Follow TV Tropes


Gratuitous English

Go To
Inexplicable shirts are privilege reserved for Samurai lords.note 

Non-English media interjecting English even when it's not always appropriate. There are a number of reasons for this. Foreign languages in general help spice up a work, and with the fact that English is something of a general trade language, many viewers will have some idea of what's going on, regardless of their native language.

However, most of the time writers don't actually speak English (or least not fluently), resulting in rather silly or nonsensical phrases. If grammatically incorrect, it can end up You No Take Candle. Ifu puronanshieishon izu za puroburemu, shii Japanese Ranguage ando rireiteddo toroupusu.Translation 

This is particularly common in Japanese and South Korean media, as English is a standard subject in Japanese and South Korean schools but very few people learn enough to become fluent. Thus, anybody in the audience will recognize random English phrases or text as being English, and might even recognize specific words, but they probably won't know enough to recognize (or care) whether the phrasing actually makes any sense.

When the English is actually pretty good, it's Surprisingly Good Foreign Language. Compare Bilingual Dialogue for a more surreal linguistic experience, and "Blind Idiot" Translation for the really bad version. See also Gratuitous Foreign Language and all its subtropes. When these works are translated into English, the Gratuitous English is often changed into Gratuitous Spanish or Gratuitous French. For anime, it's usually Gratuitous Japanese.

One thing of note, Japanese and other foreign languages have a lot of English loan words in established vocabulary, such as "anime" coming from the English word "animation." note  Some of them sound like Engrish even. This can't be used as an example of Gratuitous English, as these loanwords are fully integrated into the local lexicon. In the case of Japanese, several of these loanwords have made it back to English and have been added in much the same way!

A related issue is countless English works being translated to various languages and in the process getting a Completely Different Title... still in English.

If something in a foreign language accidentally can be understood as something in English, that is In My Language, That Sounds Like....

This is a subtrope of Gratuitous Foreign Language and really should be used with extreme care.


    open/close all folders 

  • For some reason, this Taiwanese advertisement for a product called Auto-Mat is in (broken) English. It's also spoken incredibly fast.
  • Estathè, a brand of iced tea is advertised in Italy with the slogan "Thè best".

    Asian Animation 
  • Inspector Chingum: No Baal's name is a combination of Hindi and English. "Baal" means "hair" in Hindi, and No Baal has a Bald of Evil; "no hair".
  • Mechamato: Champbot says "loser" a lot even in the Malay audio, and one of his lines there is the same as that in the English audio.
    Champbot: Please remember, 2nd place is the first loser!
  • Indian animated series Motu Patlu has several episodes whose titles are in English, and no Hindi translation is provided.
  • In the Chinese series Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, random bits of English are used here and there and English is often used on the merchandise.
  • Simple Samosa, another Indian cartoon, incorporates various English words and phrases into all of its dubs except for, naturally, the English dub. The following two examples come to mind:
    • The otherwise Hindi theme song has the English lines "Meet my sweetest friend, Dhokla!" and "What are you doing? Grow up, boys!"
    • In the episode "Doctor D", Samosa, Jalebi, and Vada show Dhokla that he has not totally ruined their friendship through blocking them on social media by singing him a Spelling Song wherein they use each letter of "dost" (translates to "friend" or "friends" in Hindi) at the beginning of words to describe him. The words used are "Dhokla", "omelet", "special", and "tasty". Weirdly enough, the English dub changes the song so they spell the English "friends" instead when they easily could have gone with a translation of the original lyrics (they at least overlooked the "dost" that appears on-screen though).

    Comic Books 
  • In American Born Chinese, a new immigrant student from Taiwan first appears with a shirt that reads "Happy Robot".
  • The DCU: This is implied rather heavily to be part of the reason for the Japanese Super Young Team's awkward-sounding names, the other being simply awkward translation. Big Atomic Lantern Boy's name is almost certainly entirely in English, though.
  • Iznogoud
    • "Iznogoud" = English "is no good". Also a Meaningful Name and a Punny Name.
    • In Les Cauchemars d'Iznogoud, he has a son named "Izveribad".
  • Wizards of Mickey, originally written in Italian, makes liberal use of English words in everything pertaining to the Diamagics and to magic in general — four instance, any given spell will consist of two made up fantasy words with an English word related to what it does in the middle. The resulting pseudo-English gibberish is intended to sound exotic to Italian-speaking audiences while providing a Bilingual Bonus to readers who know enough English to get the joke.

