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Translator Microbes
aka: Universal Translator

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Rose: The aliens... they all speak English.
Ninth Doctor: No, you just hear English. It's a gift of the TARDIS. Telepathic field. Gets inside your brain. Translates.

Also known as a "Universal Translator", this is a special kind of Applied Phlebotinum or magic that automatically translates communication from the speaker's language into the listener's, thus removing those pesky "Language Barriers" from between people of different countries, times, species or planets. In some fantasy works this ability will be gifted by a magical character, while in others the magic takes its course without anyone's help. If it's a human character who gets the ability to hear what animals are saying, it might result in the former saying You Can Talk? or something along those lines. Often happens with Animorphism.

It is commonly used to Hand Wave the appearance of Aliens Speaking English, by implying that the aliens are actually speaking in their native tongue and their words are being automatically translated for the (in-universe) characters' benefit. This is distinct from a Translation Convention, where the aliens appear to be speaking English solely for the audience's benefit.

We must, of course, assume that said microbes work either by imparting the ability to speak a common language (in which case, the characters are using translator microbes, but the audience is really experiencing the Translation Convention) or that the microbes substantially alter the listener's perceptions. The question of why the characters' lip movements appear to match the translated dialogue rather than the original is one that producers usually make far less effort to address, but the microbes may well cover for that as well, or it may be an extreme example of the McGurk Effect, where perception of lip movements is influenced by the accompanying sounds. There is still a bit of Willing Suspension of Disbelief at work here, since it would be ridiculously hard from a production standpoint to film English-speaking actors and have them move their lips in a fake language, just to redub the same actors' voices in English at the end anyway.

This trope not only predates television, it predates most literature. One example is The Gift of Tongues given to the Apostles at Pentecost in Acts of the Apostles. After the Holy Spirit comes to them, they address a large crowd drawn from many different nations, and everybody hears them speaking their own tongues. The members of the crowd are astonished that the people doing this are all Galileans (normally assumed to be uneducated rustics).

Almost all Trapped in Another World stories will postulate that Translator Microbes are part of the magical nature of this other world. No justification is required or expected, although it's often good to have some kind of Hand Wave to point out that it's not "realistic".

A well-done page on this is here.

Translator microbes have a tendency to break down when faced with alien cuss words, and may sometimes give up when faced with a Starfish Language. It is rare for them to state that their transport is overloaded with Anguilliformes.

See also Aliens Speaking English and Common Tongue. For cases where all animals can inexplicably understand each other, see Animal Talk. Compare Bilingual Dialogue. See also Inexplicable Language Fluency, for when a character understands a language upon hearing it for the first time, Omniglot, when a character can do this by training or super power, and Ventriloquist Animal, for when talking animals don't appear to be talking.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Doraemon has a pocket dougu (gadget) called "Hon'yaku-Konnyaku" (translation konjac). This piece of jelly allows one to understand and speak any known language after eating it. The duration is unknown. Doraemon also has a variety of flavors of konjac such as miso.
  • Doraemon: Nobita's Chronicles of the Moon Exploration have the gang encountering a race of Human Aliens known as Espals, who somehow knows how to speak the human tongue, achieved by the Espals using telepathy to read minds, and process the information they received before responding in any language they want.
  • In The Familiar of Zero, the Halkeginian language is magically translated into Japanese and vice-versa for the benefit of Saito and his interlocuters, an effect he apparently received as part of his summoning. The limitations of this form of translation became apparent in later volumes when Saito tried to learn the Halkeginian script and realized that he was reading the words as if they were translated idiomatically, which is not a problem if he just want to understand the overall meaning of the text but becomes a problem if he wanted to understand it literally.
    • In the anime, Saito can't understand anything anyone is saying just after he is summoned to be Louise's familiar. Bothered by his nonstop babbling, Louise casts a silence spell on him. Instead, it magically translates everything for him.
  • In Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet, Chamber, the AI of the main character's mecha, can translate a newly encountered language, but it needs sample to analyze. The more contact it has with the language, the more fluent it becomes.
  • The "Gift of Languages" is a built-in perk of being reincarnated as a devil in High School D×D. Issei notes that he's had to start fudging his English classes so the teacher doesn't ask questions. It doesn't extend to written words, though, as a couple of native English speakers comment they're still studying literacy despite being "fluent" when speaking.
  • Jewelpet Twinkle☆ has the Rare Rare Drops, candies that help Earth people understand Jewel Land's language.
  • Yuuri of Kyo Kara Maoh! cannot understand a word anyone is saying to him in the magical world at first, until he gets zapped with language magic (or something) and then he can understand everyone perfectly.
  • Mentioned in the Bonus Pages in Vol. 23 of Negima! Magister Negi Magi.
    Q. How are all the classmates able to speak the language in the Magical World?
    A. It's thanks to interpretation magic. It's very elemental magic.
  • A similar thing happens in the Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind manga. The Torumekians & Eftal peoples speak whatever the series has been translated into, whereas the Doroks speak a strange language written in apparently made-up characters. Very few characters are bilingual & rely on the telepathic powers of Psykers like Nausicaa or Chikuku to translate & are at a great loss without them.
  • This also happens in Ninja Senshi Tobikage, however, as a bit of a Deconstruction, it doesn't happen right away. Joe, Reni, and Mike aren't given theirs until a couple or so episodes later.
  • Macross:
    • In Super Dimension Fortress Macross: Do You Remember Love?, the Zentradi are shown to be talking their own language for about half the movie. Then after capturing our heroes, the Zentradi archivist Exedor turns on a universal translator. Suddenly the Zentradi are speaking English (conveniently translated to Japanese for the Japanese audience's benefit).
    • In Macross Frontier, the V-Type infection is caused by literal translator microbes, that allows the infected party to tap into the Vajra fold communication network/Hive Mind. The downside of this however is that the host's health deteriorates since the bacteria infects the brain, that is unless, they were infected before birth wherein the bacteria will instead live in the stomach/lower intestine with no ill effects to the host whatsoever.
  • Tamagotchi: The gang uses a translation machine on Super Yadokaritchi in Yume Kira Dream episode 28 to understand what he's saying and communicate with him.
  • This is Mokona's special power in Tsubasa -RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE-. Since the cast themselves are from 3 different worlds, if they get separated from him, they can't even understand each other.
  • The Hinman in The Twelve Kingdoms act as translator microbes as a secondary function (their primary giving the owner kick ass martial art skills).
  • Robonyan in the non-Asian dubs of Yo-kai Watch can speak at any language.
  • Fate Series:
    • Servants, being spirits of mythical heroes summoned in the modern day, are supplied with all the knowledge they need to function in the modern day upon their summoning so that they won't suffer from things like culture shock. Amongst this knowledge is the ability to speak any human language, allowing Servants to communicate with their Masters as well as other Servants no matter the language spoken (most often Japanese, because the Holy Grail War takes place in a Japanese city). In a drama CD taking place during Fate/Zero, the British Waver Velvet finds himself unable to understand the Japanese Taiga Fujimura, because neither of them can speak the other's language. Waver gets around his issue by having his Servant, Rider, act as an interpreter.
    • Fate/strange Fake: The Japanese Ayaka Sajyou is contacted by Filia who orders her to travel to Snowfield, Nevada and participate in the Holy Grail War. Ayaka only speaks Japanese, so Filia casts a spell on her to allow her to speak and understand English.
  • During a flashback in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Detonation, Yuri is shown casting a spell from the Tome of the Night Sky so that she can be understood by Iris (as Yuri only speaks Ancient Belkan). She shifts back into speaking Belkan while under mind control, implying that it's messing with the spell in some way.
  • In Overlord (2012), Momonga notes that he can hear the denizens of the New World speak in Japanese even though their lips move differently and concluded that some magical force must be translating, though it doesn't translate their written language. Momonga does own a pair of Magic Glasses that let him read the local language.
  • Unlike many Trapped in Another World works, Welcome to Japan, Ms. Elf! averts this. The only reason Kazuhiro can communicate with other fantasy denizens in the other world is because he spent nearly 2 decades in that world and had time to learn various languages. When he brought Marie to Japan, Marie is unable to communicate with other Japanese and has to be slowly taught Japanese by Kazuhiro.
  • Sora and Shiro in No Game No Life note that the humans in Disboard speak in Japanese but the written language is different. They quickly learn how to read it in an hour. Though Jibril does state that there are over 700 languages in Disboard which she knows how to translate and Izuna was noted to have just recently learned how to speak in their language.
  • In The Saint's Magic Power Is Omnipotent, Sei and Aira, two women brought from earth, can instantly understand the language of the European medieval fantasy kingdom, Slantania. They can speak fluently and without issue and even any written language is conveniently turned to Japanese. This is particularly useful for languages that even locals have issues with, like the Ancient Script used for foundational magical books.
  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime:
    • Zig-Zagged overall. Unless you got a Skill that translates the language for you when crossing over, at first everything in the native tongue will sound like gibberish, and the same with the writing. This is best shown when Masayuki first arrives, where he couldn't understand anyone until his Unique Skill began to trigger, and the written language was still beyond him. However, as Otherworlders are common enough in this world, there do exist translators for all sorts of languages. In the Eastern Empire in particular, new Otherworlders are brought to Gadra specifically because he's mastered so many languages from his centuries of life around Otherworlders, which allows him to serve well as a teacher in teaching them the spoken and written language.
    • When Rimuru first arrived in the new world, he didn't even have the ability to speak, being a slime. His first "conversations" with Great Sage and Veldora were done via Thought Communication where the intent of the speakers was conveyed to them. After Rimuru gained the necessary abilities to speak, Great Sage helped with translating the languages until he figured it out himself.
    • Yuuki admits to envying both Rimuru and Masayuki, since when he first arrived he didn't understand the spoken or written language at all. He credits a good teacher for getting him so far that being the spirit of the one who tried to summon him to steal his body in the first place.
  • World Trigger: In the beginning of the away mission selection process, this is revealed to have been in effect throughout the series, thanks to the trion bodies and, to a lesser extent, the trion horns of Aftokrator trigger users.
  • The Keeper Wants to Build a Zoo in Another World, so He Tames Monsters: Zig-zagged with the magic that transports the protagonist to a Magical Land. He becomes fluent in the new world's spoken language, but not the written form.

    Comic Books 
  • In Silver Age DC comics (mainly Legion of Super-Heroes) alien characters either spoke a common language called Interlac, or used "telepathic earplugs" to understand each other.
  • In Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld, Amaya is given a gem that fires a beam at her forehead, giving her the command of all languages, including nilaian, the language of Nilaa, AKA Gemworld.
  • Horizon: In one scene early on in the story, Zhia is in a hotel room trying to repair the chip in her head. While she's doing this, the TV is on, but the words are all anagrams of what they should be. Once she fixes it and puts in back in her head, though, it changes to perfect English.
  • Justice League of America: Former member Manitou Raven, a time-displaced prehistoric shaman, would summon spider spirits called a word-weavers which he would place in his ear and his wife Dawn's in order to communicate with the Leaguers. For obvious reasons, Dawn made efforts to learn English on her own.
  • Spider Jerusalem was injected with a literal translator microbe in the Cyberpunk series Transmetropolitan.
  • In Atavar, the Kalen inject Atavar with a...thing... to realign his language neural centre, allowing him to speak their language.
  • The Doctor Who (Titan) comic Once Upon a Time Lord has a story that explores the edges of how the TARDIS translation works — when Rose tries to tell the Doctor something in Pig Latin to prevent the Terraptils understanding, the TARDIS automatically translates it into plain Terraptil. The Doctor then hits on the idea of using homonyms, which Rose understands perfectly, but which apparently sound completely different in Terraptil. (Other expanded universe works have implied that the Pig Latin probably should have worked, because the TARDIS would have dectected the intent of her words, including her intent that they were in code. The idea that the TARDIS doesn't worry about homonyms even when that's the point adds a new dimension to the annoyed looks the Doctor often gets when he's in Pungeon Master mode.)
  • One of the many functions of power rings in Green Lantern.
    • In the graphic novel Green Lantern: Secret Origins and possibly in other comics, Hal curses and swears and the ring goes "unable to translate".
    • Katma Tui ran into a translation problem in the Alan Moore Green Lantern story "In Blackest Night" when attempting to recruit Rot Lop Fan, an alien whose species evolved without sight, into the Green Lantern Corps. Their language had no words pertaining to the concepts of sight, light or color, so her ring's translation feature couldn't interpret even the phrase "Green Lantern" into his language. She ends up loosely translating the Corps' name as the F-Sharp Bell Corps (F♯ is the recruit's favorite pitch), and his chant refers to sounds and tones in place of light and colour.
    • Also, though they're supposedly programmed with every language in the Universe, there are exceptions, such as the Vegan languages (the Guardians have no jurisdiction in that system) and the language of the Indigo Tribe.
  • Nova: The Nova Corps power set includes universal translation.
  • During the first clash between The Avengers and Thanos, it was discovered that the Mad Titan's hordes were using a special machine that allowed anyone near it to perceive any words in their native tongue. For instance, The Vision saw the alien writing on the ship in English, while Mantis saw it in Vietnamese. Once the Avengers shut off he device, Thanos' lackeys promptly killed one another since they could no longer understand what anyone was saying.
  • X-Men: Doug "Cypher" Ramsey has the mutant ability to translate languages, both human and computer.
  • Power Pack: It's implied that the kids' costumes have universal translators built in.
  • Supergirl:
    • In The Supergirl From Krypton (1959), Supergirl's parents own a device able to decipher alien languages. Kara and her mother use it to learn English.
    • When Supergirl first arrives on Earth in Last Daughter of Krypton, she can only understand Kryptonian, so only Superman and a girl named Siobhan Smythe whom she meets later can communicate with her. Siobhan can, through magic, become fluent in any language after hearing a few words. She demonstrates with both Kryptonian and birdsong. Later, Supergirl, Black Banshee, and Siobhan's brother are able to understand each other in Black Banshee's mindscape, but not in the real world.
    • In Red Daughter of Krypton Supergirl gets a Red Lantern Ring which is -literally- an universal translator... although Kara wondered if her ring's translator was broken when the Diasporan leader called her "their newest Champion".
    • The Untold Story of Argo City: During their stay in Kandor, Fred and Edna Danvers wear special translator devices to understand Kryptonesse.
    • Supergirl (Wednesday Comics): Supergirl manages to communicate with an alien race when they use a device simply known as "the translator".
  • Superman:
    • Legends of the Dead Earth: In Superman: The Man of Steel Annual #5, Kaleb is given a translator ear-plug so that he can communicate with the other rebels.
    • In Super Sons, Damian has "universal translators" that let him and Jon speak with people from another dimension. But they don't translate idioms well and fine details like specific species can be lost in translation.
    • In Superman: Birthright, Lex Luthor uses a "Subspace Translator" to understand the Kryptonians he's monitoring in the past. Superman later uses it to tell his parents he got to Earth okay.
  • Lampshaded in the Golden Age MAD story "Gookum!", when Glarf Nerfnick, Martian, upon landing on Earth, begins to speak to reporters who wonder if he speaks English:
    "Ho-hum! As in most science-fiction stories, I have an automatic translator machine that will enable us to converse!"
  • Starslayer: The headband/eyepatch Torin wore also functioned as a mental link to SAM, who acted as a realtime translator for Torin, who arrived only understanding old Celtic.
  • The mnemonic helmets in Valérian let the user become an expert in various skills or languages in a short amount of time. When visiting a previously uncontacted race, automatic probes re sent ahead to learn the new language first.
  • Jonni Future from Tom Strong wore a translator helmet that let her talk to various people and aliens in the future.
  • During the prelude to the Death of Wolverine arc, "Three Months to Die", Madripoor is given airborne nanites that translate languages, even though all the main characters are worldly people who have enough history in Madripoor to justify speaking whatever common language there. This plot device seems to mainly be included to excuse an alien device that motivates the climax of the arc being capable of communicating in English.
  • Astro City:
    • The employees at Honor Guard's call center use translators that enable them to speak to clients worldwide.
    • These become a plot point in "The Menace From Earth". The First Family routinely use these, but because the "translation field" doesn't extend over broadcast, nobody in the Zirr Empire who watches the official news can understand what the humans are saying. This allows the Empire's leaders to falsely claim that the First Family ran away in defeat and accomplished nothing significant.

