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Eloquent in My Native Tongue

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"I really, really hope English is this person's second or third language, and if she were writing in Albanian or Farsi or whatever she would be so eloquent you'd weep."
Diana Goodman, commenting on an all-but-incoherent forum post in Baby's Named a Bad, Bad Thing

Hey, look over there. There's a guy who doesn't speak very well at all! He must be stupid!

Except he's not. He's really a rather intelligent chap who simply hasn't learned the local tongue. Were you to hear him in his native tongue, you'd find him rather insightful, eloquent, and poetic. Sometimes it's used in conjunction with a phrasebook, where the subject uses said book poorly and winds up spitting out nonsense or using extremely broken English. Not solely restricted to a foreigner attempting to speak English.

A specific subversion of You No Take Candle, and can sometimes brush up against "Blind Idiot" Translation when played for laughs.

Can be used to hide the Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass, and may be intentionally used for Obfuscating Stupidity. Compare Elective Broken Language (which can also be used for Obfuscating Stupidity), Switch to English, Worthless Foreign Degree, Faux Fluency. Sister Trope to Graceful in Their Element.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Ranma ½, Shampoo speaks Japanese (or "English") very badly, resulting in a Hulk Speak Verbal Tic. Although it's hard to say, as Shampoo only speaks Chinese during the flashback to her and Ranma's first meeting at her village, she seems to be much better at speaking Chinese by comparison.
  • Shenhua from Black Lagoon is Taiwanese and presumably speaks fluent Chinese, but her English (and Japanese, in the original) is utterly dreadful both in grammar and pronunciation, to the point where Revy (who is Chinese-American) nicknames her "Chinglish." It's not a good idea to take her poor language skills for stupidity, unless you want to be knifed to death.
  • Kuu Fei from Negima! Magister Negi Magi, despite her grades is not stupid; her physical/kinetic ability sits at a genius level. She also occasionally speaks in her native Chinese, at which she comes off as perfectly concise. However, she speaks Japanese in a stereotypical "Chinese person speaking Japanese badly" manner, which is translated similarly to Shampoo's speech in the above example.
  • Simon from Durarara!! who seems to only speak broken sushi sales pitches in Japanese yet has rather insightful conversations in Russian. Subverted with the Russian Mafiya member Vorona; she speaks Japanese fluently, but her tone and syntax come off as being robotic and stilted. It's mentioned that she talks better in Russian, but how much better is an everyone's guess — she's a pretty strange girl in general.
  • A written version in Neon Genesis Evangelion, Asuka fails her math exams at school. However, when Shinji is having trouble with a problem, she solves it in her head. When Shinji expresses his amazement at how she could possibly be failing math, she explains that she hasn't learned the kanji yet and just can't read the exam questions. Made more apparent by the fact that she apparently has a university degree and is basically a child prodigy as well as an Evangelion pilot. It's likely that kanji is really the only reason she's in school at all while in Japan.
  • Subverted in The World God Only Knows, since Elsie, after failing her first test, claims it was because she couldn't read anything except the language of hell. Later on, even after being taught by her Teen Genius comrade Keima, she is still not very good. But that was predictable.
  • Inverted with Cyndi Manabe of Best Student Council. Throughout the series, she speaks halting, two-or-three word Engrish sentences, with the penultimate episode revealing she actually has fluent Japanese, but her mother, who isn't eloquent, convinced her it was incorrect.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War:
    • Inverted with Fujiwara. She spent so much time speaking foreign languages as a child (due to her mother being a diplomat), her fluency in Japanese started to degrade from disuse. The official fanbook even lists Japanese Language as her worst subject.
    • On the other hand, it's played completely straight with Betsy. She's a skilled debater in her native French (to the point that it's said that she'll one day kill a man with her tongue alone), but she doesn't know any Japanese in her first appearance. When she shows up again about a year later in-universe, she's shown to have a poor grasp on grammar and she mentions to Shirogane how her lack of familiarity with the language is making the preparations for the upcoming Japanese/French party incredibly difficult since she and the other French students keep on messing up the orders for party supplies.

    Comic Books 
  • Blast: At one point, Polza meets a Serbian day-laborer named Bojan. Despite barely being able to speak French, he's routinely referred to as a "poet" by the other workers and is shown to be surprisingly erudite if the translating they do is to be believed.
  • Invincible: Octoboss thinks he's one of these. "English am SECOND LANGUAGE, fool!" He is also covered with realistic, sucker-lined tentacles. He would be much more hilarious if he didn't, you know, beat the crap out of people. Kursk, as well.
  • Kitty Pryde's "pet" dragon Lockheed doesn't make statements much more complex than "hmph" and the affirmative "yeh", but it's repeatedly mentioned through many X-Men series that he is much more intelligent than any of the humans around, merely physically incapable of pronouncing human words. In fact, he's one of the smartest and most thoughtful members of the Pet Avengers.
  • Played with in an issue of Luba In America where Venus and Yoshio are at a restaurant and Venus' aunt Fritzi shows up and strikes up a conversation with Venus in Spanish. Yoshio, who doesn't speak Spanish, thinks it sounds beautiful and imagines the two as elegant superhuman beings, but in reality, their conversation is mundane.
  • Maus: Vladek has some trouble with English grammar, but English is also his fifth language (after Yiddish, German, Polish and Hebrew). He is far from stupid, and very eloquent in both Polish and German.
  • Xavin of the Runaways often came off like an arrogant, overly masculine jerkass. When called on it, she has insisted that her words would have sounded much less arrogant in her native language.
  • Reversed by the Starman villain Simon Culp. He made a point to learn a very upper-class register of French as overcompensation for the perceived contemptibility of his native Cockney English.
  • Star Trek (IDW): Keenser is quite talkative in his native Roylan dialect, but can only say one or two-word sentences in Standard.
  • In Superman Smashes the Klan, Mrs. Lee struggles to express herself completely in English, but in Cantonese she's far more articulate and passionate in her speech.
  • Mala in Wonder Woman: Earth One speaks English but has a tough time with idioms. As far back as 1944, in "Adventure of the Escaped Prisoner" (Sensation Comics 29), when the original Mala is knocked out of her plane into the ocean by said prisoner, she swims to the U.S. to find the princess. When she crosses a street while preoccupied, an irritated driver shouts "Wake up! Look out!" and she yells back "I'm not asleep! And I am looking! Which way is out?" Later, she spends some time in a women's prison. She helps her cellmates escape, and they tell a colleague "She sprang us from the jug and now we're on the lam." Confused, she responds "I neither sprang from jugs nor sat on lambs." This is the only time the Golden Age Mala is portrayed with this limitation, which would be catastrophic for her duty as the warden of Reformation Island which imprisons many criminals who speak colloquial English.
  • Natalya in Y: The Last Man.
    • Her attempts to speak English result in statements like the following:
      "Stay frozen! One small step, and I am executing both your faces!"
      ("What the hell is going on?") "No, hell is not going — it is coming right for us!"
      "Because of Israeli womens, I now have many of banging artillery to use on anyone who might brought trouble in."
      "Be screwing yourself! I am not letting the only son of Russia grow up to be a homosexualist!"
      "Unhand child or I unhead you!" (Although that one does work pretty well as a Pre-Mortem One-Liner.)
    • And, when she finally has the opportunity to converse with someone in her native Russian tongue:
      Natalya: <Thank Christ! I sound like a retard when I try to speak English!>note 
    • By the time the distant finale comes about, she has apparently gotten much more eloquent, though she does not appear.