    Comic Strips 
  • Kenkoy: As Kenkoy is coming of age under direct American rule, he became iconic for his mangled English-isms, like "weytaminnit" ("wait a minute"), "okidok" ("okeydokey"), "nating duwing" ("nothing doing"), etc. Arguably, he popularised Taglish, the modern Tagalog-English creole used in much of the modern and urbanised Philippines today, as well as constant Tagalog-English codeswitching.
  • Peanuts: In the French translation, one strip has had Linus Van Pelt, after speaking in perfect French, refer to his grandmother as "Granny". Pretty jolting, especially since the French have pet names of their own for their grandmothers, the most common being "Mamie".

    Films — Animation 
  • Lavatory-Lovestory: This is a Russian cartoon but all the signs are in English. The sign above the rest room says "Lavatory", and the woman reads a newspaper called "Happy Woman" with headlines like "Bravo! Best!" Interestingly, this is averted at the end, with the sign in her booth that says "срочно требуется работник"—"Urgently required worker."
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Dunk for Future: Perhaps that title would be better translated as "Dunk for the Future". It's retained in the Japanese title of the movie, 喜羊羊と灰太狼 DUNK FOR FUTURE.
  • Roadside Romeo has copious amounts of English randomly mixed with Hindi. Not that unusual in Bollywood. Bonus points for it being sensible English.
  • Roco Kingdom: The second film in the Chinese series takes a shot at officially translating its title into English, for whatever reason. The original Chinese title is Wish of the Holy Dragon. What did they go for in the English title? The Desire of Dragon — note the lack of a "the" where one would typically expect it.
  • In the Japanese dub of Turning Red, the "Awooga!" line is replaced with Mei yelling "Sexy!".

    Fan Works 
  • In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Kyon was forced to cosplay in a Victorian suit. He accepts tea from Yuki, who was in an Elegant Gothic Lolita costume, with gratuitous, but grammatically correct, English. Mikuru nearly squealed in delight.
  • In a Japanese fan-dub of a scene from the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Party of One", "Mrs. Flour" speaks in Gratuitous English.
  • The Touhou M-1 Grand Prix has "JudgEE" for ever time judging comes up. There are also a few skits with not-quite-english, one of the worst (for comic effect) was in the 3rd contest when Tewi tried to do an English routine... while only knowing a few words. Made funnier as even the other comedian realizes it's wrong.
    Tewi: "Yes yes yes yah yes yes ah yes ah yes aha aha ah yes aha Tewi Tewi Tewi—"
    Rinnosuke: 『That is just weird! What are you doing?! 』