    Comic Strips 
  • In the SnarfQuest comic strip, a goofy-looking critter called a gaggaleechnote  gains the ability to communicate with everything due to a ring-granted Wish. It uses this power to play pranks on the other characters, but is forced to change its diet from blood to fruit juice note  because "everything" includes prey.

    Fan Works 
  • In The Foreigner, a Beauty and the Beast fanfic, Gaston and the titular character, an American girl, are unable to communicate with each other until the Enchantress gives her the ability to hear what French people are saying.
  • A Crown of Stars: In this story the Avaloni characters use a language-teaching tool to communicate with Shinji and Asuka (Shinji decides to use it to learn German and Asuka mutters she will use it to learn to read kanji once and for all). NILS (Neural Induction Learning System) is a device capable to pop a language –or another kind of knowledge- into the brain with a little magnetic induction on the right neurones. It has limitations, though: it only works with sufficiently well mapped knowledge sets and species neural sets, and you need learning a language the old-fashioned way if you want to truly understand it.
  • In Children of Time, Sherlock Holmes is intrigued by the TARDIS' translation capabilities.
  • In the Tales of the Canterlot Deportation Agency, any human who arrives in Menajeria gains the ability to speak and understand the dominant native language of the region they arrived in. However, this only works for that one language, and it only works if both parties are in Menajeria.
  • Daily Equestria Life with Monster Girl:
    • The device Cerea is given reaches down to the very concept of language, allowing the wearer to understand any tongue and herself be understood by anyone who hears her. It's stated that this is very powerful and difficult magic: only five of these true translators exist, with the most recently made still being over three centuries old. And even then the translation is somewhat imperfect: Cerea will frequently hear multiple overlapping words as the device struggles to find the closest equivalent to a specific term. There are also lesser translators that are easier to make, but which can only translate between specific pre-encoded languages (and which require that the caster speak all the languages involved).
    • Anyone in Tartarus can understand each other. Since the core of Cerea's device comes from Tartarus (and this is a contributing factor to its rarity), it can be assumed that it works on similar principles. After all, it's advantageous for Tartarus when one inmate can hear the other screaming...)
  • A Cliché in fan stories of The Lord of the Rings is to have an English-speaking girl fall into Middle-earth. Most of these stories ignore the difference between English and Westron, so fans can only guess if there is magic translation, or if the author thinks that the two languages are similar. Fans who read Appendix F of The Lord of the Rings know that English is only a Translation Convention for Westron, the Common Speech of Middle-earth.

    Only a few stories acknowledge the language difference. One way is to put a Language Barrier. The other way is to describe the translation.
    • Among The Eorlingas transforms Veronica into a horse, then dumps her in Rohan. She can understand people, but this confuses her, because people in Rohan should speak Rohirric or Westron, and not any language that she knows. Also, she can understand other horses, and other horses can understand her, but people cannot understand her.
    • The story titled Lothíriel is about a Lothíriel from Germany. When she enters Middle-earth, she suddenly knows Westron. The magic does not translate anything; it only causes her to know another language. Lothíriel still can't read the local alphabets, nor speak Sindarin, nor Rohirric, unless she learns them the hard way.
    • In The Games of the Gods, Rachel and Kari failed to notice that English and Sindarin are different languages, until chapter 12, "Realization", when Rachel discovers her "internal translator". She eventually learns to toggle it on and off. The translator also knows Westron and Quenya.
    • Time Will Tell waits until chapter 27 to explain how Jorryn can talk to anyone in Middle-earth. During her first days in the Shire, the ill Jorryn muttered in English. Gandalf performed a spell to switch Jorryn's language. Jorryn now speaks Westron, but may have completely forgotten English.
  • In Fractured, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands crossover, the absence of these is actually a plot point—while the Citadel species have had them for years, only the humans make any sense to the Trans-Galactic Republic It may be because the Eridians had a hand in it. Combining asari Mind Meld with technology eliminates the language barrier, taking us to Translation Convention instead as everyone continues to speak their own language but it is rendered in English for the reader.
  • Somewhat highlighted in Bait and Switch (and the Foundry mission it adapts) when the USS Bajor's universal translator has a second or so of trouble with the Gorn language, kicking in in mid-word. The main cast, despite being mostly nonhumans, are indicated to be actually speaking English most of the time rather than using the translator.
  • The Next Frontier has a heavily downplayed example that's basically the Kerbal equivalent of Google Translate paired with off-the-shelf speech recognition and voice synthesiser software, with a language dictionary that required months of work by thousands of linguists to compile from intercepted satellite TV broadcasts. It also glitches out occasionally when trying to convey a word that doesn't have a direct equivalent, and the first time it gets used it comes out with a bit of Engrish.
  • In Fate/Stay Night: Ultimate Master, the Plumbers give Ben a device that lets him speak and understand Japanese. However, it doesn't help him read it.
  • Kimberly T's Gargoyles series includes a scene where Brooklyn reflects that a language spell was apparently cast on the Manhattan Clan when they awoke in the present day, as they even think in modern English rather than the Gaelic they spoke back when they lived at Wyvern, to the point that they have to make a conscious choice to speak in Gaelic.
  • In Left Behind, Crichton and Reyna each observe that Belima, the sole surviving Xarai of Rohvu's original 'crew' doesn’t seem to have any translator microbes; Crichton speculates that she ‘lost’ them after being copied so many times. As a result, Belima has to learn how to talk again from listening to the others; observing that Belima has been talking to Crichton, Chiana and a group of Sebaceans since the other Xarai were killed, Crichton muses at one point that Belima may have formed a new mixed language he jokingly terms ‘Nebaceanish’.
  • Early in The Empress Returns (sequel to The God Empress of Ponykind), Celestia casts a spell on Twilight so she will understand and be able to speak Gothic while they are in the Imperium. She notes that it is temporary, a holdover until she can pick up the language on her own, and the two speak in Equestrian whenever they are alone (which, unfortunately for them, draws suspicions from the Inquisitor escorting them).
  • In the Bleach fic White, it is eventually revealed that in spiritual realms like Soul Society, Hueco Mundo, and Yhwach's realm, everyone hears speech in their native language, though certain terms like honorifics remain unchanged. While explaining this to Yuzu, Bambietta comments that while the former is hearing everything in Japanese, she is hearing everything in German.
  • In the Star Trek: Enterprise Parody Fic Farce Contact, the crew smash up Hoshi's translator when it translates I Come in Peace to "I intend to make small bits of you." When they get their hands on a proper Universal Translator, it leads to a diplomatic incident when a vague noise of appreciation by Captain Archer is converted to, "You have nice tits." This leads to another famous Starfleet invention: Technobabble, as it's the only way anyone can remain incomprehensible.
  • Percy in Son of the Western Sea receives this courtesy of the Braden Feasa/Salmon of Knowledge, who as thanks for sparing him gifts Percy the ability to speak and understand every language. He still has dyslexia, but notes that he isn't going to complain. He only realises exactly what the gift is when Manannan Mac Lir informs him that he is conversing with the god in fluent Manx Gaelic.
  • In Amazing Fantasy, Mysterio outfits his robot avatar with a translator that translates his speech into Japanese when he makes his grand debut in Musutafu. The result is noticeably scratchy and artificial, but otherwise does its job perfectly.
  • In Mythos Effect, besides the canon translater microbes, humanity has their own variation called Language Recognition Units which are ear pieces that both parties have to wear. Besides sounding robotic with a tinny inflection, it perfectly translates any preprogrammed languages.
  • The Omnitrix in Izu-Ju translates any language and works for anyone present, not just the wearer. Izuku never realized as the only foreign language he heard was English, which he had a class for, but Present Mic figures it out when his entire class can understand him singing in Welsh.
  • Fire Emblem Heroes: Kiran's Story: Here the translator spell does not allow the user to understand all the languages as its mother tongue, instead, the more languages a person knows, the more languages get translated. Due to this, Kiran perceives the Askarian as English and the ancient Askarian as Spanish. It's probably used to explain how people from different time periods, continents and even universes are able to understand each other perfectly.
  • Fate/Black Dawn: Shirou speaks English, but not Old English. He still understands everyone in Camelot, which he ascribes to Gaia looking out for him. Early on, he notes that Morgan's lips aren't quite matching up with the words he hears.
  • The Bolt Chronicles: The two aliens Rhino meets in "The Spaceship" are able to speak English using translation collars. Or at least eventually, anyway — they first try Croatian and Filipino, misunderstanding the hamster when he tries to speak what he believes to be outer-space language. The collars prove faulty and provide a lot of malapropisms, though, because they were purchased on the cheap.
  • Under the Northern Lights: Twilight Sparkle knows a spell, developed using combined unicorn and zebra magics, that temporarily learns a language from a native speaker instantly. It has some minor issues: you automatically gain the "teacher's" dialect and vocabulary, and the casting process is potentially embarrassing. Of course, Twilight causes misunderstandings due to the latter.
  • Vow of the King: Anyone in Soul Society or Hueco Mundo can understand each other perfectly as there's apparently no language barrier between souls. This first comes up when Candice seemingly goes from You No Take Candle to speaking fluent Japanese, only for her to insist the others are speaking fluent Irish.
  • Hunters of Justice:
    • Martian Manhunter is able to act as a translator between the Justice League and teams RWBY and JNPR thanks to his Telepathy. His telepathy helps the group assimilate knowledge better, letting them learn English in a few short weeks.
    • In a non-canon chapter, Starfire demonstrates her Tamaranian ability to learn language through lip contact by kissing Weiss and learning Vytalan.
    • Salem is capable of magic that translates language for a group without the need of telepathy.
  • The Dragon King's Temple: When you pass through a Stargate, it somehow uploads basic proficiency with the dominant language of your destination world.
    • This does, however, depend on having a complete language pack on both ends, which can cause some issues. Gates which aren't used for a while tend to go into standby mode instead of collecting languages, so if you are going to a world that hasn't been used in a while, it won't have an up-to-date language pack to download. Conversely, if your gate hasn't been used in a while, the Gate won't understand your language well enough to make you proficient in the new language. And if you're going from one offworld gate to another the pack for your home language won't be available, and the best you'll get is a partial update building off the already incomplete update for the world you are currently on.
    • There is also the complication that this system is designed to work on Ancient brains. Humans are virtually identical to Ancients, so the system works fine on us, but Gou'ald neuroanatomy is radically different from that of the Ancients, and it's stated that part of the reason the Gou'ald are so nuts is that they're virtually all suffering brain damage from the language transferrence system.
  • I Woke Up As a Dungeon, Now What?: For some reason, Taylor hears and reads everything as English, no matter the actual language. Unfortunately, this effect doesn't work the other way around, and the translation effect makes it impossible for Taylor to learn to write the local language (since she sees English text instead of what is actually being written down). Later on in the series, a pair of magic spectacles that grant the same power are introduced.
  • New Vegas Showtime: Out of the three Phantom Thieves that didn't speak English by way of Adaptational Skill, Morgana gets an ability to speak English given to him by his creator, and Ryuji gets it via some mad science performed by the Think Tank.
  • The Echo Ranger has a limited example. After the Echo Morpher activates, Izuku finds he is fluent in English, spoken and written, and has a southern California accent, not a Japanese accent.

