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Trolling Translator

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Starla: OMG, I literally don't give a shit if you can speak Spanish, FC. You're not impressing anyone and I'm not gonna translate it.
Bowl: Well, I translated it and he said that you're fat.
Fuck Cares: No, I didn't. I said that Latinos born in the USA can barely speak Spanish in the first place, so they have no authority on this debate.
Bowl: I just translated that and it's French for "Like, really really fat. And ugly."

In a scene between two or more characters, one of them might ask another to translate for them, but they give them "translations" that are so off-the-wall and far from the original meaning that it shocks the other party.

Compare My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels, which is when someone trying to speak a foreign language does this accidentally, regardless of whether they're using a translator to do it or not.

When it happens only to subtitles, that's Fun with Subtitles. Compare Gag Sub.

Sister trope to Translation with an Agenda (and overlaps with it if the translator's agenda is to disrupt negotiations or pick a fight between the two sides). See also Completely Unnecessary Translator.

Contrast Tactful Translation. See also Twisting the Words.


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  • In Space☆Dandy, Meow intentionally mistranslates the barks of the dog they find on Planet Machinia, because he's a cat and she's a dog... After Dandy activates his Universal Translator, Meow shuts himself up quick as Dandy gives him a Death Glare.
  • In A Certain Magical Index, the English Laura Stuart asked Motoharu Tsuchimikado to teach her Japanese, but he deliberately taught her wrong because he enjoys screwing with people. This leads to her humiliating herself when she tries to speak Japanese.
  • Silk from Sket Dance speaks with a heavy Hakata dialect so fellow club member Tact has to translate what she's saying sometimes. When she states her reasons for refusing to teach the protagonist Bossun magic, Tact (who likes to mess with him) can't help but be a troll and add on to what she really said, which Bossun notices right away.
    Tact: She said, "You're not taking magic seriously and I don't like that. I don't have the time. Your hair is like a crab and it looks bad."
    Bossun: Did you add something else!?
  • In El-Hazard: The Magnificent World, Jinnai does this deliberately during a meeting between Queen Diva and Princess Rune Venus. Having acquired the same immigrant superpower as her brother, Nanami eventually starts doing it too.

    Comic Book 
  • New Super-Man: Master I-Ching serves as a translator between Kenan and Lex Luthor in Issue #9. For Kenan's lines, he does a Tactful Translation, but when translating Lex's lines, he uses them as an opportunity to insert digs at Kenan's lack of discipline. Kenan is aware enough to realize it's not what Luthor actually said.
  • A serious example in Stitched, Corporal Twiggy says her translator told the Afgani villagers she was addressing that the Americans were bad people, and if they listened to her they deserved a beating, instead of translating what she said.

  • In The Goonies, Mrs. Walsh asks Mouth, who can speak Spanish, to translate her instructions to Rosalita, who doesn't know any English.
    Mrs. Walsh: Pants and shirts are in the second. Just throw them all into cardboard boxes. Forget the suitcases. Clark, can you translate all of that?
    Mouth: Why certainly, Mrs. Walsh.
    Mrs. Walsh: That's wonderful.
    Mouth: (to Rosalita, in Spanish) The marijuana goes in the top drawer. The cocaine and speed in the second. The heroin in the bottom. Always separate the drugs.
    Mrs. Walsh: Now Rosalita, this is the attic. Mr. Walsh doesn't like anybody up here, ever. That's why it's always open.
    Mouth: (in Spanish) Never go up there. It's filled with Mr. Walsh's sexual torture devices.
    Mrs. Walsh: This is my supply closet. You'll find everything you need: brooms, dustpans, insect spray. I would really like the house clean when they tear it down. Clark, can you translate?
    Mouth: (in Spanish) If you do a bad job you'll be locked in here with the cockroaches, for two weeks without food and water.
    Mrs. Walsh: Okay, Rosie? Okay? You're going to be very happy here. Come on, Clark, we've got much more to do. You're so fluent in languages!
    Rosalita: (in Spanish) My God, I'm in a crazy house!
  • Lampshaded in Big Trouble in Little China, as Jack Burton and Wang Chi are sneaking around David Lo Pan's base.
    Jack Burton: (pointing to Chinese writing on elevator) What does that say?
    Wang Chi: (speaks Chinese) "Hell of Boiling Oil".
    Jack Burton: You're kidding.
    Wang Chi: Yeah, I am. It says "Keep Out".
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding:
    • At breakfast, Ian asks Nick how to say "thanks for the food" in Greek; the phrase he gives Ian (which Ian happily says to Maria, his future mother-in-law) means "Nice boobs." Everyone stares at Ian... and then Maria wordlessly smacks Nick.
    • Later, Ian wants to say "let's all go in to eat." He's wised up a bit, so when Nick gives him a translation, he gets a second opinion. Except the second guy is also in on the joke, leading to Ian yelling "I have three testicles!" When Ian realizes everyone's staring at him, he chases after Nick and his friend.
  • Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. Ace's translator understood the dialect of the other tribe perfectly. However he decided to make Ace sound crazier and dangerous with what he told them he said. Including "I am a Princess". Whether he's trolling or not is slightly vague, as speaking a language fluently is a different ballgame from understanding it perfectly.
    Ace: War... is hell. The last thing we want... is a fight.
    Ouda: (in the Wachootoo language, subtitled) "I want to fight... so go to hell"
  • The Polish trailer for Hurricane (a British/Polish coproduction about the 303 Squadron) opens with the following scene:
    British Drill Sergeant Nasty: Right, you Polish scum. Pay attention!
    Polish interpreter: Dzielni, przystojni lotnicy z Polski. Witamy w RAF. translation 
    Sergeant: Now, it's my duty to teach you your asses from your elbows.
    Interpreter (straightfaced): Jak widzicie, dużo krzyczę. To sprawia, że nie mam powodzenia u kobiet. translation (snickering in the audience)
    Sergeant: Is that it?
    Interpreter (still straightfaced): Polish is very concize language.

