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Too Long; Didn't Dub

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Yeah... what they said.note 

The practice of not translating certain terms or words because the translator can find no satisfactory equivalent in the target language. This can be because the term is specific to the origin culture, and translation would lose a lot of meaning. Less often, it's just because the two languages use vastly different grammatical terms, which could lead a translation to sound odd, outdated, or just weird. Translation is difficult, after all — it's more art than science, and it's remarkably easy to screw up. This trope tries to resolve this by leaving certain words untranslated, on the assumption that the audience will understand it better that way.

This is most common in subtitled works, especially with Anime. Anime has long had issues with Bowdlerized dubs, and fans have sought fan-made alternatives to get a better sense of the original work. Japanese is a particularly tricky language to translate into English, so fansubbers will leave things like honorifics untranslated and assume that the audience will follow. For the most part, that isn't a bad idea; even some official translators will keep the honorifics, because the way characters address each other reveals a lot about their relationships with each other. But where fansubbers fall into this trope is that they greatly expand on things they claim "can't be translated", resulting in things like greetings and stock phrases being left untranslated as well. Whether or not the audience will understand these depends on their level of immersion in the fandom (i.e. how much they use Gratuitous Japanese).

It can also be a useful escape if a concept is considered to be too touchy to escape censorship; a Bilingual Bonus may be enough to sneak past the radar, and the fandom will just treat it as jargon (and sometimes consider it a unique, untranslatable concept). Sometimes it can also just be that, given the context of the work, leaving it untranslated just sounds more right—shows about martial arts have a particular tendency to not translate the names of techniques, because it lends them a sense of mystique where a literal translation would just sound dorky. The literal translation of karate is "empty hand", but good luck finding anyone who regularly calls it that.

See also Aliens Speaking English, Mascot's Name Goes Unchanged and The Song Remains the Same. Contrast Translate the Loanwords, Too, where the translator translates something which wouldn't need changing.

The trope's name is a play on the common Internet phrase Too Long; Didn't Read.


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    Comic Books 
  • A series of strips on dubbing in Les Dingodossiers, by Marcel Gotlib and René Goscinny, pokes fun at this. One scene features a man being served dinner, speaking a gibberish language where "Zklowtchug propoko matinkeljournalflotcknovschmovkapop wrtchykolpski" means "Goose!" and "Awoh" means "Chocolate cake covered in whipped cream and stuffed with green olives". The translators have to get clever and the dubbed sequence reads "I'm sure that after this goose, I will have a chocolate cake covered in whipped cream and stuffed with green olives!", then "Indeed!"

    Films — Animation 
  • Most foreign dubs of the Despicable Me movies leave the word "minion" in English, with the result that the term is thought to be a species name, rather than a generic word meaning "henchman". This worked out surprisingly well in hindsight, since the spinoff revealed it really is their species name.
  • The English dub of Dingo Pictures' take on Pocahontas leaves Pocahontas' "Nein! Nein!" line when Quickspear gets shot untranslated.
  • The Finnish dub and subtitles of Kung Fu Panda leaves Mantis to be called Mantis, just with a Finnish pronunciation, possibly because a literal translation of the name would be too big a mouthful, with six syllables in place of two.note 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Sandy Frank dub for Gamera vs. Guiron inexplicably maintained "Kon-chan" as the children's nickname for the police officer, Kondo. The Mystery Science Theater 3000 release of the episode got a running gag out of Joel and the Bots mishearing this as "Cornjob".
  • The Latin America Spanish dub of Dragon Blade keeps the Roman names untranslated from Latin, despite having valid translations, since most of them are from historical figures from ancient Rome. The subbed version does translate the names, oddly enough.
  • Both the Latin American Spanish dub and sub of the Tamil film Kabali suffers from this regarding Indian honorifics, as "anna", an Indian honorific for respect towards elders, is kept in both instances. No one's sure why they would do this, and Kollywood is a very niche thing in Latin America, so no one should be expected to know what "anna" means, and there's no attempt to explain it to the audience. The eponymous Kabali is a criminal boss, so they could just use "boss" or "chief" with no problems.

  • Many English translations of French literature, such as Les Misérables and the works of Alexandre Dumas leave in the monsieur/messieurs, mademoiselle/mesdemoiselles, and madame/mesdames (or at least their abbreviations), instead of translating them into Mr., Mrs., etc. It works well, because other honorifics, such as Monseigneur (which indicates particularly high status) don't translate effectively into English.
    • The practice of leaving titles unaltered is common even in English-language works with foreign (especially French) characters: even if every other male character is called Mister, the Frenchman will be called Monsieur.
  • The French science fiction novel Malevil leaves French honorifics untranslated, including religious titles like "Abbé" and "Curé".
  • Many English translations of Russian literature (for example, War and Peace) will also leave large chunks of French untranslated. For quite some time, Russian nobility preferred to speak French rather than Russian, and leaving the French text untranslated (with a translation in the footnotes) gives the reader an idea of what was French and what was Russian in the original.
  • Papillon leaves a handful of French terms left untranslated, mostly the ones related to Penal Colony life and denizens. Of greatest import: bagne (the penal colony), cavale (escape attempt), mec (man or pal), and plan (a metal tube for storing money hidden in the rectum).
  • The novella collection Wasabi for Breakfast by Foumiko Kometani leaves several Japanese expressions untranslated, and most of them are the kind that people who don't speak Japanese can't be expected to know. The dialogue tags give certain clues, but no actual translation is included anywhere in the book.

