In a scene between two or more characters, one of them might ask another to translate for them, but they give them "translations" that are so off-the-wall and far from the original meaning that it shocks the other party.
Compare My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels
, which is when someone trying to speak a foreign language does this accidentally, regardless of whether they're using a translator to do it or not.
When it happens only to subtitles, that's Fun with Subtitles
Sister trope to Translation with an Agenda
(and overlaps with it if the translator's agenda is to disrupt negotiations or pick a fight between the two sides).
Contrast Tactful Translation
. See also Twisting the Words
- In Space Dandy, Meow intentionally mistranslates the barks of the dog they find on Planet Machinia, because he's a cat and she's a dog... After Dandy activates his Universal Translator, Meow shuts himself up quick as Dandy gives him a Death Glare.
- In A Certain Magical Index, the English Laura Stuart asked Motoharu Tsuchimikado to teach her Japanese, but he deliberately taught her wrong because he enjoys screwing with people. This leads to her humiliating herself when she tries to speak Japanese.
- A serious example in Stitched, Corporal Twiggy says her translator told the Afgani villagers she was addressing that the Americans were bad people, and if they listened to her they deserved a beating, instead of translating what she said.
- In The Goonies, Mrs. Walsh asks Mouth, who can speak Spanish, to translate her instructions to Rosalita, who doesn't know any English.
Mrs. Walsh: Pants and shirts are in the second. Just throw them all into cardboard boxes. Forget the suitcases. Clark, can you translate all of that?
Mouth: Why certainly, Mrs. Walsh.
Mrs. Walsh: That's wonderful.
Mouth: (to Rosalita, in Spanish) The marijuana goes in the top drawer. The cocaine and speed in the second. The heroin in the bottom. Always separate the drugs.
Mrs. Walsh: Now Rosalita, this is the attic. Mr. Walsh doesn't like anybody up here, ever. That's why it's always open.
Mouth: (in Spanish) Never go up there. It's filled with Mr. Walsh's sexual torture devices.
Mrs. Walsh: This is my supply closet. You'll find everything you need: brooms, dustpans, insect spray. I would really like the house clean when they tear it down. Clark, can you translate?
Mouth: (in Spanish) If you do a bad job you'll be locked in here with the cockroaches, for two weeks without food and water.
Mrs. Walsh: Okay, Rosie? Okay? You're going to be very happy here. Come on, Clark, we've got much more to do. You're so fluent in languages!
Rosalita: (in Spanish) My God, I'm in a crazy house!
- Lampshaded in Big Trouble in Little China, as Jack Burton and Wang Chi are sneaking around David Lo Pan's base.
Jack Burton: (pointing to Chinese writing on elevator) What does that say?
Wang Chi: (speaks Chinese) "Hell of Boiling Oil".
Jack Burton: You're kidding.
Wang Chi: Yeah, I am. It says "Keep Out".
- In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, this is Ian's Running Gag; in one memorable scene, he asks how to say "dinner's ready!" in Greek, but the phrase he's told actually means "I have three testicles!". After the first time he wises up and asks multiple people, but unfortunately, they're all in on it and reply with the same incorrect translation.
- Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. Ace's translator understood the dialect of the other tribe perfectly. However he decided to make Ace sound crazier and dangerous with what he told them he said. Including "I am a Princess". Whether he's trolling or not is slightly vague, as speaking a language fluently is a different ballgame from understanding it perfectly.
- In Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Captain Corelli is one of a group of Italian soldiers occupying a Greek village. At one point, wanting to make a good impression on the villagers, he asks a villager who speaks Italian to teach him a greeting in Greek. The villager instead teaches him a spectacular insult, which he goes around cheerfully giving to everyone until he greets the prankster's daughter, the only other Italian speaker.
- The Marvelous Land of Oz. Tip and Jack Pumpkinhead visit King Scarecrow in the Emerald City. Because Jack is from the North territory and the Scarecrow is from the Emerald City, they believe they require a translator and ask the bystanding Jellia Jamb to translate for them. Jellia is telling each that the other is insulting them and for a short time they actually believe her. What they don't realize is that all the regions of Oz speak the exact same language, and they eventually realize their translator is messing around with them.