  • Accel World:
    • Ash Rider is prone to this. He drops into English midway through sentences for no greater reason than he can. He is also fond of translating Japanese phrases into English literally. E.g. "thousand deaths" rather than "capital punishment"
    • The game system itself has shades of this, given it is entirely in English, despite being for an entirely Japanese audience.
  • The original book that inspired the film Edge of Tomorrow is called "All You Need Is Kill" in English even in Japan.
  • In Confessions of Felix Krull the protagonist gets to show off his English, but to a much lesser extent than his fluent French.
  • Dora Wilk Series' newer books are marked on covers as being part of "Thorn Universe", the latter being written in English, despite the books being Polish and there existing a perfectly fitting Polish word.
  • The Girl from the Miracles District, from the same author as Dora Wilk Series, has the character named "Madame Butterfly", in English.
  • The Japanese Harry Potter books, in addition to featuring the English title as well as Japanese on the cover, have English romaji beside the kanji for their publishing company - and it's written "Say-zan-sha (Seizansha)."
  • Lampshaded throughout Chris Jericho's first book, A Lion's Tale, while recounting his times in Japan. He often referred to it as "English just good enough to make no sense."
  • In Maou no Hajimekata there is an “official” English Title accompanied by the Japanese Title in the original print. Needless to say, How to book on the Devil isn’t quite correct; How to get started as the Demon King is a more accurate translation. Seven Seas Entertainment went with How to Build a Dungeon: Book of the Demon King for the official English title.
  • Metro: Hunter uses the English word for his name, rather than the Russian охотник (okhotnik), for no apparent reason. When they first meet, Artyom comments on his name being weird.
  • No less a philosopher than Friedrich Nietzsche was known to drop English (as well as French, Latin, and Greek) into his otherwise-German works. He usually used this when quoting from an English work, but sometimes used English words alone to make a point, to screw with the reader, or just because he felt like it. Since he spoke English, he knew exactly what was being said (so no funniness from misplaced words) but it makes reading Nietzsche interesting for English-speakers: if you're reading it in English translation, the footnotes that say "this bit was originally in English" are often kind of amusing, and if you can speak German and are reading it in the original, it's rather shocking to see the English in a sea of German.
  • Stendhal's journal is full of English words and phrases randomly replacing their French equivalents.
  • In The Vampire Countess there is an Englishman among the conspirators who is described as being Welsh. At one point he says something in what Paul Féval calls a Cockney Accent. What Feval wrote was "Let us knock down the rascal". In his English translation Brian Stableford chose to simply replace this all together as "Flatten the bleeder".
  • In the Japanese translations of the Warrior Cats series, the names of the characters, which are usually combinations of nouns, verbs, and adjectives, are left in English.
  • In Mũrogi wa Kagogo by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, translated into English as Wizard Of The Crow, upper-class characters pepper their speech with English words and phrases, a legacy of the country's period as a British colony. In the English translation, italics are used to indicate when they're speaking English in-universe.
  • In The Yiddish Policemen's Union, the Jews of Sitka speak Yiddish as their primary language, but prefer to swear in American English.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Professional Wrestling in Japan provides a pleasing real-life example of this trope. Since the conventions of pro. wrestling were adopted wholesale for the Japanese version of the sport ("puroresu" — itself an example of Gratuitous English), all the names of the moves are the English ones (except those invented in Japan, like the enziguri), which the announcers faithfully reproduce in commentary, even when they sound ridiculous. Examples include "DIIIIVING BOOOOOODY AAAAAAAAAAAAATAAAAAAAAACK!!!!!!!" and the famous "LAAAAAAARIIIIIIAAAAAT-OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!!!!" and the now-ubiquitous "SHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING WIIIIZAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRDOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!"
  • A lot of classic Zenjo tag teams name fall into this. Some, like the Dynamite Girls, sound normal enough. Others, like the Queen Angels or Beauty Pair, straddle the line. And then you have teams with names like Marine Wolves and Dream Orca...
  • The story goes that Go Nagai intended Big Van Vader's name to be the slightly less Word Salad "Big Bang Vater". The idea being Vader was a hero to his village.
  • Montreal based International Championship Wrestling had "Sexy Team", which seemed normal enough until the viewer realized their names were "Sexy Team #1" and "Sexy Team #2". It also had "Ninja Team" and Fresh and Master, and...well their use of English tended to be accurate but inarticulate.
  • The very title Kaiju Big Battel is of course a parody of this.
  • Dragon Gate theme song names frequently run along this trope, with names like WILD DRANK HUSKEY (Don Fujii) and KICK START THE ELEPHANT (Yasushi Kanda). Yes, they spell the song names in ALLCAPS.
  • Go Homu! Prease Go Homu Young Bucksu!
  • In Puerto Rico, the New Wrestling Stars Tag Team Champions Bandido and Crazy Rudy teamed as "Bad Guys"
  • Played for Laughs with Lin Bairon in SMASH, an actress from Hong Kong who constantly spouted English despite being in Japan.
  • Many move names you run across in Japanese wrestling are cool-but-meaningless English — like Shingo Takagi's Last Falconry, Masato Tanaka's Complete Dust, and MEN's Teioh's Miracle Ecstasy, just to name a few.