    Live-Action TV 
  • TV-Nihon, already infamous for its anime subbing, is worse when translating Toku shows. Their bad habits of not translating despite being translators, are at the forefront here. They vastly expanded their definition of "untranslatable," and sometimes they wouldn't even provide a good translation in their "translator's notes." Other times, they would only put translator's notes up for the first couple of times a term appears, expecting you to learn it and remember it—even between shows. If there was a term they thought every toku fan should know like "gattai" or "hissatsu," they would never translate it. They seemed to think of translation not as a way of getting Japanese media to English speakers, but rather weeding out the English speakers worthy of watching it. Their toku subbing has been so reviled that it's led to the formation of "scrubbers"note  who essentially re-translate the work, and rival fansub groups.
    • Samurai Sentai Shinkenger exemplified this when Takeru is revealed to be a decoy for the real head of the Shiba house and child of the previous Shinken Red, who was off perfecting the sealing technique. They refuse to describe it this way, instead insisting on the word kagemusha. They define it by giving the literal translation of the two halves of the word—which explains absolutely nothing—along with a note that they made a movie by that name in The '70s and telling you to watch it to get the translation. You shouldn't have to do homework to get the sense of this reveal. Later lines of dialogue eventually give you a better sense of what's going on, but this isn't how a dramatic reveal is supposed to work.
    • From Shinkenger onwards, TV-Nihon would also refuse to translate the phrase, "Ah mou!", which could easily be rendered "Aw, man!" in English.
    • Gekiranger becomes very hard to follow because of this trope. Some important things are discussed only in untranslated Japanese terms, and what is and isn't translated seems to be random.
      • The same problem pops up in Shinkenger, but rather than failing to translate attack names, here they fail to translate the first part of the morph phrases, apparently because they rhyme. They value this fact over actually being able to understand what the characters talking about.
      • Gekiranger is a Chinese-influenced Sentai, so there are a lot of obviously Japan-ified Chinese terms. Despite how strange they sound, TV-Nihon refuses to translate them, which leads to episode titles like Gowagowan no Daindain: JyuKen KyoJin, kenzan! And no, that is not the longest string of untranslated Japanese in a TV-N sub.
      • Raised by Wolves hero Jan's use of Japanese onomatopoeia (along the lines of Hulk Speak or Buffy Speak) is left untranslated, without any indication as to what it is. Viewers are left to believe he's just making up words.
    • TV-Nihon has a very bad habit of not translating Japanese Sibling Terminology, which has a whole host of problems.
    • The word "-tachi" is frequently abused. All it does it make a noun plural. It's not even required in Japanese. But it seems to be necessary in their version of English:
      • The very first episode of Tensou Sentai Goseiger had a boy calling the girls "Oneechan-tachi". Not even so much as a translator note for what that meant. It simply means he's referring to the two girls. That's it. Nothing special.
      • Perhaps the worst is from Magiranger, where one of the villains calling the Rangers idiots was rendered as "O-baka-chan-tachi". A close second is Natsuki referring to the Boukengers who'd been active before she and Masumi arrived as "Natsuki-tachi's great senpai-tachi."
      • In Kamen Rider Den-O, Ryotaro's sister Airi runs a cafe and very cutely refers to the coffee beans as "coffee-tachi". This was left untranslated and has become the butt of many a joke.
      Airi:"The coffee-tachi are doing their work!"
    • Uchuu Sentai Kyuranger has this weird case of TV-Nihon insisting on using the names they thought up as the translation, even after it's revealed they are wrong. One good example of this is when they continuously called a character "Hame" even though her name has been revealed to be "Hamie". "Hame" isn't even close to how the characters (and Hamie herself!) pronounce her name, which clearly has an "i" vowel sound. Furthermore, all the Kyutama's names are left untranslated.
      • TV-Nihon also keeps translating "Say the Change" as "Seiza Change," even though this has been revealed to be wrong. As revealed in magazines (more than once!), the wrist changers are saying "Say the" as a pun of "Seiza" (constellation). Furthermore, with how the characters are announcing "Star Change!" afterwards, it was clearly meant to be "Say the," as in, the changers are asking the rangers to "say the changing phrase." It comes off as if TV-Nihon thinks if it sounds Japanese, then it is a Japanese word, despite Japan being rather famous for their love of puns.
    • At times, they delve into "Blind Idiot" Translation:
      • An episode of Kamen Rider Double had Akiko dreaming that she was the one who turned into Double; instead of the usual transformation call, the Double Driver proclaims "Naniwa no Bishoujo Kamen!", which means "The Masked Beauty of Naniwa."note  TV-N translated the line as "Who is that beautiful girl Kamen?" Well, one out of three isn't bad, right?
      • In Engine Sentai Go-onger, the character Hant is called "Hanto," despite "Hant" being clearly written on the jacket he wears in every episode.