    Films — Animation 
  • Brother Bear: Kenai gets the ability to hear what animals are saying after being turned into a bear.
  • The heroine in The Legend of the Titanic becomes able to speak with dolphins after her tear falls on a dolphin's nose in the moonlight. It Makes Just as Much Sense in Context as it does here, which is to say no damn sense at all.
  • Pocahontas: Grandma Smith, a talking willow tree, gives John Smith the ability to hear what Native Americans are saying. Actually a subversion. Grandma Willow gave Pocahontas the ability to communicate with English people, as none of the other Native Americans are able to speak to John Smith in English.
  • The Princess and the Frog: Tiana and Naveen get the ability to hear what animals are saying after being turned into frogs.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Anon (2018): A policeman questions a maid in English and she responds in her own language, with Minds Eye providing simultaneous translation for both parties.
  • Barbarella: Barbarella understands the Sogoites' language thanks to the multi-purpose bracelet on her left wrist translating it for her.
  • In Battlefield Earth, the Psychlos have a device that can teach humans their language, which they only use on one human because they didn't consider the "man-animals" intelligent enough to teach, despite all contrary evidence.
  • The old Disney film The Cat from Outer Space has its leading character wear a collar that translates the wearer's thoughts into people's heads.
  • Cloud Atlas: In the film. When Meronym and Zachry happen upon Sonmi's orison, the computer playing it translates her Korean to English in real-time. This wasn't present in the novel; when Zachry watches the orison he can't understand what Sonmi is saying.
  • Dr. Dolittle: The title character gets the ability to hear what animals are saying, a childhood ability that he lost as he grew up, but miraculously came back when he runs a dog over and it calls him a bonehead.
  • Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever: Crystal gets the ability to hear what the title character is saying.
  • The novelization to Flash Gordon mentions that Emperor Ming had the local language "beamed" into Flash and co.'s heads as their ship was landing on Mongo.
  • Star Trek parody Galaxy Quest has some sort of translators. They appear to work for the Thermians (the friendly aliens) in a similar way to Klingons, with exclamations in their alien language often remaining untranslated. Oddly, the translators are devices used by the Thermians to make themselves understood, yet the antagonist aliens (an unnamed reptilian species) also appear to speak English despite never having even heard of humans before. Being a comedy, it probably shouldn't be expected to make too much sense.
    • The translators are clearly integrated with the Thermian ships (on which all of the main characters' dealing with Sarris and his species take place). They're the ones translating for them, just as they do with the newly-discovered species in the mining colony during the "Gorignak" sequence.
  • The Inhabited Island features this; when Maxim lands on planet Saraksh and meets a native, he puts a little "snake" in his ear, that allows him to understand and speak the Sarakshian language.
    • In the original Strugatskies novel, Maxim actually studied Sarakshian language for months until he was able to speak and understand a bit. The film, reasonably, could not be made fully in fictional language with subtitles, especially since the book provides very few examples of Sarakshian.
    • Oddly enough, many Maxim's awkward lines from when he knew Sarakshian bad are still there, despite now we presume he knows the language already.
  • In the movie The Last Starfighter, one of the first things that happens to the hero once he arrives at the Starfighter base is a small disk attached to his lapel that translates brain waves so he hears perfect English, even though that's not what's actually being spoken. The movie then switches to Translation Convention in a later scene.
  • Mars Attacks!: A scientist devises a computer-powered machine to aide communication with the Martians. How well it functions is a point of ambiguity throughout the film. The initial message from the Martian Emperor is a complete Translation Trainwreck that makes very little sense in English, assuming the whole thing wasn't just a massive joke by the Martians. When it's used to translate back to the Martians they at least recognize the sounds although it's unknown if what was being said made sense to them. The fact that the Martians may also be cruel liars is also a factor, as they continue shouting comments translated as "We come in peace!" while atomising people. The device itself is small enough to be carried around by hand, but takes a second to broadcast whatever the user says in the translated language. It should be noted that the Martians don't need the machine to understand what the humans say. Going by the fact that a female Martian assassin nods her head at one point when asked a question by a human, and the way the Martians react hearing the president's speech, they, while only speaking their own language, can understand English just fine.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), there is a Freeze-Frame Bonus demonstrating this trope when Peter Quill is being put into the system. The screen the prison guards are looking at notes that Peter's implanted helmet has a translation circuit in it. Other than Groot's language, it seems to work rather well. Presumably Translation Convention is in place for all scenes that Peter is not present. In fact, Word of God has confirmed that most space-faring sorts in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have two-way universal translators embedded in their bodies.
    • In fact, Captain Marvel explicitly shows a universal translator used by the title character upon arriving on Earth. Carol doesn't actually need it as she's originally from Earth but the scene of her using the translator takes place before she recovers her memories.
    • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania has a different kind of translator. The Quantum Realm inhabitant Veb (and presumably others of his species) produces a type of pink ooze that when drank allows you to understand the language spoken in the Quantum Realm. Janet gets Hank and Hope glasses of a similar ooze in a bar that lets them understand the locals too.
  • Men in Black mentions a translator, along with the fact human thought is considered a disease by some aliens.
  • Appropriately for a sci-fi homage/parody, Simon Pegg thinks this is how Paul is speaking English in Paul. He's wrong:
    Paul: Actually, I'm speaking English, you fucking idiot.
  • Pokémon Detective Pikachu: Tim has the ability to hear Detective Pikachu speak English. It's later revealed that this is because Detective Pikachu is actually Tim's father.
  • The alien Zarab from Shin Ultraman explains that he uses a translator device upon being questioned about how he understands Japanese. Asami testing him by speaking in Russian shows that it works perfectly for any language.
  • Tails from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022) can speak perfect English but has to use a translator to repeat what he says in Siberian though it gives offensive My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels translations.
  • Star Trek:
    • Subverted in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, when the crew of the Enterprise has to slip past Klingon border guards to rescue Kirk and McCoy but don't use the universal translator for fear that the Klingons will find out they're using it. Uhura had to speak Klingon but struggled mightily with it... and they let the Enterprise go anyway. This was a controversial scene; Nichelle Nichols objected to it on the grounds that her character should be able to speak fluent Klingon, but she was overruled; the reboot has Uhura indeed speaking fluent Klingon (despite claiming to be "rusty"). It's equally stupid for the Klingons to see through Translator Microbes but not clearly broken Klingon; the novelization explained this by saying the Klingons mistook Uhura for an inept smuggler and let her go out of pity (and gave them a little message in smuggler's code to let them know he was on to them), which makes much more sense.
    • In Star Trek Beyond, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise give Kalara a more realistic variation where you hear her speak an alien language and a computerised voice speaking English at the same time.
  • The live action Transformers film gives the first attempt in the series why the robots are capable of speaking English just fine, their minds access the internet and are able to assimilate personality quirks appropriate to them, such as Jazz talking and acting like a hip black guy (itself based on the G1 character, voiced by renowned black musician Scatman Crothers), and 'Bee implicitly being a Back to the Future fan. Both Megatron and Frenzy speak in both English and mumble in what seems to be a Cybertronian language.

  • An alien asks a human about deserts on Earth. The human responds, "Let's see there's the Sahara, the Gobi, the Kalahari..." but the alien just looks at him confused because all she heard through the translator was the Desert, the Desert, and the Desert.