- In The Zombie Knight, Hector helps a poor family move some heavy appliances and they thank him profusely in Valgan, which Hector doesn't speak. Garovel, who does speak it, translates their remarks as very inventive curses and maledictions. Hector ignores him, being used to Garovel's trolling, and also understanding their tone and body language just fine.
- Dr. Cox asks Dr. Reid for help speaking to a German patient. She gives a line that means "Your wife has nice boobs" when he wanted to tell him about his condition.
- In another episode, Carla's brother gives The Todd a pickup line for Spanish chicks. It doesn't work.
Yo tengo herpes genital...para ti. (Said with a cocky attitude. Translates to, "I have genital herpes...for you.")
- The "Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook" sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus had a phrasebook that gave bogus translations from Hungarian to English, such as translating the Hungarian "Can you direct me to the station?" into the English "please fondle my bum". The publisher of this phrasebook was taken to court for "breach of the peace".
- Twenty Twelve: The Portuguese interpreter with the Brazilian delegation in episode 2.
- Her translations from Portuguese to English are terrible.
Ian: [in Portuguese] I'm sure you will find the Olympic Park as inspiring as we do.
Interpreter: [in English] He thinks you will find the Olympic Park as exciting as he is.
- She doesn't care for the bullshit Ian's group tries to feed to the Brazilians.
Siobahn: Okay guys, so just to keep you up-to-date we're in pretty good shape and as you can see, we're gonna be taking you right through the center of London today!
Interpreter: [in Portuguese] The bus has been driving in the wrong direction. We are turning around now.
- And other times she just doesn't care.
Kay: The 2012 Games will be the first summer host city to embed sustainability into the organisation of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games from the outset.
Interpreter: [in Portuguese] She is going to make a speech about Legacy.
[the interpreter sits down and doesn't translate the speech]
- In The Big Bang Theory, Howard would translate for the selectively-mute-around-girls Raj via Raj whispering in his ear. At one point Penny and Bernadette ask the guys how Amy found out they went brides maid dress shopping without her. Howard immediately blames Raj. When Raj angrily whispers his protest to Howard, Howard takes the opportunity to put more words in Raj's mouth. It's this trope and not quite Translation With An Agenda because everyone knew Howard was being ridiculous.
- In a 1987 sketch on Saturday Night Live Kevin Nealon plays a translator live-translating a joint press conference by Ronald Reagan and Gorbachev, but he doesn't speak Russian very well. To cover Nealon "translates" Gorbachev saying "I'm now going to start speaking in a very obscure Russian dialect that very few have ever heard of and it will be impossible for your translator to translate." (paraphrased.)
- In Living Color! uses this mercilessly in a first season sketch about a new ambassador to an obscure African nation. Her translator, Mr Mubutu, tends to say more of what she's thinking than what she's saying.
Ambassador: I wasn't sure what to expect based on the briefing I received in Washington, but I must say I find your country rather quaint, in a Third World sort of way.
Mr. Mubutu (in native language) "I'm acting like a pompous bitch right now, but we want to build a radar base here, so eventually I will have to kiss your shiny black butts."
- In Red vs. Blue, Lopez tricks O'Malley into calling himself a pendejo (asshole in Spanish) among other things, thinking that he's giving orders to his robot army. The fact that O'Malley is an AI (i.e. as much a computer as Lopez) should have allowed him to translate it. Then again, he's a crazy AI, so he might not bother.
- In The Simpsons episode "Midnight Rx", after Homer, Ned Flanders, Apu, and Grampa Simpson are arrested by Canadian Mounties.
Canadian Mountie: We've confiscated your car and its contents.
French Translator: Nous avons confisqué votre voiture et son contenu.
Mountie: You may leave Canada, but never return.
French Translator: Vous pouvez quitter le Canada, mais ne retournez jamais.
Mountie: I am a big fat French idiot.
French Translator: Je suis un grand gros - HEY!
- In a Robot Chicken Star Wars parody, Evazan does this for Ponda Baba's innocent question to Luke Skywalker. (The two are architects, according to the skit.)