One character has a peculiar way of speaking that may be hard for the viewer to understand. Maybe he speaks a different language, is The Unintelligible
, is just so smart he can only speak in Technobabble
, have a speech impediment
or suffers from a bad case of Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness
. Thankfully, that character has a friend who will interpret what he's saying to the audience (and other characters). A common way to show that these two characters are close friends as only the "interpreter" understands his friend so well. This friend is the Translator Buddy.
One can reasonably expect the person being interpreted to respond to the interpretation with, "that's what I said."
This is one of the responsibilities of a Cloudcuckoolander's Minder
. Compare Mouth of Sauron
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- In the Pokémon anime, Meowth of Team Rocket translates for all the other Pokémon, especially in episodes or shorts where the trainers aren't around for the day or where Ash and friends are forced to cooperate with the Team Rocket trio. Most of the time, though, he translates for the Rocket trio's other Pokémon.
- Kaname can understand whatever Sosuke is saying in his Bonta-Kun suit in Full Metal Panic!, despite the voice box glitch that makes everything comes out as "Fumoffu!". (In the anime, at least, this is explicitly due to a radio earpiece - she's not actually translating the "Fumo-fumoff-offu" nonsense.)
- In Yuru-Yuri, Nishigaki-sensei does this for Rise Matsumoto, who moves her mouth but can't be heard. Nishigaki-sensei will then tell the other characters what she said, or if they're by themselves will comment on whatever discussion they're having at the time.
- Chamber of Suisei no Gargantia analyzes the Earth people's language within a few hours, and begins acting as a translator for Ledo. This continues for most of the show, but slowly drops off as Ledo himself becomes more competent with the language.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!: Capsule Monsters, Solomon Muto is able to translate the hieroglyphic tablets the group runs across.
- The second arc of Shirobako gives this role to Ema Yasuhara for her junior Ai Kunogi, who is generally too shy to get past the first syllable of her sentences.
- Ben Grimm/the Thing is this to Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic in the Fantastic Four.
- Freckles Friendly is this to his little brother Peewee who is The Voiceless in the Richie Rich comics. Freckles always knows what his little brother wants, seemingly "translating" a mere Meaningful Look.
- The children's educational magazine Muse had a talking crow who somehow interpreted a completely mute character.
- In Dogma, Metatron is this to God, who is The Voiceless. Well, he has his own voice present but it causes all humans' head and hearts to explodenote . Thus the Metatron is the voice of god.
Everyone here who isn't dead or from another plane of existance would to their best to cover their ears right about... now
- Ditto for Jay to Silent Bob in the The View Askewniverse. Jay usually just speaks for both of them, but often he will "translate" Bob's more subtle hand gestures. It's worth noting that Silent Bob can speak... He just doesn't want to.
- C3PO does it for R2-D2, who is The Unintelligible in Star Wars.
- Worth noting that Han is not this to Chewbacca: He tends to talk to him by holding normal conversations, and generally everyone acts as if they understood Chewie, there's never some translating going on - mostly because everyone seems to understand Chewie fine.
- This continues into the Expanded Universe where Chewie and other Wookies rarely (if ever) have spoken dialogue and are described as merely grunting or barking their half of the conversation and you're only able to figure out what they're saying by paying attention to how others respond.
- The two alien thugs in the Cantina in Star Wars: A New Hope (i.e. "he says he doesn't like you!").
- In several novels, Luke claims he has spent so much time with R2-D2 that he can understand most of his beeps.
- Police Constable Bob Walker of the Sandford Police Service in Hot Fuzz speaks with such a thick rural accent that Nicolas Angel needs other villagers to translate him - a task usually handled by Danny. However, isolated country folk are unintelligible to everyone but Bob, forcing a translation chain. Interestingly, as Angel gets more familiar with the town, Bob's dialogue becomes more intelligible.
- There's a member of Robin Hood's band in Time Bandits who speaks only in growled gibberish. Whenever he says something, Robin turns to the guy's buddy for a translation.
- In the Marx Brothers' films, Chico translated for Harpo.
- Toyed with in Four Weddings and a Funeral, with Charles and his deafmute brother David. The time he has to translate what David says, it's when he acts as Charles's best man during his wedding to Henrietta... and objects to the union in sign language. Predictably, Hilarity Ensues.
- Pseudolous, Butt Monkey and Love Interest of the Gymnasia in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. After meeting for the first time his love intest Gymnasia the Silent, a towering blonde amazon incapable of speech and expressing herself in oddly mismatched pantomimes, he reveals that her gestures are actually an highly organized form of sign language, and he's the only character of screen able to grasp it. Everyone else thought Gymnasia as incapable of expressing at all.
- Used in Love Potion no. 9. When the female lead, Diane, gets a sample of the Love Potion no. 8, she receives the power of a Compelling Voice, of a sexual nature and working only with the opposite sex. Upon entrancing a rich mook, to avoid the potential hassles of being chased, harassed or desired by every single man at her speaking distance, she cleverly puts the mook under the assumption she just enjoys "play the mute game", that is using a simplified form of sign language while in public, and letting him graciously act as her mouthpiece.