  • The "Alabama Song" (which, of course, was Covered Up by The Doors) and "Benares Song" in Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny (The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny). Bertolt Brecht's use of English is rather awkward in the latter: "There is no boy with whom to shake hands. Where is the telephone? Is here no telephone?" In the former, the paedophilia implications of the line "show me the way to the next little boy" were doubtless unintentional. The use of the word "Song" in preference to "Lied" is itself Gratuitous English.
  • In Cabaret, many of the phrases in the opening number "Willkommen" are sung in Gratuitous German, then in Gratuitous French, then in Gratuitous English.
  • Played for Laughs with Dr. Bent van Helsingør, a recurring character in the long running yearly Danish show Crazy Christmas Cabaret. He constantly tries to translate untranslatable Danish expressions and proverbs to English, causing him to either sprout complete nonsenses or unintentional sexual innuendo.
  • Madama Butterfly throws off a few Gratuitous English phrases, most notably Pinkerton's toast to "America for ever!" Even in the original Italian title, the English word “Butterfly” is used.
  • The massive dance finale of Tanz Der Vampire is mostly sung in (loud) German, as is the rest of the play, but contains a few English lines even in the original version. These aren't found elsewhere and there's no reason given for them other than just escalating that last song.
    We drink your blood, and then we eat your soul!
    Nothing's gonna stop us — let the bad times roll!

  • A The Force Awakens Stormtrooper™ action figure has descriptions in three additional languages including German on its packaging, all of which leave the term "Stormtroopers" in English. This is egregious not just because earlier localizations had generally translated it –- the English word "stormtrooper" derives from German "Sturmtruppen" in the first place.
  • In one notorious case, the Transformers slogan "More than meets the eye!" was translated into Japanese at some point. Okay. They then decided to translate it back into English on the packaging for the Mega SCF figure line, resulting in the hilarious phrase "The truth who the eyes met before!"

    Web Animation 
  • Likewise, several hololive idols have been known to sprinkle English into their speech during streams. In one infamous instance, holostars' Roberu Yukoku responded to "Are ya winning, son?" with "YEAAAAAAAAH! I'm Roberu Yukoku! I'm fine, thank you, and you? I like Mario Kart 8!" In this case, Western fans found his enthusiasm charming and decided to give him the Fan Nickname "Winning Son", which Roberu happily embraced.
    • However, this trope has been subverted over time, as hololive's growing international popularity has lead to several of the girls studying English in earnest so they can communicate with the "overseas bros". It's also completely averted in a few cases such as Kiryu Coco, Akai Haato/Haachama, and the girls from the China, Indonesia, and English divisions, all of whom are at the very least functionally fluent speakers.
  • Kizuna AI often peppers her speech with English phrases, many of which are spoken with proper grammar (although when it comes to reading and writing English, she has some difficulties).

    Web Original 
  • Menelaos from Greek Ninja speaks English by making direct translations from Greek, which of course results in terrible mistakes and people not understanding him. Eleonora often takes the role of the translator between him and the rest of the world, having full knowledge of both languages.

    Web Videos 
  • The narrator from Digimon Resumido, just because he has an epic voice. And J. K. Simmons in the second episode.
  • France Five, despite being a French series, shares the love of Gratuitous English of the Sentai shows they parody.
  • Parodied by ProZD in When you only know the random English parts in a non-english song.
  • While Weird school rules in Hong Kong is in Cantonese (albeit with code-switching) with relatively-standard Chinese subtitles, Episode 4 contains a skit about how some local schools don't allow their students to speak Cantonese (most Hongkongers' native language) while wearing their school uniforms and only permit them to speak English, which results in this and Bilingual Dialogue.
    Male student: (in Cantonese) Hey, aren't you Yan-yan? I haven't seen you in so long!
    Yan-yan: (in English, pretentiously) Please. Speak. English.
    Male student: You're speaking Ing-guh-lan-shi for no reason.
    Yan-yan: (in English, pretentiously) I'm sorry. No Cantonese wearing school uniform.note 
    Male student: (in Cantonese) Your school is so frustrating!
    (In the distance, a man slips over and falls down)
    Yan-yan: (laughing) Puk gaai! note 
    Male student: (in an accusative tone, in Cantonese) Oh, you spoke Cantonese!
    Yan-yan: (in English) Uh… I just say "Poor guy". Is English! Not Cantonese ah!note 
  • Referenced extensively by bilingual translator Sora the Troll, who has multiple videos satirizing how difficult it is for native Japanese speakers to understand English unless it's pronounced very intensely and with inappropriate flat inflection. In one sketch, he almost ruins his job interview because he's speaking "gibberish" (conversational tones), not "clearly".