      • In Kamen Rider Fourze, the main characters' secret moon base has labels on the walls reading "Rabbit Hatch," which is the name TV-N uses. Apparently the translators had never heard of a rabbit hutch. This is the kind of thing that could logically be corrected in translation, but wasn't.
    • In Kamen Rider Den-O, when protagonist Ryotaro unlocks his Super Mode, his allies press him to name his finishing move—while he's in the middle of performing it. Confused and pressed for time, he blurts out "Train Slash!" which everybody dismisses as terrible and spends the rest of the episode (and part of the next one) making fun of him for it. Except TV-Nihon rendered the name as "Densha Giri!", with no translation, not even a translator's note—and thus, no hint whatsoever as to what's the characters find so funny/lame.
    • Fans will usually let TV-Nihon get away with not translating Den-O's Momotaros' Catchphrase, "Ore, sanjou!" It roughly means "I've arrived," in a very rough and badass way; as such, it's difficult to get the meaning across in English. The only problem is that it's only too awesome for English if you already knew what it meant. You've got to translate it at some point. Furthermore, TV-N would also describe something as "the opposite of sanjou" without ever explaining what a "sanjou" is to begin with. The English version of Kamen Rider: Climax Fighters translated it properly as I'm... finally... HERE!
    • In Kamen Rider OOO:
      • In the original, some of the Core Medal animal names are in English, and some are in Japanese. That was good enough for TV-N, who would leave any subsequent mention of an animal in Japanese unless it had a Core Medal named for it in English. Translator's notes are few and far between. In one scene, Eiji mistakes the Candroids for snakes, only for Goto to correct him by pointing out that they're actually "unagi." If you don't know what that means, good luck; they didn't put this in a note either. It means eel. The strange thing is that it's not even something you'd be familiar with by watching a lot of anime or toku (although you might if you like Japanese food). At least the form names are mashups of the medals they consist of.
    • Kamen Rider Wizard has a particularly aggressively Japanese "translation." The Transformation Trinket chatter is left in Japanese, with the kanji for the word written in the middle and the color filling in from right to left as Japanese is read.
    • In Kamen Rider Fourze, they refuse to fully translate Gentaro's Catchphrase, subbing "Uchuu kitaaaaaa!" as "Space kitaaaaaa!" instead. It's hard to translate because it's very flexible; depending on context, it can mean "Space time!", "Space is here!", or "Space is awesome!" But while different fansubbers have different translations, they at least try to translate it. TV-Nihon not only refused to, they would also refuse to translate any subsequent appearance of the word "kita," no matter where it is, even when they're not homaging Fourze. It's like a "secret club" mentality, only using Japanese words instead of in-jokes. The worst part is that "uchuu kitaa" isn't even a unique made-up phrase, it's just two normal Japanese words and thus should have been fully translated.
    • In Kamen Rider Gaim and Kamen Rider Ghost, all the Lockseed and Ghost Driver announcements that aren't in English are left untranslated.
    • TV-Nihon has a strange habit of leaving the sponsor message in every episode completely untranslated. Most fansubs will just cut it out entirely (no Anglophone viewer needs to see what's essentially a Japanese commercial). Those that do will at least translate the sponsor message (sometimes something funny happens). TV-N leaves it in raw, untranslated Japanese. One can only surmise from this that the goal of watching the show is to pretend you're living in Japan, except that last point is moot, due to TV-Nihon removing the commercials from the episodes and subbing them in a separate video to showcase the commercials that were shown during that episode.
    • Kamen Rider Zi-O finally has a fairly straightforward translation job, save for a few terms still being left untranslated. In particular, sibling terminology is translated more often. Except, being a massive crossover thing, whenever something from a prior series that was left untranslated is said, it's also untranslated in Zi-o—for example, Den-O's "ore sanjou" and Fourze's "Space kita."
  • On toku shows in general, almost every translation uses the terms "Super Sentai" or "Kamen Rider", even though they could easily be rendered "Super Squadron/Taskforce" or "Masked Rider", respectively. Part of it is brand name recognition (and in the case of Kamen Rider, it also avoids association with Masked Rider, the much-hated first attempt at an American adaptation). There are a few other words which are often, although not always, left untranslated on account of being either iconic, such as the Kamen Rider's transformation cry of "henshin", or completely unique, such as youkai, but these are starting to go out of fashion. Oddly enough, the Japanese version will sometimes translate words into English that the subtitles do not; "Masked Rider" appears frequently in writing though with no real pattern.
  • The Food Network dub of Iron Chef leaves the honorifics untranslated. It also doesn't dub Chairman Kaga at ALL, instead subtitling his lines.
  • A European Spanish fansub of the Korean TV series Poseidon has a strange one: they leave the phrase "plea bargaining" untranslated from English with a translator's note. Plea bargaining has a perfectly serviceable Spanish translation ("negociar los cargos").