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): In this Godzilla MonsterVerse fanfiction; Ford and Elle Brody apparently have only a very limited command of Japanese, which presents itself when they try to calm down a terrified nurse reacting to Monster X's presence on Ishigaki in Chapter 18.
  • By the Sea: Both Cody and Obi-Wan sound a bit You No Take Candle-ish while trying to speak the other's language. A hallmark of this Mando'a-English dialect seems to be the overuse of present participle forms of verbs, e.g. "I'm knowing", instead of "I know". They even manage some dirty talk with their limited command of the other's language. Since the first story is entirely from Obi-Wan's perspective with Cody trying to figure out English from scratch, it can be easy to forget that Cody is in fact not just well-educated, but also a reigning monarch, a skilled politician, and a military commander.
  • Dæmorphing: Most Hork-Bajir have an imperfect understanding of English and a better grasp on Galard and their own languages.
  • In A Game of Cat and Cat, the dramatically named Ebony and Crimson Stones are translated into Japanese as... the Black Rock and Red Rock. When Mina lampshades how dull they sound, Julius points out that their real (Latin) names would be meaningless to her.
  • Izuku Midoriya the Rabbit: Izuku is, well, a rabbit who needs a communicator to speak with humans. When he has to give the opening speech as the Sports Festival without his communicator, most of the audience can't understand his squeaks, honks, chirps, and foot thumpings. Mirko, the only one present who can understand him, is driven to tears by how inspirational his speech was. Later on, a video of Izuku and Mirko talking to each other in rabbit-speak goes viral due to how cute they sound. Unknown to everyone but Izuku and Mirko is that the two are having a heated argument, with the former calling out the latter for refusing to participate in the Yakuza Raid and rescue a little girl (Eri) because "she doesn't do teamwork".
  • Kraith is a long-running series of novellas and short stories based on Star Trek: The Original Series, focusing on Vulcan culture and its conflicts with the Federation. One of the first stories, Spock's Argument, involves Spock's vindictive half-sister T'Uriamne, an influential lawmaker who helps to lead a faction demanding to pull Vulcan out of the Fed and banishing every last non-Vulcan resident or visitor off the planet. In Eileen Roy's later what-if story "T'Uriamne's Victory", T'Uriamne succeeds. Spock's mom Amanda begins to coordinate the exodus and is contacted by Machena, an Andorian widow. She speaks slowly and painfully in English until Amanda cuts in in fluent Andorian, saying "The true tongue is spoken here." Machena lets out a breath and drops thankfully into her native speech.
  • The Moonstone Cup: Hadalsnan al-Dhi'b, the king of the ghuls, speaks in stilted Equestrian due to having learned the language later in life, and states that he's making sure that his son is learning it more fluently.
  • Rewind Gone Nuts: Shampoo is depicted as speaking very eloquent (indeed, formal-sounding) Chinese, despite her ineptitude with the Japanese language leaving her with her characteristic Hulk Speak. She often mentions how much it annoys her that she can't grasp Japanese as easily as her Abhorrent Admirer Mousse did, and/or that it bugs her that people think she's dumb because of it.

    Films — Animation 
  • Stitch of Lilo & Stitch has elements of this, though normally seeming to be a Speech-Impaired Animal when speaking English. Especially apparent in the movie's conclusion, Jumba even commenting on him making a good argument. A single syllable good argumentnote . He also seems to be well versed in his native language's curses.
  • Done with Disney's Tarzan. Unspoken Translation Convention show that he has no problems communicating with his animal friends, to the point where he is something of a famous Deadpan Snarker in the languages of apes.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Leeloo from The Fifth Element spends the first part of the movie speaking exclusively and fluidly in her native "divine language" (not that she gives a damn about not being understood).
  • The 1997 George of the Jungle film does this when George speaks in "Ape" to his kinsmen. While his English tends towards Hulk Speak, when the King of the Jungle speaks Ape the subtitles have stylized, "fanciful" lettering and read in Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe.
  • Once you realize that Nell Kellty uses Biblical words and phrases in a heavy North Carolina accent, mingled with her mom's dysphasic traits and a secret language from her childhood, she becomes almost completely comprehensible.
  • Star Wars: Master Yoda. Great Jedi master he is. Lift a starfighter with his mind he can. Speak Galactic Basic well he does not. Apparently, the syntax he uses is 900 years old, so it ends up like this. Given that his first appearance in the film involved messing with Luke's head with a bit of Obfuscating Stupidity, it's quite possible that he's perfectly capable of speaking modern Basic but simply chooses not to, and at least one Expanded Universe novel ran with this interpretation.
  • Bela Lugosi found English very difficult and learned most of his lines in films phonetically, resulting in his infamous mis-emphasized deliveries. However, The Black Cat is worth watching entirely for a scene where he gets to speak a bit of his native Hungarian, and sounds perfectly natural.
  • Keenser from Star Trek and its sequels is this in tie-in material.
  • In The Toll of the Sea Lotus Flower speaks in an eloquent, if archaic, manner amongst her Chinese peers but speaks in Asian Speekee Engrish when talking to her American husband.
  • Subverted in the sports comedy Eddie, where a towering Russian basketball player speaks in Hulk Speak English ("Ivan make basket.") and near the end, there's a moment with two other Russian basketball players who are confused at hearing him speak equally broken Russian.
  • Played for Laughs in Airplane!, where Jive is treated as its own language. Two black men speak to each other in Jive, which is subtitled to reveal they're actually having a perfectly normal conversation that just sounds weird as all hell. Later, when one of them attempts to ask a stewardess for help, she can't understand it... until an elderly white woman (played by Barbara Billingsly) reveals she's fluent in Jive and translates for her. (Barbara Billingsly had no idea what "jive" was before being cast in the film; she and the actors playing the jive-talkers went out to lunch and wrote the dialogue for the scene.)