  • The Afterward: Translation spells exists which people who don't know the same language use, or to translate documents in unknown languages as well.
  • Alcatraz Series: A pair of magical glasses that grant this power is considered one of the most dangerous objects in the world, on the basis that knowledge is power. They give the ability to read the Forgotten Language. The Incarna, who wrote in this language, had access to magic and technology several orders of magnitude beyond that of the heroes or villains, but Alcatraz Smedry the First "broke" their language, rendering it utterly incomprehensible to anything short of the Translator's Lenses.
  • Animorphs: All Andalites in the military have translator chips implanted into their brains that can translate any language after a brief exposure to it. In addition, their "thought speak" can be understood by any sentient being, because it communicates concepts in addition to specific words. The translator chip also shown having limitations: in The Andalite Chronicles Elfangor and Arboron are baffled when Loren refers to to a Skrit Na as "Twinkie"; and in The Hork-Bajir Chronicles an Andalite only gets it to work by pointing to a tree and saying 'tree' and then having the Hork-Bajir call it their word. The ridiculously convenient nature of thought-speak is eventually explained by a backstory novel where we learn the Ellimist took his extremely high-tech "communications system" with him when he took the form of a prehistoric Andalite; presumably the genes or literal translator microbes or whatever he was using got passed on to his descendants.
  • Armada: A primitive version that isn't too far-fetched. The wrist-mounted devices detect (human) spoken languages and provide a slightly-delayed text translation. Translations appear to be pretty close to what's intended, implying better computing technology and linguistic algorithms. In fact, only one important character speaks almost no English, being from China, but the devices allow everyone else to understand him.
  • Artemis Fowl: Fairies communicate in and understand any language. In the early books, it was claimed that fairies were the first race to develop language and every other language (including animal languages, such as dog and dolphin) is an adaptation of Gnomish, but it was later Ret Conned to being one of the benefits of having inherent magical talent.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley disliked this trope and tried not to use it; when she resorted to it in Hunters Of The Red Moon, the translator sometimes wouldn't convey cultural nuances or figures of speech.
  • John DeChancie's Castle Perilous is wrapped in a translator spell to serve its numerous interdimensional "guests".
  • In the isekai Cooking With Wild Game, one of the few magical elements in the setting is that Asuta and Ai Fa can understand each other perfectly. Well, almost perfectly — she can't pronounce his surname very well.
  • Brandon Sanderson's Cosmere:
    • The Stormlight Archive:
      • Implied, though yet to be explained. A number of people show up with no trouble communicating despite having been away for over 4000 years or being from another world. Notably Zahel, aka Vasher, speaks Alethi perfectly but carelessly uses idioms entirely foreign to those around him, an extremely unlikely mistake for someone who'd learned the language naturally.
      • Bondsmiths can temporarily gain the ability to speak a language by touching someone who speaks it and forming a spiritual Connection.
      • Parshendi who metamorphose into Envoyform gain the ability to speak all languages and understand all direct communication. This is implied to work through spiritual Connection as it picks up on the intent behind the communication, such that even hums and hand gestures can be translated into complete sentences.
    • One type is seen in The Bands of Mourning, though it's unlikely to be the same type used in Stormlight. Duralumin metalminds allow Feruchemists to store various types of Connection. If they put all of their Connection to their homeland in one metalmind, they can then put "blank" Connection in another metalmind. If someone uses this metalmind, they suddenly have no Connection to a homeland. Their soul will then automatically Connect to the closest land, which has the side effect of allowing them to speak the language as if they were raised there (though accents are preserved because of the dichotomy between mind and soul). Unfortunately, this only works for visitors to a land, because having someone Connect to their own homeland is just redundant.
  • The Crowned Kreg series by Olga Larionova is Darker and Edgier Space Opera, so the protagonists learned language of star-traveling Human Aliens via memory-writing device and used it normally in first book, but later (when frantic planet-hopping started) the team laid their hands on magical translators. Those worked with any sentient creature using any form of spoken language, but frequently translated speech as strange or broken dialect and sometimes (on more unusual subject) as incomprehensibly weird puzzle, forcing user to ask partner in conversation to explain the same in other words and then try to put it all together.
  • Discworld:
    • Starting in Snuff, Commander Vimes' Symbiotic Possession by the demon called the Summoning Dark allows him to understand and communicate with any creature while in complete darkness.
    • Tiffany Aching, after events in A Hat Full of Sky. The occupation of her mind by the creature that collected minds has left her with shadows of those memories, including a deceased, didactic wizard named Sensibility Bustle, who translates any foreign word inside her head upon hearing or seeing it.
  • In the Dragonfall 5 sci-fi juveniles by Brian Earnshaw, there were twin alien animals that carried out this function. Played for laughs when they have a scientist traveling on the ship; he gets rather annoyed when they kept translating his Spock Speak, e.g. "Negative!" as "He means no."
  • In the Dreamers tetralogy by David Eddings, four Physical Gods assemble an army from around the world and enchant them all to hear each other's speech in their own native tongue. The more observant warriors notice that their foreign comrades' lips are moving out of sync with the words they hear.
  • In The Dresden Files, a Fallen Angel trying to tempt Harry into a quite literal deal with the devil provides perfect two-way translation (of various languages including Latin and ancient Etruscan) as one of several favors it does for Harry. He knows he shouldn't keep relying on it, but...
  • Falling With Folded Wings: Everyone in the System receives the System Language Integration skill by default, letting them communicate with everyone with ease. However, it seems like the System doesn't bother integrating the lowest-energy species, such as the yeksa. While most people assume that this means they are sub-intelligent beasts, the humans theorize that they could be perfectly intelligent, the System just doesn't care about them.
  • The Fantastic Flying Journey: Great-Uncle Perceval's grey powder provides the users with the ability to communicate fluently with animals.
  • Flash Gordon: In The Lion Men of Mongo, Hans Zarkov invented a lingual-translator that implanted in himself, Flash and Dale that let them understand, read and speak any language.
  • Grimoire's Soul: Outside of Kesterline, translation spells are fairly common for dealing with people from various locales, as shown in the Atrium. However, the translation spells don't always translate things completely.
  • Harry Potter: The books introduce a few Starfish Languages that are normally unintelligible to human ears but can be understood via this trope. Submersion in water allows humans to communicate with merfolk in Mermish, and a rare hereditary trait allows certain humans to communicate with snakes in Parseltongue. It should also be noted that some humans can manage to understand and/or speak these languages without the use of translator microbes. For example, Albus Dumbledore learned to decipher Mermish and Parseltongue through study, and Ron Weasley manages to mimic the Parseltongue password to the Chamber of Secrets at one point (though his imitation of the password just sounds like unintelligible hissing to Harry).
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy uses the "Babel Fish", though in this case the ridiculous nature of the translation device (inserted in the ear) probably means its use is satirical — like most things in H2G2. The fish itself is named after the biblical Tower of Babel myth. The babel fish, as it is known, subsists entirely on sound waves. A side effect is that these sound waves are converted into brain waves, which are excreted by the fish into the host's brain. It also proves the non-existence of God, much to God's consternation. (According to Oolon Colluphid, anyway. Some people think it's all a load of dingo's kidneys.)
  • Inferno (Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle): For the most part, the sinners in Hell speak and understand what they spoke and understood in life. However, certain souls are selectively granted the gift of tongues, the ability to understand and be understood by all. As a rule, it seems to be granted to those souls who choose to dedicate themselves to the task of saving others. It can even grant the ability to pierce Nimrod's unintelligibility.
  • In Jacek Dukaj's Irrehaare, all the people trapped in the titular Virtual Reality can communicate with each other freely. They don't really talk to each other; they just communicate directly via thoughts, and the controlling computer creates the sensation of hearing spoken words (along with the vague impression of hearing a specific language or accent).
  • In I've Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, Azusa dies in modern, mundane Japan and is reincarnated into a Medieval European Fantasy world. Among other beneficial perks, she is capable of understanding, reading, writing, and speaking the local language straight away.
  • Joel Suzuki: Marshall has manipulated the Aura in Spectraland so that when the natives speak their language, Joel and Felicity hear them in English, and vice versa. The spell doesn't affect lip movements, making every conversation look like a badly dubbed movie.
  • In Vitaliy Gubarev's children's story Journey to the Morning Star, an old man (a self-proclaimed wizard), his granddaughter, and three neighboring boys travel using the wizard's "thoughtplane" (a craft allowing travel "at the speed of thought" anywhere in the universe) to a planet in the Coma Berenices constellation, where they meet Human Aliens from two of the three planets in the system (the third one still has dinosaurs). They are able to speak to the Etherians and the Sinots through a box that the wizard brings with him and wears on his chest. It should be noted that it's very clear that there is a slight lag between the original speech and the translation from the box, as well as the fact that the translated voice is coming from a different direction. It's not clear how the Etherians and the Sinots communicate, although they may have just learned each other's languages.
  • 'Kris Longknife: After going through Instant A.I.: Just Add Water!, Kris' computer Nelly develops the ability to act as a universal translator, letting her decipher the language of newly contacted alien species given sufficient samples of it. She (and later her children) can then provide translation on the fly.
  • In the Left Behind series, God enables people to hear the messages of the Two Witnesses supernaturally in their own languages, even though they are natively speaking Hebrew. Later on in the book series, God also enables all believers in Jesus Christ to speak to and understand each other in their own languages.
  • Happens in one of the earliest Space Operas, Lensman: The Lenses provide near-perfect translation. Near-perfect because it still has to sometimes make up words for concepts that have no human equivalent. Once one Lens picks an English word for an alien concept all Lenses will translate it the same way.
  • Make Way For Dragons. The hero is one of the few people on Earth who can do magic (that's why he met the dragons). Despite his ever-increasing talents, when he finds he can talk to dogs (a dog), his other non-human friends just hear barking.
  • The Merman's Children: In Greenland, Panigpak the angakok gives Tauno and Eyjan an amulet which, when worn, gives them the ability to understand, speak, and think in any language. It also gives them the ability to understand concepts their native language doesn't have words for, without anyone needing to explain those concepts to them, as long as they keep thinking in the new language.
  • The mirrors of Mordant's Need can summon sentient creatures from all manner of bizarre worlds into the world of Mordant, and they all turn out to be able to speak the local language (at least if they have the right sort of vocal chords for it). The magicians who use mirrors differ on why that is, but one of the two dominant theories is that this trope is in effect - the mirror changes the language you speak when you move through it.
  • In Donald Keith's Mutiny In The Time Machine the preteen protagonists end up in the distant future and a boy they befriend gives them a pill which enables them to telepathically understand each other's version of English. He comes back to the then-present with them and they later use the pills to communicate with everything from a Spartan youth to a dog.
  • In the My Teacher Is an Alien book series, the aliens have a universal translator that is implanted into the brain. Every species speaks its native language, and an individual hears the alien language with their ears, but the translator makes them aware of what it means. This implant is also capable of translating non-verbal communication as well, as some of the species don't have vocal cords. This trope is also applied directly, in that the aliens who are sent to Earth as teachers have a second implant that causes them to speak English.
  • The Neanderthal Parallax: In Hominids, Ponter, a Neaderthal from an Alternate Universe where Neanderthals and not Homo Sapiens survived, uses his implant to communicate with people from a universe like our where English is spoken and homo sapiens survived. This is especially important as Neanderthals cannot produce the long-e sound, making a lot of Homo Sapiens words unpronounceable naturally by them.
  • In the Night Watch (Series) books, while in the Twilight, all languages are automatically translated into the listener's primary language. This allows Anton to have a friendly conversation with an American soldier on leave while in Prague. There are also spells that temporarily teach an Other a number of commonly-used languages. This is useful for short trips abroad. This also has side effects of occasionally having the Other in question slip into another language without knowing. Anton accidentally slips into Polish and only realizes it when Olga points it out to him. He's then surprised that Polish is considered common enough to be included in the spell.
  • The Brain Pals in Old Man's War translate alien languages for their users, but only if the language is known to the Colonial Defense Force.
  • Orion: First Encounter: A literal example as the crew uses a virus to translate alien speech. It isn't fool proof though. The virus has a tendency to add artistic flair in the form of accents and can't do conversions for distances because it can't be bothered to do the math.
  • Done in Tad Williams' Otherland novels, because computer technology has evolved to the point where simultaneous voice translation is a standard feature of the 'Net. There are cases where this fails due to linguistic nuances or a character speaking in a language that the translation software doesn't recognize.
  • The Outside: Sispirinithas, an alien who resembles a Giant Spider, wears a box around his neck that translates everything he says into Earth creole. Diamond-Chip, a member of another alien species called Boaters, also has a translator box, but humans' poor understanding of Boater languages results in tortured and hard-to-understand sentences.
  • The Pendragon Adventure begins with Bilingual Dialogue — Uncle Press and a Denduron native communicate while understanding each other perfectly. Once Bobby's Traveller nature kicks in, he gains the ability to read and understand the languages of all the other Territories. Presumably, it applies to acolytes too, since Mark and Courtney get messages from Spader, Aja and others that are somehow in English. Possibly they are translated by the rings used to send the messages between territories, given that when acolytes use them they are addressed to a specific person, not a territory in general. For some reason though, some languages seem like they must be the same as English. For example, in The Pilgrims of Rayne, some people think a sign says "Rubity" when really it was worn down and originally said Rubic City. Since proper nouns presumably have no translation, and Rubic City is a combination of a proper noun and a common, translatable noun, this would only make sense in English.
  • The Phule's Company novels have translator software that can even work when making First Contact with aliens who "speak" in telepathic imagery. (Well, more or less. The alien captain is amazed at how infallible the translator is, until he refers to Phule as "Captain Clown" and Phule corrects him "That's Captain Clown.")
  • Neal Asher's The Polity novels include two different implants that serve this function: Augs (the standard brain implants wore by everyone) provided instantaneous translation of recognized languages, while the more advanced Gridlinks actually downloaded the language directly into the user's head, essentially making them native speakers of it.
  • In the Prince Roger series, the majority of the translation is provided by toots (computers implanted in the user's brain), but the toot still needs to have something with one or two degrees of relation to the language in use before it can start trying to translate. Things aren't smooth — they find out in March to the Stars that the original language sample they've been working from all along has been strategically edited to make all mentions of the locals' new religious habits incredibly euphemistic. Since the locals are now ritualistic cannibals and they're asking for Prince Roger's girlfriend as a sacrifice, Prince Roger is, understandably, Not Pleased to find this out. It doesn't end well for the locals. Additionally, since the native Mardukans lack toots entirely, they have to learn all languages and dialects the hard way.
  • In The Riftwar Cycle, one of the few magic spells permitted in Honest John's is a universal translation spell — though it's mentioned that the spell would have trouble with sufficiently starfishy aliens due to being unable to find a common frame of reference.
  • Rod Allbright Alien Adventures: Citizens of galactic society get brain implants that let them understand and speak alien languages, although some idioms slip through. In the third book, the Earth natives and Seymour get them so they can speak Standard Galactic.
  • Second Apocalypse: When Prince Sorweel is imprisoned in a Nonman mansion, a helm is placed on his head that merges his soul with a long-dead Nonman, allowing him to understand the Nonman language, giving him knowledge of Nonman customs and providing Character Development as he gains a new perspective on his situation.
  • In the Sector General series by James White, translator packs are Walkman-sized devices that must be body-worn (typically on a lanyard around whatever anatomical landmark corresponds to the neck), only work for known languages, and can't translate vocal inflections, nonverbal communication, context cues or (amusingly) foul language. They're dumb terminals running the hospital mainframe's translation program, which isn't a whole lot better than a modern Web translator - and when the mainframe crashes, as in the Etlan "police action" (read: minor war) of Star Surgeon, chaos results.
  • In Gregory Frost's novel Shadowbridge, the world is filled with incredibly long bridges, divided into spans. Each span has its own language, but visitors will magically find themselves fluent in it a few minutes after entering.
  • The Shakugan no Shana novels mention an Unrestricted Spell that performs this task; presumably, everyone is just using that all the time.
  • In the Spaceforce (2012) universe, everyone wears (or has implanted) a piece of micro-technology which provides real-time translation of speech, though not necessarily of written language. It’s not perfect, however. Earther translators seem to render speech as somewhat stilted, while Taysan translators are more effective.
  • In Stardoc, Dr. Cherijo Grey Veil uses a translator earpiece to understand the various aliens who come to the hospital she works at on Kevarzangia 2. It uses a wireless connection to a municipal computer database which translates incoming alien tongues. The earpiece then retransmits them as the wearer's native tongue. When Cherijo joins the Jorenians later on, we're treated to the Jorenian equivalent, the vocollar, whose only difference is that it's worn about the neck.
  • Many Star Trek novels had the communication pins have translator devices. Rihannsu, which predates combadges (being based on TOS), instead states the translator to be a subcutaneous implant.
  • Star Wars Legends: The Yuuzhan Vong had a Translator Worm as part of their biotechnology. The tizowyrms, small worms who could be inserted in the ear to understand foreign languages. Somehow, it also allows them to speak unaccented Basic. Threepio is also quickly able to decipher their language, since it's similar to one in his database.
  • In Elliot S! Maggin's Superman novel Last Son of Krypton, Lex Luthor is being held by a group of aliens and they call him an "Earthling". He comments that he prefers the term "Terran" and the aliens explain that their translator returns the best word to the being hearing the translation, based on his/hers/its own perceptions. Thereafter, he hears the word "Terran". He also amuses himself by mentally assigning all the aliens insulting nicknames, which the translator accepts as the translation of their names.
  • A magic example of translator microbes from Time Cat. A cat and boy, Jason and Gareth, travel through time while Gareth's magic allows Jason to understand and speak the common language of whatever place and time period he's in.
