudyard Kipling makes an interesting use of different styles of English to represent several languages, particularly noticeable in the novel Kim. Here characters who speak Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Tibetan or Pashtu as their native language will often be shown speaking English brokenly and with a bit of a Funetik Aksent, but when they switch to accent-free English the reader can tell they are actually speaking in the language they are accustomed to most. There are also a few other tell-tale signs, for instance Hindi-rendered-as-English will appear a little more archaic, most notably for including "thou" and "thee" as well as "you" in order to reproduce the distinction between formal and informal address that most languages other than English have. Also, sometimes there are slight changes in vocabulary, e. g. certain special words are replaced by non-English equivalents and near-equivalents ("pultoon" for "regiment", "topkhana" for "artillery") or even by an English synonym (for instance, Kim overhears a British officer saying "this is not a war, it is a punishment" in English, and later reports that in Urdu or Hindi as "this is not a war, it is a chastisement"). And there are also instances where Kipling renders something in English, but also remarks that in the "vernacular" the statement includes a pun that is not present in the English translation.
This trope is amusingly played with in Captain Corelli's Mandolin. The book is set on the Greek island of Cephalonia and all the characters are Greek-speaking. Later on, the resistance movement is joined by a British spy whose only knowledge of Greek is the Ancient Greek he studied in school... and his speech is represented by a kind of Ye Olde Butchered English.
A book about Asian-American emigrants, and the oft-resulting culture gap between parents who grew up in the old country and children who grew up here has the main characters spoke Chinese, though it was rendered in English... but since it's about assimilating into American culture, it's inevitable that some of them would start speaking actual English. When they do, it's entirely in italics.
In Nation, all the characters' dialogue is written in English, however it is made clear from characters' mutual incomprehension that they are speaking different languages.
It's not entirely clear what language they're speaking on Dinotopia, but the first book makes it clear that it isn't modern English.
Applies to all the Fighting Fantasy books. Of particular note, in the book Sword of the Samurai, the reader plays a samurai from Hachiman, and all the dialogue is rendered in English. In the later The Crimson Tide, you play an orphaned farm child in the Isles of the Dawn. Again, all dialogue is represented in English - until you meet a group of samurai guarding the Hachiman ambassador, and are completely unable to understand what they are saying.
In the Skyrider series by Melisa Michaels, Belter pidgin is a language derived from several languages of the early migrants. This is rendered as something resembling Hawaiian pidgin. The narrator freely admits that she's translating it for our benefit.
Alan Garner's novel Red Shift is split between three time periods in the same part of northern England - the then current 1970s, the mid-1600s, and early Roman Britain in the first century AD. The first two groups are left untranslated, the present day characters obviously speaking modern English, and the 17th century ones speaking a more-or-less accurate dialect of early modern English. However, the Roman characters - a squad of low-ranking soldiers - are translated into a slang-heavy form of modern English reminiscent of Vietnam-era US military slang.
In the book Seven Underground Kings from Alexander Volkov's Tales of the Magic Land series, Ellie (Volkov's equivalent of Dorothy) protests when her cousin Fred calls her "devchonka", a derogatory Russian word for "girl", insisting on the neutral "devochka" instead. However, the stylistic difference between these two words only exists in Russian, not English, which the American characters are presumed to be speaking.
In Henry Roth's Call It Sleep, the protagonist and his family are poor Jewish immigrants in New York's Lower East Side. Their Yiddish (their native language) is rendered in somewhat formal and literary English (e.g. "I'm pleading with you as with Death!"), though they are not literary or cultivated people. What people say in English (the Jewish immigrants' and others), on the other hand, is given with thick accents, with lots of phonetic spellings. This is to make the Yiddish seem normal and natural, and the English alien and threatening.
The Dagger Of Kamui: Despite being a globe-hopping adventurer, Kamui never has a language barrier issue. Everyone he meets is fluent in Japanese.
The characters in Israel Zangwill's Children of the Ghetto use up to four different languages, with Yiddish most common in the first part and English in the second. Zangwill tells the reader who is speaking what when, but also gives some characters Funetik Aksents when they're speaking English instead of Yiddish, German, or Hebrew.
In the Tortall Universe, Tortall speaks "Common Eastern" (usually just called Common) and the text notes when the protagonist starts speaking something different, e.g. Kel speaking Yamani. Aly spends most of the Trickster books speaking Kyprish, the language of the Copper Isles, but we see more actual Kyprish in Provost's Dog when Beka is giving commands to her scent hound. And speaking of Beka, her diaries are actually written in a police cypher rather than Common in case they're lost or stolen.
We occasionally see untranslated, italicized foreign words in the Circle of Magic books when the protagonists leave Emelan and are invariably addressed with the local honorific for "mage," or when there are Traders in the room as they have a number of words without direct translation. Otherwise, the narration just lets us know when a language switch happens. Given that Circleverse countries are a lot smaller than Tortall, all the protagonists have to be multilingual.
All of Brandon Sanderson's books in The Cosmere make use of this, though normally no attention is drawn to it. It becomes obvious in Words Of Radiance (book two of The Stormlight Archive), when a worldhopper from Nalthis (Warbreaker) comes to Roshar. Said worldhopper makes constant use of strange idioms related to color, light, and things known for color (such as flowers). None of this was present in the book actually set on the world; clearly, Sanderson was translating them into idioms we understand to make it easier. Presumably, the same is done with Roshar and the other worlds.
Played with in Despoilers Of The Golden Empire. All of the names of the characters and institutions in the story are translated into their Germanic/English equivalents. Unlike most examples of this trope, this is actually done to deliberately mislead the audience, as the reader would instantly recognize the characters and institutions if they went untranslated (or in some cases, if they were translated less directly).
The Bible features a minor (and rather amusing) Aversion of this. Here and there you see a line like "Her name was Tabitha, which translated means Dorcas" and then a footnote informs you that "Dorcas" is Greek for "gazelle".
Tough Magic plays with this; Holois is intelligent enough to talk, but can only speak in cat noises. However, any character that hangs around her long enough can understand her (With the main character being the best at it, due to his long assoctation with her.), which makes her intent fairly clear; and the narration occasionally provides a translation.
Live Action TV
MacGyver features many such examples. One episode "For Love and Money" features Czech being used by a number of characters, but nothing said in that language is relevant to the plot. When Anton and his (GRU agent) wife, both Czechslovak, confront each other in an LA zoo, both speak in English.
The Russian immigrant characters on Irish soap Fair City.
Also often seen in the Star Trek franchise. In one notable Deep Space Nine episode, Quark, Rom and Nog find themselves in a 20th century American military facility. Whenever a scene is shown from the humans' perspective, the humans speak English and the three Ferengi are incomprehensible. When the scene switches to the Ferengi's perspective, they speak English and the humans are incomprehensible, even though the humans can be assumed to speaking English "in reality". Chalked up to Universal Translator damage. Ferengi speak is heard in the Ferengi language created for the show (or something that sounds like a well-thought-out language - contrast Stargate SG-1, where "kree" is half the Goa'uld vocabulary. However, it's doubtful that the producers went as far as they did with the Klingon language since we only get to hear Ferengi spoken twice evernote The other time is Enterprise's "Acquisition.".) while the English is still English, but heavily garbled.
Deep Space Nine dances between Translation Convention and Translator Microbes in the episode "Statistical Probablities". In that ep, some Federation citizens are watching a recording of Weyoun (of the Dominion) engaging in negotiations. As he always has, he speaks perfect English. They then switch the computer into "Native Language Mode", and he's suddenly speaking Dominionese. This makes it clear that, in many many instances on Trek, the universal translator is in use even if it's not commented on by the characters. Thus, it's unclear whether Quark, Kira, Neelix, Kes, or any other non-Feddie speaks a word of English (explicitly the most widely-used language of the Federation in several TOS episodes).
One of the best subversions to this trope yet is the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Darmok;" the Enterprise crew is unable to understand the new aliens even though the "universal translator" could render their words in English, it's just that their language is so full of proper nouns (and comprised mostly of idioms) that it's impossible to understand without the prerequisite cultural background.
Shaka when the walls fell? The river Temac in winter! Kiteo his eyes closed; Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. The beast of Tanagra. Darmok and Jalad. Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel. Sokath, his eyes uncovered.
There was another DS9 episode where it took about a half-hour (in-universe) for the universal translator to figure out a new race's language and start translating it. Until then, no one, including the audience, can understand them.
Perpetually averted with the Breen, whose speech always sounds like electronic gibberish. Other characters can understand them, leading to Bilingual Dialogue, but not the audience; we don't even get subtitles.
The Tomorrow People: "Achilles Heel": An alien points out a device that he plans to use to speak English, though we never hear him speak anything else. Later, he speaks gibberish for a bit until he adjusts the device. Earlier, in "Into the Unknown", one Tomorrow Person claims that, as he is the only one wearing an artificial environment suit, he will be the only one able to understand an alien, though again, we only ever hear English.
In the British sitcom 'Allo 'Allo!, this was used to great effect; the French characters spoke English with (bad) French accents, the German characters spoke English with (bad) German accents, all the British characters spoke English with exaggerated British accents and word-choices, etc. One character, a British agent working undercover as a police officer, spoke in a plain English accent but mangled his vowels ("good moaning!"); other characters commented "I don't understand what you're saying, your French is so bad". They were careful to reinforce the idea in the audience's mind when it was going to be a plot point: the "French" characters would complain that they couldn't understand what the "English" speakers were saying to eachother and vice-versa.
There was an episode where the two main French characters were in a car with two English soldiers. The English soldiers spoke English to them, and they stared back blankly. One of the soldiers then starts speaking authentic French, and the French characters responded in English.
Michelle from the Resistance drops her French accent when talking to Englishmen, and that change in her speech is always sharp and startling. It's not clear if this is supposed to represent simply a switch to English as a mode of communication, or that Michelle actually speaks really, really, really good English.
Crabtree's "Good moaning" French is revealed as military language training. He is briefly joined by another undercover agent who comments that the locals seem to talk strangely. His honest explanation is that it's the Frenchmen who have a "country accent", whereas the British agent are "taught to speak posh".
Bizarrely, most of the time no distinction was made between French and German, with French- and German-accented characters conversing together quite happily.