  • Inverted in one Star Wars Legends book, Dark Force Rising where a Wookie ambassador has a speech impediment that keeps him from speaking the native Wookie language, but allows him to speak Galactic Basic. He notes that Chewbacca is this trope played straight.
  • Shogun goes both ways with this trope, with some Japanese speaking English poorly, and Blackthorne struggling and even getting in trouble trying to speak Japanese.
  • Rudyard Kipling sometimes does this. In the prototype Mowgli story, "In the Rukh", when the German Muller is speaking English, his accent is rendered atrociously, but when he's speaking to Mowgli (presumably in Hindi) it's translated in the same "Shakespearean" Englishnote  Kipling uses to render most non-English languages. This applies even more obviously to several characters in Kim, especially to Hurree Babu and Kim himself, at least until he becomes the recipient of an English education at St. Xavier's.
  • The little girl Aily from "Five Get Into a Fix" by Enid Blyton speaks beautiful Welsh, but her English is very broken ("Aily hide", "Aily not tell", etc.)
  • In Pinocchio’s Sister, this is lampshaded by an immigrant boy named Stashu, who says that he sounds stupid in English.
  • The African shaman character N'Longa in Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane stories comes off as a racist stereotype with his silly pidgin English and silly attitude, but on the rare occasions he addresses Kane in his native language, his speech becomes formal and sophisticated, clearly indicating that he's deliberately using Obfuscating Stupidity to keep the Puritan Kane from freaking out too much by his black magic.
  • Used as a Take That! by C. S. Lewis in Out of the Silent Planet. Mad Scientist Weston makes an eloquent, if blatantly ethnocentric, speech in English, but Ransom struggles to translate it adequately into Old Solar (some of the concepts don't even exist). It strips away much of the rationalizing. When Weston gets frustrated and tries to express himself directly, it gets even worse.
  • In the Phule's Company series by Robert Asprin, the alien Tuskanini (not his real name, but chosen for its human-pronounceability and punny goodness) forgoes the Translator Microbes in favor of learning English. Although he struggles with it, that and his bestial appearance make people think he's slow. Actually, he's quite the Genius Bruiser. As he's essentially a humanoid boar his main problem is that his mouth is entirely the wrong shape.
  • To an extent, Marco in An Instance of the Fingerpost, who is eloquent in Italian and Latin, but clearly has some difficulties with English, that lead to misunderstandings because of the language gap. It does seem unlikely though that he's the gibbering Funny Foreigner in English that one of the other narrators presents him as, since none of the other narrators have this impression.
  • In the Myth Adventures books the dragon Gleep can only say one word, "Gleep!" Turns out that he is highly intelligent, but you would only know that if you spoke dragon.
  • Firekeeper in the Firekeeper Saga by Jane Lindskold. She speaks poorly in three human languages, mostly because she drops anything she deems "unnecessary," like the finer points of grammar, but is fluent in the language of the Wise Beasts, her native tongue. Though she does make an effort to speak clearly on formal occasions or when she needs to express a precise idea.
  • Warrior Cats has Midnight the badger, who has terrible grammar whenever trying to speak cat with any of the feline protagonists (she can also speak rabbit, fox, and, of course, badger). Despite sounding like she was dropped on her head, Midnight is just as insightful and intelligent and as any medicine cat, and has been very helpful to the Clans.
  • Professor Timofey Pavlovich Pnin, in Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov, is a Russian hired to work at an American universitynote . His weak English skills make it hard for some to appreciate his brilliance.
  • Dave Sedaris's Me Talk Pretty One Day, which causes his French teacher extreme grief. He finally understands French... but can't speak it properly himself.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings has the wild men of the Drúadan Forest; they have no contact with outsiders, and are viewed as backward primitive creatures. Upon contact, their chief Ghân-buri-Ghân speaks sub-optimal Westron - but turns out to be quite smart, wise and knowing. This is further cemented when one reads the other things Tolkien wrote about them.
  • Professor Van Helsing (a Dutchman) in the original Dracula is an interesting quasi-example of this. He speaks English in syntax quite broke, but he's really quite eloquent even then, in that he has a great vocabulary.
  • The Reynard Cycle: Hirsent's poor mastery of the Southern language is portrayed this way. She lapses back into Calvarian several times in order to speak more eloquently.
  • Sherlock Holmes story "A Scandal in Bohemia" features a letter written with English words and German syntax, which is one of the clues Holmes uses to narrow down the origin of the letter.
  • Played straight in The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer. A white woman (South Africa, post-apartheid) meets an Arab man at a garage after her car breaks down, and invites him to lunch with her friends. He speaks decent English, but sometimes has difficulty with vocabulary (Gordimer portrays this in a sympathetic manner). Later, it turns out that he's an illegal immigrant, so he gets deported and she follows him back to his (unnamed) country... wherein the situation is reversed. Suddenly he's the eloquent one and she's the tongue-tied foreigner.
  • Lampshaded in The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold: Jokol the Skullsplitter speaks the local language brokenly, he's capable of composing epic poetry in an evening in his own language, and has memorized stories in the hundreds, if not thousands. He's called Skullsplitter because he can tell so many stories his men fell like their skulls will split.
  • Harry Dresden is aware of this trope, as well as how horrible his Latin is. So when Proven Guilty comes around and he has to make an eloquent defense of Molly Carpenter to keep her from being executed for black magic, he manipulates the situation so that he can present his defense in English.
  • Discworld:
    • Possibly applies to the Librarian. He's a former human turned into an orangutan after a magical accident. Although very intelligent, all he can say is "Ook". However, he says it with such inflection and expressiveness that those who know him well can understand the (sometimes quite complex) things he says perfectly. As they put it, "We've just got into the habit of understanding him." He's also started work on an Orangutan/Human dictionary. So far he has gotten as far as "Ook".
    • Goblins from the same series have another version. A few characters who were raised bilingual do fine, but the language structures and cultural outlook are so different that translations (even using magic) sound like You No Take Candle both ways.
  • Ousanas from the Belisarius Series is something of a subversion, as he speaks Greek, Ethiopian, and at least a half dozen other languages quite fluently, and enjoys Greek philosophy, but deliberately puts on a You No Take Candle dialect because he feels that he has an image to maintain.
  • In Harry Potter, house-elves obviously understand spoken English, but speak it in a grammar reminiscent of the way Afrikaans has evolved from Dutch, with simplified conjugations. In addition, most house-elves refer to themselves in the third person. They are, however, fairly intelligent creatures and are capable of more than most of the humans in the magical world seem to realize.
  • In The Star Beast, Lummox speaks English like a four-year-old, but already spoke her native language "almost from the shell", and is in fact not only fluent but eloquent.
  • In Cerberon, when the eponymous unicorn from England takes human form and speaks in Aramish, it's pretty broken but not difficult to understand, while in English he can be very eloquent and occasionally poetic. The Prince of Aeronweyir, a dragon from Arumara, is noted to have the same ability to communicate telepathically as Cerberon and understands what people are saying in English, but he avoids this trope by refusing to speak in the foreign language, using Cerberon to provide translations of what he says in Aramish.
  • Menelaos from Greek Ninja comes off as dumb due to his terrible English and the fact he rarely speaks because of that difficulty but in Greek, he can communicate normally. Eleonora, although fluent in English, sometimes resorts to speaking some phrases in Greek to him, often when she's frustrated.
  • From a Tortall Universe short story, Skysong the dragon is incapable of making human speech due to being just a baby; however, she's incredibly vocal in her natural dragon language when she gets to use it. Considering that she's as intelligent as any human, it annoys her to no end that people consider her a big, stupid lizard. When finally granted the ability to speak to humans, including her foster parents, she's over the moon.
  • Detective Max Hornung in Sidney Sheldon's Bloodline is so lousy at speaking either French or Italian others are unable to understand what he's trying to say. Some either take time to realize he's trying to speak in their language or simply need to be told.
  • In Amy Tan's The Bonesetter's Daughter, LuLing's senile dementia is real, but when she speaks and writes Mandarin she's revealed to still be coherent much of the time — a lot more than she sounds in English. Tan has written several characters based on her mother who speak this way and discusses her mom's English language acquisition and some facts about her Shanghainese-Mandarin speech in a chapter of her memoir Where the Past Begins.
  • In Extras, Hiro's English is slow and basic, and Aya finds it a bit excruciating to listen to; Aya herself is fluent. The author shows Hiro's lack of fluency mainly through short sentences with basic grammar & vocabulary. This contrasts with his intelligent, idiomatic speaking style when he speaks his native Japanese.
  • In Angels of Music by Kim Newman, Madame van Helsing is a comical figure being, with her strangeness of syntax (similar to her husband) when French she is speaking and her pedantic insistence that not existing are vampires. When they switch to German, which is closer to her native Dutch, she gets her point across much better.
  • Lucille Van Slyke depicts a heavy Funetik Aksent for the Syrian immigrant characters in Eve's Other Children, first published in 1912. Syrian dialogue is depicted by rich, classical, often poetic English, with thee and thou, in a beautiful example of this trope.
  • In the Star Trek: Discovery novel Fear Itself by James Swallow, the You No Take Candle speech of the Gorlans is part of what makes the Peliar think of them as primitive savages, and even Starfleet personnel, who recognise that this is an issue with the universal translator, assume they're technologically unsophisticated. When they rebuild the translator to detect the electromagnetic fields that are part of their language, both these assumptions are proved incorrect.
  • Tempi, from The Kingkiller Chronicle is dismissed by his fellow mercenaries as a simpleton for speaking poor Aturan, the common language, his quiet demeanor and strange traditions. Not only is he more capable than his crewmates, his mother tongue is actually made for deep contemplation and reflection on their philosophy (the Lethani) and has a complex and really eloquent sign language that is mistaken for meaningless gestures.
  • The Lotterys More or Less: Luiz, the house guest The Lotterys are letting stay with them for the holidays, speaks Portuguese much better than English, having grown up speaking the language in Brazil.
  • There Is No Epic Loot Here, Only Puns: Seth frequently tells the people of Durence that My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels, and almost gets thrown out of the village for seeking a "quest", but when he catches up with his old friend Quiss, it's confirmed that he just speaks a very different language, and Quiss is equally bad at speaking that. And despite Seth looking like comedic relief, he's actually a very skilled, intelligent and powerful mage, whose ambition is to "water death my city" — and it's not a joke. (Quiss, his peer, wants to burn the World Tree, not to entirely consume it but just scorching it enough to remind it that it's not invulnerable.)
    "How can you still suck so much at speaking my language? Feduskti," Quiss joked and Seth snorted as the man just called Seth a royal son of a kitchen table.
    "You are very ungood at my first-born language," Seth chided and Quiss directed Seth back to the bar and raised two fingers as Nina looked at them.
  • Minami in Baka and Test: Summon the Beasts is in the lowest-level class in their school, despite being of probably above-normal intelligence (she's already fluent in two languages at the age of 15). She gets very good grades in math, however, as long as there are no word problems, because, having lived in Germany most of her life, she only reads Japanese at an elementary-school level.
  • Inverted in High School D×D. The "Gift of Languages" allows a Devil to speak with anyone by magically appearing to use whatever language a listener knows, and makes the Devil hear anything that's said in their own native tongue. Shortly after being reincarnated, Issei notes that he's had to put more effort into consciously getting his English consistently wrong for the sake of his teacher than he ever did while trying to learn it conventionally.
  • Targutai Yesugei of the White Scars in the Horus Heresy novels is introduced in "A Thousand Sons" speaking in stilted Gothic at the Council of Nikaea from the perspective of Ahriman of the Thousand Sons. When we're later given his own perspective in "Scars", it's made clear that while Yesugei does struggle when speaking Gothic, he's rather eloquent and poetic in his native Khorchin.
  • The Many Mysteries of the Finkel Family: Aviva was good at writing in Hebrew, but ever since she moved to America she's gotten bad grades on writing assignments because her English grammar is incredibly poor and she sometimes forgets to write from left to right. Lara admits that her Hebrew is even worse.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus does this as well.
  • The Barney Miller episode "Hunger Strike" included an encounter with a middle-aged inmate (Nora Meerbaum) of an institution who had wandered off and taken some flowers from a street vendor. She cheerfully greeted everyone with the phrase "mnogo ubav den"note  and offered the flowers, which she called "tsvet"note . Her supervising psychiatrist said it was "hebephrenic gibberish", but Dietrich suspected she was speaking a language; he took a recording of her speech to a Slavic Languages professor who identified it as a dialect spoken in Greece and Yugoslavia; playing the tape at Greek coffeeshops and markets, he found a native speaker (hey, it is NYC) who translated her perfectly sane speech. She had been in the institution for thirty years because nobody could understand what she was saying. Unfortunately, this is Truth in Television.note 
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • Ubergenius Sheldon is incoherent in Mandarin, and Raj claims he would kick Sheldon's ass in an argument if he was speaking his native language. Sheldon points out that English is Raj's native language.
    • Sheldon learned Mandarin from Howard, who tried using it at their regular Chinese place. Howard seems to overestimate his linguistic abilities. When he tells Penny she's a "very beautiful girl", his pronunciation leaves much to be desired, and the gang's waiter at the Chinese restaurant referred to Howard as "the guy who thinks he speaks Mandarin".
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Khal Drogo speaks very little of the Common Tongue of Westeros, and as such comes off as a bit of a savage. However, when we see the subtitles of his language, we see just how clever he really is, as well as being a loving husband. And man, can he give an epic rant.
    • Daenerys' Dothraki still needs a little work. "There are many dirts across the sea, like the dirt where I was born." As of Season 2, however, she's as fluent in Dothraki as she in the common tongue (which is spoken both in Westeros, the Free Cities, and Qarth). Likewise, in Astapor, it looks like she'll have to learn Valyrian if she doesn't want to be constantly insulted by assholes like Kraznys mo Nakloz. Subverted, however, as she purposefully waits until the control of the Unsullied has been given to her, before revealing that Valyrian is her mother tongue, ordering the Unsullied to ransack the city and finally, paying Kraznys back for his rudeness by having Drogon burn him alive.
    • Grey Worm's subtitled dialogue shows a much better vocabulary than when he uses the Common Tongue of Westeros, as he has only recently begun to learn the latter from Missandei.
  • In Heroes, Nathan "Flying Man" Petrelli and other characters initially underestimate Hiro due to his poor English. (Of course, even in Japanese he's still a geek...) This is also used to indicate where he is on his hero's journey. In the beginning, he's an utter loser, obsessed with comics, and his only plus is that he can stop time, otherwise, sucks to be him. Later, when he meets and falls in love with Charlie, he matures and grows, hence he learns better English. By the time he's completely fluent, he's a total badass and carries a samurai sword.
  • Played with on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Throughout the series, Charlie's illiteracy in his native English is a running gag. When The Gang visits Ireland in season 15, however, he turns out to be proficient at reading and even speaking Irish Gaelic (though he believes it's a secret magic language) just from years of corresponding with his Irish penpal and biological father Shelley.
  • MADtv had Ms. Swan, a Modern Minstrelsy Korean woman whose catchphrase was "He look like a man!" One skit fell into this, as the audience was given insight into her thoughts, which gave an incredibly detailed description of the person... before she blurted out her catch-phrase instead.
  • A running gag on Modern Family is Gloria's frequent mangling of English, but it does hurt her deep down that no one knows how funny and smart she is in her own language (and when she's conversing with other Spanish speakers this very much seems to be the case). Her husband Jay eventually opts to take Spanish lessons so that he can be the one that sounds stupid every now and then.
  • Star Trek: Voyager. In "Gravity", Tom Paris and Tuvok have crashlanded on a planet and befriend another crash survivor, an alien woman who talks like You No Take Candle because their Universal Translator has broken and so she has to learn their language the hard way. Her English improves a lot after Voyager rescues them and she can use the UT herself.
  • Omnipresent among the Chinese characters in Warrior. Its translation convention is that when the Chinese characters are speaking among themselves in Chinese, the actors all just speak American-accented English — fluently, colloquially, and occasionally even poetically. When white people are present, the actors speak subtitled Chinese to one another, and broken or heavily accented English to the whites. The exceptions are protagonist Ah Sahm and his sister Mai Ling, both of whom speak flawless English but with an In-Universe explanation that their American grandfather taught them English as kids.
  • The West Wing: President Nimbala from The Republic of Equatorial Kundu requires a translator beside him at all times, but he is extremely knowledgeable about world events, and you will do well to remember that he is an equal to President Bartlet, and not treat him like some African warlord.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Sucio Dutch Mantel turned out to know a lot more about the island than the other wrestlers CSP\WWC had imported but was refusing to speak more Spanish because he felt the language was "primitive".
  • Último Dragón would prove over the years to be a fairly insightful and empathetic guy. But in WCW, he was initially considered a generic Evil Foreigner due to his most frequent form of communication being evil laughs.
  • ECW wrestlers Super Crazy and Yoshihiro Tajiri's attempts at English tended to come out as You No Take Candle. This still ended up impressing most of their coworkers, who assumed they couldn't speak the language all. In Mexico and Japan both have trained dozens of wrestlers and Tajiri ran two promotions, so some degree of eloquence in their native tongues is to be expected.
  • This was one of Carlito's initial, experimental gimmicks, when he left Puerto Rico for the fifty states. He spoke English quite well, among other reasons being he had family in Canada, but was asked by Vince McMahon if he could "Spic it up some" and cut a fiery promo in Spanish when he temporarily departed from OVW back to WWC.
  • This is presumably why Die Bruderschaft des Kreuzes members Ares and Claudio Castagnoli cut promos exclusively in German despite Chikara being based in the Eastern US.
  • While No Limit needed luchadors such as Black Warrior and Shigeo "Anti Mexico" Okumura to interpret for them in CMLL, Tetsuya Naito did have a good enough grasp of the language to develop his now-iconic pose when a fan told him to "Open His Eyes".
  • La Morena, La Amazona, and La Rosa Negra when they left Puerto Rico for the NWA in 2011, the latter getting the most teasing because she was making the most effort to learn English. Took on an extra layer when she worked for World Wonder Ring STARDOM, having to use English to say what she couldn't in Japanese and then Spanish for what she couldn't in English. The former two would just launch into a Spanish tirade if their English was insulted, or they just couldn't phrase what they wanted to say any other way.