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Most religion and mythology will use this trope. When discussing concepts and terms that have no real analogue in mortal existence, sometimes things are left untranslated as technical terms. Other times, adherents are trying to get as close to the original work as possible.
  • The Bible provides some interesting examples:
    • Hebrew scripts (like many Semitic scripts including Arabic) only contain consonants, leaving the vowels out. God's name is spelled as "YHWH", and its vowels and pronunciation were deliberately withheld from post-exilic Jews, since speaking it came to be considered blasphemy. Only a select few priests knew how it was pronounced, and this knowledge is now lost to us. Common transliterations are "Yahweh" and "Jehovah"; the latter is itself a mistranslation, because it borrows from the Latinization of "Yahowah". Ancient Jews themselves said the word "adonai" (meaning "Lord") instead of the name, and later versions of the Bible which included symbols above the words to indicate vowels used the vowels for "adonai" above "YHWH". Early translators didn't get this convention. Most English translations, working from the King James version, render "YHWH" as "the Lord".
    • Ever wonder why the wood in the ark (the boat one) was named after gophers? It wasn't; "gopher" (or gofer) is a transliteration of the word for that kind of wood.
    • "Log" as a measure of capacity has nothing to do with fallen trees.
    • The Psalms have notes for words (e.g. "Selah") which are left in the original language because that word appears only in the Psalms and its meaning is unclear.
    • The Sacred Scriptures Bethel Edition translation of The Bible does this deliberately, refusing to translate a number of words from the original and rendering God's name as "Yahweh".
    • In Judaism, the term "yeshivish" is a neologism (deriving from yeshivah, for Jewish religious high school) referring to this kind of language. When studying Jewish law, Torah scholars will often use Hebrew or Yiddish words for terms that have a specific technical meaning, even if there's a serviceable translation. This leads to things like, "Talking in shul is assur because it deprives you of proper kavanah for davening." (Translation: "Talking in synagogue is forbidden because it deprives you of proper concentration for praying.") It can be pervasive enough to be a language of its own.
    • Catholicism treated Latin this way for a long time, and it was used as a liturgical language worldwide until the 1960s. Even then, certain translations into English tended to use Latinized terminology; for instance, the use of the word depositum as demostrated here. Even the latest translation of the Nicene Creed translates consubstantialem Patri into the barely-English "consubstantial with the Father", instead of the more accurate (but vaguer) "one in being with the Father".
  • In Islam:
    • There is technically no such thing as a translated Quran. The belief is that the text of The Qur'an was directly transcribed from the word of God, and any translation from the original Classical Arabic would necessarily alter the text and thus be inauthentic. While Muslims tolerate translations of the Quran in an effort to spread the word to other languages, Muslims are often strongly encouraged to learn Classical Arabic and study the Quran in its original language. And yes, that's Classical Arabic; Modern Standard Arabic (let alone vernacular dialects), although a close descendant, is not enough.
    • "Allah" is simply the Arabic word for God - with a capital G, constructed from "al-", a prefix used to make words definitive (e.g. "al-Asad", the lion), and "ilah", the Arabic word for deity. It is perfectly translatable in English and other languages, but most Muslims, regardless of ethnicity and language, use it in everyday speech to call the all-powerful, monotheistic God, while appropriating their language equivalent of the term as a junior synonym. Sanctity is the usual reason posited for its usage, but scholarly studies often leave it intact to prevent confusion (the phrase "There is no god but God" makes more sense in Arabic, stating that you believe in the inherent oneness of God). As it is technically an ethnic word, the usage is not restricted to Islam; Arabic-speaking Christians and Jews also call their God "Allah" since possibly centuries before the dawn of Islam.