  • In Timeline, the time travellers had earpieces that translated for them. The problem was that only one of them actually knew how to talk in period and he was pretty shaky at it (he was a history buff/archaeologist) so for the most part they could understand (reasonably, the translators weren't perfect) but not speak without sounding crazy.
  • The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: A translation spell may be provided in some tours, so the Tourists can easily understand the natives of Fantasyland.
  • Viceroy's Pride:
    • One of the standard runes across the Tellask Empire—and one of the few types of mind magic used on a regular basis—is a translator spell. Dan wears a helmet with the rune while on Twilight. When he loses it, the locals just offer to sell him a new one.
    • The nanites let Dan learn a new language over the course of a few days. They also come pre-loaded with most major Earth languages, which he appreciates when he happens to find himself breaking bread with some French soldiers.
  • We Are Legion (We Are Bob): After Bob's first encounter with bizarre 2149 English, he starts running a translator at all times when talking to them.
  • In the Xandri Corelel series, everyone uses translator implants, although they won't translate words that don't have Alliance Trade Common equivalents.
  • In the 3rd book of Piers Anthony's Xanth novels, the main character has the ability to make inanimate objects speak. He uses this ability to make friends with a 8-foot tall giant spider, by telling a piece of spider's web to translate the spider's chittering for him. A spider web speaking spider-language makes perfect sense.
  • The wizards in the Young Wizards series can use the Speech to make themselves understood by all beings (non-wizard listeners usually perceive it as being in their native tongue) and can understand every language. It's so effective that wizards can all speak to animals. At one point they speak to the air molecules and make it remember when it was solid like it was a billion years ago, so they can walk on it. And there's a rather hilarious Running Gag involving Kit's DVD player and remote control.
  • In Bounders, the Tunnelers, mole-like aliens, wear boxes around their necks that translate their clicking noises into human speech.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In an episode of Andromeda where Harper has a massive database downloaded into his brain, he starts speaking in various languages and suggests that someone make some kind of nanite that lets you speak any language. Some of those may be incomprehensible to the viewers, but are perfectly understood by at least some of the cast members. Dylan, being born on Tarn Vedra, would probably be fluent in Vedran. Rev Bem was also able to translate Harper's mis-quote "A fast swimmer keeps no pets" (Harper meant to say "A wise man knows his limitations") from Vedran.
  • Star Wars TV shows:
    • Mok Shaiz from The Book of Boba Fett is similar to Star Trek Beyond where you hear his alien gurgling and a computerised voice speaking English a split second later. He's better than most Star Wars examples where at best there'll be a Translator Buddy robot repeating everything. This is also a carryover from the animated shows, which introduced Ithorians — Mok Shaiz's species — wearing similar translation devices.
    • In season 3 of The Mandalorian, IG-11 gets converted into Mobile-Suit Human armour for Grogu that lets him say yes and no.
  • In one episode of The Dead Zone, Johnny briefly dies. He is amazed that he and the Native American ghost that he had been hanging around with can finally understand each other. The ghost explains that everyone sounds the same in the land of the dead.
  • Doctor Who states that the TARDIS is psychic and provides translations directly into its passengers' minds. Given that the TARDIS is not only alive but sapient, inconsistencies can be chalked up to her own personal eccentricities and whims.
    • Some early episodes have the Doctor unable to communicate even in common Earth languages (even French). It's not made clear whether this is due to the TARDIS itself or to the Doctor learning more languages (both options have been used in-show).
    • A plot point in "The Masque of Mandragora"; companion Sarah Jane is revealed to be brainwashed when she questions why she understands medieval Italian.
      • This example, along with examples in spin-off media, suggests that most of the time the TARDIS translation also subtly rewires the brain so that the companions don't consciously register that they shouldn't be able to understand what they're hearing.
      • Spin-off media also affirms that translation can go deeper than just translating from one language to another; the novel Wolfsbane features the Doctor talking with a native German speaker who has a good understanding of English, who explicitly muses that she cannot tell what language the Doctor is addressing her in.
    • Apparently, the TARDIS doesn't translate when another translator is in use. Case in point, Sil's translator in "Vengeance on Varos", which has a small glitch making him a Strange-Syntax Speaker.
    • The ultimate test of the TARDIS telepathic circuits comes in the Big Finish Doctor Who audio "Survival of the Fittest", which features alien insects that communicate through scent. The TARDIS translates, but the Doctor's German-speaking companion points out that if it worked perfectly, they wouldn't get the residual scents as well. And the Doctor wouldn't have "a stuffy Prussian accent".
    • "The End of the World": When Rose finds out about the TARDIS' translation abilities, she's initially a bit freaked out because, as she puts it, she's not happy that the Doctor didn't tell her that his spaceship "gets inside [her] brain" without permission.
    • This convenient plot device was actually woven into the story in "The Christmas Invasion", where the TARDIS universal translator suffers a Phlebotinum Breakdown due to the Doctor being unconscious. The protagonists have to resort to a "mundane" handheld translator to understand the Sycorax leader, and when he inexplicably switches to English, Rose realises the Doctor has recovered.
    • In "The Girl in the Fireplace", the Doctor is able to recognize that Reinette was not only speaking French, but pre-Revolutionary French.
    • A plot point in "The Impossible Planet"/"The Satan Pit", where the language is so incredibly old that it's untranslatable.
    • This is explored in "The Fires of Pompeii". When the Doctor tells Donna about the Translator Microbes' effect, she wonders what happens when they speak what they think is Latin. She goes up to a merchant, and says "veni vidi vici" to him. He says, emphasizing every word, "Me no a-speak Celtic! No can do, missy!" The Doctor explains that to the merchant, "you sound Welsh." Apparently speaking someone else's language translates back into your language (or what they think is your language anyway).
    • In "Smith and Jones" the Judoon "assimilate" other languages via a handheld electronic device. It records a few words of the target language, after which it functions as a two-way translator. According to the Sixth Doctor audio story "Judoon in Chains" Judoonese is "rather too basic" for the TARDIS to translate.
    • There are also the Hath, the bubble-blowing aliens in "The Doctor's Daughter". Lines were actually written for them, but the producers felt that neither voiceovers nor subtitles worked, so they left them untranslated to the audience. The other characters can clearly understand them, though.
    • The viewer occasionally isn't given the benefit of the TARDIS translation, as demonstrated in "The Stolen Earth", either for Rule of Funny (the Doctor speaking the Judoon language: "Flo! Bo! Jo! So!") or Rule of Drama (Daleks in Germany screaming "Exterminieren! Exterminieren!"). Though technically the TARDIS wasn't present for that last one and Word of God is that people who leave the TARDIS like Martha will eventually have the telepathic interface translation wear off.
    • The TARDIS also translates anything in a classical language (for example, the Classical Ood) into Latin.
    • "Vincent and the Doctor" has the TARDIS decide that speaking English with a Scottish accent and speaking French with a Dutch accent are translated equivalents.
    • Interestingly, the Doctor also seems to speak to horses, cats, and babies, but the TARDIS doesn't allow the companions to do so. It's unconfirmed whether this is a genuine skill or just the Doctor engaging in Confusion Fu. From "A Good Man Goes to War":
      The Doctor: I speak Baby.
      Amy: No, you don't.
      The Doctor: I speak everything.
    • In "Cold War", Clara assures the Russians in the nuclear submarine that she can't be a spy because she can't speak Russian. Of course, as far as they're concerned, she says this in perfect Russian. The Doctor probably shouldn't have skipped that part of her standard companion explanation.
    • Bill spends the first nine episodes of her time with the Doctor traveling to the future, the present, and periods in the past when Modern English existed, and so doesn't stop to think about the fact that everyone is speaking English. It's only in the tenth episode, "The Eaters of Light", that she meets a Roman soldier and realizes that the Doctor and/or the TARDIS have "some sort of telepathic field" that translates for everyone.
      Bill: [watching the Roman talk] Wow, it even does lip-synch.
    • In "The Ghost Monument", new companions Graham, Ryan and Yaz get injected with universal translators while in alien medical pods. The newly regenerated Thirteenth Doctor says that they won't be necessary when she gets the TARDIS back (she'd been separated from it after falling out due to regeneration-induced damage), which happens at the end of the episode.
    • In "The Time Warrior", on first meeting Irongron and his men, Commander Linx adjusts a device he is wearing on his belt and is then able to communicate with them, indicating is some sort of translation device.
  • Farscape is the Trope Namer, using translator microbes which are capable of translating seemingly everything except cusswords and units of measurement.
    • In several episodes, this is used as a plot point, as D'Argo at one point starts a program in his ship that speaks in an archaic form of his own language. He can't understand it, and has to have the computer research the language and inject him with new microbes just so he can make out a few words. This also raises a big question on why anyone can understand Crichton, the first English speaker the wider galaxy has ever encountered, if the language has to be programmed in. The Grand Finale reveals the Sebaceans are descended from Transplanted Humans, so it's possible that whatever variant of Proto-Indo-European they spoke is enough of a baseline.
    • Another plot relevant case was when the crew ended up on Earth. All the aliens could understand the humans, but not vice versa. John had to serve as one-way interpreter.
    • There are three known languages besides ancient Luxan that can't be translated by the microbes: Pilot, Diagnosan, and at least one dialect of Scarran. The first two are too "dense" (as in a small bit of Pilot or Diagnosan speech conveys tremendous amounts of highly-technical information). Diagnosans are forced to rely on living translators, while Pilots have a dumbed down version of their language that does translate.
    • The inverse happens as well: Sikozu's race is incompatible with translator microbes, but fortunately, is able to learn languages extremely easily. Her first scene with Crichton involves him teaching her English (presumably, she's already learned most of the other species' languages). This comes in handy later when Moya arrives at Earth without Crichton, and Sikozu is able to establish communication with humans (who don't have translator microbes).
    • The rationalization for a universe full of aliens speaking Australian English is forgotten when convenient, such as when Crichton wants to impersonate a Peacekeeper by putting on an Evil Brit accent.
    • And then there's Klingon which John knows and like Star Trek is not translated.
    • Made irrelevant in some episodes, particularly one in the first season, when John ends up on a very Earth-like planet, which is undeveloped, and has never had contact with any alien race. Somehow, John is able to communicate freely, despite the natives having no translator microbes. In the end this is explained as them being descendants of colonists, who inherited them along with other useful microbes.
    • It also apparently doesn't translate written language. The same episode hinged on only Rygel being able to read a book written in an archaic language from his own world, which he had studied as a child but hadn't used in decades. John also has to teach Aeryn how to read English even after she learns to speak it.
  • The Good Place: The Good Place automatically translates all languages into whatever the speaker is most comfortable with. Funnily enough, it's not actually necessary; Eleanor, Jason, and Tahani all speak English, and while Chidi prefers French he is perfectly fluent in English.
  • In Legends of Tomorrow, when traveling to the USSR in 1986, Rip gives everyone electronic pills that, when swallowed, attach to the nervous system and allow one to speak the language currently set by Gideon. Interestingly, the person speak thinks he's speaking English until he hears the words coming out of his mouth. Presumably, the chip in the pill intercepts the brainwaves associated with speech and sends out different signals to the muscles. Also presumably, the pills translate foreign speech into English for them. Naturally, Translation Convention is in play.
  • In an episode of Lost, Hurley gets the ability to hear what Jin, the Korean, is saying. Although this turns out to be just a dream.
  • Magic Grandad was a British children's Edutainment Show about a wizard who would take his grandchildren back in time to learn about history. One episode has them meeting Louis Braille, and Grandad must cast an additional spell (sung to the tune of "Frère Jacques") so they will hear the French characters speaking to them in English, and the French characters in turn will think they are being spoken to in French.
  • The Orville: In "Sympathy For The Devil" Otto speaks German, naturally. The ship's "translation matrix" instantly translates it for the crew of The Orville.
  • In the future of Other Space Tina uses these to translate her native Russian into English. It's implied that while multiple languages still exist, translators are used by entire countries to get everyone to speak English.
  • Stargate SG-1 uses Daniel Jackson, an expert linguist. The movie upon which the series is based hinges entirely on Jackson's linguistic skills, both to interpret the "operating manual" of the Stargate and to communicate with the people on the other side. In the first season, his skills are used on and off to talk to natives, but this is quickly forgotten (since it would make for clumsy storytelling if everyone else had to use Jackson to translate). As the series progresses, his expertise is used primarily to access Imported Alien Phlebotinum, as the inhabitants of at least three galaxies appear to have mastered the language of the "Tau'ri" independently (see Aliens Speaking English). One explanation (not shown on-screen, but offered by the show creators in one of the "behind the scenes" documentaries) is that the Stargates actually insert some sort of nanite into travelers that allows universal translation. You'd think that would show up on medical scans, though.
  • The original released information for Stargate Atlantis months before the show premiered mentioned that translator devices were among the technology the team would find in Atlantis. This was never seen in the aired pilot, however.
  • Starbug has a Universal Translator in Red Dwarf that allows them to broadcast messages in all languages including Welsh and interpret GELF warnings. It's also used to communicate with the titular sapient virus in "Epideme".
  • Star Trek uses a Universal Translator. Amazingly, it works even if the Federation has never seen nor encountered the aliens or their language before (apparently, by analyzing its grammar and vocabulary). Oddly, it seems that the universal translator switches itself on and off when someone is speaking Klingon, probably to give the writers a chance to show off a real live alien language.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • The show establishes that the translators work directly from thought patterns. It also explicitly establishes that it can detect what gender an organism is, even if that organism is a bodiless cloud of energy. Both of these concepts were completely ignored after the episode in which they were introduced.
    • In the original series, it has long been implied that Chekov already spoke English in addition to his native Russian, but it's never confirmed one way or the other. It would explain why he speaks with an accent when translated languages usually don't.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • Subverted in the episode "The Ensigns of Command", with the Sheliak, a race of vaguely octopus-like non-humanoids whose minds are so alien that the the universal translator couldn't find enough reference points to work with. The Sheliak had already learned English themselves in order to negotiate a border treaty with the Federation, but considered human language so imprecise that the treaty they insisted on stretches over several thousand pages.
    • Deconstructed with the Tamarians in the episode "Darmok" where, despite the translator working normally, the resulting speech was still incomprehensible because it was based entirely on cultural metaphors that the Enterprise crew had no knowledge of.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • It was subverted in one episode, where a new species comes to the station and their language is so different, that the universal translator has to spend about half of the episode to figure it out — but then again, it manages to figure it out despite the fact that they repeat the same sentence a hundred times.
    • Another episode had the Ferengi characters crash-land in Earth's past and due to an unfortunately timed malfunction unable to speak or understand English for a brief period. Their mouths still made English words. Incidentally, their translators were installed in their ears.
    • In another instance, a character listening to a recording of Weyoun negotiating a ceasefire with a Federation representative turns the translator off, allowing him to hear what Weyoun actually said in his native language and pick up on a critical nuance the translator missed (a grammar difference with no equivalent in English).
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • An episode hung a lampshade on the convention, by having a cryogenically frozen guy who could only speak Japanese marvel at how the Americans he was frozen with are somehow speaking Japanese, while the Americans equally marvel that he's speaking English. This turns into a brief debate about who's speaking what language, until Janeway interrupts to explain how the universal translator works.
    • Another episode featured an alien whose language was so out-there (bordering on Black Speech) that the universal translator couldn't handle it, forcing Harry Kim to work on the problem for the better part of the episode.
    • In "Think Tank", the titular Think Tank is a group of aliens that need their own version of a translator to communicator to work together. With it, they're so intelligent they're all but unstoppable; sabotage it and they're just a bunch of arrogant pricks that can't talk to each other.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise had several instances where their more primitive universal translators needed some time and calibration (sometimes by a professional linguist such as the Enterprise NX-01's communications officer Hoshi Sato) to figure out a new language.
  • In the Star Trek: Discovery episode "An Obol for Charon", the translator malfunctions, randomly translating everyone's speech into various human and alien languages, and the ensuing chaos demonstrates how much the ship's diverse crew relies on it. Fortunately Saru is a hyperpolyglot and proves an adequate temporary replacement.
  • In The Tomorrow People (1973), homo superior use their telepathy to translate what aliens are saying into English. In one spin-off novel, they ask a lost alien the name of his home planet ... and discover that with no other context to base it on, the telepathic translation renders the word meaning "my home planet" into the English word meaning "my home planet" — Earth.
  • In the 1980s Australian science show Towards 2000, an episode about translator software had a skit in which three businessmen from England, Saudi Arabia and Italy (all played by the host) try to negotiate an international deal but get confused by the overly literal translation of what they're saying. Eventually the computer blows up when called upon to translate the most incomprehensible language in the world.
    • Relevant and related is an episode of an old Australian children's education show in which a couple of supposedly British spy handlers are trying to "decode" a transmission from an operative but can't understand it since it's filled with incomprehensible gibberish such as "this claim's played out" and "the local rozzers are onto me." They eventually discover that the operative has transmitted "in the clear" and the expressions are simply out-of-date Australian slang for "nothing more to find here" and "the local law enforcement have found me out." (The purpose of the episode being to highlight how even differences in idiom can make purportedly identical languages untranslatable to those who don't know the idiom).
  • The Twilight Zone: In "People Are Alike All Over", Sam Conrad believes that the Martians are speaking English but he is told that he is speaking their language as a result of unconscious transference, a type of hypnosis.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Bible: Sometime after Jesus ascends to Heaven, the Disciples are blessed so that when they speak, everyone hears it in their own language, allowing them to spread Jesus' teachings around the world. It's strongly implied that each disciple is speaking a different language and is able to switch languages when necessary, so the miracle is that they are able to speak different languages, not that everyone hears a different language. However, the text emphasises the astonishment of the listeners at being able to understand what is being said, so there is some ambiguity as to the meaning at least in the English translation.