    Puppet Shows 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Azure Bonds plays with an extreme variant. "Strange funny lizard dude" walks through the first part as obviously sentient but not communicable and is taken seriously only as a warrior, especially after a spoofed "First Contact" attempt. But when the protagonists meet someone who can easily communicate with saurials, and the old dragon first shows great respect to him and then informs his friends with whom they traveled, the party is rather shocked (and remembers glaring evidence they dismissed). Later he learns thieves' sign language, though. Saurials speak in a mix of sounds out of the human ear's band and pheromone releases, so as long as some translation spell is not used they appear to be mute. Though nothing prevents them from learning to understand spoken Common... and Obfuscating Stupidity.
  • This happens quite a bit in Shadowrun since taking a language is ranked like a skill. A character's first language is listed as 'N' for native speaker, while any other ones are given a proficiency level. A character can have an astronomical set of mental attributes and still have a hard time conveying a concept in Farsi because she only has a 2 in it. One variant rule suggestion for dialects offers this trope as an idea. Instead of paying for the dialect in points, the player can get it for free in exchange for having a harder time with advanced concepts in the baseline version of the language. For example, a character could have "English (Cityspeak)" as a native tongue and be very hard to understand by people with just "English"
  • As of 4th edition, languages in GURPS are valued from one to three points, with one point being "takes a long time to communicate simple concepts", two being conversant but obviously speaking a second language, and three being fully capable of expressing anything as complex and eloquent as your knowledge allows. Since you get one language at three points for free (your native tongue) and there's little practical benefit to buying over the second tier (Unless you're The Face), almost every character with multiple languages will fall into this trope.
    • Also mechanically enforced by the optional cultural familiarity penalties, which can rapidly make your social skills fail almost automatically when outside your native culture if you don't put significant character points into mitigating the effect.