And let's not forget the Italians, who always speak with exaggerated Italian accents even if they're clearly meant to be speaking in French or German.
Italian and French are not very similar. A better explanation is that continental Europeans supposedly all know several languages.
In one scene German officers interrogate British pilots through the medium of Bertorelli's translation (partly relying on a hilariously bad dictionary). To the Germans he speaks in his usual exaggeratedly Italian-accented English (representing Italian-accented German); to the Englishmen, he speaks with the same accent, but with a bizarre consistency in pronouncing every individual letter in a non-English way: "people" as "pee-oh-pleh", "you" as "yoh-oo", "know" with a loud "k" etc. Presumably this represents him speaking English exactly that way.
In Michael Chabon's Gentlemen Of The Road, many of the characters are polyglots, which is implied to be par for the course of residents in such a crossroads of cultures. The main characters run through a wide range of languages, which are all rendered as English.
About half of all the conversations in Cloud of Sparrows are in English, and the other half are stated to be in Japanese, though it's all rendered in English. At one point, Genji greets Emily and Stark, and Emily apologises to him for not speaking his language. Genji then turns to Hidwas near the border, right?
The three part docudrama Nuremberg: Nazis on Trial features this throughout, with the German characters speaking only in English-accented English. German only appears in archive footage.
The characters of 24 all seem capable of speaking perfect English, regardless of what country they originally came from...although generally with a thick accent.
English seems to be the official language of all the vampires and demons in the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, regardless of where they originally hail from and what ancient language all those crazy books seem to be written in.
Unless, of course, it's a plot point that certain characters can't understand them, such as the episode where Giles got turned into a Fyarl demon, and nobody but him and Spike turns out to "speak Fyarl". The trope is still played straight here, though, as in that episode Anthony Head only speaks English when talking to Spike or when we're supposed to be seeing the scene from his perspective instead of the other Scoobies'. When we see it from the perspective of the other Scoobies it switches to growling, grunting gibberish.
An episode of Coupling revolved around Jeff attempting to flirt with a woman who speaks only Hebrew. After the conversation plays out once, it is repeated from the woman's point of view, during which the woman's Hebrew is replaced with English and the Brits, including Jeff, speak vaguely Italian-sounding gibberish.
Which the actor made up on the spot. His words of various body parts, in particular, are highly amusing.
Obviously, in Kung Fu, all the flashback scenes set in the monastery are translated from a Chinese language, probably Putonghua (Mandarin). This leads to an oddity in the episode The Passion of Cheng Yi where Cheng Yi insults Caine by presenting him with a carved ant, pretending to have misremembered Caine's nickname, "Grasshopper" as "Pismire". Since pismire is an old English word for ant, and the Chinese word for ant does not sound like "piss", this makes little sense.
Doctor Who explains how everyone and everything in the known universe appears to speak perfect English by claiming that it's a side-effect of travelling in the TARDIS, which automatically translates everything into the traveller's native language. This doesn't explain how, in a recent episode, native French speakers had everything they said translated except terms such as "Bonjour", "Mademoiselle" and so forth, but perhaps the TARDIS simply understands that some phrases are easily understood. Or it might just assume that they're part of its occupants' native language, if they seem to understand such phrases without aid. The line between foreign language and foreign loan-word is hard to pin down sometimes.
The series is not consistent in having the TARDIS being the translator. The 2005 episode "The Christmas Invasion", for example, establishes that the translation doesn't kick in until the Doctor regains consciousness. It's because the TARDIS isn't doing so well without the Doctor since there's a fairly large degree of symbiosis between the two characters.
In a classic episode, an ancient Australian Aboriginal language was not translated, allowing the Australian character Tegan to expand her character by being the only one able to understand and speak it. This is regardless of the fact that there are dozens of loosely related and unrelated Aboriginal languages, and the one they were speaking was unlikely to still exist by the time Tegan was even born.
In the episode "The Fires of Pompeii", people trying to speak actual Latin phrases to Pompeians get translated into "Celtic" — that is, early Welsh — prompting the Pompeians to say things like "There's lovely" and "Look you" in response. (It's made by BBC Wales; they're allowed to make jokes like that). This seems to indicate that the TARDIS translates both meaning and context, posh French into posh English, your foreign into their foreign, and possibly even utterly incomprehensible hyper-advanced science for which your language has no words into technobabble. This might even explain how Tegan succeeded.
The new series seems to have forgotten that TARDIS travellers aren't supposed to even think about the whole translation thing. In a Fourth Doctor episode, the Doctor realizes that Sarah Jane is under mind control because she wonders why another character isn't speaking Italian. He explains it as a Time Lord gift, not a function of the TARDIS, which makes more sense since there are plenty of times when the TARDIS isn't around to translate.
Considering he's had to cannibalize and jury-rig the TARDIS in the meantime simply to keep it running, it's entirely possible he's modified it to work differently now. Or it could simply be not working at 100% efficiency anymore, much like his long-broken chameleon circuit.
Also, the TARDIS apparently doesn't translate particularly rude insults, as seen in "The Christmas Invasion".
It doesn't appear to translate certain alien languages, either, such as the Judoons' "Yoh Soh Froh Sloh" speech, although Word of God claims the Judoon speak in a kind of "military shorthand," which, since it's not actually a different language, isn't translated.
Lampshaded in "Vincent and the Doctor"; when talking to the Doctor and Amy, Vincent Van Gogh — played by a Scottish actor — assumes by Amy's accent that she's Dutch, like him. Amy — also played by a Scottish actor — doesn't know what he's talking about. Apparently the TARDIS equates Scottish-accented English with Dutch-accented French, in both directions.
In the classic serial "The Curse of Fenric", there's an example similar to the Eagle Has Landed example under films: A group of Soviet special forces land on the coast of the UK during World War II and are instructed by their officer to speak only English from here on in. Despite wearing Soviet uniforms and everything. And they continue to do so, even while dying or otherwise under great duress.
In "Cold War", Soviet characters presumably speaking Russian are given British accents analogous to their character stereotypes if they were British.
Possible Fridge Brilliance in series 7. In "The Rings of Akhaten", Clara needs help from the Doctor while talking to some of the aliens in the market. Since in the same episode it is also strongly implied that the TARDIS doesn't like her, it may be that the TARDIS is refusing to translate for Clara out of spite.
In Highlander: the Series, virtually all the dialogue in flashbacks takes place in English, even if it makes no sense based on the context. Even in the present-day scenes, although half of the episodes take place in France, almost (though not quite) all the conversation is still heard as English by the audience. In one episode, an entombed Immortal is extracted from a sarcophagus and immediately asks - in English - if "Rome still rules the world."
There's an interesting use in the British sitcom Private Schulz, where all of the German characters are played by English actors and use those accents, but when Schulz speaks to English speakers in English, his actor adopts a slight German accent.
In one confusing scene, Schulz and his commanding officer kidnap a pair of English agents. In-Universe, the English speak English (which the CO doesn't understand) and the CO speaks German (which the English don't understand), and Schulz is interpreting between them—but all the actors are actually speaking English, for the benefit of the viewer. It takes a moment to realize that the English agents and the CO can't understand each other.
Babylon 5 uses it whenever aliens talk to each other with no humans around. There is really only one completely explicit use of it, though: in the TV movie In the Beginning, we always hear the Minbari speaking English, but when one of them has a meeting with other races in English, he speaks it hesitantly and leaves some words out.
Every documentary where historical accounts are recited (think PBS or The History Channel). The recital will always be in English (or the native language of the documentary's target audience), no matter what language the document was originally penned in. Unfortunately (and especially shocking considering the documentary nature of these, well, documentaries) almost all of these recitals tend to be done in very poor taste, with stupid accents so thick they just serve as a cheesy distraction from the document's actual message and meaning, if not being outright as incomprehensible as the original language..
The 2005 UK miniseries Casanova drew attention to this trope by having Casanova (a native Italian speaker) repeatedly travelling to other countries and being praised on his mastery of the local language at each destination. Of course, all the viewer heard was English.
His mastery is excellent in every language, bar English. His accent is supposedly 'hilarious'.
The British adaptations of the Kurt Wallander novels are filmed in Sweden, but uses this in nearly its purest form. The actors are all British and speak English with British accents. Apparently, they decided that attempting Swedish accents would sound silly. Emphasis on nearly- virtually all the written text on-screen is in Swedish, which leads to Sounding It Out moments.
Parodied in the Cross Over episode of Boy Meets World. After an ambush in World War II Cory wakes up with no memory of who he is, and "speaking perfect French." Later the girl who found him speaks actual French, leading to the line "Excuse me, I only speak French."
On a related note, the title character in John Doe was fished out of Puget Sound by some Hmong fishermen. The first clue that he somehow knew everything, except who he was and how he'd gotten there, was that he replied to their questions in their own language (with subtitles), without even realizing he was doing so. His encyclopedia-brain had, in effect, pulled this trope on him from within.
An obscure example comes from a 1998 Canadian mini-series, Big Bear [http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0159851/], where all the native characters spoke contemporary English while all the white characters spoke gibberish.
In a non-language variant, Stephen Hawking's narration of documentaries such as Into The Universe switches back and forth between his own synthesizer-generated voice, and that of a voiceover actor who speaks much like Hawking did before his paralysis. These shifts from computer-speech to actor-speech coincide with forays into Hawking's thought-experiments, as they represent how Hawking's mental ponderings sound to him.
The actor in question is Benedict Cumberbatch, who seems to have become Hawking's choice of voice(over) ever since he played Hawking himself in a self-titled biopic.
In the LOST episode "Across the Sea," the mother of Jacob and MIB is washed ashore on the island, 40 weeks preggers, and meets the false mother. They speak Latin until the Translation Convention kicks in.
Also seen in all of Sayid's flashbacks to his time in the Republican Guard; the first of these starts with a couple sentences in Arabic before the camera passes behind a person's head and everyone's speaking English when it gets to the other side. This is in stark contrast to Jin and Sun's flashbacks, which remain entirely in subtitled Korean thanks to the actors actually being able to speak it.
In the Mission: Impossible TV series, there would frequently be signs and other writing in the background with appropriately foreign-looking words, but the characters would always appear to be speaking English when conversing with locals. We can assume that this trope was in effect.