- Played with in Cheech And Chong's Nice Dreams.
Lab Technician: "This, smoke no. This, smoke yes."
Noodles: "Never mind that technical talk, Fu. He means that anyone who smokes that stuff will turn into one of these lizards."
- Mr. Cotton's parrot in Pirates of the Caribbean is something like this, even though Mr. Cotton himself doesn't speak at all (because his tongue has been cut out). Played for laughs in that the parrot speaks entirely in stereotypical pirate phrases like "Pieces Of Eight" and Cotton's expression never changes.
- In Instructions Not Included, Valentin relies on his daughter to translate for him, as he is from Mexico and doesn't speak English. This causes problems when the school authorities notice that she is missing school too often.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Despite that Groot communicates exclusively through grunts and the phrase "I am Groot", Rocket has no trouble understanding him.
- Richard and Joe do this for each other in Music Within. Richard who is partially deaf, can understand Joe but has difficulty hearing anyone else. Joe, who has cerebral palsy, can hear just fine, but other people find him hard to understand.
- In The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, there's a magician named Telemain who speaks almost entirely in Magibabble, so Mendanbar, the King of the Enchanted Forest, often winds up having to "translate".
"It's a self-sustaining barrier produced by a recirculation of the initial power input," Telemain explained. "Because of the rotation effect, most physical substances cannot pass through the shield in either direction. Unlike the majority of spells, this one needs no exterior energy source, so the usual procedure for dismantling such sorceries would be completely ineffective."
"What does that mean?" Cimorene demanded.
"The spell keeps itself up, we can't get in or out, and we don't have any way of getting rid of it," Mendanbar translated.
- In The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler by Gene Kemp, twelve-year-olds Tyke and Danny are best friends. Danny has a speech impediment which makes most of his words begin with a D-sound and gets worse when he's upset. Tyke frequently has to translate his speech so others can understand it.
- Although they weren't friends, the dwarves acted as this during Year of the Griffin. Headmaster Corkoran was entertaining a delegation of Roman senators and visiting dwarves at the same time, and the Senators' speech was so eloquent and convoluted that Corkoran couldn't follow a word of it until the dwarves translated.
"And now he's offering you a bribe to snuff her," Dworkin said with a chuckle.
"That is highly inelegant," Antoninus remarked.
"But mostly accurate," Empodicles added.
- A running gag in Jeeves and Wooster is that Bertie has to translate whatever Jeeves is saying for the benefit of one of his "pals", most of whom are fellow Upper Class Twits.
"The scheme I would suggest
cannot fail of success, but it has what may seem to you a drawback, sir, in that it requires a certain financial outlay."
- Legacy of the Dragokin: The goblins never speak like the other characters and yet Rufus can understand them.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire the giant Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun speaks only a few words of the common tongue of Westeros, so he needs wildlings who speak the old tongue to translate for him, usually Leathers.
Live Action TV
- Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Trini, is this to Billy. After Trini left the show, Billy lost the need for this, with the writers toning done his Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness along with his general nerdness. He did the same for her, too. She presented a plate of squares from her gourmet cooking class, calling them by their given name. He instantly realized the snack contained snails.
- Officers Smitty and Hoppy, a black and white cop team, played this role for each other on Sanford and Son:
Lamont (to Smitty): What's this dude look like?
Smitty (to Hoppy): Do we have a make on the suspect?
Hoppy (to Smitty): The suspect is a male Caucasian with no distinguishing marks or features.
Smitty (to Lamont): He's a white dude.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode Loud As A Whisper, Riva, a famous negotiator, is born deaf and mute (as are all members of his race's royal family). He has what he calls a chorus, three telepaths who speak for him, each one representing an aspect of his personality: Scholar/Artist, Passion/Warrior, and Harmony/Wisdom. When his chorus is killed, he is forced to speak by sign language. Data then takes on the role, due to his ability to learn and master 5 sign languages in a few seconds.
- Also in Star Trek: The Next Generation: Geordi is sometimes the Technobabble translator for Data, less often it's the other way around. Worth noting with the Geordi/Data interaction in Star Trek: The Next Generation is that Geordi translates the Technobabble that Data gives to the rest of the crew and also explains the meaning behind various human behaviors and idioms to Data, which might as well be a foreign language to Data due to him being an android. Geordi essentially does double-duty in this role.
- In The Big Bang Theory, Leonard spends much of his time translating Sheldon's sayings (and explaining his habits) to Penny and other strangers.
- Also, in a way, there's Howard repeating out loud everything Raj whispers in his ears when there's a girl around, since he's unable to talk to girls.
- In The 10th Kingdom, Tony is the only one who can understand what Wendell (who was turned into a dog) is saying.
- In Criminal Minds, Morgan sometimes acts as this to Reid when he slips into Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness:
Cop: You really think this was only one guy?
Reid: The level of overkill indicates an UnSub in a psychotic break. Multiple Unsubs in violent psychotic breaks operating in the exact same location is exceedingly unlikely.
Morgan: Yeah. It's probably one guy.