  • Fabrizio in The Light in the Piazza. His English is very broken, but when singing in Italian, he's quite poetic.
  • In Assassins, Giuseppe Zangara speaks-a in-a, how you say, a-fractured English. But during November 22, 1963, he switches to Italian and allows the other assassins to translate for him, revealing that he is extremely well-spoken.
  • Many of the Aboriginal characters in Bran Nue Dae. Somewhat subverted, as most of the Aboriginal characters speak English using very Aboriginal accents and slang words, which are sometimes seen by white Australians as being uneducated. We rarely hear them speak their native languages, presumably for access purposes.
  • In the stage adaptation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo's voice is hoarse and raspy with occasional grammar mistakes when he speaks aloud, but smoother when he's expressing his thoughts in song.
  • An gag early in Hamilton is having Lafayette mispronounce the word "anarchy", much to the amusement of his (English-speaking) compatriots. Of course, he immediately recovers by using both the incorrect and correct pronunciations as rhymes ("monarchy"/"on-arch-ee" and "anarchy"/"panicky"). Not only that, but just one song earlier, he introduced himself in a flawless combination of French and English, and he has the fastest rap of anyone in the show (and the fastest lyrics of anyone on Broadway, ever). So it's somewhat of a subversion: not only is he eloquent in his native tongue, but he can probably do circles around you in his second language as well.