An odd case involving sign language in Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye: many conversations between Sue and other Deaf people where it would make more sense for Sue to sign without speakingnote i.e., without self-translating into English begin with everyone communicating in subtitled ASL, then switch after a few lines to Sue speaking while signing for the benefit of the audience.
The "Nodame Cantabile" movie begins with the Frenchmen that appear speaking in French for about a minute or so, then notes that all non-Japanese dialogue beyond that point would be dubbed in Japanese for the convenience of the viewers.
Stargate SG-1: In the "Summit"/"Last Stand" two-parter, the seven remaining System Lords meet to decide the fate of the beleaguered Goa'uld Empire and whether to allow Anubis to rejoin their ranks, and the viewers hear them speaking English. However, Daniel Jackson was inserted into the meeting by the Tok'ra, and early in "Summit" Jacob Carter said that the person to be inserted had to speak fluent Goa'uld (which Daniel does). The implication is that there's a translation convention in effect for the duration of the meeting, and possibly other instances where the Goa'uld speak English to each other and their troops.
In "Serpent's Venom," we hear Apophis and Heru-Ur talking to each other in English when the POV is in the room with them. When we go back to the cloaked ship from which our heroes are working sabotage, they and we hear it over the radio in Goa'uld. This really seems to suggest Translation Convention is at work.
Averted in The Twilight Zone episode "No Time Like the Past". In Nazi Germany, SS guards tipped off by a hotel maid demand in English to be let into American Paul Driscoll's hotel room. By the time they break the door down, Driscoll is gone, and the guards and the maid actually begin to speak to each other in German.
The Masters Of Horror episode "Imprint", which is set in 19th century Japan with a single American main character. Unlike the second season's "Dream Cruise", this episode was filmed in English but with all the characters presumed to be speaking Japanese the entire time. Christopher is first thought to be Dutchnote The story is set shortly after the end of Japan's Sakoku period, when the only Western traders allowed were Dutch.
The English translation of Shaman King uses romaji versions of the Chinese characters' names in katakana, so (for instance) Ren is still Ren, not Lian.
Megadeth's Spanish versions of "Trust" and "Promises" feature Spanish choruses but the English verses are left as they are.
The same is done in Avril Lavigne's Japanese version of "Girlfriend".
The English versions of Rammstein's "Du Hast" and "Engel" start in English, switch to the original German for a part that was previously sung in English, then switch back to English to end the song.
KMFDM's "Godlike" has a spoken-word portion of the song that repeats the English lyrics of the first verse in German. "A Hole in the Wall" is a strange case where an entire song consists of an English translation of one of their earlier German songs ("Liebeslied") even though the two songs are unrelated musically.
The background information for Warhammer 40,000 indicates that humanity has moved on to speak "Gothic", but all records and dialogues are rendered in English. While the alien races also have their own languages, the Translation usually does not kick in and second-hand interpretation needs to come in. In some of the spinoff media though, like the Dawn of War series, the Convention is in full force regardless of what race the player uses (Eldar get Voice of the Legion, Tau get a stilted Japanese accent, and Orks get a heavy cockney brouge). Then there's "High Gothic", which is rendered as Latin with occasional bits of other languages, usually German, thrown in.
Warhammer Fantasy's "Reikspiel" is obviously supposed to be German, as everything has a slightly Germanic lit, and the Imperial regime is known as a "Reik" (probably because "Reich" would be insensitive).
Although In-Universe, Reik is meant to be from Reikland one of the provinces of the Empire, so more akin to the usage of English and the UK (which may be a deliberate reference).
The word Reich by itself isn't offensive (it just translates to "realm" or "kingdom", making its application to an imperial regime very fitting), but rather, the Third Reich, which is synonymous with Nazi Germany. And Reich and Reik are homophones to most peoplenote That is, non-german speakers, and Germans with southern dialects, IIRC. Some german speakers pronounce "Reich" with an "-sh" sound at the end. It is never accurate to pronounce "Reich" with an english "-ch" sound.
Gilbert and Sullivan's final collaboration together, The Grand Duke, features this. The story is set in the German state of Pfennig-Halbpfennig, and the characters all speak perfect English. Gilbert then rather neatly lampshaded this state of affairs by having the only English character, Julia Jellicoe, speak in a comically bad German accent, at one point even complaining that German is a difficult language to master. In fact, the part was written for a Hungarian actress.
And not to be forgotten is the moment in The Mikado where the chorus sings, "The Japanese equivalent for Hear! Hear! Hear!"
Common in opera. As an example of the peculiarities this can lead to: Lucia di Lammermoor's libretto was originally in Italian; a version in French also exists. The story takes place in Scotland, so presumably the characters are "really" speaking English. But before English-speaking audiences it is always sung in French or Italian with English captions.
Not quite true- virtually every major opera has at least one English-language version (many groups- most notably English National Opera, and small amateur or provincial groups tend to sing English to increase audience appeal outside the high-culture niche)- more true to say that very few classic operas have an official English version, so it's felt to be a little substandard.
Brian Friel's play Translations plays on this. The play is set in Ireland in 1833, so all the Irish characters should be speaking Irish, however, they all speak English (and sometimes Latin or Greek.) This was done mainly to open the play up to a non-Irish-speaking audience, but also to highlight the 'History is written by the winners' sentiment of the play. It creates the slightly amusing situation of having two actors speaking perfect English and having to pretend not to understand one another.
In West Side Story the Sharks speak almost exclusively in English aside from the occasional phrase ("si", "Te Adoro", "Baila", etc.) despite the fact they had just moved to America from Puerto Rico. The 2009 revival of the show attempted to avert this by having the Sharks speak much more Spanish, even changing the lyrics to several songs. However this was later changed since a good majority of the audience didn't understand them and for some reason the director decided to put them in scenes that are key to the plot.
Any William Shakespeare play set somewhere other than England uses this trope, sometimes with one or two easily-translated words left in the original language (such as "mi perdonata" note pardon me in The Taming of the Shrew).The Merchant of Venice pokes fun at the convention, with the Italian Portia complaining about not being able to speak with "the young Baron of England":
You know I say nothing to him, for he understands not me, nor I him. He hath neither Latin, French, nor Italian, and you will come into court and swear, I have a poor pennyworth in the English.
It's also fairly clear from the script that Theatre/Macbeth is not intended to be spoken in Scots. (A Scottish accent would be acceptable, going full dialect wouldn't work.)
In Julius Caesar, the characters are presumably speaking Latin, which becomes English for our (the audience’s) benefit. But when does what they are speaking become (again for our benefit) Latin? It seems that just as when they seem to speak English it represents them speaking Latin, when they seem to speak Latin, it is to show that they are really speaking Greek. Caesar’s anguished “Et tu, Brute!” on the Elizabethan stage represented his Greek fifteen hundred years before. (from the other Wiki): The phrase evidently follows in the tradition of the Roman historian Suetonius, who reports that others have claimed Caesar's last words were the Greek phrase "καὶ σὺ τέκνον;" (transliterated as "Kai su, teknon", meaning "You too, my child?" in English or "Tu quoque, Brute, fili mi" in Latin). Caesar is known to have spoken excellent Greek and there would be nothing strange in this. Suetonius himself claims Caesar said nothing as he died.
War Horse has scenes where characters are speaking German or French while the actors are speaking Englsh. The dialogue makes the failure of comprehension clear. It does seem strange that no English or German soldiers know any foreign languages and that no communication is possible even if the words spoken would be almost the same in English & German.
The Phantom of the Opera is set in nineteenth-century France, but the characters speak and sing in English. Since we never hear any other languages, it's safe to assume that they're all actually speaking translated French.
Similar to the above example, Spring Awakening is set in nineteenth-century Germany, but all characters speak contemporary-style English complete with modern slang.
In Chess, presumably when the Russian characters are alone they're actually speaking Russian to each other. In Broadway-based productions this seems particularly implied, since they will sometimes actually speak Russian amongst themselves in front of American characters, but only ever speak English when no English-speakers are around.
In the stage production of Once, the actors playing Czech characters speak accented English when that is what the characters are understood to be speaking. The actors speak the same accented English when the characters are understood to be speaking Czech, but at these times Czech subtitles are projected onto the stage.
The trope makes a little more sense in video games if the player character is supposed to know the language in question, since this trope then equates to not requiring the player to learn something their character knows already.
All characters in Metal Gear Solid 3 speak American (or British where appropriate) English, but are assumed to be speaking Russian or the listener's native language. The Russian scientist Sokolov remarks (in English) that the American agent Snake's Russian is excellent, despite all lines having been spoken in English. Only one character in the game, the scientist Granin, speaks with a noticable Russian accent, but this has been chalked up by some fans as being either because both he and Snake are speaking English in that scene, or that Granin's drunkenness causes him to slur his speech.
Amusingly enough, Naked Snake's Japanese voice actor, Akio Ohtsuka, was more than prepared to do all the dialogue in Russian, and had been taking lessons. The director, Hideo Kojima, was also enthusiastic about the idea, but the rest of the voice cast, who did not want to learn an entirely different language for very little purpose (and after all the American characters weren't speaking in English, were they?), threw various tantrums until the idea was finally overrun and dropped. Ohtsuka, disappointed, reportedly dropped random ad-libbed Russian into his lines until the rest of the cast was thoroughly sick of him constantly necessitating re-takes.
This trope applies to the second and fourth game of the series as well: MGS2 features Russian private army members, while MGS4 includes many nameless NPCs from the Middle East, South America, and Eastern Europe. In MGS4, the characters speak in perfect English, and MGS2 has them speaking with a noticable Russian accent. The Novelization for Metal Gear Solid 2 also heavily implies that Olga and Sergei were actually speaking Russian and that Snake was actually listening in and understanding the conversation due to taking Russian speaking courses during his training in FOXHOUND.
In some ways this occurs in the Wing Commander games mainly 2 and 3. All of the humans speak English with some saying stuff in other languages. The Kilrathi the alien race all speak English to them selves and to humans even though they do not speak in their native language. The novels change this up a bit since in the novels the Kilrathi speak in their native tongue which shows up as English in the text, but when Kilrathi pilots taunt Terran pilots their taunts get translated into English with translation devices in the pilots fighters.