  • In Season 7 of the Red Panda Adventures, the eponymous hero subconsciously projects a hypnotic field that makes everyone nearby understand each other. Of course, being an auditory medium and taking place in Europe, this is necessary. As he is suffering from amnesia, he has a bad case of Centipede's Dilemma regarding this power. Played with in that as prisoners as war, the fact that the Germans think they are speaking German is unexpected, and the heroes can't discuss plans within earshot of the German guards.

  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy introduced its parodic “Babel Fish” in its original radio version. See under Literature, above, for details.
  • Journey into Space: In The Return from Mars, Cassia gives Jet, Lemmy, Doc and Mitch necklaces that read their thoughts and translates her language into English and vice versa.

  • In Academy of Merlin, the only reason the students can understand each other is because of a massive sphere of influence known as the language debarrier, which stretches over most of the forest, Justus, and the Academy. It translates others' languages into the hearer's native tongue, with the exception of nonhuman languages.
  • City of Lost Characters, based on a similar Massive Multiplayer Crossover premise as its predecessor The Massive Multi Fandom RPG, likewise has all the characters able to understand each other perfectly as part of the City's unusual nature.
  • In A Facility, a chip is implanted in everyone's brains that allows them to understand each other.
  • In Holy Relic, everyone comes in with an earpiece enabling them to hear everyone and everything else in their native tongue.
  • In The Massive Multi-Fandom RPG, everyone in the City can understand each other perfectly. This is an Enforced Trope due to everyone coming from all over the multiverse. Per Word of God, this gives everyone the ability to understand all other languages, but doesn't actually change what speech or writing sounds/looks like.
  • Player characters in Roll To Dodge: Savral have an innate trait that translates non-player-character dialogue into English, given that the player characters can communicate with Savral's inhabitants, who speak in a variety of different tongues and languages. This creates a few interesting situations.
    • When one of the players, Brah, switches from speaking to a group of Keranian Humans to negotiate with a group of Imari Shades, the humans make note of the sudden language swap.
    • In another instance, Kayne asks the lich Enri to teach him some of the orc languages while visiting his pyramid in the desert. When Enri tries explaining the fundamentals of Ixali while translating a few words, Kayne hears everything in English, even though the Ixali script bears little similarity to the English language.
  • The crew for Stacy in Trans 9 is able to understand one another through a ship-based translating system regardless of language or species. This also happens to work while on different planets. However, the translation can be overridden by some natural foreign phrases and undisclosed curses.

  • According to Word of God, all the Matoran Universe characters in BIONICLE were hit with a signal from Mata Nui, which upgraded them with software that allowed them to communicate with the Glatorian and Agori.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Rolemaster. The old Spacemaster time travel supplement weaves some deft pseudo-linguistic gobbledegook around this trope by introducing a language called "Intrinsic" that can be understood by any human being and that can be easily learned.
  • In Traveller one of the programs one can use with a wafer jack is a translator.
  • The Tau in Warhammer 40,000 have cybernetic implants in their brains that allow them to communicate with other races, including humans. It's good enough to get the gist, but understanding or conveying any kind of subtlety still requires training. So far they're the only race known to use a universal translator, at least on a large scale, seeing as how most factions in the setting aren't particularly interested in communicating with aliens.
    • In addition, the Tau Water Caste have a genetic disposition to translation and communication. Given enough time, they can not only translate almost anything, but also naturalize themselves with body language and accents to make themselves as friendly as possible.
  • Hollow Earth Expedition supplement Secrets of the Surface World. When the Atlantean language is spoken properly it can be understood by any sapient being that hears it as though it had been spoken in their native tongue. In other words, it's a language that translates itself.
  • In Eclipse Phase most characters have Muses, A.I.s in their brain implants that assist with social networking, including running basic translation programs. It's not uncommon for everyone in the party to speak a different language. There's also a specific device for translating dolphin.
  • The Deckbuilding Game Eminent Domain features the "Rosetta Fish", which in-universe translates alien languages, a direct homage to the Babel Fish from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. In game terms, it lets you use the otherwise-useless alien icons on your cards to boost your actions.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The spell comprehend languages lets the target understand any language for a short time, while the more powerful tongues also lets them speak any language.
    • Pearls of Speech allow their wearer to understand and speak a specific language. In lore, they were originally produced for Drow slavers who thought it beneath them to learn their slaves' tongue the old-fashioned way.
    • The Monk Class feature "Tongue of the Sun and Moon" turns a monk into an Omniglot, giving them the ability to understand, and be understood by, anyone who speaks a language.
    • The Eberron setting has docents, a sentient magical device that can be implanted into a warforged, which starts off knowing several languages and can learn new ones by being exposed to them.
  • Ars Magica: Under Spell Construction rules, a combination of Intellego ("I Perceive") and Mentem ("the Mind") magic lets the mage understand all spoken communication within earshot. Because it picks up the thoughts behind the words, it also translates slang and misuse of a common language.
  • Chronicles of Darkness:

    Video Games 
  • Ace in Space: Enby is given a communications bracelet that can translate various languages. This comes up the most often with Pierre, a fellow Earthling who was raised in Montreal and mainly speaks French.
  • In Assassin's Creed, a majority of the dialogue takes place in genetic memories being relived by the protagonist, Desmond, but the Animus renders all of the Arabic, Italian, etc. into understandable English for him (and the player). The frequent lapses into Gratuitous Foreign Language are explained as 'malfunctions'. At one point his kidnappers say that they could revert everything back to period appropriate dialects, but that it wouldn't do you much good unless Desmond had "read Chaucer."
    Desmond: Chauncy who?
    • Although the Animus does seem to skip over most examples of swearing, leaving it untranslated in the audio (although having subtitles on will provide a translation in parentheses). Made funnier with Caterina Sforza taunting her children's kidnappers. It gets more obsence as she builds up steam, and eventually, even the Animus (and the subtitles) throws its metaphorical hands up and stops translating. The tone gets her point across.
  • Conquest: Frontier Wars mentions a translator to begin with but ignores it later. The Calareons are smart enough to not need one but the Mantis occasionally speak in the wrong order.
  • Explicitly referenced in Cyberpunk 2077 where V is mentioned to have a translator implant. When characters speak in non-English languages, the subtitles will show the speech in its original language before changing the text to English in real-time. There is also a segment where V encounters a relatively rare language (Haitian Creole) and needs to download a language pack to understand what is being spoken.
  • Fate/stay night: The Holy Grail acts as one. For the Servants, it implants a basic level of knowledge about the time period into which they are summoned. This prevents inconveniences such as, for example, a Servant from Ancient Greece being freaked out by cars or cellphones. Pretty convenient considering a Servant can come from across time and from any culture around the globe.
  • In Descent: Freespace, an alien race speaks in incomprehensible grunts overlapped by a speech synthetizer's monotone that is roughly half a second behind. In a game heavy with verisimilitude this turns out to work better than almost any kind of alien-spoken English would. Particularly since the obligatory Returning Destroyers (the Shivans) are the one inscrutable mystery race in scifi games to stay inscrutable, and never speak at all.
    • The game's files on the Vasudan people teases the player by saying that these "incomprehensible grunts" are in fact a language more complex and sophisticated than any on Earth, to the point that even if humans could decipher individual words, it would probably still be incomprehensible. In fact, one of the main triggers for the Terran-Vasudan war was a Terran diplomat mishandling the Vasudan language (presumably the translation devices were not as sophisticated as they'd later become).
    • In FreeSpace 2, the NTF rebellion turned out to be a cover for the revival of a top-secret project to create a Shivan communications translator. Although the GTVA managed to obtain the technology just before the ship containing the prototype was destroyed, we never get to know what happened to the technology or the rogue Admiral who went on-board the Shivan transport. With the game's publisher bankrupt, and the space-sim genre practically dead, we never will know.
    • Parodied in the FreeSpace 2 joke campaign Deus Ex Machina. As an NTF pilot, you are able to witness the top-secret ETAK translator device in action for the first time. Unfortunately, the translator outputs everything in L337-sp34k. It turns out the Shivans thought Terrans and Vasudans communicated via "h07 Pl4s|\/|4" (hot plasma). Apparently when the Shivans first appeared, they witnessed the Terran-Vasudan war, and they thought Terrans and Vasudans firing hot balls of plasma at each other was the two species communicating - which explains (sort of) why the Shivans appeared to be hostile even if they "C4|\/|3 1|\| p34C3" (came in peace) all along. Neither the device's operator nor Alpha 1 are able to decipher the translated l337 text, and if the player failed to plot an escape path, the Shivans will resort to using the "known way of communication".
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: Several inscriptions of the Eternal language communicate their meaning to the mind of anyone who tries to read them.
  • In Final Fantasy XIV, those who possess the power of the Echo may possess the ability to understand, and speak in, any and all languages. This becomes key to dealing with the beast tribes, as their language structures are radically different from that of the "spoken" races.
  • In Excelsior Phase One Lysandia, you need to obtain the Miracle Ear to speak to the inhabitants of the Monster Town Grethal.
  • Interspecies diplomacy in Galactic Civilizations is pretty pointless ("greeble sig doob?") until you research or trade for Universal Translators. You can even build an improved version, Diplomatic Translators, that translates for you and suggests the best way to phrase your demands or responses, granting you a bonus to your Diplomacy rating.
  • You have these installed in your brain in Gene Troopers, as seen when you converse with other alien races. While some aliens understand English, most of them tends to speak in unintelligible alien gibberish where the dialogue would be in bracketed subtitles.
  • In Halo, both the UNSC and the Covenant make liberal use of translation software.
    • In Halo: Combat Evolved, the Grunts' speech is translated, but the Elites are mostly unintelligible. In Halo 2, the Elites are finally heard in English due to more advanced UNSC translators. The Covenant, however, are also heard speaking English to each other when there are no humans around, which is obviously Translation Convention.
    • To complicate things, the Halo Wars bonus material timeline reveals that the Covenant was ordered by the Prophets to form "Language Groups" who would learn human language and teach it to everyone, presumably to help with military intelligence.
  • Shows up in Hey You, Pikachu! as a gameplay mechanic - the player's handed a device called a PokeHelper that translates human language into something a wild Pikachu understands.
  • High on Life: The game starts with your stolen living alien gun spitting these onto you so that you can understand him and all other aliens in the game. Said microbes are also highly contagious, allowing everyone to understand each other within a few minutes of exposure. These translators are especially effective, being able to translate not only expressions and idioms but even translate alien celebrities and media into their Earth counterparts, allowing aliens to make pop-culture references. They explicitly state that you are hearing a different name and quote than the one they are saying, but the translator is able to cover it so that you get the same idea.
  • In Iji, the protagonist's nanofield allows understanding and speaking in the language of both alien species. It's also parodied with an item that messes up the conversation and speech.
  • While the first two games in The Journeyman Project series don't have you interact with people, the third game has you try out a "chameleon suit", a time-traveling suit that allows you to scan a person and project him or her using holo-projectors. Speech is likewise translated in real-time and using the appropriate voices. After all, how else is your character supposed to talk to Atlanteans (who probably speak something similar to Ancient Greek), Ancient Egyptians, Mayans, Tibetans, and Mongolians? The second game also includes a Translator Biochip that lets you read and hear various languages.
  • The HK-series droids in Knights of the Old Republic are hybrid assassin and protocol (C-3PO) droids, meaning they're programmed with every known language in the galaxy. The Player Character is an omniglot thanks to the Force but requires the aid of HK-47 to converse with the Tusken Raiders due to their unconventional language.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, Link has to eat a Jabber Nut in order to understand the language of the Minish People. It also lets him understand animals in Minish form.
  • In Little Big Adventure II, you eventually pick up a translator device that allows you to understand the aliens.
  • In The Longest Journey, April listens to somebody speaking Alltongue for a few minutes, and her brain appears to learn to "translate" the language, so she hears the speaker as if they were talking in plain English. This is a characteristic of Alltongue itself. Anyone who listens to it for a while will be able to understand it. Indeed, that's why it's called Alltongue. This effect only works in Arcadia, however; in Stark, where there is no magic, it's just another foreign language.
  • Mass Effect:
    • The series offers up two explanations:
      • The first is that there is a galactic trade language, in order to make politics and commerce easier. It sounds like English, but that's purely Translation Convention, as at the end a Prothean hologram is played, only the player (who got exposed to two Prothean beacons as well as the Prothean Cipher to make the beacons understandable) can understand it. We hear as perfect English, albeit with static, but your party acts like it's incomprehensible gibberish, aside from Liara (who helped the player understand Prothean in the first place and has been studying them for decades) and she only understands brief fragments of the conversation.
      • The second explanation plays this trope straight. Most will speak the galactic trade language, but there are those who can't or simply choose not to. For them, there is this trope, detailed in the downloadable content and in the second book. Translation synthesizers translate most foreign languages into whatever language the user programs it to. It uses the extranet to pull in any new dialects, and can be in almost any form, from jewelry to PDAs. In the book it is shown to malfunction at times, as it was never built to translate multiple languages all at the same time, and if a an alien is injured and/or insane, the translator has trouble translating the garbled speech. The languages have to be decoded by linguists before the machines will work, it is NOT a universal translator like from Star Trek.
    • While it's mostly restricted to background fluff, translation issues are occasionally brought up during dialogue:
      • If female Commander Shepard romances Thane Krios, he will use a word that Shepard's translator is unable to understand, saying her "translator just glitched."
      • Certain alien slurs like Tali's 'bosh'tet' go untranslated, probably because there's no English equivalent or, alternately, that a direct English translation would not carry the same implications as to a quarian. Some specific idiomatic phrases don't translate well either: "There's still a, how do you humans say it, fly in the lotion?" Also, when Garrus attempts to woo female Shepard, he tells her that turian pick-up lines probably don't translate very well. He tries one anyway and ends up telling her that her "waist is very supportive".
      • In Mass Effect 3 Tali finally explains the meaning of the Quarian phrase, "Keelah Se'lai", which so far has gone unexplained. Tali explains that it really doesn't have an exact translation in English, but roughly speaking, it means "By the homeworld I wish to see someday".
      • The asari, being an all-female race, occasionally cause some issues from terms that almost-but-not-quite translate. Most prominently the parent who doesn't give birth is always called the 'father'.
    • Mass Effect: Andromeda, taking place in an entirely different galaxy, features two alien races (the kett and the angarans) whose languages need to be decoded before the translators are fully functional, and even then there's more translation flubs present in the dialogue than in previous games. It's aided by SAM, an AI who builds the translation codex on the fly by sampling dialogue and writing, and in the case of the angarans, it's mentioned they've had some limited contact with Milky Way species before the Initiative makes contact with them (namely, Exiles from the Initiative) so they've had a bit of a head start on translating.
  • In the Mega Man Battle Network and Mega Man Star Force universe, by installing a language program into their device, any language a person heard is translated to their native language and to another when spoken.
  • In Nioh, William is granted the ability to speak and understand Japanese by the Nekomata Guardian Spirit. As such, all the Japanese characters understand him despite speaking solely in English.
  • In Onimusha 3: Demon Siege, Ako, the tengu, has the power to make everyone in range of her understand each others' languages. This is why Jacques, Michelle, and Henri, who all speak French, can understand Samanosuke, who is from ancient Japan. When she disappears to travel through time, they become unable to understand each other again.
  • Phantasy Star Online featured a special dialogue selection system that allowed players to construct simple sentences that would be broadcast to other players in a lobby or party in each player's native language. The beta trailer proudly announces this feature:
    Relax now, worry not. Language barriers have broken down entirely! You can even build a common front in realtime with players on the other side of the Earth twenty-thousand kilometers away!
  • In Quake IV, while riding the Conveyor Belt o' Doom on his way to being turned into one of the bad guys, the player character gets injected in the head, and a monitor overhead which had been displaying incomprehensible gibberish turns into English. Similarly, after that the overhead announcements and threats of the Strogg become garbled English.
  • Reunion (1994) has a "universal communicator". It is invented mere hours after you encounter aliensnote  and is very easy to research. It looks like a wristwatch.
  • In SD Snatcher, a "Lingu-Disk" to translate Spanish lets Gillian speak with Mr. Cielo.
  • Played with in Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey. The Demon Summoning Program installed on the protagonist's Powered Armor will translate what demons are saying, but only after you've defeated them at least once. Until then, you can't even see them; they look like balls of static. All throughout the game, demons will regularly ask how you can understand them.
  • In Space Quest I, ridiculously awful janitor Roger Wilco can't naturally understand anyone. However, early in the game he gets an item called the Strange Gizmo. Turning it on (which requires a bit of inventive thinking) allows him to understand any alien speech. In Space Quest 2, he still carries the same device, only this time, it's called the Dialect Translator and cannot be turned off. It's only useful once in that game, while Space Quest 1 requires it to be on for the entire game.
  • Star Control 2: The Ur-Quan Masters:
    • The game is semi-famous for its amusing subversion of this trope, which also makes the race rather scary upon further viewing: the ship's computer is unable to fully translate the language of the Orz, leaving the player to puzzle out bizarre, vaguely Engrish-sounding sentences such as
      "Hello to our *house*. Do you feel *better* yet?
      If you are *campers* you will enjoy *the change*, but maybe not yet.
      It is best if many happy Orz are coming to your *house*."
    • Earthlings managed to make an entire race their enemies by thinking that translators didn't work. On the first meeting. Said race is the VUX. The Earthling captain told his assistant that VUX must stand for "Very Ugly Xenomorph." Which, unfortunately, was clearly broadcasted and translated to the VUX ship. Way to go, humans.note 
    • The translators apparently get tripped up by idiomatic speech to some extent. Fwiffo has some difficulty translating "the backbone of the Earthguard" because of this, instead first saying "the most rigid crest".
    • The Ur-Quan have their own solution in the form of their Talking Pets. The Pets are animals with psychic capabilities, and if two people speaking different languages are interacting, the Pet automatically acts the part of an interpreter. Very convenient. The Talking Pets are actually an intelligent species, the Dnyarri, who have been genetically altered to remove their higher brain functions. The Ur-Quan really, really hate them (for good reason), thus why they use them like this; they consider interpreting the words of "lesser species" to be the most humiliating and demeaning task in existence.
  • In Star Fox Adventures, all of the characters sans the Star Fox team speak dinosaur language (even Krystal, who hails from a different planet than everybody else). They're subtitled for our convenience in the prologue, and subtitled by Slippy for a while afterward until he finishes a translation device so Fox (and the viewers) can hear them speak in English.
  • In Star Ocean, advanced species have universal Translator devices (that when necessary can double as EXPLOSIVES). They understand the people who aren't yet inducted to the Pangalactic Federation/Terran Alliance because they've documented and recorded them behind the scenes (read: from orbit). As such, they can speak to anyone (there are no unknown groups in the galaxy) except the Aldians, who are already space-capable and wholesomely unfriendly until their entire species is blown up in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time.
  • Douglas Adams' Starship Titanic makes a passing reference to "autotranslators", but no further explanation is given. Possibly it has to do with the player's Personal Electronic Thing. The tie-in novel explains that the ship's systems rearranges its passengers' brainwaves so that everyone speaks Blerontinian language while on-board, and the human characters use "Translatorspecs" to read signs around the ship.
    • And in Adams' Infocom version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1984), you have to figure out how to get a Babel Fish into your ear before you can understand the Vogon announcement coming over the PA system, which is otherwise just shown as gibberish.
  • In Stellaris, encountering another starfaring polity's ships, stations or colonies prompts a special research project to figure out their language enough to hail them. Being the first to initiate communications grants a bit of bonus Influence, though if you procrastinate the other species might do the work for you and contact you. You can also trade "Communications" with other nations, which will reveal and allow you to interact with every race they've encountered. But there's one AI personality type that is utterly disinterested in diplomatic relations.
    Fanatical Purifiers: Our reports suggest that you have developed translators to understand alien languages. We haven't.
    • Deconstructed Trope in some aspects. For instance, insecure devices can be hacked. So if a Playful Hacker hacks the translator of a diplomatic envoy to turn magnanimous platitutes into xeno-slurs, the results are either great comedy fodder (if the nation the envoy was sent to takes it with good humor) or a minor diplomatic incident.
  • All the aliens in Super Robot Wars: Original Generation use translation devices, though they are pointedly not perfect. When one guy tells the alien his name (which means 'Mysterious Gourment' in German) one of the alien commanders incredulously asks if his translator is broken. Also, in a fourth-wall breaking moment, another guy begins his normal battlespeech, which segues into an episode splash-screen. After this, the same alien commander just has to ask "... 'Chapter 30'? What the hell?"
    • Arguably, that makes them working too perfectly. "Mysterious Gourmet" really is the English translation for that character's "name". The fact that it was able to translate a German phrase when they're most likely speaking Japanese or English shows that whoever made that really did their homework.
  • Parodied in Sydney Hunter and the Curse of the Mayan. When Sydney first enters the temple, whenever he tries talking to locals, he can't understand their language. They start speaking English after Sydney gets the Shell Of Wisdom, and Sydney assumes that the shell is working. The Mayan near the entrance to the temple of Chichen Itza, however, reveals that the shell is just a regular old shell, the Mayans can speak perfect English, and they just like to mess with outsiders.
  • In Tales of Eternia (aka Tales of Destiny 2 in the US), Meredy and the Celestians speak the Melnics language, which can be understood by the Inferians only by wearing "Orz Earrings"; these use some sort of psychic Technobabble to send the actual desired words into the recipient's brain, and require the users to be on similar "psychic wavelengths". Interestingly, Meredy (or the psychic equivalent of her voice) speaks in pidgin English for the entire game; whereas when the Inferians actually reach Celestia, all the other Celestians speak with no accent at all, and the requirement of being on the same "wavelength" is, ironically, waived. None of this is ever explained.
  • One of the odder examples is Tomba!. The titular character has to bite elves to understand their language, and gains a bit better grasp of it with each one he does. It takes 4 to get a full grasp of the language.
  • Unreal has the 'Universal Translator,' a small computer like device that translates alien script, but not alien speech.
  • In Voyage Inspired By Jules Verne, in order to be able to speak the Selenites' language, Michel Ardan needs to use a specialized flute.
  • It's a plot point in Xenoblade Chronicles X, where Elma finds it odd that the aliens on Mira are speaking English, it turns out that everyone is speaking their native tongues, and something on the planet is doing the translating for them. The exception is L, who learned English from a Data Pad he found from some of the White Whale's wreckage, and is trying to speak English, littered with various ESL flubs. That it was Elma who noticed this is another clue that she's an alien who's been living on Earth for 30 years, she would've learned English either before or during her time there.