    Video Games 
  • Several City of Heroes examples:
    • The Trolls were originally homeless drug addicts. Most powerful of them, they most loaded up on a highly addictive drug that slowly breaks down speech centers in brain. They still as smart as before, just cannot talk any better than this.
      • Some individual trolls, like Julius, are still fairly coherent and have an impressive grasp on the situation in The Hollows.
    • Most Freakshow are likewise drug addicts, but most of them were office workers to start with. U|\|D3R3571/\/\473 7|-|3 L337pHR34|< @ j00R 0\/\/|\| r15|<, as well as his understanding of even alien technology.
      • And if that made you head hurt, Teh S00p3rFR3ak speaks entirely in grammatically correct leetspeak.
    • Rikti: likewise speak: Rikti thought pattern. Translation device : Mark 1 : Sounds : completely idiotic. They've got a better grasp on pretty much every field of science but nuclear power than normal humans, and the more advanced translators or a Rikti breaking out of the thought pattern are capable of incredibly eloquent and detailed conversation.
      • Somewhat subverted by Lk'Onic, who gets an improved translator in the last mission and remains just as talkative as before. ("Mark 3 translator's pretty nice. Let's go.")
  • World of Warcraft does this at least once with a Murloc quest hub in the Borean Tundra. Well, it's not quite the same since we never hear them try to speak a language the players can understand, but when the player is magically given the ability to understand what they're saying, they're surprisingly eloquent. For example, during the quest "Grmmurggll Mrllggrl Glrggl!!!" which asks you to kill Glrggl, translates to: "he who swims against the tides of fate — eradicating the hope of life for all those who hear the siren song of death upon the waves!"
    • Some Draenei NPCs speak broken Common as well, understandable because they've only been on the planet for a few years.
    • It's also possibly the case for Troll NPCs, as Alliance players who talk to Vol'jin (who is typically characterized as quite intelligent) hear his response in less than fluent Common.
  • Team Fortress 2 has the Heavy, who sounds a great deal more eloquent in the Russian version of his trailer. And he actually has a PhD in Russian Literature. He IS somewhat dense, but he knows and accepts it:
    Heavy: Some people think they can outsmart me. Maybe... [sniff] ... maybe. I have yet to meet one who can outsmart bullet.
    • That line is something of a Genius Bonus for folks familiar with Russian idioms, as there is a Russian expression about weapon-safety that goes "Bullets are stupid and sightless". So he's actually calling his opponents blind idiots. Clever, Heavy, very clever.
  • There is an interesting version of this in Fallout 2. If you make a character with Intelligence less than 4, he is effectively, ahem, mentally handicapped. There is a character named Torr in one of the very first towns that is likewise handicapped, and normal players are unable to get much information out of him. Approach him with your own handicapped character and the ensuing conversation, while looking like two drooling men shouting random gibberish and nonsense at each other to the casual observer, is actually, when translated through the subtitles, a meeting of two great minds, with superbly polished manners and high level thought. Hilarity ensues.
  • This was used in Kasumi Todoh's plotline in Art of Fighting 3: She is searching for Ryo Sakazaki (who is a mixed-race American) in Mexico, and is using a Japanese-to-English dictionary to communicate. She naturally sounds demented in her win poses (and probably to any natives in the area, who don't speak English anyway.)
  • Tales of Eternia:
    • Alien visitor Meredy is completely unable to speak English when you first meet her, only able to speak Celestian Melnics. Early on you participate in a quest to get her some Translator Microbes. This results in her speaking pidgin English for the rest of the game. However, once you are granted the chance to go to Celestia yourself you'll find that no other character talks like she does. She reveals herself to be quite the big cookie in the scientific research field once you get there, though.
    • Meredy is something of a justified subversion, however. She watched her mother turn into the host of an Eldritch Abomination before her eyes when she was a child, and presumably never fully mentally developed as a result, which is why her speech is much more childish than her fellow Celestians.
  • Jagged Alliance:
    • Ivan Dolvich originally spoke no English, but according to his in-game bio, he took an "English as a second language" course between Deadly Games and JA2. His Russian is fluent and eloquent (if somewhat heavy on the obscenities), his English is... comprehensible, barely. In the trailer for Back In Action his English is almost perfect, if heavily-accented; the games are a bit vague about how much time elapses between them, but presumably he's had time to practice.
    • Robert "Steroid" Gontarski might be another case. His grammar isn't perfect, he sometimes lacks basic vocabulary and has relatively low Intelligence (compared to other AIM mercs), but most of his "dumb muscle" image stems from his Ahnuld-type voice. The Polish version of Unfinished Business actually gives him a speech pattern which is completely different (since he is speaking his native language now), but still remains believable. If only they hadn't changed the voice...
  • Brother from Final Fantasy X isn't precisely eloquent in Al-Behd, but he at least uses proper grammar. When he starts trying to impress Yuna by learning her native language, he starts out exactly as one would expect: a limited vocabulary composed mostly of simple nouns and present-tense verbs. He gets better in the sequel, to the point that he could probably be considered functionally bilingual.
  • Any time a Japanese developer tries to speak English at a game conference like, say, E3, it always comes across as horribly forced and awkward, probably because they learned their lines phonetically. Some, like Hideo Kojima, use it to their advantage in really weird ways (Didjurikeit?) while others, like Shigeru Miyamoto, only do as little as they can get away with. When they switch back to Japanese they're obviously far more eloquent through their interpreters.
  • In No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle, there's a brief cameo by an unnamed character who shows up out of nowhere, monologues in horrible, broken, monotone English, hands over a new weapon, and vanishes. The reason this character's English is so terrible? He's Takashi Miike, As Himself.
  • In Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People: Strong Badia the Free, Homsar, who normally speaks in Word Salads, turns out to be quite eloquent when Strong Bad can (temporarily) communicate with him ("Why should my people risk open warfare for your considerable style?"). Strong Bad describes his 'eloquent' voice as being 'soothing', and Homsar will even get confused if Strong Bad tries to speak Word Salad back during this period. To others, however, any conversation they hold is incomprehensible.
  • The Qunari are portrayed this way in the Dragon Age games, speaking in a stilted and overly-concise manner when they are forced to conduct business in Theodosian. As they strive for perfection in all things, the Qunari that the player interact with find their imprecise mastery of the language shameful, and express difficulty understanding words like "hero" and "cookie".
  • Unreal II: The Awakening has Ne-Ban, an alien who's the comic relief of the game, constantly mixing up words. The protagonist casually mentions it's because he speaks over fifty languages.
  • Inverted in Koikatsu with the Returnee type of girl. She was born in Japan but grew up in an English-speaking country. With that, she speaks in broken Japanese and occasionally dashes her dialogue with Gratuitous English. However, she has a native speaker's grasp of English, answering the player character's question about an English class problem with no difficulty.
  • In some of the Shin Megami Tensei games, some (or in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, all) demons are unintelligible until certain conditions are met, speaking in incoherent roars or jumbled characters. This trope applies to some, but not all such demons, such as the Shin Megami Tensei IV version of the Slime — which is something of a series joke, as it usually varies from The Ditz to "near-brainless and struggles to reach You No Take Candle levels of comprehensibility."
  • Trolls of various species in The Witcher series tend to get stereotyped as stupid, violent monsters due to their behavior, decidedly non-human way of looking at the world, a few examples of trying to eat sentient beings and most of all their odd way of speaking by the common folk. They may not be quite on the same level of intelligence or eloquence as humans, but if one is patient and takes the time to understand what they are saying, most of the time they prove to be reasonably intelligent, as Geralt repeatedly proves. Trolls are also praised for their bridge-making abilities, and one troll in The Witcher III proves to be a talented artist.
  • In South Park: The Fractured but Whole, due to playing a Professor Xavier parody, Timmy is able to telepathically communicate with others without Pokémon Speak. He turns out to be very eloquent and reasonable. However, when speaking normally he's still only capable of repeating his name.
  • In Splatoon 2, Octolings, if Agent 8 and the amiibos are any indication.
    • In their native tongue, they compose elegant poems consisting of three eight-syllable lines, one for each of the eighty mem cakes. For instance, observing a jellyfish:
      I watch your tendrils undulate
      A blue bouquet that twirls and sways,
      As central mass swells and deflates.
    • Their Inkling, however, leaves much to be desired.
      Hrm... You are having potential. Like big iceberg of freshness. We will be friendly together. It will give us many fun.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • While in Path of Radiance, Princess Leanne of the heron tribe spoke solely in the ancient tongue (we're informed by Hawk King Tibarn that the same was true of Prince Reyson when he first found him, but you'd never know that to hear him speak now), by Radiant Dawn she's begun to learn the modern tongue. It comes out very hesitantly and interlaced with the ancient tongue.
    • Gregor in Awakening is a hulking mercenary with a decidedly lacking grasp of English. Make no mistake, though, he's a pretty savvy guy; he just comes from a foreign country.
  • Early on in Yakuza 6, Ed, a Chinese triad member, tells a member of the Japanese yakuza that he's trying to negotiate with that he's not very good at speaking Japanese. However, the yakuza tells him bemusedly that he actually speaks the language very well and properly, whereas most of the younger yakuza speak in excessive slang and butcher their own language.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Machi can speak English, but not very articulately, and for most of the trial, relies on Lamiroir to translate. Even then, Lamiroir admits she isn't that articulate in English herself than she seems, which causes a problem when she testifies that she witnessed Case 3's murder through a "small window", which led the court to chase a literal small window at the crime scene which was closed and soundproof despite her testimony relying on what she heard. Apollo realises that she was in the air ducts above the crime scene for her show's disappearing trick, where the air vent can be interpreted as a "small window".
  • In Katawa Shoujo, when Hisao calls Lilly in Scotland for the second time in her route, he gets her mother, and makes an attempt to ask for Lilly in English before switching to Japanese; luckily, her mother also speaks Japanese well, and is willing to accommodate him. English also appears to be his worst subject, as earlier in the route, he got a 43 on an English test.
  • The Volkova twins from Missing Stars speak in a You No Take Candle manner because they're new to English. Their speech in Russian is much more eloquent.