  • This is common in translations of philosophy works. The subtleties of a word in one language might be lost if the closest equivalent in another language is used. In this case, it may be better just not to translate it and define it a footnote. This practice is well-executed, though, and it's led to a number of loanwords being adopted by another language. This is how English got the word "angst", for instance (or, for that matter, "philosophy").
    • Much of this translation comes from Greek or Latin. Sometimes this has to do with technical terms to ensure a strict definition. Other times, there is no equivalent English word for the term. For instance, a common decision in translating Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics is to not translate the Greek word eudaimonia; it literally means "the state of having a beautiful soul", and English words like "happiness" or "flourishing" would fail to communicate its exact nature.
    • Steve Hagen encountered this problem in his early writings on Buddhist philosophy. He chose to capitalize the word "Mind" and use it as a technical term for his books. His editors didn't get it and kept removing the capitalization.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche did this with the French word "ressentiment," for which he couldn't find a German word that adequately expressed the concept as he understood it. The English use the word "resentment" (having derived it from the French), but English translations of Nietzsche's work still use the word "ressentiment".

  • It's also common in scientific works. In some instances, one language has a much better term than another. In others, scientists will prefer to leave terms in English— even if it's not their native language and there's a perfectly serviceable translation—to ensure that any reader around the world will get the same idea. Many researchers just give up and write the whole thing in English anyway.
  • Quite a few European languages use the English term "Big Bang" to refer to the event, even though it can be easily translated. This is possibly because the term was originally meant to sound kind of ridiculous, having been coined by Fred Hoyle, who opposed the theory (but denies meaning to sound pejorative). Languages that don't do this usually translate the term to something along the lines of "initial explosion", such as the German "Urknall," which nicely mirrors "Ursuppe" (primordial soup) and "Urmensch" (ancient human). But German has the advantage of the "Ur-" prefix, which is itself untranslatable into English, hence why This Very Wiki uses the phrase "Ur-Example."
  • Werner Heisenberg also preferred the English term "Uncertainty Principle," finding the original German lacking.
  • This is particularly common in fields like geology and geography, where certain phenomena only have words in certain languages because only the people who spoke those languages were ever able to experience them. Terms are borrowed from a wide variety of languages. For instance,
    • A polynya (Russian) is an ice-free area in an otherwise ice-covered body of water.
    • A lagerstätten (German) is a deposit with highly detailed preserved fossils.
    • 'A'a and pahoeho (Hawaiian) are, respectively, sharp, jagged lava and smooth lava. It's called "'a'a" because that's what you say when you step on it.
    • Jökulhlaups (Icelandic) are the sudden outbursts of water that can emerge from underneath glaciers, usually associated with a volcano.
  • The five basic flavors are sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. Umami is a Japanese neologism that means "delicious taste", but contextually translates well as "savory". Despite this, it's left untranslated in food science and gastronomy in honor of its discoverer, Kikunae Ikeda, who invented the word. Like the other flavors, it is triggered by specific types of chemical—glutamates and nucleotides.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons 3.0-3.5 has dozens of books; only the 3.0 Player's Handbook was translated into Turkish. The only half-decent parts of it used Arabic and Persian words to emulate Latin's "mystic" feel in English. This only succeeded in replacing a bunch of words the readers didn't know with another bunch of words the readers didn't know. In other sources, things as simple as weapon names are translated very inconsistently. As a result, most Game Masters in Turkey pepper their games generously with English words. As most gamers pick up a lot of those words from computer games, it's not much of a problem.
  • Done deliberately for atmosphere in Genius: The Transgression, a fan-made gameline for the New World of Darkness. Branches of special abilities have Greek names, Latin pops up in all sorts of places, and characters' motive-types are given German names. There's a section in the book detailing why each language is used where it is and how each came to be the convention. Greek was a "neutral" language during the Enlightenment when a French group and English group wanted to exchange notes, the Romans made the first records of a number of phenomena, and the catalysts for becoming a Genius were categorized by a supercomputer imitating Sigmund Freud. Really it's all just the Rule of Cool at work, because it's more fun to say "Grimm Skafoi mane" than "a really angry car".
  • Pops up repeatedly in-universe in Warhammer 40K, mostly when dealing with things in High Gothic, the "formal" language of the Imperium which is written in quasi-Latin, while Low Gothic is the common one written in English. Thus, your mission is not to guard the factory from aliens to save the world from being condemned by the Church and burnt by Space Marines; you are protecting the manufactorum from xenos, so the Ecclesiarchy does not declare your world excommunicate traitoris and thus send an exterminatus fleet guarded by the Adeptus Astartes.
  • In April 2014, foreign translations of Games Workshop products stopped translating the names of factions and units in other languages, leaving them in English. For the first two years, Warhammer: Age of Sigmar left untranslated multiple keywords (such as Hero, Wizard, Monster and the names of the Grand Alliances), all statline terms (such as Wounds, Save, Bravery, Movement and Rend) and all weapon names. This was rectified in 2018 with the release of the second edition rulebook, and has been averted since. Then, in 2020, they began translating again the names of Warhammer 40,000 units with the release of its ninth edition, and Age of Sigmar followed suit one year later with the release of its third edition.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! was all over the place in its early days—depending on the mood of the designers, a card might have its name fully translated into English or have its name be left as a clumsy transliteration of its Japanese name. Just take a look at the original Field Spells: their names in Japan are simply the Japanese words for "Forest", "Wasteland", "Mountain", "Grassland", "Sea", and "Darkness." When translated into English, the first three were translated as their respective English counterparts, but the last three were kept in Japanese as "Sogen", "Umi", and "Yami."

