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Bilingual Animal

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Jack: How did you learn to speak English?
Shoeshine: How should I know?
Jack: Can you speak other languages?
Shoeshine: A little Retriever. Some Shih Tzu. My Chihuahua is a little rusty, though.
Jack: Okay, I mean other human languages.

In real life, animals have languages but they obviously don't speak English or any human language.note  Nevertheless, fictional animals are often shown as being able to speak to humans. However, there may be times when an animal character, who has previously been established as having the ability to speak to humans, is also shown making the "natural" sound for its species. This trope makes it clear to the audience that the animal really is speaking English and it's not just realistic animal noises being translated into English. If not, it's human speech being translated into English.

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It's also a good source of comedy. If the animal is hiding its ability to speak a human language from the humans (which they'll often do until they're caught or otherwise forced to stop pretending), expect a gag of it communicating with the human, then backing it up by adding, "I mean [animal sound]." A similar gag is for the animal to be making animal sounds and then suddenly communicate with humans to their surprise. The animal will usually then be offended at the humans not realising it could speak their language.

Sometimes, the animal makes its sound in the middle or end of its sentences, kind of like a Verbal Tic (if they do this and also have a voice reminiscent of an animal sound, they're either a Speech-Impaired Animal or have an Animal Species Accent). Sometimes, the animal mostly talks but involuntarily makes their sound when startled.

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Another gag involving the Bilingual Animal is a variation on Baby's First Words where a baby animal either learns to communicate with humans after exclusively making its sound or learns to make its sound when previously it could only communicate with humans.

Bilingual Animals can also serve as interpreters between humans and animals and a Silly Animal Sound might be treated as them speaking a "foreign language". In some cases, the animal can't speak a human language but knows how to write, like Snoopy in Peanuts or Charlotte in Charlotte's Web.

If a Funny Animal or Beast Man is like this, making the sound could serve as a Furry Reminder. See also Animal Talk, Talking Animal, Civilised Animal. Very common in cases of Polly Wants a Microphone because parrots in fiction often squawk at the beginning and/or end of a sentence, Cock-a-Doodle Dawn where roosters prepare to crow at dawn, and Cat Concerto where speaking is seen as communication and meowing is used as singing. Compare Speaks Fluent Animal for when a human can speak both human and animal languages.

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Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • Claude the Cat mainly talks, but in one PSA, he's heard screaming, "Reoww!" (the same sound effect used in That Poor Cat) upon accidentally burning himself.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Pokémon: The Series: Meowth of Team Rocket can speak to both humans and Pokémon, making him useful for relaying information to the characters and audience.
  • As a cat Yo-kai, Jibanyan from Yo-Kai Watch can speak human language, but also has the Verbal Tic "Nyan", which he adds at the end of his sentences. However, when he was a normal cat before he died, he could only meow.

    Comic Books 
  • There's a joke on Condorito where Washington (Condorito's pet dog) goes to an office for a job. The employer can't believe that an animal requests a human job, but Washington does every task made in the office, surprising the employer. Finally, when he sees his CV and asks if he's bilingual, Washington answers with a "meow meow."

    Comic Strips 
  • Peanuts has Snoopy, who only barks out loud, but thinks and types in human speech.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Aladdin, Iago the parrot can actually speak instead of just copying people; but he keeps it a secret from all but Jafar, his evil owner, so when other people are present, he squawks and copies people.
  • In Shrek 2, when Donkey becomes a horse, he can still talk, but he can also whinny.
  • In Up, the dogs wear collars that enable them to talk, but it doesn't stop them from being able to bark.
    Carl Fredricksen: And on your way, learn how to bark like a real dog!
    Doug: I can bark. woof woof And here's howling. Awoo!

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Mostly subverted in Dolittle. It seems like this trope is in play, as many of the animals have human voice actors; they speak English and can communicate fluently both with each other and with the eponymous doctor. As the film progresses, however, it becomes clear that most of them are actually not speaking any human language. Instead, the doctor (and eventually, his apprentice) can speak in animal tongues, and the English speech is merely the movie translating for the audience. The lone exception is Polynesia, the parrot, who plays the trope completely straight; Poly does speak English, and makes a point of explaining that she speaks and understands the language much better than any other parrot.
  • The titular character of Underdog gains the ability to talk to humans, but he doesn't lose the ability to talk to other dogs.