  • In The Cobra Days, The Sorrow is only just learning English. Occasionally when they're having trouble understanding him, one of the other Russian-speaking members of the Cobra Unit will tell him to switch to Russian, his native tongue.
  • Ed, in Digger, is capable of the deepest conversations and emotional moments of the cast. However, his grasp of whatever common language is being spoken is woeful due to the trauma of his exile and subsequent years of isolation. Other hyenas speak normally.
  • In Dominic Deegan, Donovan "Little Pink Man in Pink" Deegan is only capable of speaking Orcish in the sense that he seems to have a rather large vocabulary. He just doesn't know what those words mean. When speaking his native Callanian (The "English" of the world) he is the world's most renowned poet and bard. It turns out that he speaks Orkish perfectly and acts otherwise because he thinks it's funny.
  • Vaelia from Drowtales starts the story speaking next to nothing of the drow language, but improves over time and proves to be quite eloquent in her internal monologues and when she gets to speak her native tongue.
  • Done both ways in Gai-Gin. The USA native Gin's Japanese starts out on You No Take Candle levels ("Aah ... eat tomato, and again you see tomato I ate. No wanna eat tomato?") and improves drastically over the course of the strip, though it gets worse again when she's emotional. Her Japanese boyfriend Pyon is slightly ditzy but perfectly intelligent, going into Badass Bookworm levels near the end when he researches frantically for a way to stop Gin being deported, but his English is hopeless: "Hi Daddy! Me name Pyon-Pyon!"
  • Gunnerkrigg Court uses this briefly (in a reversal of how this trope usually works): As seen here (via the Translation Convention), Antimony's Polish isn't as good as her native English. Gamma is very shy and isolated because of not understanding English, but a veritable chatterbox with Zimmy.
  • Occurs a couple of times in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob!. Mook the Bigfoot is eloquent in his own language, but he talks in Hulk Speak when he tries to use English; his wife Goona is fluent in English, however. The Space Cop Officer Zodboink speaks several Earth languages but can't keep them straight, mixing words and expressions from different languages at random.
  • Draak from Irregular Webcomic! is highly intelligent and has a rather keen grasp on complex ideas, like "quark" and "gene" (despite being in a medieval fantasy setting), but only speaks in mono-syllables. In his own tongue, he's quite eloquent.
  • Inverted in Jupiter-Men. Arrio is a partly Hispanic highschooler who is specifically flunking Spanish, much to Quintin's disbelief. He says he has to go to "trabago" (he means "trabajo", as in "work") and has to be corrected on it. This proves a detriment when he learns that all the spells and instructions in his Spell Book are written in Spanish.
  • In The Law of Purple, Thud is a native of a jungle where people speak a different language than the rest of the planet. At one point he even informs someone that he's not stupid, he just has a thick accent.
  • Xan, a Gard from Winters In Lavelle, has a very tenuous grasp on English- even though he's been speaking it for probably around a decade, most people assume that he doesn't speak English and so won't speak to him; and one of the few exceptions, Rio, usually just lets Xan slip into Gardish around him. However, when Xan speaks his native tongue, he's shown to speak perfectly well, and even chides Rio for his broken sentences.
    Rio: [in Gardish] Ease, Xan. Patient be. We uses this for a vantage.
    Xan: ... Your Gardish is terrible. We really must work on this.
  • General Ripper Luca from The Meek, shows a clear case of Spock Speak and some minor You No Take Candle issues, although the latter tends to come out more when he's upset. Word of God is that's because the language being spoken at the time is Luca's third language, and sure enough, when Luca does speak other languages either in flashbacks or when talking to The Dagre, he uses contractions and doesn't make any speech flubs or grammatical errors.
  • Yuki from MegaTokyo speaks perfect Japanese and broken English. On the other side of the language barrier, Piro speaks Japanese like a teenage girl, having learned it mostly from ren'ai games and shoujo anime and manga.
  • Gwynn of Sluggy Freelance gets ported through time and has to learn to speak an ancient language from scratch to communicate. After a few months, she is understandable but extremely awkward, especially in her grammar, and sounds a bit loopy (and/or a lot ditzy) to the locals.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: Downplayed. Lalli is The Quiet One most of the time. However, when talking with a fellow Finnish speaker, under the benefit of the Translator Microbes from the Talking in Your Dreams system or simply needing to vent, he can come across as quite talkative compared to his usual self. However, he's not that big of a speaker even in his native language, so long paragraphs coming from him remain few and far between.
  • The Gragrum of Tales of the Questor tend to speak the common language in a rather mangled way, using heavily broken sentence structure, but once their leader speaks in his own language, his sentence structure and use of metaphors improve dramatically and excel many later human speakers. The Rac Cona Daimh around there tend to drawl too, but the single most capable lux user in the planet comes from there, and has the worst drawl of the lot, with many more practical and lux-efficient spells coming from near the swamps. On the inverse side, a well-spoken Rac Cona Daimh pastor speaking the Gragum tongue is easily outwitted in a short conversation to the point of pulling his trump card nearly immediately and arranges sentences oddly. When talking to humans, the fairly intelligent Rac Cona Daimh also often find themselves trying to describe a sense that few humans have and sounding slightly crazy.
  • Averted in Unsounded with Duane's generally loquacious and eloquent dialog. He's speaking in his third language.