- Daphne (who signs, reads lips, and speaks) somewhat operates as this literally for Emmett (who signs, apparently does read lips, but doesn't speak) on Switched at Birth.
- The comedy/magic duo Rebo & Zooty in Babylon 5, played by the Real Life comedians/magicians Penn & Teller. Zooty doesn't speak but wears a machine that they claim translates his thoughts. Rebo usually interprets for him.
- The Lumati Ambassador's assistant performs a similar role, speaking to Commander Ivanova on his behalf, because the ambassador would suffer an unimaginable loss of face if he spoke to an inferior directly. He begins speaking to Ivanova directly once he feels she has proven herself his equal, and it is implied that his assistant is the more savvy of the two.
- In Fringe, translating whatever Walter says into something that other people can understand is one of Peter's responsibilities as his father's caretaker/minder.
- Sherlock: John does this a lot when he's with Sherlock. Oi. No wonder the guy's normal. His friend is-well, weird.
- Key And Peele has the recurring sketch of Barack Obama (played by Peele) and his "anger translator" Luther (played by Key), with the former saying things in the President's famous mild-mannered professorese and the latter clearly and loudly expressing the anger and frustration behind the measured rhetoric.
- In Quest for Glory II, Poet Omar only speaks in poetry verses. He has an assistant that will "translate" for him when you talk to him, explaining what he means. When Omar is unveiled to be the Sultan Harun al-Rashid, the man doing this turns out to be his majordomo, who also speaks in his name during court. Al-Rashid can speak normally, he choses not to as part of the Omar persona.
- Misha in Katawa Shoujo can and will translate everything to and from sign language when her best friend, the deaf-mute Shizune is around. And sometimes when she isn't around.
- Hisao sometimes serves as this in Shizune's route, in which he learns sign language.
- Played straight in Mother 3 with Fassad and his interpreter shortly after the former falls off a building and is thereafter forced to communicate solely through horns.
- He actually chose to speak only through horns after his reconstruction, but to the extent that it could be the only he could communicate.
- Straynap, the Exposition Fairy in Napple Tale, translates the MIS communication that Paffets use for the heroine's benefit.
- In The Mansion of E, history reports that Penelope served as this for her husband, the super-genius Earl of E Ludwig.
- In Latchkey Kingdom Rex Vunderdog apparently understands Inglish perfectly fine but is physically incapable of speaking it, being a dog, so he has a Babel Finch ride on his back and translate his barks and growls.
- Eleonora plays this role for her brother, Menelaos, in Greek Ninja as his speech consists mostly of mistranslated Greek.
- In the new Strawberry Shortcake stories, Blueberry Muffin does this for Longface Caterpillar.
- Scarlett to Snake Eyes, who is The Voiceless, in G.I. Joe: Renegades.
- Raf is the one who interprets Bumblebee for the other kids in Transformers Prime. How Raf intuitively understands binary clicks just as well as he does English is not explained.
- Alan is this for his brother Tom on The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan:
Tom: One can only surmise that this establishment manufactures prestidigitation equipment.
Alan: This is where they make magic tricks.
- Zilly, for Klunk, on Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines.
- Super Chief on The Funny Company speaks in nothing but train horn sounds. His partner, Broken Feather, translates.
- Ruffled Feathers from Go Go Gophers speaks in nothing but gibberish. He's actually the tactician of the group. His partner, Chief Running Board, understands him perfectly and translates for Col. Kit Coyote and Sgt. Oakey Homa.
Running Board: Oopie-doopie! You-um genius!
- In the Dick Tracy cartoons, Stooge Villa acted as Mumbles' interpreter. In one short, Mumbles was being tried in court, but since without Stooge his testimony was virtually unintelligible, the case was about to be thrown out. Go-Go Gomez had to find Stooge and bring him in.
- Pinky is this to Chatta in Pink Panther And Sons.
- Ray is this to Egon in The Real Ghostbusters. Although Winston and Peter are sometimes able to figure him out.
- On the TV series The Little Mermaid, a deaf/mute mermaid named Gabriela had an octopus friend who interpreted her sign language.
- In Hanna-Barbera's animated series of The Little Rascals, only Buckwheat can translate Porky's gibberish.
- Stephen Hawking, English theoretical physicist and cosmologist, has a motor neurone disease. It has progressed to the point where he had to have a tracheotomy and now can't speak at all. However, in the past he was able to speak but his speech became slurred so that he could be understood only by people who knew him well. He would teach classes and give lectures with someone translating for him.
- Sharon Osbourne frequently turns the shaking, Brummie string of near-incoherent non sequiturs that pass for speech in Ozzy's world and translates for the world at large, especially in interviews.
- Ozzy has gotten sober in the last few years and is now perfectly understandable (for the most part).
- Deaf actress Marlee Matlin has an interpreter who accompanies her during public appearances.
- Baby talk. Sometimes nobody understands what a toddler says, except a parent or an older sibling.
- Special needs children can sometimes require their caretakers to translate their speech or signs.
- The Who's manager Kit Lambert was briefly this to Pete Townshend when he had trouble explaining Tommy in a coherent way to...anyone.