    Literature 
  • In the children's book Bark, George, a talking dog teaches her (also talking) puppy how to bark.
  • Discussed in the Charlie and Lola book We Honestly Can Look After Your Dog, where the four-year-old girls Lola and Lotta claim that Sizzles (the titular dog) can speak English as well as bark; but he's never heard speaking English, so they're probably just spinning yarns.
  • In Charlotte's Web, most of the animals can only speak in Animal Talk, but Charlotte the Spider can write words in her web and thus communicate with humans.
  • In Dip The Puppy, Dip and his siblings could always talk, but they must learn to bark. Dip initially meows instead. Also, there's a talking horse who whinnies, but used to quack.
  • Discworld: Recurring character Gaspode the Wonder Dog learned to speak Morporkian (i.e. English) via magic, but has no trouble speaking to other dogs, or even wolves. On several occasions, he acts as a cross-species translator.
  • Doctor Dolittle's parrot Polynesia is practically an animal Omniglot, who also taught him all the animal languages.
  • In Fred, the cats can talk, but their song lyrics are things like "meowly yowly yowl" (and the kids are surprised they can talk, implying that they usually just meow in front of them). They also shout, "Yeoowwwl!" when someone throws a saucepan of water on them. In the Animated Adaptation, Famous Fred, however, the cats sing in English instead.
  • Garfield's Judgement Day: This book reveals that all of the neighborhood animals can speak human, but have always chosen not to do to a "rule". They consider breaking the rule to warn their owners about the impending disaster.
  • In Harry's Mad by Dick King-Smith, Madison the parrot (who was raised by a professor of linguistics) can speak English fluently, but his native language is Parrot. He teaches another parrot to speak English by the end of book 1.
  • A Lion in the Meadow: The lion mostly speaks, but can be heard roaring at the beginning.
  • In Ursula Vernon's The Raven and the Reindeer, the human protagonist gains the ability to speak to the titular raven by magic. At the end of the story, she loses this ability, but the raven is still able to talk to her, using her language in its own creaking voice. It reveals that all ravens are intelligent enough to learn human speech, but they seldom see any reason to converse with humans.
  • In the Splat The Cat stories, cats can both speak and meow. In Splat the Cat Sings Flat for instance, when Splat is concerned about his singing voice sounding flat, his teacher suggests he meow instead. Unfortunately, he's forgotten how to meow.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Bumble, Bumble the bee talks but often says, "Zzz." This is actually Artistic License – Biology; bees buzzing is not a vocalisation but rather the noise of their wings beating together.
  • In The Go Show, one song is sung from the perspective of a cat, who always meows after singing the chorus.

    Puppet Shows 
  • In The Great Muppet Caper Rowlf barks at some guard dogs and says, "It pays to know a second language."
  • In The Muppets, Miss Piggy usually talks, but in "A Tail of Two Pigs", she accidentally snorts out of anger.
  • Sesame Street:
    • Chip and Dip can both speak and meow.
    • One "Elmo's World" skit features a tiger who can talk and once demonstrates his roar. His house cat friend, however, can only meow.
    • One cartoon skit is about a talking dog trying to meow but he can only bark. In another, a talking cat tries to bark, but he can only meow.
    • The Bear family mainly talks, but they can also growl. One episode is about Baby Bear accepting that his baby sister Curly has a louder growl than him.
  • Lindi from Allegra's Window is able to speak, but her dialogue is often peppered with the occasional bark or howl. She'll also whimper when she's sad.
  • Patty from The Sprout Sharing Show often snorts when she speaks.

    Webcomics 
  • In Sandra and Woo, Woo the raccoon and his kits is uniquely capable of talking to both humans and animals.

    Web Original 
  • Neopets:
    • Myncis can both speak and make monkey noises.
    • Petpets mainly just make noises, but Desert petpets say, "A curse on you!" sometimes, robot petpets occasionally say, "Need oil", "Hungry, need food" or "Must protect Neopet", Tyrannian petpets know a few phrases in Tyrannian, and if you swear (or accidentally trip the filter), all petpets say, "Oi! Don't swear! This site is family-friendly!".

    Western Animation 
  • In Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, the animals can speak and sometimes put their sounds in the middle of their sentences, especially Katterina Kittycat.
  • Infinity Train has Atticus, a dog that can speak human language most eloquently. When he is trapped in The Crystal Car alongside Tulip he tries singing a ballad to get the crystal to react and open the door. He becomes disappointed to learn that the crystal doesn't understand howling and laments that it's the language of his people.
  • Martha Speaks: Martha gains the ability to talk from eating alphabet soup. She can still bark while able to talk, but if she tries to talk after going a day without soup, she can only bark.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: The ponies mainly speak, but occasionally whinny. For instance, Rainbow Dash whinnies in her sleep in "Sleepless in Ponyville".
  • In Peg + Cat, the Pig hardly ever speaks— he mainly either snorts or sings.
  • In Peppa Pig, the animals can both talk and make their sounds. Daddy Pig's loud snort is a Running Gag.
  • Puppy Dog Pals: Most animals can speak as well as make their natural sounds. A.R.F., a Robot Dog created by Bob, can speak human, and understand regular animals when they speak.
  • It depends on where you think he falls as far as an "animal," but Snarfnote  from the original ThunderCats had animal linguistics as a power. It actually came in very handy for a tailor-made episode, in which the other Thundercats got kidnapped by the villains and Snarf had to use various animals to mount a rescue for them.
  • Brian from Family Guy is able to speak perfect English, but he can bark and growl as well, usually if he's angry or scared.
  • Cow from Cow and Chicken will sometimes moo to punctuate a sentence. Chicken can also crow.
  • In 101 Dalmatian Street, Animal Talk is played entirely straight while at one point, dialogue suggests that understanding humans is like learning a second language for them. A human character is shown having learned to at least speak dog, unfortunately for the Dalmatian family, as he's an antagonist.
  • The Simpsons: In "El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)", Homer is relating real objects in his surroundings to the objects from his chilli-induced hallucination:
    Homer: And that talking coyote was really just a talking dog.
    Dog: Hi, Homer! Find your soulmate!
    Homer: Wait a minute. There's no such thing as a talking dog!
    Dog: (barks)
    Homer: Damn straight!

    Real Life 
  • This trope is not Truth in Television. While some animals have been taught to communicate with humans, doing so prevented them from learning how to communicate with members of their own species.
    • Alex the parrot was taught by Dr. Irene Pepperburg to speak English, but never learned how to communicate with other birds.
    • Primates that have been taught how to sign generally have no idea how to communicate with other non-human primates.

 
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Rolf The Dog

Rolf the english speaking dog, is able to calm the guard dogs down by barking at them.

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Main / BilingualAnimal

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