    Video Games 
  • Video games have a number of unique tropes and concepts, and as such, there's a unique vocabulary to describe them. Most of those terms are in English. Interestingly, foreign players will often use English terms for these concepts (e.g. "to heal", "to ambush", "HP", "to gank") even when speaking in their native language. With the advent of worldwide MMO games, many of these players found these terms useful in communicating with someone halfway around the world who speaks a different language.
  • The fourth Katamari Damacy game has a lot of bizarre dialogue, including the failure to translate the word "kokoro" (roughly "heart" or "soul"). This might be Intentional Engrish for Funny, considering that the collection list for rolled up items mentions a building involved in the localization of video games and describes it as being "not too important".
  • The original Metroid had the "Maru Mari", whose literal translation was approximately "to make round". This made no sense, so they left it untranslated originally. Later versions called it the "Round Ball". Later Metroid games would give it its current commonly accepted name, the Morph Ball. The remake Metroid: Zero Mission also calls it the Morph Ball, but ports of the original don't change it.
  • In the Japanese version of Castlevania, the whip-wielding skeletons were called "Shimon", a play on Simon Belmont's name which literally translates to "gates of death", which was what the enemy was called in the English manual of Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse. In Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance, Shimon was called "Simon Wraith". It would eventually be translated to the equivalent pun in English: "Hellmont".
  • Siren does this with the word shibito — normally "corpse", but in the context it's used in the game, closer to "zombie" or "ghoul" — for stylistic reasons.
  • Rhythm Heaven:
    • Manzai Birds in Fever was never put in localized versions simply because the game focuses around dialogue and puns. To compensate this, other versions of the game contain a remake of Mr. Upbeat, an endless game from Tengoku.
    • Unlike Heaven, Fever doesn't have any dubs besides Japanese, English, and Korean. To make up for it, the PAL version contains the ability to switch between Japanese and English on the fly.
    • None of the new Japanese songs in Megamix have English versions, and if the game is set to English instrumentals play in place of the lyrics. Thankfully, if the audio is set to Japanese the original versions can still be heard even in the localization, though the game won't display any info about them.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Volgin's "Kuwabara, kuwabara" Catchphrase was an obscure mythology reference which Japanese gamers would have picked up on immediately, but which went straight over the heads of Western gamers. note  Annoyingly, the game retained conversations where Snake would radio back to base to ask about the significance of the names "ADAM" and "EVA", which Western gamers picked up on immediately but Japanese gamers would require an explanation for. This could be chalked up to the localizers being afraid to take many liberties with the original Japanese text.
  • Kaijin no Soki, in Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, although previous promotional videos for Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes had shown his name as Souki. Probably to avoid confusion with Saki Omokane from Quiz Nanairo Dreams, who is listed as just "Saki."
  • From the Final Fantasy series:
    • The series as a whole has the Odin summon's attack, Zantetsuken ("iron-cutting sword"). Only FFVI and FFVII ever bothered to translate it ("Atom Edge" and "Steel Bladed Sword", respectively); it's been left alone in every other incarnation.
    • Final Fantasy VIII: Squall's Renzokuken (which roughly translates to "Continual/Continuous Sword") is left in Japanese, which is kind of odd considering the amount of trouble the localizers went through to rename everything else in the game, and the world has no Wutai to Hand Wave the change in language. Stranger still, the demo disc included with Brave Fencer Musashi actually did translate the name as "C. Sword".
    • Final Fantasy IX has Guest-Star Party Member Beatrix's special skill menu named "Seiken" ("Holy Sword"), despite her being a knight from pseudo-medieval Europe.
    • Final Fantasy X features the summon Yojimbo and his attacks Kozuka, Wakizashi, and Zanmato, all left untranslated for purely stylistic reasons. And also because these aren't the names of the attacks, but the class of weapon he's using.
      • While not technically official translations, all the Western fan-covers of the main song Suteki da ne keeps the Japanese name in the lyrics, maybe because it's impossible to translated it without screwing with the tempo and lip-synch of the song. The official Korean version of the song did translate the phrase in Korean, mostly because, at least at the time the game was released in South Korea, it wasn't allowed to include Japanese lyrics in a Korean song.
    • Final Fantasy V had a Fan Translation that left the flying dragons as hiryuu for no apparent reason. Final Fantasy V Advance cleverly translated them as "wind drakes" and called King Tycoon's drake "Hiryuu". The official version also left all Samurai job class skills untranslated, which makes sense from a flavor standpoint but has the side effect of obscuring their functions.
    • In Final Fantasy XIV all of the Samurai attack names are left in Japanese for stylistic reasons, though this has a consequence of making the mouthfuls (their "Midare Setsugekka" skill is the longest attack name in the game) or confusing (all of their spells that spend Kenki start with "Hissatsu" before leading on). This is a pragmatic carry-over of the Japanese version, where the attacks are in kanji while the rest of the skill names are in katakana.
  • .hack//G.U. has two untranslated attack names: Rengeki ("chain attack") and Hangeki ("counter-attack"). Even stranger, in Vol. 1's localized version, Haseo will yell out "Rengeki!" even when performing Hangeki, causing further confusion.
  • The localizations of the Persona series, other than the infamous Cultural Translation of the first game, leave most specific Japanese cultural references untranslated. Persona 3, Persona 4 and Persona 5 even keep the Japanese Honorifics, albeit sometimes inconsistently. The main reason is that it gives the games a distinctly Japanese cultural flavor, particularly with its use of Senpai/Kōhai to illustrate the relationships between students. Conveniently, calling the player character "senpai" also allows the voice actors to avoid having to use his name. Persona 4's English manual included a brief glossary of Japanese cultural aspects that players might be unfamiliar with (such as several honorifics, differences in high school structure and schedule, etc.), but there is otherwise very little explanation in the games themselves.
  • The World Ends with You takes place in the Shibuya district of Tokyo and leaves a lot of things untranslated to hammer the point home; indie-rock singer 777 says "Domo arigato" a few times, and Ken Doi will welcome you into his ramen shop with "Irasshaimase!" Perhaps most strangely, the ramen varieties are described in Japanese as well with a subsequent translation, such as "Shio Ramen (salty)".
  • Mega Man:
    • All of Zero's (or Layer's) moves were left untranslated starting in Mega Man X4. The only exceptions were the English localizations of Mega Man X5 and Command Mission. This was probably because of Rule of Cool; it may also be in reference to the fact that Mega Man's weapons were in English (though spelled out in Romaji) in the original Japanese.
    • In Mega Man X, one of the bosses is named Boomer Kuwanger — kuwagata means "stag beetle" in Japanese, befitting the boss's appearance and movements. But it sounds better this way.
    • Mega Man X6 barely translated any of their boss names, which leaves amusing names such as Infinity Mijinion (from mijinko, or water flea) and Commander Yammark (from yanma, a type of Japanese dragonfly). They were, however, able to come up with Blaze Heatnix and Blizzard Wolfang.