    Western Animation 
  • English language cartoons end up with this trope when translated for a Japanese audience as many bits of the original dialogue and song lyrics (if there are songs) are retained as is for various reasons.
    • This is more prevalent in The Boondocks' Japanese dub, due of the use of some words (like nigger) whose Japanese equivalents are forbidden to use in Japanese media, so the translators used the original words untranslated from English instead.
    • Same case in Japan with South Park, but less exaggerated.
  • In the Spanish dub of the Animaniacs short "I'm Mad", Wakko's line "Gotta use the potty, better stop the car!" is translated into "Tengo que ir al baño para la potty", with the translators leaving the word "potty" in English rather than translating it as "orinal".note 
  • The Crumpets: The original French dub has the Crumpets' Evil Aunt Harried randomly speaking English sentences and even occasionally the word "shit". In one episode, she instructs Caprice to speak English so she can attract a celebrity. The English dub made Harried randomly speak Italian instead, as well as teaching Caprice the Italian chic in that episode.
    • The Teen Crumpets episodes have few songs with English lyrics, such as Damon Grobain's song in "L'ADN à Pa", the song that Cassandra sings in "Quasi Cassie", and the disco song apparently sung by Marylin in "Marilyn Blues".
  • In all non-English foreign versions of Dora the Explorer except for the Turkish, Serbian and Irish versions, the characters speak in Gratuitous English.
  • Parodied in the Gravity Falls episode "Soos and the Real Girl", where a video game imported from Japan contains the phrase "Anthyding can hadplen".
  • Kaeloo: In the French dubnote , the characters frequently use English words like "what" and "freeze" instead of the French words (the use of "stop" is kinda justified, since it's an English loanword, e.g. "On doit faire un stop !").
  • The Japanese dub of the Magic Adventures of Mumfie episode "The Chase is On" has Mumfie yell "Nice catch!" instead of "I've got it!".
  • In a non-Japanese example, Metalocalypse gives us Swedish Skwisgaar and Norwegian Toki, who both suffer from the same ignorance of the English language. They both have atrocious problems with putting excessive plurals at the end of words (whether or not they are nouns in the first place), frequently use "am" for any form of the word "be", and have a bad grasp on vocabulary in general.
    Skwisgaar: Oh Toki, it's adorables. You really wants to takes more solos, but I am the lead guitarist. You know, why? Because I ams, hows do you says, way more gooders than you.
  • The French dub of Miraculous Ladybug uses this for the names of some of the heroes, villains, and power names. As an example, there's Ladybug herself, who is referred to as "Ladybug" rather than "Coccinelle", and her "Lucky Charm" and "Miraculous Ladybug" powers are also spoken in English.
  • The Japanese version of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The first Japanese opening, "Mirai Start", has it in the title, but the subtitles along the bottom run something like this:
    "だからHi Hi Hi! 幸せがきっとHi Hi Hi! 歌い出す..."
    • Some of the characters would occasionally insert English words into their dialogue, especially Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie (in fact, Pinkie says her first two words of dialogue in English — "Surprise! Hi!" — before she says anything in Japanese.).
    • Most of the songs are in English with Japanese subtitles because the Japanese dubbers don't have a large enough vocal recording room.
    • The English words for "pony" and "dragon" are used, among other species names.
    • Sugarcube Corner and the Grand Galloping Gala both receive a Dub Name Change in the form of a very mundane English phrase; the former becomes "Cake Shop" and the latter "Dance Party".
  • Phineas and Ferb: In "Elementary My Dear Stacy", the car parts salesman speaks with a thick Cockney accent that Stacy has to translate for Candace. In reality, he uses several made-up Cockney-sounding words ("bic", "bushies", "bangers", "harrish"), likely to sound even more foreign and unintelligible.