In Return to Castle Wolfenstein, this was replaced with accented English—but Germans also peppered their speech with untranslated German words and phrases—usually ones that would be recognizable to English-speaking ears. In combat, however, they speak purely German (no matter what they're fighting).
Similarly, in Metal Gear Solid B.J. Blazkowicz is implied to be fluent in German, a necessity for his missions as an OSA agent.
Used in Eternal Darkness whenever Alex reads from the book of the same name. To indicate the presence of translation, several chapters (Such as Augustus Pious's) begin in Latin, which shifts into English after a few lines of dialogue. Interestingly, the mouth flaps often don't match the dialogue, giving the impression that it has been overdubbed.
In Crysis, the Korean soldiers yell out orders and battle tactics to each other in accented English — except when playing at the highest difficulty setting, in which they all speak un-subtitled Korean.
In the first Kingdom Hearts, you visit the Deep Jungle, and Tarzan himself was about as articulate as he usually was. Except for one scene, where Tarzan, speaking to the apes, was uncharacteristically articulate, making an impassioned plea to them. Then, they cut to the perspective of Sora and company, and all of Tarzan's dialog became grunts.
This was because the film the world was based on uses this convention as well. However, because the film is from Tarzan's point of view, he only starts doing the Hulk Speak thing halfway throught the film, when Jane shows up.
In Splinter Cell Chaos Theory, the player has the option to have all the unimportant NPCs talk either in English or their native tongues. With the former, they can understand all the random conversations the NPCs have with each other, while the latter is more realistic. However when interrogating a foe, they will always speak in English.
In the Russian campaigns of the first two Call of Duty games, most characters speak in Russian-accented English. Some unimportant lines(such as battle cries) are rendered in full Russian. Also, at one point in the first game, the main character hears a German propaganda broadcast aiming to demoralize Russian soldiers, presumably in German-accented Russian. The player hears it as German-accented English.
The same is true of the third game in the series. During the Polish campaign, for example, the Polish NPCs speak in accented English whenever the player needs to understand them, but also occasionally break out into untranslated Polish.
In the Battlefield series of multiplayer shooters, the player has the option to have non-English-speaking armies speak in their native language or have their speech "translated" into perfect English. The first choice grants the game a sense of authenticity, but might disadvantage a player(unless the player can understand an army's native language) as they have to look at the edge of the screen when a verbal command is given, where the command is written in English no matter what. Or indeed, whatever language the game is set up for. This means players from all over the world can interact pretty effectively even with no mutual language. For this reason, an English player can wander on to a German server, and due to the Translation Convention, be perfectly understood (or vice versa) if they're giving commands via the in-game communication menu (which covers most of the basic commands needed). Obviously though, it doesn't work for typed chat text.
The above translation option actually took away one benefit to the player in Battlefield 2 - that is, the ability to guess where enemy players are based on their speech, because to save space the translation option just made everyone use the same sounds as the US Army. Later games instead give non-American armies accented speech when translated.
Played straight in Syberia: as the heroine travels from a village in the French Alps east into Germany, across Europe and into Russia, almost all the characters speak (and write) English — not just English, not just American-accented English, but modern American idiom, even to the use of "retard" as a noun (in a journal written in the 1930s).
Given the setting and the amount of Gratuitous German throughout, the player is meant to understand that the first Atelier games use German (or something like it) as the spoken language, even though all important readable text and all dialog is in Japanese (or English, should the games ever be brought over). This is, however, abandoned from Atelier Iris onward - the characters may or may not be speaking "our" language but there are basically no hints as to what else they'd be saying.
In the Halo series, the Covenant are Handwaved to be heard in English via Translator Microbes, but they also are heard speaking English to each other in the absence of humans.
Averted in the case of the Grunts. The free background book that came with the Special Edition version of Halo 3 states that the Grunt's have an almost constant ability to learn very quickly. This, combined with the common position as communications workers, has enabled them to gain a partly complete understanding of English (something they take considerable pride in).
Justified in the unlockable timeline in Halo Wars, where one of the unlockable Covenant communiques calls for the formation of a task force to learn the language of the "Unclean" pretty early in the war, and that this task force was only to speak [English] to each-other. (Guess it caught on pretty fast.)
Note that in Halo 1 the Elites speak an incomprehensible gibberish in contrast to the Grunts (who seem less imposing and more pathetic due to their habit of speaking in broken English), but in Halo 2, when the Elites become humanized and the Arbiter becomes a protagonist, the Elites not only speak in "English" to each other in the Covenant-POV scenes but can be heard speaking perfect English by Master Chief (and Master Chief and the Arbiter eventually meet up and have a conversation). Which means that either the Elites all got English lessons or the Humans' Translator Microbes got an upgrade. Either way, the Elites are now ironically more imposing because their English is * better* than the pidgin the Grunts speak. (And yes, the Grunts speak an awkward pidgin no matter what POV you view them from; apparently they don't speak the Elites' language any better than they speak English.)
Explicitely stated in the novels. Sometime between Halo 1 and 2 the humans finished translating the Elites' language. Note that they never do fully get a hang of the Jackal or Prophet languages, which remain foreign-sounding jibberish throughout the games. In another book, a Grunt Deacon learns to read the labels on the undetonated nuke lodged in the side of his ship.
One scene in Halo 2 shows an holographic projector showing a prophet preaching in their native tongue, Cortana comments that it's the usual religious stuff and briefly activates a real time English dub (complete with characterized voice acting) then she snaps her fingers and the dub ends.
Given the radically different vocal features of the different Covenant species it's obvious they mastered Translator Microbes long ago, the elites have no lips or tongues, the hunters communicate by vibrating their armor, a language reportedly "more felt than heard".
In Quake IV, signs in the alien language are incomprehensible until an alien communications node is jammed into the player character's brain; immediately thereafter (and with a rather cool transformation effect) the alien signs are in English, with a stylized alien font.
The written alien language is simply English in a wingdings-esque font anyway, so if you had a character chart and too much free time you could translate all the signs from the beginning of the game.
Nobody knows if this applies to Half-Life 2. While it seems to take place in a post-apocalyptic Bulgaria, everyone has Anglo-Saxon names and speaks with American Accents.
Given the Combine's administrative policies and the fact that most of the main characters are explicitly American, they're probably speaking English.
The Combine also has the nasty habit of shuffling people randomly between the various cities, so even if it takes place in Bulgaria, it's likely that most of the inhabitants aren't Bulgarian anyway.
It certainly doesn't apply to the Vortigaunts, who can be frequently overheard conversing in their own language (and apologizing for doing so if you stop to listen—they are partially telepathic, but consider it rude to converse that way in front of the nontelepathic humans).
Later games in the series still translate most of the dialogue and all text into modern English, such as Altaïr's codex pages which were presumably written in Arabic and the Scrolls of Romulus in Brotherhood which would have been written in Latin. Ezio's arc translates most of the dialogue into English but peppers it with Italian, such as for cursing, particularly a long, profanity-riddled speech by Caterina Sforza in the "Battle of Forli" DLC. Assassin's Creed III could be an aversion since all of major characters speak English and the Native American characters speak in authentic Mohawk (except in The Tyranny of King Washington, where it's translated into English), and almost no other nationalities are present in speaking roles (except for a German-speaking shopkeeper). Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag is an interesting case, as the languages of each nationality are present and in use (primarily English, French, Spanish, and some native languages mainly used by various Assassins) but the subtitles use archaic spellings and capitalization which were common in the period.
Except the Tyrranoids in Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, who need a special device to communicate, due to having a language that's done through gestures and noises.
Rival Schools has three American characters: Roy, Tiffany and Boman. Despite their nationalities, Roy and Boman speak Japanese in all of their in-game voice overs, while Tiffany speaks mostly Japanese with occasional slips of English (lampshaded by the explanation that Tiffany's a horrifically bad Japanese speaker).
Street Fighter on the other hand (due to the nationality) has stated that characters speak in either English or Japanese with the translation convention going both ways. For example Ryu and Sakura are speaking Japanese, while Guile and Cammy are speaking english, with Chun Li pretty much speaking English, or Japanese depending on the situation. This is why Ryu has no accent (since Translation Convention is going on) but Cammy sports an English accent. Street Fighter IV even allows players to choose which characters speak in English and which ones speak in Japanese.
In Star Control II, your ship has a translation computer which understands almost all alien languages. "Almost", because the Orz language is apparently too strange or complicated to be translated completely, resulting in exchanges such as "Who are you? Are you * silly cows* ? No, you are not * silly cows* , you are * happy campers* ."
Used in Mega Man Battle Network, although justified in the second game which explained that the dialogue was being translated by Lan's PET. In fact, until Mega Man turns on the translator function, foreign characters' dialogue appear as a bunch of unpronounceable symbols.
In most of the games in the Castlevania series, the characters are most likely supposed to be speaking European languages. In Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow the Japanese characters, like Soma Cruz and Graham Jones, are shown to be speaking Japanese in their voice clips, even in the English release.
The first Bushido Blade game had a Caucasian foreigner who spoke in halting, uncertain English, presumably to mirror his halting, uncertain Japanese in the original release. At one point near the end of his storyline, he even gets confused on a verb tense and curses Japanese for being such a complicated language.
Particularly egregrious example from the opening scene of Shenmue II: Japanese protagonist Ryo gets off the boat in Hong Kong and asks a street urchin for directions, only for the boy to exclaim in Japanese that this is the first time he's ever heard the language being spoken. The rest of the game doesn't do any better in this regard.
Applies straight in most Shin Megami Tensei games released since Nocturne: despite being translated into English, the player is meant to understand that everyone is speaking Japanese, except for a few cases. The Persona games even use gratuitous honorifics to hammer home the point.
Persona 2: Innocent Sin will have an interesting problem with this when it's Updated Re-release for the PSP hits the English market. One character's inability to speak English is a plot point.
In Persona 4, one of the lessons your character takes is actually supposed to be an English class. The teacher even notes it as being "how Americans say it". It is also part of the "very easy" academics part of the game.
The World Ends with You takes place entirely within one city in Japan. However in the English version the characters use American slang, including Nao a valley girl, and Beat the ebonics speaking skater. All background text, including the mission text messages are in Japanese however.