    Web Animation 
  • In the AstroLOLogy episode "Com-meow-nication", Aquarius invents a handheld device that lets him learn what cats are saying. The cat has to simply meow into the device, and it creates a picture to represent what the cat wants.

  • In Catharsis, while in the Land under the Chair, Jen, Baxter, and Rremly all get infant dust bunnies shoved in their ears so they can understand the fluff language.
  • In Traci Spencer's Compass, the dimension hopping employees of TDC are given translator implants. See these pages.
  • Down to Earth uses the classic 'transmit fluency through touch'. Zaida elaborates after instantly learning english that her species' telepathy powers also play a role in it.
  • In El Goonish Shive the Uryuoms (but not the chimerae, according to the Word of God) have the ability to instantly learn any language by rubbing the knobs of their antennae against the head of someone who speaks it, or teach a language which they know to others in the same fashion.
  • The titular planet in Earthsong provides a psychic translator microbe field which allows anyone on the planet to understand anyone else, speaking or writing. Writing remains in the original language however, and once noone's left who understands the language concerned, it reverts to incomprehensibility until it can be laboriously deciphered.
  • Magic generally accomplishes this fairly seamlessly in Errant Story, which of course doesn't keep Jon from hamming it up when he and the usual suspects visit Tsuirakushiti.
  • Grrl Power: Aliens often use translator devices, though after the Masquerade is broken and alien tourists start arriving on Earth in the open it becomes very easy to tell which ones aren't using them in an attempt to seem more "authentic". Cora upgrades Sydney's glasses with a Heads-Up Display that includes a translator function which is shown as subtitles, and has the advantage of working on text as well as spoken languages, but has trouble parsing French.
  • Killroy And Tina has Universpeak, an "empathic language" that allows communication with all lifeforms, even aliens and animals, when aided by a Neural Enhancer.
  • In Not So Distant many characters have Translators, but apparently the newer models have some trouble with things like names, and with not misinterpreting some things as obscene words (which they seem to have no problem rendering in different languages).
  • 70-Seas has "Babel Finches" that can translate between two languages. The side comic "Tossa Roto" also had a larger "Babel bird" named Pally that could learn new languages on the fly.
    • In Latchkey Kingdom, which is set in the same world, Rex the castle guard and other hounds have Babel Finches (Rex's is named Woodstock) who translate their barks and growls into Inglish, which they can understand perfectly well but generally can't speak.
  • In The Dragon Doctors , there's a world-wide magical spell called "The Language Barrier Breaker" in effect at all times, which comes in handy when a girl who's been petrified for 2000 years is restored to life.
  • Parodied in this page of Sci-Fi spoof Intragalactic with the translator macrobe: A painfully large, jagged metal machine that must be jammed into the brain through the eye socket. "Hope you aren't allergic to tetanus!" The translator macrobe veel tranzlate everisink you sai viz a bad Russian aksent.
  • Megatokyo: Tired how not understanding what Ping says, Largo jury-rigs a translation module for her. He gets it right on the second try, just in time to fix a misunderstanding between him nd Junko the schoolgirl.
  • Spacetrawler has a language microchip that's implanted in a person's brain by a mechanical helmet. And since the human characters are all from different continents most of them need the chips just to understand each other.
  • In The Lydian Option, the Tha'Latta implant translators into prisoners, loaded with the languages of other species incarcerated in their prison.
  • Deverish Also has the dialect-indoctrination spell. Unusually, it's not perfect; you can only use one language at a time, can only learn a new one this way by finding a mage who speaks it, and if they mess up it can leave you unable to use your original languages until a more competent mage fixes the problem.
  • The Erlkönig in Roommates probably has a translator spell because Word of Ashe that he never bothered learning other languages (speaks in runes) but can still understand and speak "English" when he wants to... in runic looking letters.
  • Kila Ilo has translator implants, one of the main characters refuses to have one on the basis brain surgery is necessary for the implant.
  • The End features projection translators, which are capable of translating spoken languages into universal psychic impulses. However, it only translates languages that are in its database, so while the human characters can use them to understand various aliens, the aliens won't understand them in turn.
  • The alien Nemesites in The Inexplicable Adventures of Bob! use a translator earplug that goes in one ear. Being friends with their princess, Bob owns one.
  • Myan's collar from Cat Nine. Not only will it allow her to transform into various animals, it also allows her to speak like a human, whatever form she is at the moment. Removing the collar takes away its effects.
  • Spoofed in the Sluggy Freelance story "It's the Wrong Torg, Grommit!" Riff brings in a auto-translator he made in junior-high to use it to communicate with an alternative-dimension Portuguese-speaking Torg, but it's actually just a cassette player that says things like "Riff is so cool! He's the coolest guy ever!"
    Riff: I forgot I had a self-esteem problem in junior-high.
  • Sev Trek, an Australian sci-fi cartoon site, lampshades this trope with the Implausible Translator.
  • In Red's Planet a robot gives Red gibbervox, which lets her understand the aliens.
  • Tower of God: The Pocket multi-tools have a translator function so that everybody in the tower can understand each other. Since it's altogether several billion people, that is quite necessary.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: The Talking in Your Dreams system accessible to mages has this. Reynir spoke to Onni for the first time via this. This causes him to get slightly taken aback when hearing Onni's real-world Icelandic, which Onni himself has called "Some. Enough.", over the radio.
  • Kill Six Billion Demons: When consumed, Blue devil liquor grants the drinker the devils' power of tongues for a few days. It also causes a miniature devil to grow inside the drinker, which needs to be regurgitated and eaten to make the effect permanent. The extent to which this is Human Resources versus harnessing inchoate powers of chaos that happen to come in vaguely humanoid packages is, as with everything devil-powered, vague.
  • Different languages in Star Trip are interpreted by universal translators in a person's ear. In the beginning of the story, Jas, a human from present-day Earth, didn't have one, instead being assisted by a telepathic fragment of the shapeshifter Khut which allowed her to understand the languages around her.

    Web Original 
  • Discussed in Cracked, which calls translator microbes The 3rd Stupidest Way Movies Deal with Foreign Languages.
  • Elcenia: Elcenian dragons can do this as a native trait, and there are a number of wizard spells that do the same thing for speech and written language. A sufficiently odd language—for instance, wolfrider, which includes a telepathic part—is not fully translated by standard spells, and poetry and songs translated do not rhyme.
  • The magical drug Lucidrol in Magical Security Taskforce, used primarily by transfer student Yuki. It has a few interesting side effects: the user cannot discern which language is being spoken to her, including his/her native tongue. It also translates crazed ranting and poor handwriting. Another character takes a dose to translate a complicated legal contract.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama:
    • Spoofed in "A Clone of My Own": Professor Farnsworth's Universal Translator can only translate into an "incomprehensible dead language", a Call-Back to the first episode where the people of France say the new year countdown in English.
      Cubert: Hello!
      Translator: Bonjour!
      Professor Farnsworth: Crazy gibberish!
    • Zap Brannigan ends up using it to communicate with the Conquerons. It repeats his lines in the alien language rather than translating instantly and nobody questions why they're the first alien race in the universe that doesn't speak English.
  • Lampshaded and played with in the first "Peabody's Improbable History" episode from Rocky and Bullwinkle. When Peabody first invents the WABAC, he and Sherman take it back to ancient Rome, where the meet a man speaking in Latin (and ignoring them). Peabody adjusts the machine, so that now they can hear the Roman speaking English; turns out he's a used chariot salesman (who is still ignoring them). Peabody makes one final adjustment, so that the historical characters they meet will interact with them. As Peabody puts it, "Not history as it was, but as it should have been."
  • Littlest Pet Shop (2012): Subverted. In The Pilot this seems to be the reason the Translation Convention is in effect whenever we see the animals from Blythe's perspective, since it isn't in effect until Blythe has an accident with the dumbwaiter and hitting her head. But she says she can understand them, not hear them.
  • Phineas and Ferb:
    • The Universal Mustache Translator in "The Chronicles of Meap" translates an Alien language (comprised only of the word "Meap") to English; however this is only for the English speakers' sake, as the aliens can apparently understand English. Leads to a well done subversion of a Big "NO!", where instead of "NOOOOO!" it comes out as out as "MEEEEEEEEEEAP!"
    • Only the space-faring individuals seem to understand English, because there's a scene in "Meapless in Seattle" where Meap gives a long Rousing Speech to his home planet that's met with confusion. He removes the mustache, states "meap," and gets the reaction he was looking for.
    • In "Meapless in Seattle", Meap is shown to have a collection of back-up mustache translators, each of which gives him a different goofy accent.
  • Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures has Dr. Quest's "Language Translator" device, which Jessie uses in "Ice Will Burn."
  • These exist in Adventure Time, and they are used by rainicorns (who all apparently speak Korean) to speak English. (Jake had one, but threw it away because the only english voice sounded like an old man and, understandably, he didn't enjoy his girlfriend soundling like that).
  • Elliott from Earth has a version of this as a rather notable part of the story and setting. On the Centrium, a multi-species city of refugees from across space, universal translation is provided by a substance in the air—“translation gas”—which is produced by special frog-like animals called babbledrogs. These animals (and the translation gas) aren’t just a background piece of worldbuilding; they later play an important role in setting up the overarching plot events of the season.
  • The Book from Time Warp Trio works like this, translating the main characters' English into whatever language it is the people in the time period/place they travel to speak. In one episode the translator function breaks down and they almost get killed due to not being able to speak Japanese and thus explain to the angry samurai what they're doing in his house.
  • In Teen Titans (2003), Starfire could learn a language by kissing a native speaker. Robin is, needless to say, depressed to hear that their random first kiss meant nothing. Additionally, in the movie, she also kisses a random Japanese boy to learn the language. This time, when she explains why, Robin's pretty relieved...
    • In the comics, at least, it's a racial ability. And any skin contact will do; Starfire kissed Robin because that's the fun way. In the X-Men/Teen Titans crossover comicbook, she learns Russian in a similar way smooching Colossus. Much to Kitty Pryde's chagrin. Nightcrawler immediately asks if she'd like to learn German.
    • Another example from the animated series is when Control Freak encounters Más and Menos, who only speak in Spanish. He promptly takes out his Universal Remote Control and changes their language settings to English. Naturally, this doesn't last beyond the episode.
  • Blue Beetle in Young Justice (2010) has this as one of his many functions. Unusually for most examples, you can still hear the actual speech, the translation is just at a slightly higher volume.
    • Both Lobo and the aliens on Rimbor are shown speaking alien languages; when humans express confusion, they press a device that turns their speech into English.
    • In "Downtime," Atlantean dialogue is first shown with subtitles, until Aquaman and Aqualad happen to swim by someone doing a translation spell, suddenly making them comprehensible to the audience. (It's not clear if Black Manta and his men were speaking English or Atlantean, though.)
  • In Green Lantern: The Animated Series, one of the lantern ring's abilities is a universal translator. It continues to function as long as the ring has power, even when the rings are otherwise disabled. This leads to a hilarious scene in "Babel", where Hal, Kilowog, and eventually Razer's rings are all completely drained, forcing the trio to spend about half the episode speaking three different languages. Even the viewer is left without subtitles.
  • When the Rainbow Brite characters meet an alien he has a hat with a translator installed in it.
  • In Trollhunters, normally written in Troll-language, the incantation etched in the Amulet translates itself into English for Jim. Later on, the light emitted translates Troll-language into English and vice versa whenever Jim needs it.
  • Danger Mouse: In "Close Encounters Of The Absurd Kind," DM and Penfold are taken captive by an alien craft whose captain DM thinks is his enemy Baron Greenback. The alien captain speaks an alien language (DM: "I speak 47 languages fluently, but gibberish isn't one of them."), so it punches some buttons on a console and through it speaks normal English, or in his words, our more "primitive mode of speech."
  • Tamagotchi Video Adventures starts with the Tamagotchis speaking an alien language before Mimitchi turns on a translation machine.
  • The Octilans in Milo Murphy's Law have a translator embedded in their collars. The default setting is for food, so glitching causes words to be substituted with "eat," "devour," "buffet," etc.
  • Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum: Xavier's hoodie has a dial and antennae that translates for the group when they meet a non-English speaking historical figure.

    Real Life 
  • One of the possible applications of wearable computing technology like Google Glass would be the ability for it to do voice recognition, and provide subtitles and even translated subtitles. Of course since no translator or voice recognition software is perfect yet...
  • It's for written text, but the Google Translate mobile app can recognize text in video captured from your phone's camera and translate it, then insert the translated text back into the video, all in real time. Signs, menus, newspapers in every country become English, or whatever your native tongue is. (Based on an earlier app called Word Lens that Google acquired.)
  • Microsoft is working on a Skype add-on that translates speech.
  • Defictionalized by Game of War: Fire Age, a Mobile Phone Game mostly notable otherwise for its shameless use of Kate Upton. Its chat system features a real-time translator that supports over 30 languages. Whatever tongue your phone is set to, that's what you'll see everyone's messages in; it's done automatically, and in fact you have to mess with the game's Settings page to turn it off.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Babel Fish, Universal Translator


Tim and Detective Pikachu

Tim can hear Detective Pikachu speak English, but everyone else hears him speaking his own language.

How well does it match the trope?

4.41 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / TranslatorMicrobes

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