  • In the German version of the Popeye cartoons (the newer ones), an English word is inserted just for the rhyme: "Hallo ihr daheim — jetzt ist Popeye-Time!"
  • Despite being an Italian cartoon, Puppy in My Pocket: Adventures in Pocketville has several instances of English words seen throughout the show. A library in the Big City is labeled "Get A Book - Bestsellers", a map Kate picks up is labeled "Big City - Guide to Neighborhoods and Detailed Map", another map has the stations labeled in English, the Pet Buster's camera has the words "HappyDay" on it, and more.
    • Averted with the Pocketville School, with its sign reading "Scuola".
  • The Simpsons are translated to Spanish for Latin America, but the musical interludes are not. Translating dialogues is one thing, but translating the lyrics of a song in a way that they remain true to the original lyrics and also fit well in the song is not an easy task (even in the music industry translated lyrics in Cover Version songs are rare). As a result, the episodes make an odd jump from characters speaking in Spanish, to the same characters singing in English and with different voices (as the voice actors are not the same).
    • It also happens in the French dub most of the time.
  • South Park: Parodied in Episode 801, "Good Times with Weapons", with the fight-sequence song "Let's Fighting Love". However, the real joke is in the Japanese lyrics. Since Trey Parker is fluent in Japanese, rather than being Foreign Sounding Gibberish, it is actually...
    This song is kind of stupid
    It doesn't make sense
    The English is all fucked up
    That's okay [we do it all the time!]
    [Hey hey, let's go] fighting
    The important thing is to [protect my balls]
    I'm baaaad, [so let's fighting]
    [Let's fighting love — let's fighting love!]
That phrase "Let's fighting" is an example of what is, tragically, a very common Engrish construction in Japan. The bowling episode of MegaMan NT Warrior has a bunch of characters repeat the catchphrase "Let's bowling!" — making it perhaps the only one that's more painful to watch subbed than dubbed, ShoPro and all.
  • In Tom and Jerry during the 'Mouseketeer' shorts which took place in France, Jerry was accompanied by a little gray French-speaking mouse named Tuffy,note  who occasionally threw English phrases into his speech. In one short, when giving a long-winded explanation in French as to why he ran from Tom, he ends it with "and besides that, I'm chicken!"
  • Winx Club:
    • Many characters have attacks with English names. The original Italian also has other examples, such as Bloom (one of the Winx), and Icy (one of the Trix). Moreover, "Winx" is a pun on "wings". Whether this is due to it being influenced by anime, or due to the creator's wife being Singaporean, is up for debate.
    • Additionally, the first English version of show's first theme song, "Under the Sign of the Winx"note  is clearly being sung by people didn't learn English as their first language. The song itself also seems to be a loose translation of the Italian lyrics as well ("If you desire, you can become, one of our bunch!"...). This also applies to the other songs as well in the first season. Season 2 and beyond improves this considerably, with the second version of "Under the Sign of the Winx" in particular.
  • The Latin Spanish dub of WordWorld is a curious case. Originally it was a series dedicated to teaching letters and words to kids, but the dub decided to turn it into a series that teaches English to Spanish-speaking kids, this to make the character design make sense.
  • The Japanese dub of Amphibia has a LOT of this. In fact, here are all of the English words and phrases in both segments of the first episode. Monster, let's go, hero, time, formation, power, yes, woohoo, homesick, yeah, OK, and punch.


Ritsu's English

Ritsu attempts to speak in English, but isn't fluent and barely uses any actual English other than the few words she knows.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / IntentionalEngrishForFunny

Media sources: