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Poirot Speak

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"Do ho ho! That slaps me on the knee!"
The Heavy, Team Fortress 2

Sometimes, when a language is spoken by a non-native speaker, their speech patterns feature traits that show that the speaker is a foreigner. This may include the use of words from the speaker's native language, or errors in their syntax.

The Trope Namer is Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, a Belgian detective who used this mode of speaking to lead suspects to think he's simply a Funny Foreigner.

Both this invoked form and the straight form can easily be Truth in Television — as anyone who has learned a second language will tell you, it is difficult to break the habit of applying syntax and awkwardly translating idioms from one's native tongue to other languages, particularly when learned later in life. Slipping into native tongue is also rather common for those who are not completely fluent with a foreign language, particularly when stressed. Any of these can be doubly true for someone who has a strong accent in their original language to begin with, especially if they take pride in it.note 

See You No Take Candle (and its subtrope Tonto Talk) for cases where foreigners consistently talk with very poor grammar and lack of vocabulary. See also Gratuitous Foreign Language and As Long as It Sounds Foreign, wherein nobody's supposed to understand any of the words, and Foreign Cuss Word. Sometimes overlaps with Unexplained Accent, where a character has an accent (doesn't necessarily have to be a foreign one, mind you) that sounds out of place in the setting they're in. Compare and contrast Eloquent in My Native Tongue. Not to be confused with "Pirate Speak" written with a Funetik Aksent.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: While Asuka Langley Sohryu only uses German twice in the Japanese dub (her going through the launch checklist of her Eva during the Sixth Angel attack and one "Guten Morgen!" in a latter episode), the ADV English dub has her peppering her speech with more German words because of her voice actress (Tiffany Grant) being fluent in the language.
  • Fruits Basket: Half-German Momiji usually peppers several German words in his speech (although this was non-existent in the 2001 anime).

  • Peter Serafinowicz (got it in one) lampooned this by having Poirot say that he doesn't actually know French, he just uses enough French words to convince people he does.
  • Many of the French phrases in Dave Barry's writing are American idioms or brand names clumsily forced into French grammatical structures, such as "La Ware de la Tupper" or "Que l'enfer, c'est seulement Canada" ("What the hell, it's only Canada"). Some are just As Long as It Sounds Foreign sentences relying on Inherently Funny Words.
  • Anna Russell's routine "Schreechenrauf," introduced as a pastiche of Wagnerian arias for dramatic soprano, is actually a parody of the Ring cycle, with mangled Anglo-German phrases like "wir fallen in lieber" set to Richard Wagner's music. The aria reaches a climax when it puts down one of the characters from Götterdämmerung (Gutrune, daughter of Gibich) as "Gutrune, die Götterdämmerung Gibich!"
    • She does the same thing with what can only be described as dog-Italian, in "Canto Dolcemente Pipo", from the opera La Cantatrice Squelante.
      "No, no, no, no, non canto più. La coloratura will drive me nuts-a incredibile!"
  • Comedian Eddie Izzard's bit on Martin Luther spirals into an exploration of this trope: "Then Martin Luther said 'hang on a minute!' Only in German, so, 'ein minuten bitte... ich habe einen kleinen problemm ... avec dieser, uhh, religione.' ...He was from everywhere."
    • Izzard also does a bit on attempting to communicate in France with schoolboy French, most of which involves dragging a cat, a table, and a monkey everywhere so that his vocabulary stays applicable. This is sort of complicated/averted because Izzard can actually speak pretty good French – good enough to do whole shows in the language.
    • Averted in one act, where in the middle of the act he starts repeating his entire routine up to that point in French, without making any attempt to make sure the audience has any idea what he's saying. Partway through, he says "You people have no idea what I'm saying, you're only laughing because I'm speaking French."
    • "If you don't speak French, by the way, all that was fucking funny, alright?"
  • Czech humorous singer Ivan Mladek once did a routine where he spoke German, slipping back into Czech. He told of a television show, approximately "Look Out For The Curve", and translated it as "Achtung! Die Kurve!" (Which, to Czechs, sounds like "Look out! A whore!" as kurva means prostitute...)
    • And kurva is also a Yiddish word, with a presumed and not very convincing Hebrew etymology, so it seems likely that Yiddish—which is largely Middle High German—borrowed the word from Czech, completing the circle!
  • Cedric the Entertainer has Que Hora Es?, the Mexican soap opera for people who only had three weeks of Spanish in the fourth grade.

    Comic Books 
  • Used to delineate Roman speech from Gaulish speech in Asterix. Both mostly talk normally, but Romans drop in Latin phrases and words and use normal idioms with Hold Your Hippogriffs Latin words substituted in. The Iberians speak like this too, adding in 'ay yai yai' and 'olé' in their otherwise normal speech. The most obvious example, however, is the Britons in the original French version, who speak in a garbled form of French that uses English-ish grammar (Obelix asks "why are you talking backwards?"), literally translated English idioms ("Bonté gracieuse!"), stereotypical second-language mistakes (using 'vous' instead of 'tu' with family members, mixing up genders) and plays on French people trying to learn English (tortured idioms and "mon tailleur est riche", a reference to the bizarre and famous first sentence spoken on the Assimil: English sans Peine language learning vinyls ubiquitous in France in the 1960s).
  • Black Panther: Implied to be the case with the character Queen Divine Justice's Hausa dialogue. The readers see her use colloquial english expression in speech bubbles talking in a foreign language. They make perfect sense to us, but her fellow Dora Milaje are confused by the figures of speech.
    Queen: News at 11.
    Okoye: But, is it well after noon-
    Queen: Figure of speech. Try and keep up.
  • Gott und Himmel! War comics, especially titles like Commando and Stock Parodies thereof, tend to emphasize this, especially for Those Wacky Nazis, Englander Pigdogs.
  • Hellboy comics include Johann Krauss, who is capable of explaining doctorate-level concepts in English. However, he routinely responds to questions with "Ja" or "Nein."
  • Marlene and Petite, the West German and French members of Jet Dream and her Stunt-Girl Counterspies, fit this trope.
  • The modern Vladek Spiegelman in Maus speaks in the "foreign grammar, English vocabulary" variant, making this Truth in Television unless the author, his son, was using artistic license.
  • Nero: The character Meneer Pheip mixes Dutch and French language all the time!
  • Starfire's narration slips into Tamaranean when she's attacked in Issue #4 of Red Hood and the Outlaws. She also pronounces the name "Richard" as though it were Tamaranean at the end of the issue.
  • Robin: Villain Jaeger constantly talks with a heavy German accent with the occasional bit of German slipped in. This helps clarify that Jaeger really is German since he's very good at avoiding capture and his actual name and background remain hidden from the authorities and the readers for years.
  • In Strontium Dog, the presumably Norwegian Wulf uses der for the (though in Norwegian 'the' is a suffix to the noun, not a standalone word before it), and ja for yes. His sentence structure also varies between sensible and Yoda-like.
  • Suske en Wiske: All foreign characters mix Dutch with loan words from their own language.
  • X-Men is fond of this, with its many, many foreign characters dropping in words of their own language all the time, mainly through Chris Claremont's influence as the one who turned the X-Men into a global team. As accents can be heard, this tends to be absent from adaptations (of course, the movies drop the accents for everyone but Alan Cumming's Nightcrawler... whose German is not convincing at all even to non-native speakers of German).
    • Sometimes also with non-foreign characters; Gambit lapsed into something vaguely like French at the drop of a hat.note 
    • According to legend, Austrians who saw the movie would exclaim something like "Oh my god! We don't actually sound like that... Do we?"
    • The parody comic Twisted Toyfare Theatre likes to get a lot of laughs at the X-Men's expense by mocking this. The X-Men's gratuitous foreign words will usually have humorously inaccurate translations in footnotes; as an example, Nightcrawler's "Ja und splichist!" was translated as "I'm German." It should be noted that "splichist" isn't even a word in any language.
    • It does not help that writers and letterers frequently misspell the German words they use ++ sometimes creating unintentional humour, e. g. with Nightcrawler addressing a lady as "Leibchen" (bodice or vest; presumably they were aiming for "Liebchen", dear or darling) — or translating English expressions into German word for word, resulting in phrases that either don't exist or have a significantly different meaning than the intended one.

    Fan Works 
  • Kalash93 uses this trope a fair amount when dealing with foreign languages, particularly when the characters are not native English speakers. Of course, he often leaves easily-understood snippets untranslated, often slipping into Gratuitous German and Gratuitous Russian.
  • Child of the Storm has Jean-Paul Beaubier occasionally lapse into French phrases here and there. It's widely suspected, and heavily implied, to be one of his many ways of appearing more harmless than he is - that is to say, like a French teenage Pretty Boy socialite with little interest in anything beyond frivolities and boys, rather than a hyper-observant, utterly ruthless, and terrifyingly lethal speedster. He's a perfectly fluent English speaker, and tends to drop all bits of French from his English when he gets serious. However, on one or two occasions he does seem to fumble more realistically for the precise phrasing in English.
  • In Chrysalis Visits The Hague, many human characters, but the Swiss Estermann in particular, like to lapse back into their native language when things get excited or stressful. This is probably done to remind the reader that they are actually averting Translation Convention.
  • In the chapters of Light and Dark The Adventures of Dark Yagami that take place in Paris, the characters use French pronouns, vaguely French verb constructions and occasionally French words while speaking (mostly) English.
  • My Little Pony: The Mentally Advanced Series has Pinkie. No one really knows what that accent is 'supposed' to be, but her speech is liberally peppered with "Yes"es and inverted syntax. "He thinks he is in the out field where he is safe from getting strikes, but Pinkie has fooled him! Yes."
  • A Conlang-based example in The Parselmouth of Gryffindor, where the Alizor King sprinkles his speech with Alizor interjections (and curses) but does not really grasp English grammar, constantly dropping pronouns for one thing.
  • When Retsuraed did an MST of the rather obscure fanfic When Fifi met Tails, besides the use of Gratuitous French for the rare few words that were actually used correctly, the authors seemed to think that French people pronounce their "Y"s as "V"s and add random "Z"s at the end of almost every word. As XxSuperDriverxX put it...
    SuperDriver: Yeah, I have no idea what Fifi just said, but apparently Tails does. Does Tails even understand French in the first place? Or horribly mangled English that thinks it's French?
  • The Son of the Emperor is a bit of a peculiar example. While French and German words are mixed into dialogue written in English, this mostly done to convey the fact that the characters are speaking in those languages and not in English.
  • Penelople laFloo in Voyages of the Wild Sea Horse speaks with what the author admits is a hesitant attempt to merge this trope with a toned-down Funetik Aksent, both being done by a writer unfamiliar with real French or even actual Poirot Speak outside of Pepé Le Pew and Fifi la Fume, all in an attempt to remind readers that Penelope has a very strong faux-French accent. She sometimes interjects real French words (provided by Google Translate) in moments of heightened emotion as well.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series has the Kaiba Corps Nazis, Kaiba's two lackeys who speak like this. When Kaiba asks them to tone it down they hastily agree "Yes mein führer."

    Films — Animation 
  • Played with in Ratatouille. The characters are presumably speaking French, and Translation Convention renders their dialogue as English which is grammatically perfect but, for the majority of the characters, French-accented. The French-accented characters delve into it a bit, such as using the French pronunciation of "Paris" and saying oui rather than yes. Colette in particular has an odd tic of not using plurals, as if the "s" in the plural noun is the silent letter at the end of a French word.
  • Coco does something similar to Ratatouille with its Mexican setting: the characters' English is perfect but accented, both the Spanish and English pronunciations of "Mexico" are heard, and we get moments like Miguel being offered another helping of food and responding first "No gracias" and then "Si". Unlike Ratatouille, which used very few French phrases, Spanish phrases are heavily used throughout, to the point that you could say the entire film is in Spanglish.
  • Mr. Bobinsky in Coraline throws random Russian words into his dialogue now and then, much to the confusion of Coraline.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Hands, the main character of being Hands, frequently speaks using anachronisms, idioms, and with vernacular unlike other characters in the Role-Playing Game they inhabit. To assuage confusion during the film, Hands refers to their uncommon phrases as "wizard speak."
  • A minor German character in The Big Lebowski speaks like this when starring in a porno.
    Karl: Mein name is Karl, ich bin Expert!
  • Lampshaded in Casablanca when Carl is waiting on a German couple who speaking only English because of their impending emigration to America.
    Mr. Leuchtag: Liebchen - sweetness, what watch?
    Mrs. Leuchtag: Ten watch.
    Mr. Leuchtag: Such much?
  • Dominique from D.E.B.S.
    Janet: "You need to speak English or French. Frenglish is not a language."
  • In Inglourious Basterds, recognizable words in the French and German dialogue are occasionally reproduced untranslated in the subtitles, producing a Poirot Speak-like effect even though the characters are speaking entirely in their own languages. It actually comes off more like Gratuitous German, since it's mostly just words like "wunderbar," "mein Führer," "ja," or "nein."
  • The whispering among the Frenchmen in Monty Python and the Holy Grail is full of this. When they are about to Drop the Cow, the order is whispered in Franglais: "Fetchez la vache!". Later when they bring in the Trojan Rabbit, they cannot understand each other in French and have to switch to English: "C'est un lapin, lapin de bois. Quoi? Un cadeau. What? A present. Oh, un cadeau."
  • Murder on the Orient Express (1974): In a rather meta version of this trope, Poirot himself sniffs out a suspect's deception based on their reliance on this tendency to make themselves look, in their own words, 'backwards'. They pepper their speech with Swedish behind a heavy accent, but have no trouble understanding the word 'Emolument'. Takes one to know one, it seems.note 
  • A classic film example is Inspector Clouseau from the The Pink Panther movies, expertly played by Peter Sellers. Subversion: Clouseau's horrendous (and fake) French accent was so thick the French characters in the movies had moments where they could not understand him. Several of the jokes are actually based on people expecting him to speak like this: for example, he says English room like the French rhume (cold [the virus])...
  • Street Angel: The story takes place in Italy, and there's a healthy dose of lines like "Si, si, Mama! I will be back soon with the medicine.".
  • Inverted in The Terminal. When Viktor Navorski is beginning to grasp the English language, he usually uses English words for basic pronouns, prepositions, etc., but falls back to Krakhozhian when referring to more specific things - like mustard.

  • There are a trilogy of books by Miles Kington, entitled "Let's Parler Franglais", "Let's Parler Franglais Again" and "Let's Parler Franglais Une More Temps", which teach a mangled version of French of this type (for comedy but presented as serious language lessons). Franglais is described as "The language you can speak if you know English and O-Level (Middle School) French".
  • P. J. O'Rourke's "Fake French in Nine (Neuf) Easy Lessons" is another instructional text on Franglais.
    "Did I tellez vous about le chemise je trouvez at le Bendel's? C'est tres froid. Mais je ne affordez pas it at all so je chargez a Mama. Now she'll be pissoired a la maximum. Have to frapper les libres now — examination terminal de la français is demain..."
  • In Karina Fabian's Discovery, one character notes that the captain tends to slip back to his Jamaican roots when angry. Consequently, although he shows no other signs, we can tell that he's furious when giving certain orders.
  • Some of Amy Tan's Chinese immigrant characters speak English this way. Even those who speak it well often throw in Chinese expressions.
  • The Alice Network: Charlie’s mother and Lili, both of whom are French by birth, speak good English, but sprinkle their speech with French.
  • Hork-Bajir in Animorphs tend to switch between English/whatever the translation is in and their own language, plus the common-language Galard. Later in the series they try to justify this by saying that Hork-Bajir brains are just bad with languages, even when they're under Yeerk control.
  • When he appears in the Betsy-Tacy series, Tib's Grosspapa Hornik speaks in a mixture of heavily-accented, jumbled English and perfect German:
    "Vat tink you of diese Milvaukee?" he asked Betsy. "Es ist gemütlich, nicht wahr?"
  • Used in The Da Vinci Code frequently. The second line of dialogue after the prologue reads, "Mais monsieur, your guest is an important man." This is representative of most conversations involving non-native English speakers in the book.
  • Another notable literary example is Professor Abraham Van Helsing of the novel Dracula; his style of Poirot Speak is more the "Dutch grammar, English vocabulary" type.
  • Used by Fitz Kreiner, from the Doctor Who Expanded Universe, who cannot communicate in German but is simply being weird:
    "For you, Britischer pig, ze var is over."
  • There is also a series of books full of the mistakes Dutch people have made while trying to speak English, but while still using Dutch words/grammar. This stems from the fact that English and Dutch are related, and share many of the same words. Sometimes words sound familiar, but mean something slightly different, but hilarious, or something different entirely. It also comments on the fact that a lot of Dutch people literally translate Dutch proverbs into English. Which is not restricted to Dutch speakers. Most people who are comparatively fluent in a foreign language, but are not native speakers (or native speaker equivalents, if e.g. they learned the second language at a very young age), tend to have trouble with idioms, proverbs and the like. Even if their command of the foreign language in question is quite good, proverbs are frequently translated word-for-word.
  • Harry Turtledove uses the same tactic to make sure you don't forget that people with French names in obviously French-speaking places speak French, or whatever other lingual group the story focuses on. In the World War series, very little of The Race's language is ever translated into English in the text, but they have distinctive speech patterns which are often indicated (such as the "interrogative cough"), which people will often use even when speaking human languages which have their own auditory cues to indicate that a question is being asked.
  • Named for Detective Hercule Poirot, who spoke this way as part of his Funny Foreigner facade. Hercule speaks perfect English at the end of each story as he explains step-by-step how he solved the case. Other characters and the detective himself have commented on it. Poirot is in fact something of a subversion, as he uses his accent to disarm suspects, making them think he's only a Funny Foreigner when it's really "just an act". From Three Act Tragedy:
    Poirot: I will explain. It is true that I can speak the exact, the idiomatic English. But, my friend, to speak the broken English is an enormous asset. It leads people to despise you. They say – a foreigner – he can’t even speak English properly. It is not my policy to terrify people – instead I invite their gentle ridicule.
  • In Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, Cabal is German-born but lived most of his life in England-he's stated to have a very mild accent which isn't written phonetically, so the only time this shows up is when he's particularly stressed and swears in German or uses very common phrases like "du lieber gott". However, Cabal is also a necromancer so when he really swears he dips into dead, inhuman languages that are that much more vitriolic.
  • Vogel does this in The Martian. He often speaks English with German grammar and throws in things like Ja or Mein Gott!
  • Herald Alberich from Mercedes Lackey's Heralds of Valdemar series routinely speaks Valdemaran with Karsite word order. He was born and raised in Karse and only ended up in Valdemar after being kidnapped/rescued by a Companion, who eventually psychically fed Valdemaran vocabulary into his head... and only vocabulary, leading Alberich to use Valdemaran words with Karsite grammar.
  • In the (non-fictional) Playing The Moldovans At Tennis author Tony Hawks has a bet with his friend that he can beat every member of the Moldovan soccer team in a game of tennis. The friend attempts to trick Tony by substituting the final opponent with a semi-professional who is only pretending to be Moldovan, but the man's use of this trope (mangling simple phrases like 'thank you') is one of the things that tips off Tony that he has been deceived.
  • In Portrait in Sepia Matías Rodríguez de la Cruz travels to Chile to spend his dying days with his family. He speaks Spanish with an odd French-English accent, and is constantly dropping phrases in French in his conversations with Aurora ("You are very young to understand these things, ma chère."). This trope is not evident in the Spanish edition, but it is in the English translation. It is a justified trope, as he has spent most of his time overseas.
  • The Hungarian Toby Esterhase from The Quest for Karla trilogy, who manages to do this in multiple languages.
    Tiny Toby spoke no known language perfectly, but he spoke them all. In Switzerland Guillam had heard his French and it had a German accent; his German had a Slav accent and his English was full of stray flaws and stops and false vowel sounds.
  • The Radix: Erich Metzger speaks English well, but loves to drop a "Ja". Nicolette Bettenncourt also delivers spades of lines in French, from "Qui" to "Putain!".
  • Sherlock Holmes uses this to identify the nationality of his client in an early story, not by Gratuitous German but the sentence construction.
  • In Eric Flint's 1632 series, the fictional West Virginian town of Grantville, in the year 2000, is picked up and dropped in the middle of the 30 Years War (in 1631) in the middle of the Germanies. A patois (or pidgin, depending) quickly develops, called "Amideutsch" – "American Deutsch" or "American German". So you have a huge cast of characters who do this so habitually, many readers start doing it in *real life*.
  • In the novel version of 2010 (which portrays rather friendlier Soviet-American relations than the film), the "Russlish" spoken aboard the craft is something of a running joke among the crew of the Leonov, with "STAMP OUT RUSSLISH" posters being mentioned at one point. The American viewpoint character, Heywood Floyd, even mentions speaking to another American (Walter Curnow) in Russian at one point. This is, as noted below, Truth in Television: mixtures of Russian and English have proven to become remarkably common in space, where Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts frequently spend months together (first aboard Mir, and now on the ISS), although when the book came out (1982) only one US-USSR joint project (1975's Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, which lasted all of 44 hours) had ever been tried.
  • The Name of the Rose has Salvatore, a rather unusual monk, constantly slipping into and out of many different languages even mid-sentence, including Italian, Spanish, and Occitan, all while nominally speaking Latin, so that several characters refer to him as "the speaker of Babel". For that matter, most of the characters drop into Latin frequently, not just to quote a particular passage, although they're actually speaking Latin at all times and the framing device is that it's been translated into the modern vulgate by Umberto Eco.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The History Channel once aired a program about Martin Luther, and they had a voice actor reading a passage of English text in the character of Luther – he adopted a German accent and replaced "and" with "und". This patronizing behavior ranks about equal with the Discovery Channel shows that depict sound in space.
  • Blackadder manages this on various occasions, such as when he met the Spanish Inquisition and ran into a translation issue.
    Blackadder: No speako Dago!
  • Pretty much every character in 'Allo 'Allo! and one of the major plot points and sources of humor in the show.
  • Herr Lipp manages to mangle virtually every sentence he speaks in such a way that it becomes a Double Entendre... made especially funny in that you can never quite tell if he's doing it on purpose or not. "If you don't understand any of my sayings, come to me in private and I shall take you in my German mouth. Alles klar?"
  • MADtv (1995) has a recurring sketch of well-known American TV shows "dubbed" into Spanish; they use English sentence structure, and words that the average American wouldn't recognize are simply said in English. ("Pero Jack, si Sr. Roper sabe que tu eres heterosexual, él va a evict-te.")
  • Lampshaded on Modern Family with Ronaldo, who will replace simple English words with their Spanish equivalents practically every line he speaks, but do so inconsistently, as Mitchell points out in irritation (for instance, he once said "Proposition Ocho" and "fifty gay weddings" in the same sentence). Averted with Gloria, who will use Spanish pet names for her loved ones, but otherwise speaks entirely in English, and Javier.
  • Welsh-language soap opera Pobol Y Cym is capable of making purist Welsh-speakers wince. Set vaguely in south-west Wales and using actors and actresses whose command of Welsh is variable, the script can be liberally peppered with loan-words from English - often to such an extent that non-Welsh speakers can, with an effort, pick up the plot and gain an understanding of what's going on. Virtually all Welsh verbs are regular and end in the suffix "-io". This makes it easy for a learner or one with a limited vocabulary (or an actor losing the script) to make a recognisable verb by taking an English word and adding "-io" to the end. PYC does this a lot even when perfectly good Welsh words exist for things and concepts. The show justifies this by saying it has a hidden educational function, to make the Welsh language accessible to learners. Speakers of "purer" Welsh dialects, ie from North Wales, tend to shake their heads despairingly.
  • Omar's boyfriend Renaldo on The Wire does this with Spanish.

  • Not quite an example, but "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "Taco Grande" is mostly in English with some whole sentences in very simple Spanish. Anyone who took even a year of Spanish should be able to figure out what they mean. This doesn't include the lengthy Spanish monologue, which was written in English and translated by a bilingual Scotti Bros. Records employee and read aloud in the song by Spanish-speaking actor Cheech Marin.
    • The original song that "Taco Grande" has parodied, "Rico Suave" by Gerardo, is pretty much Spanish with English mixed in.
  • P.D.Q. Bach's "Four Next-To-Last Songs" have lyrics in "Deunglish," a mixture of German and English. There's also the "Blaues Gras" cantata, which has some very American English idioms translated into German word for word.
  • The Wise Guys, a German a cappella group, have a song called "Denglish" that starts in pure German and slowly devolves into this.
  • Many of Falco's songs, such as "Der Kommissar" and "Rock Me Amadeus", feature "Denglisch" lyrics.
  • The original version of Fifty Fifty's "Cupid" alternates between Korean and English. Averted in the Twin version, which is entirely English.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Done pretty often in Professional Wrestling, more recently with Santino Marella.
  • Every single Hispanic wrestler in WWE does this.

  • Anyone Can Whistle has the scene where Fay puts on a wig, dress and accent (ze accent being ze most outrageous) to disguise herself as a sexy French lady, and solicits "Docteur" Hapgood to accompany her in the duet "Come Play Wiz Me."
  • Bill Wyman's single Je Suis Un Rock Star.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac: Lampshaded by Ragueneau at Act II Scene VII, who hears only a few words spoken in Gascon dialect to realize that The Cadets are a regiment composed of Gascons… and to be fearful of them (they have a reputation). Notice those are the only Gascon words in the play (apart from some in Act IV), because the Gascon Cadets all talk in French:
    Cadets (entering): Mille dious! Capdedious! Pocapdedious!
    Ragueneau (drawing back startled): Gentlemen, are you all from Gascony?
    Cadets All!
  • In the opera L'enfant et les sortileges, the boxing teapot sings in a language composed of Gratuitous English phrases with a few French words mixed in.
  • Used in West Side Story. The Puerto Ricans speak English among themselves, punctuated with "por favor" and "una poca poca?" And "si" is near-ubiquitous.

    Video Games 
  • In 2Dark, Carlotta the bearded woman speaks English while using random Spanish words.
  • Même les pommes de terre ont des yeux, a French text adventure for the Apple ][, has some text mixing French with a Spanish accent with Spanish and English words, mostly in the "Explicassione" setting forth the plot (which has a translation into proper French):
    "...and los espionos are very nombreux. They got las pupillas partout! Commo las patatas. Buena lucko tout de même amigo."
  • The German scientist in the intro to U.R.B.A.N. The Cyborg Project. "This can become eine... grosse problem."
  • A lot of the dialogue in the Assassin's Creed series is peppered with foreign words, especially in Assassin's Creed II. Desmond can actually Lamp Shade this in some idle dialogue in the real world segments. He's given the explanation that it's due to lags in the Animus system's translation software.
  • Secundo from Beyond Good & Evil liberally sprinkles his speech with Spanish words (confusingly, a couple of Italian and French ones, too [the latter presumedly untranslated from the original – "et voilà!"]).
    • In the original French, it's a combination of Italian, Spanish and English.
    • In the Spanish dub, he uses only Italian words.
  • Zig-zagged for Russian characters in the Call of Duty series. In the World War II-based titles, they regularly speak accented English for the sake of the player being able to understand them (which is clearly Translation Convention, as one of the final journal entries in the original game has the Russian player character say he could not understand what an American soldier he met with was saying), with the occasional swear in actual Russian thrown in when necessary. In the Modern Warfare sub-series and Call of Duty: Black Ops, however, they regularly speak Russian, only saying things in English when the player needs to know what they're saying. This becomes a plot point in Modern Warfare 2; as part of Makarov's attempt to blame a massacre at a civilian airport on America, he and the other men performing the attack speak English only - hence the mission's name, "No Russian".
  • Chrono Cross does this constantly, and most conspicuously with Pierre and Harle, the two characters with faux French accents. They even ludicrously use the word moi for both 'I' and 'me'. This is because the text was actually in standard English, run through an "accent generator" that replaced particular words or word beginnings/endings with others. This allowed the localization team to just translate one line and alter it, rather than translating 44 of them.
  • The Russian voices from Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 had this, with "da" being the most common untranslated word. They mostly got right the Russian habit of missing out "the", however (Russian has no articles).
  • Ahti the Janitor from Control, who is from Finland. He speaks English with a Finnish accent, occasionally slips back into Finnish and uses Finnish idoms that have been translated to English literally.