There's even a random thought bubble you can scan that is titled "English" but the actual thoughts are entirely in Japanese characters, when translated it says that the man you're scanning is a tourist from a America looking for a shop to buy a specific souvenir from, but he doesn't speak Japanese so he can't ask anyone about it.
There have been at least three different Hylian languges, spoken over the course of different ages: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time era Hylian, which is written in Katakana-like syllables, the Hylian of the The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker's Great Sea, which is written in simmilar symbols but different enough to render the inhabitant of the Great Sea unable to understand the Hylian language from Ocarina and the Hylian language of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which, unlike the previous two, is written in symbols simmilar to Real World-english and therefore thought to be radically different from the other two. Then, there's also the language of the Zora and the language of the Gerudo. We, however, can't tell, because all the dialogue in the games is conveniently in Japanese/English/Whatever the language setting of your console is at the time. We get to hear clips of the Hylian language of Ocarina in Wind Waker (but it's little more than standart Gibberish) and hear Midna talk TP era Hylian in Twilight Princess (same). It's taken to the extreme in the Wind Waker-spin off "Navi Trackers", where three characters (Tetra, The King of Red Lions and Sue Belle) are suddenly voiced in fluent Japanese, when their language was suggested to be simmilar to Portuguese (Oi~!) in the original game. The games have, however, also subverted this trope from time to time: The Picori in The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap are talking either Pokémon Speak or backwards, depending on your language setting (Pokémon Speak for English, backwards for pretty much everything else) and Link has to apply Translator Microbes, in order to render their dialogue understandable. In The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, the Goron and Zora races have their own written languages which appear on monuments and signposts in their native regions. When Link attempts to read one of these monuments or signposts while transformed into a member of the race that created it, the words written on the monument or signpost appear on-screen in English (or Japanese or whatever real world language that specific copy of the game is in). When Link attempts to read one of these monuments or signposts while in his human form or while transformed into a member of a race other than the one that created it, a text box appears on-screen informing the player that Link is unable to read the symbols on the monument or signpost.
Inverted in killer7 - the Japanese characters all speak barely-accented English, even to each other.
Starflight: Communications with alien ships will be completely translated if your communications officer is up to speed, otherwise, the conversation will be in the alien's own language, or half-translated between English and alien.
World in Conflict has player units addressing player in english, with or without accent. When left to their own, they will revert back to their own language(Russia, German, France etc.) when they start to talk among themselves. Raises questions in Soviet Assault where player character is Russian.
Battlefield: Bad Company has an option in the menu to turn translation convention on or off. Good players keep it off - hearing dialogue in multiple languages lets you detect whether a nearby speaker is hostile.
In World of Warcraft, Horde and Alliance characters cannot understand each other. Each faction has a 'common tongue' that the characters speak by default; for Alliance characters it's Common, for Horde characters it's Orcish. Any words spoken in the faction's 'common tongue' will appear as normal for all members of that faction but gibberish to members of the opposite faction.
Non-humans and non-orcs also have the option to speak in-game in their native tongue (Thalassian for Blood Elves, Taurahe for Tauren, Dwarvish for Dwarves, etc etc.) This native language will appear as normal to you and any other members of your race, but as gibberish to anyone else. If you encounter NPCs who speak that native tongue, a similar effect applies; what they say will appear as normal to members of that race but gibberish to others (i.e, the Wretched on Quel'dorei Isle speak in Thalassian.)
Of course, this can lead to some very confusing discrepancies of language. Just to list a few:
Why are"Lok'tar Ogar" and other orcish battle cries rendered in Orcish and not translated to their literal meaning ("Victory Or Death?")
Why can players and NPCs who used to be part of the same faction, or even the same race, no longer understand each other? (e.g., How did the Blood Elves and Undead humans forget Common when they were both part of the Alliance fairly recently? And when did they all learn Orcish?)
At what point did the Draenei learn Common when they just recently crash-landed on Azeroth? They're more likely to know Orcish, since they had relations with the Orcs on Draenor. Beyond The Dark Portalexplains this: A Nemuraan did it.
When faction leaders and other important NPCs speak in cutscenes or /yell in city zones, how can they be simultaneously understood by all factions? One could assume that when speaking to them directly they tailor their language of choice to you, but do they repeat all their important dialogue twice in both languages?
In Icecrown Citadel, when Overlord Saurfang is speaking to his corrupted son, he says: "We named him 'Draenosh,' which means 'Son of Draenor' in Orcish." The problem here is that he's actually speaking in Orcish. Meaning that what he actually said was "We named him 'Son of Draenor,' which means 'Son of Draenor'." (And of course, the Alliance can somehow understand him.)
Gameplay and Story Segregation: While nearly every race in Azeroth should have some understanding of the Common language, the language system in game was specifically designed to prevent players of the opposing factions from communicating with each other. In early Beta tests, the Forsaken race was capable of speaking Common, which didn't work out well.
Because it didn't work out well, the Forsaken were given a new language called Gutterspeak, which was eventually renamed Forsaken. In application, Forsaken is effectively just a very low, slang-laden form of Common, different enough to be unintelligible to Common-speakers. When actually looked at, both languages are fairly similar.
Books and comics seem to show that Common is, in fact, the world-wide language that everyone speaks, not just the Alliance races; on at least one occasion it has been stated that two characters from opposite factions spoke together in "the common tongue". So this is a classic case of Gameplay and Story Segregation.
With the release of Mists of Pandaria, and the first-ever neutral playable race, the Pandaren, there's even more strangeness. At the end of the Pandaren starting zone (The Wandering Isle), you must choose whether to side with the Tushui (the Alliance Pandaren faction) or the Huojin (the Horde Pandaren faction). This makes sense, but what doesn't make sense is that once you make your decision, you're somehow no longer able to understand what Pandaren of the other faction are saying.
Alpha Protocol. You visit locations such as Saudi Arabia, Taipei, Rome, and Moscow, but none of the locals or enemies speak their own languages. The biggest example would be in Taipei, where a fictional President of Taiwan gives a bold speech asserting Taiwan's independence, and it's heard wholly in English. Justified as the protagonist is a Polyglot.
In Sword of the Stars other races that contact you will have their text rendered as gibberish until you research at least one level of their languages, which turns the communiques into English. All factions have their native language tech researched to level three from the start and thus its words are in readable English except for certain culture-specific terms.
Interestingly, in order to understand humans, the alien races must first study English, then Latin, and finally Chinese. While English is the official SolForce language, much of the human population is Catholic and may know at least some Latin. It's not clear why Chinese has to be studied, though, and not spoken Chinese but Hanzi (written Chinese).
The native language of all characters in Solatorobo is French, but apart from short sound bites, they're shown speaking English (or other languages, in non-English localizations).
Presumably in effect in the non-English versions of the Professor Layton games, the titular Layton being an Englishman who lives in London.
In Mass Effect, Commander Shepard hears the Prothean language as perfect English, due the Prothean Beacons and the Cipher, downloading the full knowledge of the language into their subconscious. Suffice to say, since their translators were not programmed to understand a dead, 50,000 year old language, everyone else only hears unintelligible gibberish.
Occurs once more in the From Ashes DLC for Mass Effect 3, when Shepard witnesses ancient data recordings showing the fall of the Prothean settlement on Eden Prime, with everyone speaking English. Much like the above, all the rest of the party saw was Shepard zoning out after looking at a bunch of static.
Played with in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. At the start of the game, the dragons all speak entirely in the dragon language with no subtitles. As the game progresses, the dragons begin speaking in English. Not because they're actually speaking in English (aside from one instance) but because the player character is beginning to understand the dragon language.
For the main Pokémon series the obligatory "They're speaking Japanese" comes up but in Pokémon Black and White, along with its sequel, it's implied they're speaking the Pokémon world's equivalent of English as the games take place in a New York City-like region. In most places, including the source country for the games, you'll have the characters speaking in a language other than English. Similarly Pokémon X and Y implies that the characters are speaking Poké-French as Kalos is France based. In most language versionsnote except French itself, which uses a ton of anglicisms, many characters pepper their speech with Gratuitous French, similar to the various France-set Disney/Pixar examples where Gratuitous French and French accents are used "for flair". There's even a portion where the former Funny Foreigner Looker, who now speaks fluently, mistranslates a Kanto (Japanese) woman's dialogue; in the Japanese version, it was English. Adding to this confusion are:
Animated Adaptations (both ofthem) now using a constructed alphabet for written text, which is left the same in every language version and every in-universe region.
The game's different translation languages existing in-universe, mostly through foreign Pokédex entries, but this also pops up in some NPC dialogue. For the latter, there's quite a bit of NPC dialogue in other languagesnote in the English version of X/Y, there's even an NPC who speaks full French in Kalos, in contrast to other characters' dialogue which is displayed as English, but there's also some dialogue referring to foreign versions of the franchise itself, Dub Name Changes and all.note In the same games, there's a TV program that quizzes you on the Japanese names of Pokémon. In these cases, the game's language is treated as "native", while even the main language of the region's Earth counterpart is treated as "foreign".
Implied with Donkey Kong Country, in terms of Animal Speak. The characters speak just fine but in crossovers with other Nintendo series they sound like normal animals.
Linburger. Whenever a language is spoken that some characters in the scene understand, but other may not understand, the text appears as regular English, with little symbols at the beginning and end of the sentence.
Though it's never made explicit in the narrative, Word of God has it that Tales of MU is "translated" from Pax, the fictional language the narrator speaks.
More Tales Of MU also translates elvish into English, since that narrator is bilingual. The rotating viewpoint side stories tend to translate all dialogue into English, regardless of what language is actually being spoken.
Untranslated background text, names, and setting all suggest that the characters in Girl Genius are actually speaking German and some Romanian, which has been confirmed by Word of God.
MegaTokyo uses English and angle brackets, as mentioned above. There are also occasional scenes in Japanese, when the actual meaning is not as important as the fact that the viewpoint character does not understand the language.
Get Medieval uses the translation convention heavily, originally justified because it was first written as being about time travelers in medieval France, but now required since the creator changed them to aliens before the start of the comic. So references to Morse code, which would be wholly explicable for time travelers to make, become a shorthand for "a signal code similar to Morse code, but invented by someone else" when in the mouths of aliens. Apparently, not many readers know of the Translation Convention, as the creator has had to field complaints and comments on it frequently in her commentary and on the comment pages.