    • In the Mega Man Zero games, the bosses call out all their moves and catchphrases in Japanese. Capcom of America wasn't particularly interested in recording English voices for the series.
  • In the Monster Rancher series, the name of the Suzurin monster species is a Japanese pun regarding the monster's appearance and Japanese history. The dubbers probably couldn't think up a good alternative name that kept the same feeling, so they left it as it was for the English version.
  • A curious example: in the old Captain America and the Avengers arcade beat-em-up, one of the bosses the Avengers fight is a giant robot octopus called the Mecha Tako. Players were a bit confused, not knowing that tako is Japanese for "octopus".
  • The Shenmue series is an interesting case. The first game suffered from a notoriously problematic dub, one that directly translated a lot of conversational mannerisms that are typical in Japanese but awkward in English ("I see," "Is that so?") as well as honorifics. The honorifics can be excused, considering it takes place in Japan, but the rest is just a bit awkward. This can't be so easily excused in the sequel, where characters use honorifics despite the game being set in China and Hong Kong rather than Japan.
  • Whole games in South Korea would be released entirely in English during the country's ban on Japanese products. Many games distributed there were just repackaged American versions, and Korean distributors wouldn't bother translating anything other than the box blurbs and the manual. This would also occasionally happen with Japanese versions, too, such as with The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures. Nintendo games wouldn't be fully translated into Korean until Nintendo of Korea was formed in 2007.
  • Interestingly, technical limitations meant that Fan Translations of older RPGs tend not to do this. This trope tends to expand the amount of text in the work, and where space is at a premium (especially with late-SNES-era games such as Trials of Mana), it would be very inefficient to be adding honorifics and such everywhere. One of the most notorious exceptions was Chrono Compendium's translation of Chrono Trigger, and it was actually quickly derided in the fan translation community for that.
  • Atomic Robo-Kid identifies the rapid-fire power-up by the Japanese term rensha, even in the Western-developed computer versions.
  • SoulBlazer leaves its "Zantetsu Sword" alone, but thankfully it reminds you in the Flavor Text that it's effective on metallic mooks.
  • Due to low projected demand (it was originally released thanks to a petition), there was no dub track for Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, but even the text wasn't fully translated with plenty of cultural terms being left in the original Japanese.
  • RosenkreuzStilette: The Fan Translation opts to translate the Gratuitous German words and phrases sprinkled throughout the original Japanese text, with the exception of attack names. This is done both to keep the gothic European atmosphere and also because outside of Voice Grunting and Boss Banter, it's the only time the actors have lines. For example, Spiritia's charged shot is called the "Seelegewehr", which could be translated as "Soul Rifle" or "Cannon of Souls", or "Die geplante Zukunft" which aside from being a mouthful, has the much shorter translation of "Foreseen Future".
  • Street Fighter is tricky with this. Sometimes, terms like "Hadouken" are left completely untranslated, other times, there is a strange hybrid between Japanese and English. One notable example in Alpha 3 is when the "Satsui no Hado" is translated as the "Hado of Murderous Intent" or "Murderous Hado," with Street Fighter IV similarly opting to translate it as the "Dark Hado."
  • In addition to not translating the title (which means "Dream Diary") the English Fan Translation of Yume Nikki leaves some effect names untranslated, such as Medamaude ("Eyeball Hand/Eye Palm"), Nopperabou ("Faceless") Ghost, Buyo Buyo ("Squish-Squish"), and Yuki-onna ("Snow Woman"). All of them except Medamaude say what they do in the description, however.
  • While Hatsune Miku: Project DIVA games leaving the song subtitles untranslated (only romanized) is standard procedure (with Project DIVA F 2nd being the one notable exception), Project DIVA Future Tune PS4 is notable in that there's a very good reason for this: the game has over 200 songs, a very high song count for a console rhythm game (most have only 50-70 tracks). You try getting the rights to translate 200 songs from a variety of different producers and their record labels, much less translating the lyrics themselves, in a reasonable period of time.
  • The Wonderful 101 features a wealth of untranslated Japanese names, which are presented in some rather creative transcriptions (more or less phonetic) rather than according to conventional standards of Japanese Romanization.
  • The manual of Super Mario Land didn't localize any of the enemy names, though this was rectified in the Virtual Console version (but it was still only a select few).
  • A western example: this trope is a big part of why the makers of The Sims came up with the made-up "Simlish" language for its characters. Recording countless lines of specific, context-appropriate dialogue for an extremely open-ended and freeform game built heavily around social interactions would've been hard enough in one language, and translating all that dialogue into every language the game was published in would've been a nightmare.
  • BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle is a bizarre example due to the inclusion of the characters from Persona 4 and also overlapping with Inconsistent Dub: Due to very likely Atlus's Executive Meddling, the game was forced to respect their speech idiosyncrasies of each one of the characters from that game, up to leaving the Japanese honorifics intact, while the rest of the other franchises that appear in the game, due to their respective corporate policies regarding translations from Japanese to English, either translate the honorifics or aren't included at all, making some character interactions really awkward, especially in the English dub. One of the most egregious examples involve Yumi, a character which is a declared Yamato Nadeshiko, her honorific speech is translated to English, compared with the rest of the characters from that franchise, which does not. Both characters are supposed to be speaking in Japanese in-universe:
    Yumi: You're... ask me on a date? Um... I'm flattered, Mr. Teddie, but I must decline.
    Teddie: Nooo! My poor little heart... But it's okay! I know you'll ask me out someday, Yumi-chan.
  • Soulcalibur IV averts this with Maxi's Rising Dragon of the Zodiac Critical Finish. He ends up saying it so fast and unnaturally that it serves as a good example of why this practice or Woolseyism tends to be used in translation: because direct translations often result in Narm.
  • Tekken makes an attempt to translate foreign names of the characters' moves in earlier games. They are less and less inclined to do this as times goes on, however. Jun Kazama's moves from Tekken Tag Tournament 2, for example, are almost exclusively in Japanese.
  • Chulip's localization left a few stones unturned. A good majority of text outside dialogue boxes (Goro's films, the chapter titles and the hint on what you must do in order to kiss 20-year-old Guy) were left untranslated.
  • The Pokémon franchise is known for its many creative localizations, but there are a few instances where they rather jarringly didn't translate some things. Paras's Pokédex entry in FireRed (and other games that reuse it), for example, leaves in a reference to "tochukaso" in reference to the mushrooms growing on its back; this is the Japanese name of Ophiocordyceps sinensis, a real-world parasitic fungus that grows on the bodies of caterpillars and other larva insects, and which has a preexisting English name — "caterpillar fungus."