  • Dragon Age: Justified with the elves. The reason they pepper their speech with random elvish words is because that's all they remember. They lost so much when their empire fell, and are desperate to cling onto what little they still have. In the third game, the ancient elves who guard the Well of Sorrows don't bother doing this (with the exception of one or two difficult to translate concepts), since they still remember the language perfectly. The fact that Solas also doesn't bother doing it is a hint as to his true nature.
  • Dragon Quest IV: The DS remake sees a fair amount of Russian and French sprinkled into the dialogue.
  • In The Elder Scrolls series, dragons tend to frequently slip back into draconic when speaking in Tamriellic. In Skyrim, Alduin, Odahviing, and Paarthurnax all speak this way. Paarthurnax has spent thousands of years conversing with mortals, so his command of the mortal tongue is far better, and he's friendly and polite enough that when he slips into his natural tongue, he's quick to translate (unless it is a word he knows you understand, like "dovah"). It is stated that dragons are beings for whom language is an intrinsic part of their existence, so them switching between languages without thinking about it is not a conscious decision. Interestingly, the Dawnguard DLC adds Durnehviir, an undead dragon native bound to the Soul Cairn, who speaks English perfectly. No explanation is offered for his ability in this regard.
  • The End Times: Vermintide and Vermintide II: Of the playable characters, Bardin the dwarf speaks fluent English (or rather, Reikspiel), peppered with words in the dwarven language Khazalid — especially insults, names for the various enemy units, and nicknames for his comrades.
  • The tribals in Fallout: New Vegas: Honest Hearts speak like this, such as "Yoocan no mikumpa me!"(You're no match for me!), "Yoo murdah my hainji!"(You killed/murdered my friend!) and "Deyai yoo!" (Die you!)
  • Far Cry 6: The game has developed a bit of a reputation for this. There's a lot of Gratuitous Spanish interspersing regular conversation while Translation Convention is assumed for most of the game (given Dani speaks both English as well as Spanish).
  • Fate/Grand Order:
    • Quetzalcoatl speaks in a Mexican-Spanish accent and often throws Spanish words into her speech.
    • In the English localization, Osakabehime is portrayed to talk like a weeaboo despite being Japanese, but instead of using complete Japanese words or phrases, the translators have given her the very odd habit of mixing English and Japanese words together. This is to portray her as an Otaku, but in the original Japanese script, she talks normal Japanese, and you aren't supposed to find out that she's an otaku until much later in her event's story.
    • Marie is a light version of this. Her catchphrase "Vive la France" is pretty much the only thing she says in French.
    • In the early part "Pseudo-Singularity IV: The Forbidden Advent Garden: Salem", Sanson first speaks to Lavinia by using a very heavy French accent to appear as a normal traveling performer, but he drops that accent for the rest of the story.
  • Halo: Reach has this with some of the Hungarian-speaking civilians.
  • Jeanne d'Arc has Colet, who speaks in a terribly stereotypical French accent. In a game where everyone is already French.
  • Mercenaries 2 replaced enemies that spoke their native language with English-speakers wielding thick accents. They seemed to know how to say 'explosive' in Spanish... and that was it.
  • Pokémon tends to use Poirot Speak for regions based on countries that don't have English or Japanese as a majority language (e.g. French for Kalos, Spanish for Paldea), and even some that do for flavor purposes (Alola is derived from "aloha" and has random bits of Hawaiian everywhere in the area names and character dialogue). This tends to creep into the names of Pokémon found in those regions, too.
  • Resident Evil 4 does this with everyone who's not a normal villager. Normal villagers will speak only Spanish (though sometimes what they say doesn't make much sense, due to not-so-good translation), but every other native will sometimes slip into a "Señor", for instance, despite being perfectly able to discuss genetic manipulation science in perfect English.
  • Team Fortress 2:
    • The Medic, the Heavy, and the Spy all speak mostly fluent English, but will revert to their native (?) languages for things like "Yes", "Thank you", and the occasional Foreign Cuss Word. As the developers mentioned, this is a part of Stylistic Suck.
    • The Heavy does this in Poker Night at the Inventory by Telltale Games. His banter constantly sounds faux-Russian (something like "You have job, yes?").
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines: Hunter of Monsters Yukie Oogami is intended to speak in broken English with Japanese interjections. The effect is compromised by the voice actor reading the Japanese words and pronunciation notes in a thoroughly American accent.
  • All of the Wolfenstein sequels embody this trope to an ear-torturing extent. The original Wolfenstein 3D actually featured Nazis speaking German. The sequels are a mix of horribly accented English with a few simple German words throw in like jawohl, achtung, etc.
    • The original 1981 Castle Wolfenstein game notably had the Nazis speaking correct German as well (the C64 manual included a short phrasebook so the player could understand what was being said). At the time digitized voice was quite uncommon in a computer game, and even Wolfenstein 3-D predated the importing of cinematic values into video games, making this something of an Unbuilt Trope.
      • Speaking of Wolfenstein 3D, in Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, the repurposed Game Within a Game, Wolfstone 3D, suffers from this: although the credits are in German, the episode titles and outros are in English, with a bit of German here and there.