Elven Lacryment has various characters of different races speaking to each other, though different races are represented with different fonts.
The Adventures of Dr. McNinja has a double invert of this trope in a scene with a ninja speaking to an Irish village for about 3 panels before it's revealed nobody understands him because he's actually speaking Japanese.
Tales of the Questor is probably an example of this; the dialogue is in English, but the Rac Cona Daimh written language is depicted with a completely different set of symbols. (Which is created for the strip using a font called Lovecraft's Diary.)
El Goonish Shive uses the above comic book convention for characters speaking French, Japanese and the alien language Uryuomoco.
Lampshaded in thisScandinavia and the World comic as an answer to a frequently asked reader question. (with additional Bilingual Bonus since the author decided to Google Translate all the text from English, even though she speaks Danish as her native language)
The Fox Sister: All Korean spoken in the comic is translated to English, for the readers' convenience. Interestingly, English spoken in the comic, and not Korean, is marked by angle brackets.
Toki No Tanaka has all of its Japanese dialogue (ie. all of the dialogue) presented in English. Any background writing (signposts, etc.) is rendered in untranslated Japanese, however.
This was done in the Chowder' episode "The Wrong Address/The Wrong Customer", in which Chowder and Mung Daal have to make a delivery to a district they've never been to. Meeting up with several of the inhabitants, it turns out some speak in a language which is basically reversed English. When it moves to their point of view, they speak in perfect, normal English with Chowder and Mung becoming the ones speaking the reversed languages.
Lutfi: The people of Ireland spoke a Different language, but we're going to have everyone speak English. Like in Star Trek! Pig: (looks up at audience from grazing) Even the pigs? Lutfi: No, not the pigs. Pig: Okay. (goes back to grazing)
Everyone in Avatar: The Last Airbender speaks English, but all of the writing in the show would indicate they're speaking archaic Chinese. Though it brings up a bit of Fridge Logic about Yue's and Hope's names.
"Cartman": Why would we help the Americans? That doesn't make any sense!
"Stan": We are speaking English! How does that make sense?
Rugrats renders the babies' babblings as English babyspeak, which is implied to be forgotten when growing up, with two interesting variations: Dil uses Hulkspeak because he's a newborn, and Angelica is a 3-year-old who does speaks English but can understand the babblings of the rest. Susie and a handful of other older children the babies meet can understand the baby talk and speak normally with the adults. After the second movie Chuckie can speak the word "no" to adults but that's about it.
Lampshaded in Asterix and Cleopatra: The reason why the Egyptians seem to speak the same language as everyone else including the audience, according to the narrator, is because they have been dubbed for the convenience of the viewers who would most certainly not understand ancient Egyptian (demonstrated by an Egyptian talking, accompanied by cartouches standing in for speech bubbles). Occasionally, so it is also explained, there might be differences between the sound and the lip movements, but lip syncing wasn't as advanced in ancient times as it is today.
In the 1990s Fantastic Four cartoon, the first appearance of the Skrulls has them in their mothership originally speaking their native language. Then the action pauses, and Stan Lee pops up in a bubble to use the Mighty Marvel Language Converter to translate their speech to English for the rest of the episode.
A Disney short, "Morris the Midget Moose", has a small bit when a moose talks...and after weird noises come out, the narrator translates for us. (It should be noted that the narrator is an old bug...so apparently we're hearing it in their bug language).
Hurricanes: Whenever Stavros Garkos is having a conversation with either his brother Spiro or his sister Melinda, they speak in English despite the fact the three of them are Greeks. Given the nature of some of these conversations, it'd be a good idea for them to speak Greek even (especially) if there's someone listening.
In the Young Justice episode "Downtime", Aqualad and Aquaman's conversation in their first scene is subtitled, and then the Atlantean dialogue is rendered in English for the rest of the episode.
Due to a character trying to cast a spell (while chanting in Atlantean) that backfired and "hit" the audience causing us to understand Atlantean.
Blood: The Last Vampire takes place on and around the US Marine base in Okinawa. Various characters speak fluent English and/or Japanese as appropriate; the DVD was notable in that it didn't offer dub selections for either, but would allow you to select which language was subtitled.
A partial exception in Appleseed: While the main dialogue is indeed in English or Japanese depending on the release, characters speaking any other languages would actually speak in that language in both the Japanese and English releases.
Curiously averted in The Sky Crawlers: all the main characters speak Japanese and have Japanese names, despite of the setting, which is the European Confederation, but they switch to English when flying their planes or speaking to tourists, while the few locals seen in Krakow speak passable Polish. It's never explained why all these Japanese people are fighting an air war in Europe, since the corporate entity they represent appears to be British, or at least primarily Anglophone.
Averted in Eden of the East, where the first episode and a good deal of the first movie take place in America. Though the main characters still speak Japanese, all the extras in those scenes speak English. And since they hired native speakers, it's actually English, rather than Engrish. The dub, naturally, totally ignored this, since everyone was speaking English anyway.
Senkou No Night Raid, which took place in China, has a bunch of foreign minor characters speaking in their native languages by native speakers with the exception of the side character, Fuu Lan, who is voiced by Saki Fujita and speaks both Chinese and Japanese. But episode 6 have a bunch of Asian delegates speaking in accented English. The main Japanese characters still speak Japanese but when talking to foreigners, it can a bit horrible. The Blu-Rays and DVDs have an audio selection where all the characters speak in Japanese. This goes the same with the English dub where all the characters speak in English.
In Astérix most characters - Gauls, Romans, Belgians, Greeks, Britons and Iberians - can understand each other. However, all of these places (save Asterix's village) were part of the Roman Empire and so presumably most residents have some command of Vulgar Latin. Special typefaces are used to render languages that other cultures cannot understand: Goths speak in Blackletter, Vikings have "Ø" and "Å" in place of "O" and "A", Egyptians use hieroglyphs, Amerindians pictograms. Read Asterix the Legionary for several examples. (also has a very funny scene where the army unit's translator gets hopelessly confused) Asterix tries talking to the Vikings, but doesn't quite get the hang of things:
Asterix: I must be putting the / and the ° in the wrong place.
In Asterix and Cleopatra, a scene starts with Cleopatra speaking to Edifis, in hieroglyphs. A footnote states that the scene will be translated for convenience. The next picture shows the same scene, with English dialogue ... and another footnote apologising for inaccuracies in translation and the shoddy Ancient Egyptian lip-synching.
Greek is shown with its own typeface, too, but the Gauls can understand the Greeks.
Then again, Greek was actually the lingua franca of Ancient Rome itself, as most of the immigrants, travellers, merchants etc. already knew it, but they wouldn't have known Latin.
In Aeon Natum Engel, it's established that the official written language is the reformed-english, but we otherwise see anything that is written (computers screen's, Rei's notes) as normal english. Also the Migou conversations are translated for our benefit. Almost everything else is untranslated, from German to R'lyan. Most evident in chapter 15b, where Loyalist Nazzadi are speaking in their native language.
In the rewrite/sequel/whatever Aeon Entelechy Evangelion the use of untranslated nazzadi language is increased, but thankfully it can be understood from context.
Subverted in District 9 Where all the alien speech is subtitled, even when it's clear that the alien characters understand English and the South African characters understand Prawn
In X-Men: First Class: All the scenes with the Nazis/the Swiss bankteller/former German soldiers as well as the scenes with the Russians are spoken in German, French, Spanish, and Russian where approriate, with subtitles in English. A couple scenes use the technique of starting in foreign language, then shifting to English for the last few (and most dramatically important) lines.
Unfortunately, the foreign lines are usually spoken with an atrocious pronunciation, most notably the scene at the beginning.
This is a Narm source for Germans, because of the accents. 'Evolution', while written the same in german and english, has the stress just the other way around.
The scene in Argentina is a notable exception thanks to all actors involved being German, or of German origin in the case of Fassbender.
Argentina (particularly in the Buenos Aires province, where Villa Gessel is located) has a distinctive local accent, but the few Spanish lines shown there were delivered Spain-style, which is a very different accent.
A variation of this trope was used in the film The 13th Warrior. At the beginning of the film, we hear the Arabic-speaking main character in English, but cannot understand the Norsemen. In a Time-Compression Montage, we see the Arab listening to the Norsemen over the course of several weeks, and as the Time-Compression Montage goes on, more and more of their dialogue is in English, progressing from the odd word and phrase to crude sentences with improper grammar to standard English dialogue, representing the main character learning their language. When the Arab speaks to them (supposedly in Norse) for the first time, catching them by surprise, he speaks slowly and hesitantly, as one would a new language.
Also early in the film when the Arabs attend a feast all the Norse are speaking Norse, which the Arabic characters can't understand. They later find out what's going on when they discover a Norseman who speaks Latin, which one of the Arabs speaks, thus the translation runs Norse-Latin-English (with the English understood to be Arabic).
They are not speaking Norse, they are speaking a jumble of modern norwegian, grunting noises and gibberish.
In Star Wars, the primary language (Galactic Basic Standard) is identical to English, albeit using different glyphs for the alphabet, so there is mostly nothing to translate to begin with. (Or, possibly, it's all translated to English - it's difficult to tell.) In films and video games, non-human species speak their native non-English language, subtitled.
There's also Chewbacca and Han Solo, and R2-D2 with C-3PO.
In Firefox, nothing directly relevant to the plot is said in Russian, although Gant's thought commands to the titular plane are in Russian.
Mel Gibson averts this in the extreme in The Passion of the Christ, where the entire film is rendered in subtitled Aramaic and Latin. Originally he apparently didn't want to subtitle it. Some bright spark obviously convinced him that most of the viewing public would be put off by a two hour movie in which all the dialogue is in two dead languages and what's happening on screen is pretty hard to watch anyway. However, it still isn't entirely accurate. Firstly, the Latin spoken in the movie is modern ecclesiastical Latin, not Vulgar Latin that would be appropriate to the period. Secondly, the Romans shouldn't be speaking Latin anyway, since Greek was the lingua franca of the region. Gibson chose Latin because it's easier to distinguish from Aramaic than Greek. (Aramaic was in fact the main language of the Jewish people of the region, though some scholars are now claiming that Jesus spoke Hebrew.)
Aramaic was a Syrian language the Jews picked up during their Babylonian exile. It was therefore quite common in the Holy Land in the first century A.D., although Jewish religious ceremonies continued to be conducted in Hebrew.
In Gibson's Apocalypto, which is about Mayans, characters speak in Yucatec Maya language.
In The Movies of The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, all foreign characters speak their own language (French, Italian, German, Latin...) when speaking amongst themselves, only switching to English when the unilingual Langdon is around.
And in the books, it's done rather cleverly as well: There's a scene with a young Sophie Neveu and her grandfather Jacques Saunière in The Da Vinci Code, both french-speaking... with Saunière pestering Sophie to practice English with him.
In Inglourious Basterds all the characters will naturally say their natural languages unless they specifically state they'll use English (usually for two characters of different nationalities to communicate better).
What's really great about this movie is that sometimes, non-English scenes are left untranslated because we are supposed to be watching from a certain character's point of view. For example, in the scene where Shoshanna meets Zoller in the cafe and the German soldier comes in and speaks to him, the parts in German are left unsubtitled, because Shoshanna can't speak German, and so doesn't know what they're saying. When you remember this, other scenes (like Shoshanna's meeting with Goebbels) are far more powerful - no wonder she's quietly terrified. It's not just the presence of Lander, it's that she doesn't have a clue what's going on because they've been speaking German throughout.
There's also some fun parts where the subtitles are just the spoken language, not a translation, because the spoken parts are something like "oui".
Not averted in the German version, where the Basterds speak German (this includes the ones that can't speak it in the English version). Furthermore, Shoshanna doesn't speak English but German instead (the scene at the very beginning is also French/German instead of French/English).
Midnight Express features several scenes where people speak Turkish without subtitles, so that we're in the same boat as the main character, who can't speak the language but is desperate to know what they're saying about him. Incidentally, the actors in these scenes are mostly speaking complete gibberish with the occasional Turkish word thrown in, so even if you know the language you're left in the dark with the character.
Bon Cop, Bad Cop is an interesting aversion - the two main characters are an English-speaker and a French-speaker, but both are fluently bilingual, and most of the supporting characters are at least close. This isn't an ancillary feature, however - many of the jokes in the film are about the language differences, and the film is divided roughly evenly between the two languages.
Given that it was intentionally written not to have a primary language, every line in the movie could be treated as an aversion of this trope, if one wants to think of it that way.
In the Finnish-Swedish film Elina: As If I Wasn't there Swedish-speaking characters speak Swedish and Finnish-speaking Finnish which is heard as Swedish and the bilingual whichever language is appropriate to the current situation. There are several situations where characters are supposed to be unable to understand each other. The background is set against the suppression of the Finnish-speaking minority in northern Sweden in the 1950s and the plot is about a conflict between a Finnish-speaking pupil and a Swedish-speaking teacher. At the same time this is a film aimed at children, so instead of having actual dialogue in Finnish (beyond a few words), the main character speaks Swedish (and only Swedish) with a Stockholm(?) accent and her mother speaks Swedish with a Finnish accent and tells her daughter to "remember to speak Swedish" in school when they haven't actually spoken any other language at all.
In Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, every character they interact with speaks their native language. Of course, a few of their passengers really did speak English in real life (e.g. Billy the Kid, Abraham Lincoln, Sigmund Freud) so at least they could communicate with some of them. Although it is questionable whether they would have been able to speak with 15th century Englishmen, as the language has changed quite a bit since then.
In the Russian film Kukushka (Cuckoo), the three main characters are a Russian soldier, a Finnish soldier, and a Saami woman, all of whom speak in their native languages and none of whom understand one another.
Similar to Kukushka, Europa Europa is another film where a multinational war story is told and all nationalities involved (Germans, Polish, Russians for the most part) speak in their own languages, with English subtitles added later.
In Avatar, no Na'vi speaks English except when directly addressing a human.
In the original Stargate movie, the Abydonians always speak in their own language (a dialect of Ancient Egyptian), as does Ra. This is subtitled, but only after Daniel Jackson (the viewpoint character) learns the language.
Played oh so straight in The Eagle Has Landed, a WWII film from the Nazis' perspective, with absolutely no German to speak of.
Sort of: The scenes set in Germany are conducted entirely in English due to translation convention. When the German Paratroopers arrive in England, their commander instructs them all to speak English all the time in case they are overheard, thus neatly avoiding the problem of how you tell who's speaking English and who German. They dress as Polish soldiers to explain the foreign accents.
In Jackie Chan's Accidental Spy, all characters speak the language they logically would speak. This includes English, Korean, Turkish and, if I remember correctly, also Russian.
In Ghost Dog, Forest Whitaker speaks English and Isaac de Bankolï¿½ speaks French, and both understand eath other without actually understanding each other.
In the Film of the BookThe Kite Runner, all the characters in Afghanistan speak Dari (also known as Farsi), which means that the entire first half of the movie is in Dari with English subtitles. The boys who played young Hassan and Amir actually were native speakers from Afghanistan, however some of the adult actors had to learn the language.
In Wings of Desire, every human speaks (and thinks) in their own language. Apparently, the angels speak German between themselves.
In the Israeli film Walk on Water, characters speak in whatever language would be natural for the situation. So, the Israelis speak Hebrew to one another, the Germans speak in German to each other, and when together, Israelis and Germans speak English together. Subtitles are available.
Similarly, in the film The Bands Visit, the Israelis and Egyptians have to converse with each other in English (and not their native languages). This actually disqualified the movie from being nominated for best foreign language academy award, due to most of the dialogue being in English.
Averted in Johnny Mnemonic, The Dragon, a Yakuza assassin, is reporting to his boss in subtitled Japanese. His boss then informs him that his Japanese is terrible, and that they will speak in English instead.
As The Spanish Inn involves lack of mutual comprehension between languages, the film features a mix of French, English and Spanish, all subtitled. Depending on the version of the film you watch, the brief snatches of Catalan in the film may or may not be subtitled, to help show that, unlike Spanish, the main characters can't understand it.
Averted in Kill Bill, where foreign speech is subtitled, even though the Bride can understand it. In the second film, it's revealed that the Bride can understand Chinese but can't speak it well. She tries to speak Japanese to her Old Master, but the guy hates the Japanese and tells her to speak English to him instead. He continues in Chinese. In the first film, Lucy Liu's character is of Chinese and American descent but is in charge of a Japanese gang. When one of the gang bosses complains about her ethnicity, she cuts off his head and switches to English for emphasis (with her assistant translating to Japanese in the background).
Thor: The Dark World, Malekith and the Dark Elves speak in subtitled Dark Elf language, even amongst themselves, with only Malekith only speaking English in only two sequences: when he confronts Frigga and has Kurse murder her for not cooperating after demanding where the Aether is, and during the final fight with Thor near the end.
The Afterword to Gene Wolfe's The Shadow of the Torturer wittily discusses the difficulties involved in rendering into English a text composed in a language "that has not yet achieved existence".
Subverted in the second Oz book, The Marvelous Land of Oz. When the Scarecrow greets Jack Pumpkinhead, Jack objects to the Scarecrow that he cannot understand him, because the two of them are from different countries. The Scarecrow agrees that this must be the case, and calls for an interpreter: Jellia Jamb. Jellia has great fun mistranslating each statement made to the other, with both the Scarecrow and Jack objecting verbally to her lies, until she bursts out laughing. She explains to the two that, despite being from different countries, they speak the same language. They both feel very silly about the incident.
Live Action TV
From the movies onward, Klingons in the Star Trek universe are generally exempt from the translation convention (probably to showcase the completeness of the Klingon language). The exception, of course, occurs in all-Klingon scenes such as on board Klingon starships during certain Deep Space Nine segments. Presumably Klingon is being spoken, but the dialogue is in English as Klingon + subtitles would be unnecessarily cumbersome for the actors and the viewers.
In the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise, humanoid, reptillian and arboreal Xindi use the translation convention, but insectoid and aquatic Xindi do not.
Slightly altered in LOST, in which the audience always hears the Korean couple speaking in Korean. However, their dialogue is only subtitled when nobody else is around; if there's another character who can't understand them, neither can the audience. This resulted in the entire B Story flashbacks for several episodes being in Korean with subtitles. Obviously, they spoke Korean even in the extended flashback sequences because the actors actually know Korean. One scene also uses a similar gimmick to the 20th century Ferengi scene used earlier, in which English-speaking characters are viewed from Jin's point of view, and their voices are scrambled because Jin can't speak English. (An interesting sidenote: Daniel Dae Kim, who plays Jin, has lived in America all his life and only spoke Korean with his family growing up. When he got the part, he worked with Yunjin Kim, who plays Sun, and who is a native of Korea, to brush up on his Korean.) In contrast, the first flashback for Sayid, an Iraqi character whose actor does not speak Arabic because he is an Englishman of Indian descent starts out in Arabic, but after about ten seconds, the camera pans behind a character's back, and by the time it finishes the pan, all the characters are speaking English. A similar trick is done for the flashback sequences of the Nigerian character Eko, also played by an English actor.
Averted in a later episode, "One of Them", where Sayid's actor does speak extensive Arabic. This is due to Sayid acting as an interpreter between the US military and his Iraqi commanding officer.
In Heroes, all the Japanese characters speak Japanese amongst themselves. Maya and Alejandro mostly communicated in Spanish while on the run from Latin America to the US. There was even a conversation between Mr Bennett and Mr Nakamura in Japanese, even though they could both speak English.
Interestingly, and perhaps in keeping with the idea of different languages/different fonts a la comic books, the Spanish and Japanese subtitles are very different - they are in different fonts, sizes, colours and appear in different places on the screen.
Additionally, Masi Oka, the Japanese-American actor who plays Hiro, puts on an exaggerated Japanese accent whilst speaking English as Hiro has only begun learning English since the start of the show. When Future!Hiro from five years hence is seen briefly, he speaks in Oka's own accent. According to Japanese fans of the show, there are certain contextual jokes within Hiro's speech too - he tends to speak in quite a childlike way, using turns of phrase that are more common amongst young Japanese children. This is to add a layer of subtext to Hiro's optimistic, childlike personality. Masi Oka is also responsible for this addition - the scripts are written in English and the actors who speak Japanese translate them themselves. (Presumably for speeches by Takezo Kensei/Adam Monroe and Noah Bennet, they are translated phonetically for them.)