    Visual Novels 

    Web Original 
  • The beginning of Comeuppance episode 7 opens with an introduction to the Spanish version of the "show" The opening speech by the hostess is left entirely in Spanish, with no translation in sight. Interestingly, episode 3, they use such an opportunity to subject the returning contestant, Vicky to a Gag Sub.
  • Parodied in This ProZD sketch:
    Official sub: Screw you, Sasuke. I'm sick of your attitude. You are my friend, and nothing will change that, you idiot!
    Fansub: Fuck you, Sasuke! OreTranslator's Note  am fucking sick of your fucking attitude! You are my nakama,Translator's Note  and nothing will fucking change that you fucking bitch!
  • The video "Steamed Hams but its a 90's Anime Fansub" parodies the low quality of fansubs, including leaving words untranslated and inserting "desu" into several lines.
    Skinner: Steam from the steamed hamaguri* we are having.Translator's Note 
    Chalmers: Ah. Naruhodo.Translator's Note 
    Skinner: Dame.Translator's Note 

    Western Animation 
  • Invoked in-universe example in Adventure Time, when Lady Rainicorn tells Jake a joke in Korean that the latter doesn't feel comfortable repeating to his younger brother.
    Rainicorn (in Korean): Hmm, I can't think of one... But remember that time when we ran naked through that farmer's cabbage patch?! (Giggle) He was so offended.
    Jake (in Korean): Heh... Let's not talk about that. (both laugh)
    Finn: What's the joke?
    Jake: Oh, uh... The joke doesn't... translate very well. It'd probably be boring if I told it.
  • Japanese dubs of shows like South Park and The Boondocks tend to leave American slang and slurs untranslated. Not only do such shows reference American culture all the time, but they also use words whose Japanese equivalents can't be used in media. In the latter show, this includes the word "nigga", whose cultural implications can be fiendishly complicated.
  • The Latin American Spanish dub of Talking Tom and Friends has many untranslated words from English in the dub, despite having valid translations. This could be justified as the dub was done in a Spanish-speaking studio in Miami, FL, and many of the voice actors and translators that work there are Hispanics, Cuban or South American expats, and the translation is handled in the same way how an American would speak, rather than a Latin American would do.
  • Animaniacs: In the Latin American Spanish dub of the 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."note  This is justified, as the Spanish word for "potty", "orinal", also happens to be the word for "urinal".

    Real Life 
  • The Roman virtue of pietas cannot be accurately translated into English. Although it's etymologically related to the word "piety", students are told that the most accurate translation of this concept is at least a paragraph long.
  • Inverted in parts of the free software community. "Free software" is software that you are free to use, modify, and redistribute as you like — in other words, software that grants you substantial freedom. Free software licenses allow people to sell free software for money. However, since the term free tends to mean free of charge in English, it is commonly mistaken for software that you don't have to pay for; even Richard Stallman, who coined the term, is aware of this ambiguity, but maintains that there isn't really a good English word to express this kind of freedom. For this reason, developers have proposed adopting the Latin terms gratis — already a loanword commonly used in English — to mean software you don't have to pay for, and libre to mean software you are free to mess around with. (People who want to stay in English but still be clever sometimes distinguish "free as in speech" from "free as in beer".)
  • Finnish has a few words that, while they can be translated, describe concepts that are somewhat lost in translation.
    • The Finnish word "sisu" (which has become a loanword in some parts of America) can be loosely translated as "guts" or "determination", but it more accurately describes an aspect of Finnish culture where Finns will always see a task through to completion, no matter how difficult it is or what challenges and obstacles they face on the way, and will do so without complaining.
    • "Takatalvi" literally means "backwinter" and refers to a phenomenon common in Finland and nearby countries where the air temperature will suddenly get much colder and snow will cover the land for a few days during what should otherwise be spring. There is no equivalent word for this in English, since it's not something that usually happens in English-speaking countries.
    • "Etiäinen" can be loosely translated as "premonition", but it actually derives from the name of a particular spirit in Finnish folklore. This spirit goes ahead of a person and does things that the person themselves do later. For instance, you may have experienced an etiäinen if you thought you heard the doorbell ring, went to check it and there was no one there, then went away only to hear the doorbell actually ring a couple of minutes later.

Alternative Title(s): Too Long Didnt Sub