    Visual Novels 
  • Several characters from the Ace Attorney series, most specifically Jean Armstrong (French words), Olga Orly (Russian sentence structure), and Klavier Gavin (German words, usually "Herr" and "Fräulein"). The latter is particularly strange as his brother, Kristoph Gavin, speaks such meticulous and perfectly articulated English that one is almost tempted to read a slight British accent into his dialogue. It should be noted that at least one and possibly all three of those are not the nationality they appear to be. Olga admits to pretending, Jean slips into Spanish instead of French on one occasion, so he's probably pretending, and Klavier is a showman and likely just playing it up (Phoenix himself even calls him on this at one point).
  • In Hatoful Boyfriend, the French fantail pigeon Sakuya lets slip a "Tu dis des balivernes!"note  during a stressful moment. Otherwise he uses Japanese (or translated English) perfectly. His brother Yuuya, who was born in Japan, lived in France for some time, and then moved back likes using French greetings and farewells, once teasingly tells Sakuya "Non, non, non!" and calls the protagonist "Mon amie" most of the time, but this appears to be a playful affectation. In a moment of stress he just says "Shit."

  • Lampshaded in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, in which a group of Mexicans who speak Poirot Speak are redundantly subtitled. "Hola, señor" has an asterisk placed next to it, and the footnote at the bottom of the page helpfully translates it as "Hello, mister"; the word "policia" is spoken four times in a single speech (it is, in fact, the only Spanish word on the page), and the comic dutifully provides four footnotes reading "police."
  • In Darths & Droids, Count Dooku is apparently Space French, so he uses lots of Space French words in his speech. By Translation Convention, Space French sounds exactly like French.
    • Tarkin does the same. It's even implied that he's Dooku's son.
  • Elf Blood:
    • Carlita Delacroix is the most Egregious offender of this. Interestingly, although she had a Cuban mother and a French father, she only ever talks with a French accent. Hell, it might even be completely put on seeing as she went to school with the others and they don't have any kind of accent whatsoever.
    • The Sages, being remnants of the original Alfen civilisation, will occasionally pepper their speech with Germanisms.
  • Anja Donlan from Gunnerkrigg Court is not a native English speaker. This is shown in one Flashback, where she makes several grammar mistakes. (By the present day, over a decade later, her English is pretty much perfect.)
    Anja: Is so sad. All those figures standing there. Like they waiting for something.
  • The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! has the Rogue Canadian Scientists, a pair of mad scientists one of whom says "eh" all the time, and the other who speaks like Pepe Le Pew.
  • The Nazis in Irregular Webcomic!.
  • The Remix Comic version of Jet Dream exaggerates the trope to ridiculous levels. Marlene and Petite are even worse than their original comic book counterparts, and any minor character from another country is guaranteed to have an utterly ridiculous accent and speech pattern.
  • DiDi from Ménage à 3 (a French Canadian living in Montreal) switches regularly between French and English. Unlike most examples, her French is not necessarily words that most English speakers would already know, and they aren't subtitled, so it takes context clues to figure it out if none of the other characters say anything that translates it. Theoretically, reading this comic should improve your knowledge of French.
    Tess: Why do you keep speaking sometimes-French?
  • In Polandball, all non-anglophone countryballs will speak broken English with some words from their native languages thrown in.
  • Nick in Schwarz Kreuz has a tendency for this, especially while angry. He always curses in German.
  • String Theory (2009): Dr. Orville von Schtein's speech is sprinkled with bits of German.
    Orville von Schtein: You did not speak until you were sechs... oder sieben? Ja, I believe you had just become seven.
  • In Trying Human, "Guinea", as we learn in chapter 24 (that reveals much of his backstory), is a son of an American general and a French pilot, hence, as he describes himself, "a bilingual army brat". Since he's currently living in New Jersey and mostly interacting with English-speakers, he speaks English, but peppers it with French when surprised or expressing feelings (like concern for his companion).

    Web Original 
  • Amano Pikamee, of VOMS Project, has a bilingual history: while a native Japanese speaker, she is half-American and lived in "Virtual Texas" for a time. While her English is mostly fluent, she has a handful of Verbal Tics wherein she slips Japanese into her English, such as describing situations as "Yabai" (dangerous) or ending sentences with "dayo" (a sentence-ender that adds emphasis like an exclamation mark).
  • In this Let's Play of XCOMUFO Defence, a fan entry in Chapter 3 uses this. "I vaz issued mein waffen today. It is ein stick."

    Western Animation 
  • In the multi-ethnic Multinational Team of Captain Planet and the Planeteers, only Linka occasionally spouted Russian exclamations. How she (or any of the others on the team apart from Wheeler, the only native English speaker among them) learned English in the first place is left unexplained.
  • Played for Laughs in the Family Guy episode "The Road to Germany", when a Nazi guard describes the fleeing Brian, Stewie, and Mort as "Ein dog, ein baby, und ein Art Garfunkel".
  • Eduardo from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends uses about as many Spanish words as someone learns in grade school, often uses grammar that wouldn't be appropriate for English or Spanish ("No es crybaby!"), and calls Bloo "Azul". Strangely, when first introduced he spoke complete sentences in Spanish and seemed to have a hard time saying anything in English, but changed to Poirot Speak before the pilot even ended.
  • In The Inspector cartoons from De Patie Freleng Enterprises, The Inspector (an Expy for Inspector Clouseau) has a fairly mild accent, though he does pepper his dialog with "oui" and other short words. In the early cartoons, however, his Sidekick, Sgt. Deux-Deux, speaks with a mild Spanish accent — and, as a Running Gag, often says "sí", to the Inspector's irritation. This was phased out in later cartoons, possibly due to political correctness.
    The Inspector: "Don't say sí. Say oui."
    Deux-Deux: "Sí, Inspector."
    • On at least one occasion, si was the correct thing to say even in French (positive reply to a negative question).
  • Almost every foreigner in the Looney Tunes series, especially in the Pepe LePew cartoons (in which Poirot Speak even appears on signs).
  • In the Madeline cartoons, most of the characters speak English with French accents, but pepper their speech with French words here and there.
  • Road Rovers: Exile, the Russian, frequently peppered his speech by putting "-ski" at the end of random words.
  • Antoine from Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) painfully mixes English and French in his sentences and his accent makes certain words impossible to interpret, much to the confusion of the other characters.
  • Teen Titans (2003), at least, uses this for Starfire in the stilted but understandable version. She also adds articles (usually "the") before the names of villains ("the Cinderblock" or "the Mumbo") and is also an example of Pardon My Klingon with her use of untranslatable Tamaranian words in numerous contexts. The fact that Starfire does this is even more vexing, considering her entire understanding of the English language stems from a direct psychic download from a native speaker, meaning she should have instant and near-perfect understanding of the language. The only words from her own language she should be using are ones without direct translations. By contrast, her sister Blackfire also speaks English and has none of these issues.
  • Xiaolin Showdown: Omi, one of the main characters, demonstrates this trope repeatedly in most episodes by butchering even common figures of speech. He is always promptly corrected, except in one case: none of the other characters could seem to make heads or tails of his words enough to even guess at what he meant.
    Raimundo: What Omi just did to that last sentence is what we're going to do to you!
    • At least one mangling that none of the others could figure out was, "This is not a delicacy!" after facing resistance trying to boss around the team. Mangled word being democracy, natch.
  • Metalocalypse: Scandinavians Skwisgaar (Swedish) and Toki (Norwegian) don't use many words from their native languages, but often mangle their pronunciation of English words and frequently lapse into Pluralses, which is Truth in Television for many Nordic language speakers.