    Web Original 
  • Suzi from Tales of MU talks like a lolcats caption when trying to speak Pax, but she's a bit more eloquent in her native Yokano: "I do not see why we are forced to converse in the barbarous idiom of the coarse westerners even among ourselves. Why must we suffer the indignity of mangling our mouths with their disharmonious syllables simply because they have never taken the time to learn a proper language?" Oh, and when we say she talks like a lolcats caption, we're completely serious. Examples include "I can has cheeseburger?" and "I made you a cookie, but I eated it."
  • The title of the programming tutorial Learn You a Haskell for Great Good! invokes this trope, seemingly to put an approachable face on Haskell's strangeness (as compared to other programming languages readers may know).

  • SCP-811 doesn't exactly have a native tongue due to growing up in a swamp, but she does have complex thoughts and she gets frustrated at her difficulty expressing them.

    Web Videos 
  • French That Guy With the Glasses reviewer Benzaie speaks pretty good English overall, but his thick accent ("Waddafuk? Dees ees boo-sheet!") is amusing enough that an entire video consists of his fellow reviewers affectionately mocking it. However, he has also done some serious videos in which he interviews French game developers in his native tongue. If you are used to his slightly mangled English, hearing him speak perfectly naturally can be a little jarring.
  • Robbaz has a rather odd Swedish accent, difficulty with certain English words (mostly consisting of words starting in "J" or "G", such as "yenius" "yumbo yet" and a few other more complex multi-syllable words) and tends to play up a rather exaggerated persona of a psychotic cannibal Viking. But he's also a professional chef in his day job, and has a talent for engineering, which he proves in games like Kerbal Space Program.
  • Caleb from Critical Role speaks pretty simple Common with a Zemnian (real life German) accent most of the time, and often missed idioms in the early campaign (less so as time goes on). However, when he's in-universe speaking Zemnian to other Zemnian speakersnote  (signified by Liam O'Brien dropping the accent), his syntax and grammar are very advanced.

    Western Animation 
  • The very German Professor Dementor of Kim Possible doesn't quite do the nailing of all of the idioms in English.
  • On American Dad!, Steve's friend Toshi only ever speaks in (pseudo-)Japanese, though subtitles show that he is both insightful and a Deadpan Snarker.
  • Starfire from Teen Titans speaks in somewhat childish sounding Spock Speak. This is however due to her lack of a grasp on the English language. Being a high-class alien princess, she speaks eloquently in her native tongue. To add to this, her incarnation in Justice League vs. Teen Titans was heavily modeled after her 2003 cartoon version and thus, as a Mythology Gag, she's essentially an adult version of her. She has learned to speak English fluently, with only the occasional hiccup. Oddly, Starfire's sister Blackfire speaks perfectly average American-English in Teen Titans, Teen Titans Go!, and DC Super Hero Girls despite being newer to Earth than her sister. However, this may be justified on the how. Starfire gained her grasp on English by kissing Robin and given the sultry and flirtacious nature of Blackfire, it's like her greater grasp was the result of her kissing multiple guys beforehand.

    Real Life  
  • Obviously Truth in Television for people who are intelligent but not yet fully fluent in a foreign language.
    • Also painfully/humorously inverted when such people (who are often apologetic and worried about their English) end up speaking it better than some of the native speakers they're talking to.
    • Especially evident with educated people with Soviet (or even Russian) upbringing. Often, having received a solid course in English (or having learned it themselves), they have rarely had an opportunity to practice it with native speakers. So, meeting foreigners for the first time (even non-English speaking, such as Dutch or Finnish or German), they tend to apologize profusely about their English.
    • This can end up going both ways, actually. When speaking to someone they know is only just learning a language, many people will, either consciously or subconsciously, limit themselves to small words and phrases so they don't confuse their conversation partner.
    • Also done with native-to-native speakers, when describing or explaining something complicated, commonly the sciences, to another person who does not know what the more "intelligent" one is talking about. The terminology often used in their fields of study would be replaced with simpler words so that the other person won't get lost in the flurry of large and strange words. The journal Nature has been doing this successfully for over 100 years to explain research science things to scientists in other fields as well as to laypersons.
    • Particularly noticeable if one is speaking a more relaxed, slang-filled version of a language vs. the other speaking a more classical version of the same language, having learned it in a class or from textbooks.
  • There used to be a common saying used by Ashkenazi Israelis when speaking Hebrew back when Yiddish was more popular: "It's funny in Yiddish." Nowadays it's usually, "It's funny / it rhymes in Russian."
  • In many countries people (especially those from the countryside or "ghettos") tend to be more comfortable in their native dialect instead of the standard variety of the national language. While even those people would feel strange to speak the dialect in certain situations (e.g. when meeting high dignitaries), there are many things they only feel comfortable expressing in their dialect. Aided in some words or concepts being hard to grasp in the standard variety that are one commonplace word in the dialect. This may lead to Separated by a Common Language when two different dialects clash.
  • This explains many presidents of Ukraine, who especially if they are from the East or grew up in Soviet times, speak bad Ukrainian and typically just conduct everything in Russian.
  • Yuzuru Hanyu can explain his skating techniques and artistic choices very eloquently in Japanese, capable of both discussion with professionals and simplification for laypeople. He's nowhere near as eloquent in English, and his struggles with the language have gone memetic in his fandom. He will ask interviewers to "just speak Japanese" if it's an option, and there's video of him looking panicked when a MC informed the audience that "Hanyu will now answer questions in English."
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger ran into this trope while filming Conan the Barbarian. As anyone who has read his autobiography can attest, he's actually a genius, but couldn't speak English well enough for the producers' liking, which is why Conan got hit with a case of Adaptational Dumbass.
  • Shakira's lyrics, whilst still very clever in English, are often much more complicated and poetic in Spanish due to it being her native language, as well as allowing for different styles of wordplay that don't work when translated. Hence whilst continuing to release albums in both languages, she releases different songs for each market, with only a few translated songs.
  • When François Truffaut played Claude Lacombe in Close Encounters of the Third Kind he was supposed to do some scenes in English, some in French. He went through the scene where he's yelling at the Army general about the "invitees", and Spielberg said that was good but he wanted to re-shoot the scene and this time could Truffaut speak English? It turned out he had been speaking English.

Alternative Title(s): Eloquent In Their Native Tongue, Eloquent In His Native Tongue, Eloquent In Her Native Tongue, Fluent In My Native Tongue