Ando is played by James Kyson Lee, a Korean who does all his Japanese lines phonetically.
However, nobody in India ever speaks anything but English. Even when Mohinder returned there in season 1 and we met lots of Indian characters, there was nary a word of Hindi to be found.
Airwolf largely averts this one, with Russian conversations taking place in Russian, often subtitled, although stuff shown only once in English is sometimes repeated in Russian (as in "amerikanskii spion"- American spy). Dom and Stringfellow can't understand Russian or for that matter, Spanish. This causes problems.
The Channel 4 sitcom The Book Group features two main characters who are not native English speakers. When these characters are speaking with their husbands, they speak their native languages.
An episode of "Delocated" uses a Face/Off parody to switch the main characters "face" with that of a Russian gangster; when he attends a gang meeting they all speak to him in Russian and he has to ask everyone to speak in English with the excuse that he wants to work on it.
They really are speaking and writing in English in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica and Caprica. Caprican is identical to modern English with the exception of the swear word "frak" and some terms like "Crypter" instead of "Mayday" and "wireless" instead of "radio". Within a ~150,000-year span, the language went extinct and was reconstituted through the universal subconscious.
Which is a subversion, as fans had, from the get-go, mistakenly assumed that the show used Translation Convention - although that would have been weird with the huge GALACTICA visible on the ship's hull.
Also, Gemenese is Romanian, Tauron is Greek and Leonese is French. Virgon is actually the birthplace of the colonial language. So it might be fair to say Virgon = English (British) and Caprican = English (American).
In Breaking Bad, Latin American characters speak Spanish among each other, which is usually (but not always) subtitled.
In Boardwalk Empire, Italian mobsters sometimes converse in (subtitled) Italian.
The musical version ofThoroughly Modern Millie averts this for the most part with the characters of Bun Foo and Ching Ho. Instead of straight Translation Convention, the two speak in subtitled Cantonese. (This is done via a small projection screen above the stage.) However, everyone seems able to understand everyone else via musical numbers for some reason.
The Light in the Piazza completely averts this with the Italian characters who all speak and sing in Italian unless they are trying to communicate with an English speaking character (or, in one scene, learning to speak English). There is nothing to help the audience understand, so non-Italian speakers have to guess at what's going on through body language, context, tone and what words they can pick out.
Hilariously subverted in the song "Aiutami": The Italian characters proceed to freak out in Italian with lyrics that no-one understands. Halfway through, Signora Naccarelli suddenly turns to the audience and interrupts the song, explaining what the other characters have been singing about.
Aiutami means "help me" in Italian. I don't speak English but I have to tell you what's going on.
In the prologue to Star Fox Adventures, before Fox and co. enter the story, everyone speaks Saurian with subtitles. When Fox does enter the natives speak Saurian without subtitles until Slippy gets his translator online, then they appear to speak English/Japanese.
The English translators for Soul Blade on the PlayStation (predecessor of the Soulcalibur series) made a strange decision regarding localization. All characters of European or American nationality had their voiceovers translated from Japanese into English, whereas the voiceovers for all Asian characters were left in the original Japanese, be they Japanese or Chinese or Korean.
In a somewhat different vein, the Tekken series follows a very odd standard. For the most part, the characters speak their own native languages (mostly English or Japanese, with some exceptions). However, everyone can understand anything spoken by another character. This leads to the odd case of human characters having conversations with Kuma... who is a bear.
The whole thing about Kuma is debatable. Heihachi can converse with him because Kuma is his loyal pet, and they're quite friendly to each other. As for Paul, it may be said that he doesn't really know what Kuma is saying (or if he's even saying anything), but doesn't care anyway.
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 ultimately became an aversion by having the characters from non-English speaking countries speak their native language (i.e. Eddy and Christie now speak Portuguese, Miguel Spanish, Leo German and so on).
Max Payne 3 has lots and LOTS of ambient and NPC dialogue spoken in Portuguese. Given that it's Brazil, this is to be expected. It does highlight Max's feeling of alienation, the fact he's lightyears from home, meddling in things he doesn't understand, and being a 'fat, balding gringo' in a country that hates his guts.
The Guilty Gear series uses this. This is mostly fine, but comes across as a bit awkward with Chipp Zanuff, who explicitly doesn't actually speak Japanese, and all the times where he's actually supposed to be "speaking" Japanese just have him spouting random gibberish — he uses the names of Japanese food when Calling His Attacks, for instance.
In the Resident Evil games, the files are in Japanese, but absolutely all the dialogue is in English of variable quality. #4 is a bit confused - the Americans consistently speak English and the Spaniards speak Spanish, except when it's a named character speaking to an American, when they adopt English with a Mexican accent.
In Final Fantasy X, the Al Bhed language is always spoken straight. In something of a subversion, the subtitles for these scenes are written in Al Bhed as well, although they are deciphered as you find more language primers scattered around the world (or earlier, if you're good at cryptograms).
In Siren: Blood Curse, characters actually speak English when they're supposed to be speaking English, and Japanese when they're supposed to be speaking Japanese — the appropriate language for the localization is subtitled for the benefit of the player.
Unlike in the previous games of the series, the soldiers and agents in Empire: Total War all speak their native languages. The dialogue is roughly identical for each of the nine playable factions.
Fighter's History of all games (you know, that game that caused Capcom to sue Data East for being a blatant Street Fighter ripoff) is one of the few full aversions (unlike the Street Fighter and Soul Edge examples above, which are only partial aversions). Every characters speaks their native tongue, be they Japanese, American, French, Vietnamese, Russian or Korean.
The original arcade version of Strider has each of the character speaking their own native tongue during the game's cut-scenes, subtitled in English or Japanese depending on the version. The PC-Engine version plays this straight by dubbing all the characters' voices into Japanese.
Tomb Raider 2 - Bartoli and his various henchmen, with ridiculous, exaggerated and almost untelligable Italian accents.
Characters in both Knights of the Old Republic games who speak languages other than Galactic Basic actually speak those languages. If your character understands them, you'll see the subtitles in English. Somewhat disappointing in that the non-English languages appear to just be a mish of various foreign-sounding jibbering, repeated over and over despite the context of their speech.
In "The Old Republic" the aliens can speak in their native languages as well which is shown in subtitles for the player, and your character seems to be able understand every language in the galaxy.
Scaled down in Jade Empire, another Bioware game, where half the NPCs speak the old tongue, but all the PCs (and, it's implied, everyone in the empire) know this language perfectly, so you always get the subtitles.
Just like in Fighter's History, every character in the Wii revival of Punch-Out!! speaks their native languages, and this applies to all versions of the game. To make things more interesting, the only form of translation between regions is giving Doc Louis subtitles, but he still speaks in English.
IL-2 Sturmovik has all pilots speak their native languages over the radio. Good thing you get subtitles...
In Halo 4, the Covenant remnant's soldiers also speak only in their native tongues. Their leader, Jul 'Mdama, can understand English perfectly well, but he has so much trouble speaking it that he doesn't even bother with full sentences.
Ar tonelico has its Hymmnos dialogue subtitled and said in Hymmnos, without any translation whatsoever.
Of course, he speaks modern Japanese, not 18th century Japanese.
Many players have complained that the subtitles for the samurai's speech are transliterated into English and thus can't be plugged into a translator to understand what he's saying.
Shogun 2: Total War zig-zags on this trope. Diplomacy, advisers and most cutscenes use Japanese-accented english, but units, armies, characters and pre-battle speeches use unsubtitled Japanese.
The Russian campaign missions in Battlefield 3 have Dima's squadmates speak entirely in subtitled Russian, both to one another and to the player. The only time one of them speaks English is when Dima himself addresses Blackburn in the second-to-last mission, and that's obviously justified because he's talking to an American.
Later Call of Duty games have non-English-speaking soldiers speak their native languages whenever appropriate. For example, in Call of Duty 4, the only Russians who speak English are doing so for the benefit of the Americans and/or Britons they're talking to; all other flavor speech and combat dialogue from them is untranslated Russian. Same for the Germans and Japanese in World at War, the Brazilian militia from Modern Warfare 2, and the Vietnamese and Cubans in Black Ops, who each get at most one line of English dialogue (spoken to captured American player characters) in their games' respective singleplayer campaigns.
The WWII-era Co D games have the German soldiers speaking only in... German, and the Japanese soldiers in World at War speak Japanese. While for the most part their orders are unimportant, having a basic understanding of these languages can be quite helpful ("Mauer" generally implies the German soldiers are either attacking or hiding behind a "wall", for example)
In Civilization games with voices, all of the leaders speak their respective land's native tongue. Units also do so as well. It can be Hand waved that the text being in English is because you have an interpreter.
Freespace has the Vasudans always speaking their own unintelligible language. When they and the Terrans are speaking to one another, mechanical translators are provided that repeat the Vasudan statement in English. It's never made entirely clear whether humans and Vasudans are capable of pronouncing each other's language, but Vasudan is said to be immensely complex and extremely difficult to learn in any case.
The translator must require enormous processing power to function, as it has to constantly adjust to the nuances of Vasudan language.
"Syntax and vocabulary are dictated by such factors as the speaker's age, rank, and caste, the time of day and the phase of the Vasudan calendar, and the relative spatial position of the speaker to the Emperor. This is further compounded by the existence of several alphabets, dozens of verb tenses, and thousands of dialects."
Startopia has each race speak in it's own unique language that fits their appearance while moving around on the station, and with the exception of Aarona Daal and VAL (who is translating for you) the audio files to accompany any transmission you receive is also in one of these with the text in English. It appears that there's a Universal Translator in-universe, as the aliens can understand each other and VAL can render what they say in a manner you understand, however you (explicitly a human) don't get to have one yourself.
Punch-Out!! Wii features characters of various nationalities, but only Aran Ryan, who is Irish, Disco Kid, Super Macho Man, and Mr. Sandman, whom are American, speak English. All the other opponents in the game speak their native tongue, which means only a multilingual player will understand anything they say since the game has no subtitles.
While And Shine Heaven Now mostly plays this trope straight, what French there is-mainly coming from the Frenchman Pip Bernadette- is left intact.