    Real Life 
  • This is essentially the origins of "pidgins" — crude languages formed by haphazardly combining words and grammatical structures from multiple languages. Typically developed as a "make do" language between groups who do not share a common language or language family, and who maintain a significant geographical or cultural distance, typically for the purpose of enabling trade between them. Many of these pidgins eventually become fully fledged creole languages later on, combining many aspects of the languages they were derived from.
  • In Michael Palin's New Europe, the people who are showing him around do miss out words when speaking English to him and one did use the Romanian word for "yes" rather than the English one.
  • The famous "blinkenlights" warning sign.
  • Franco-Manitobans (and other fully fluently bilingual people) do this, leading those of us who have to switch brain-language gears before changing languages completely in the dust.
  • Jean-Claude Van Damme is particularly known for this in France, where he has kept using English words in the middle of his French sentences like his infamous "aware".
  • In areas where two languages come in close contact, languages will often become mingled in a phenomenon called code-switching.
    • In the United States, a particularly well-known case is Spanglish, which is widely spoken along the US-Mexican border as well as in areas where English and Spanish speakers mingle frequently (especially restaurant kitchens). It's very similar to, though a bit less stable than, the formation of pidgin languages. (On the International Space Station, it's not that uncommon for the astronauts and cosmonauts to speak in a mixture of English and Russian.)
    • "Code-switching" happens in Welsh, too. Along the hazy "border" between English and Welsh-speaking areas, you get a phenomenon known as "Wenglish", where predominant English is dotted with Welsh words and expressions. "Cwtch", meaning "hug" or "cuddle", becomes a shorthand word for any romantic or sexual interaction, and you can go into a fish and chips shop and order "sglods". (Anglicised from "sglodion" for potato chips, and given an English-grammar pluralisation).
    • While most Latin-derived\Romance languages are equal, Portuguese and Spanish are an egregious example - given Spain and Portugal are neighbours and share a long land border. note  There's even the Brazilian equivalent of Spanglish, "Portunhol". In Spanish, this is called "Portañol" or "Espagués" jokingly.
  • Quite true in Malaysia/Singapore to the extent that a person claiming to speak Malaysian or Singaporean "English" should have a good working knowledge of English, Malay, and several Chinese dialects, including Cantonese and Hokkien, as English speakers will use whatever relevant word they can think of in the other languages in the right English grammatical place. Also, since this is more of an unofficial language, speakers can switch from "barely understandable to anybody who isn't a native" to "somewhat professional, easily understandable to most English speakers".
  • Due to the popularity of India-based outsourcing, this is quite common in the IT industry, particularly the US and Great Britain. Typically, it's an English vocabulary combined with Hindi grammar and idiomatic usage. The degree to which the trope applies depends on how fluent the speaker is in English. On the extreme non-fluent end, it often ends up with a collection of English words arranged in an almost incomprehensible (to a non-Hindi speaker) structure. One of the most infamous phrases in IT is "Please do the needful," which would normally be worded: "Please do what's necessary."
  • Common in the sciences and medicine. Many scientific terms and nomenclature were developed by English-speaking researchers. However, international students and post-docs are gaining greater representation in American universities. Since many of these students received primary and/or undergraduate education in English, it's not uncommon to overhear conversations in Hindi interspersed with words like "DNA" or "plasmid". However, this is often because there is not foreign equivalent word, making these words loanwords in a variety of languages.
  • This is also the case in places in East Asia who are making strong attempts to integrate English into their schools and workplaces. The result is "Engrish" (Japanese/English) "Konglish" (Korean/English), or "Chinglish" (Chinese/English).
  • People talking about religions that use ancient tongues - i.e. Latin for Roman Catholics, Arabic for Muslims and Hebrew for Jews - will often use those in referring to theology, or in prayer.
  • Italy has about 22 languages/dialects. As a result, it's fairly common for speakers to switch back and forth between Standard Italian and their native dialetto. (Bear in mind that some of the dialetti, such as Genoese, are unintelligible to standard Italian speakers.) However, as many dialects fade, most young people who speak dialetto speak nothing more than accented standard Italian peppered with a few words in dialetto.
  • The Indonesian language is downright, even shamelessly syncretic. >50% of modern words are loanwords, whether they're foreign or from the speaker's local/native language. The reason: There's at least 700 different native languages in Indonesia, being a major trading hub in Asia (some merchants come from as far as Egypt), has been under 7 different colonial powers (well, practically six, but the Dutch were conquered by France), and visited by various religious expeditions that came along with the merchants and colonists (which as an example above noted, came in their ancient tongue), to the point that a whole ethnicity and dialect (Betawi/Batavian specifically) was created as a side effect. In fact, Indonesia's Lingua Franca Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia) is not based on Javanese or Sundanese (majority languages, spoken by 50% and 20% of the population respectively) but instead on Riau Malay, because it's so gramatically simple, that invoking this trope become much easier and less jarring. And sometimes, loanwords are given different treatment depending on their source language, then twisted even further (you could say "localised") to the point that not even native speakers realize that it's a loanword, let alone what language it comes from (case in point, "chaffeur" become "sopir").
  • Some foreign language teachers speak like this, especially if they are native speakers of the language they are teaching. Mainly it's words like "yes" or "no", or "please" and "thank you" or even "um". Some will also give you partial credit if you can put your English words into the foreign language's grammar should you forget your vocabulary during a test. "Sushi wo ate-mashita" is an acceptable sentence in beginning Japanese.
  • This tends to happen with non-English programmers. Many programming languages were originally created in English-speaking countries and have key words based on English words. Regardless of whether you speak Dutch or Russian you will still be discussing a 'for' loop or an 'if' statement, because that's the keyword you actually use. It goes beyond basic keywords though. Many non-English speakers will resort to English or some sort of mix between English and their native tongue when discussing programming. Since so much literature, advice, and online examples tends to be written in English, many pick up basic English to help learn the programming language. They then resort to it as a common tongue which supposedly has a more verbose vocabulary, or perhaps a vocabulary that has become standardized to have very specific meanings in computer science, than their native languages.
  • The language spoken by Koryo-saram (Koreans in Russia) has become very Russian-influenced due to nearly two hundred years of separation from other Korean speaking people. The result can range from pure Koryo-saram to Russian with a few Korean words in it to a concentrated effort at standard Korean that will have Koryo-saram or Russian words put in where the speaker doesn't know the standard Korean word.
  • It's often said that if someone is especially fluent in a foreign language, then the most reliable way to identify their native language is to listen closely when they start counting things, because although one would assume that numbers are the same everywhere, the words for individual numbers often follow language-specific patterns that make counting objects out something that even the most fluent speaker of a foreign language will probably fall back to their native language to ensure they're accurate. This is so true that children who emigrated with their families at a very early age and began schooling in their adopted country will count with the numbers they learned at school - even when speaking their native tongue, and even if they move back to their native country as adults.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Partially Speaks English


El Grando Smokio

This line from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which combines this trope with Poirot Speak.

How well does it match the trope?

4.83 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / GratuitousSpanish

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