  • A mafia godfather discovers that his deaf bookkeeper has cheated him out of a million or so dollars. (Some re-tellings add the detail that the bookkeeper was chosen for his deafness - he can't testify in court to something he didn't overhear.) He confronts the bookkeeper one day and brings along an ASL interpreter. Godfather asks the bookkeeper where the money is, interpreter relays, bookkeeper signs that he has no clue what the godfather is talking about, interpreter relays. Godfather presses a gun to the bookkeeper's head and asks once again where the money is, interpreter relays, bookkeeper signs that the money is in [a location irrelevant to the joke]... at which point the interpreter tells the godfather "He says you don't have the balls to pull the trigger."

  • In Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Captain Corelli is one of a group of Italian soldiers occupying a Greek village. At one point, wanting to make a good impression on the villagers, he asks a villager who speaks Italian to teach him a greeting in Greek. The villager instead teaches him a spectacular insult, which he goes around cheerfully giving to everyone until he greets the prankster's daughter, the only other Italian speaker.
  • The Marvelous Land of Oz. Tip and Jack Pumpkinhead visit King Scarecrow in the Emerald City. Because Jack is from the North territory and the Scarecrow is from the Emerald City, they believe that it logically follows that they speak different languages, and require a translator. (This is patently ridiculous; Oz only has one language and the two decide they need a translator by having a very polite conversation with each other about it.) Jellia claims to speak both "languages" and volunteers to translate, but instead makes up wild insults to tell each one that the other is saying. It's only after several cycles of both Jack and Scarecrow complaining that she's not translating accurately that she gets them to see the obvious fact that if they can understand her "translations", they can understand each other just fine without any help.
  • In The Zombie Knight, Hector helps a poor family move some heavy appliances and they thank him profusely in Valgan, which Hector doesn't speak. Garovel, who does speak it, translates their remarks as very inventive curses and maledictions. Hector ignores him, being used to Garovel's trolling, and also understanding their tone and body language just fine.
    Garovel: Oh, wait. I may've been mistaken.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Comedy Central's roast of Donald Trump had a segment where the deaf Marlee Matlin's translator was so repulsed by her vulgarity that he walked offstage. In his place, Gilbert Gottfried appeared to sign for her only to then launch into a massive tirade that so clearly had nothing to do with what she was saying that she almost immediately gave up trying to sign until he was finished.
  • Scrubs
    • Dr. Cox asks Dr. Reid for help speaking to a German patient. She gives a line that means "Your wife has nice boobs" when he wanted to tell him about his condition.
    • In another episode, Carla's brother gives The Todd a pickup line for Spanish chicks. It doesn't work.
      Yo tengo herpes genital...para ti. (Said with a cocky attitude. Translates to, "I have genital herpes...for you.")
    • Carla herself does this routinely to The Todd when he wants to learn new words for "manmeat".
    "Pincho chiquito!" (Which gets subtitled as tiny penis, but more literally translates to small thorn/prick)
  • The "Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook" sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus had a phrasebook that gave bogus translations from Hungarian to English, such as translating the Hungarian "Can you direct me to the station?" into the English "please fondle my bum". The publisher of this phrasebook was taken to court for "breach of the peace".
  • 2012: The Portuguese interpreter with the Brazilian delegation in episode 2.
    • Her translations from Portuguese to English are terrible.
      Ian: [in Portuguese] I'm sure you will find the Olympic Park as inspiring as we do.
      Interpreter: [in English] He thinks you will find the Olympic Park as exciting as he is.
    • She doesn't care for the bullshit Ian's group tries to feed to the Brazilians.
      Siobahn: Okay guys, so just to keep you up-to-date we're in pretty good shape and as you can see, we're gonna be taking you right through the center of London today!
      Interpreter: [in Portuguese] The bus has been driving in the wrong direction. We are turning around now.
    • And other times she just doesn't care.
      Kay: The 2012 Games will be the first summer host city to embed sustainability into the organisation of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games from the outset.
      Interpreter: [in Portuguese] She is going to make a speech about Legacy.
      [the interpreter sits down and doesn't translate the speech]
  • In The Big Bang Theory, Howard would translate for the selectively-mute-around-girls Raj via Raj whispering in his ear. At one point Penny and Bernadette ask the guys how Amy found out they went brides maid dress shopping without her. Howard immediately blames Raj. When Raj angrily whispers his protest to Howard, Howard takes the opportunity to put more words in Raj's mouth. It's this trope and not quite Translation With An Agenda because everyone knew Howard was being ridiculous.
  • In a 1987 sketch on Saturday Night Live Kevin Nealon plays a translator live-translating a joint press conference by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, but he doesn't speak Russian very well. To cover Nealon "translates" Gorbachev saying "I'm now going to start speaking in a very obscure Russian dialect that very few have ever heard of and it will be impossible for your translator to translate." (paraphrased.)
  • In Living Color! uses this mercilessly in a first season sketch about a new ambassador to an obscure African nation. Her translator, Mr. Mubutu, tends to say more of what she's thinking than what she's saying.
    Ambassador: I wasn't sure what to expect based on the briefing I received in Washington, but I must say I find your country rather quaint, in a Third World sort of way.
    Mr. Mubutu (in native language) "I'm acting like a pompous bitch right now, but we want to build a radar base here, so eventually I will have to kiss your shiny black butts."
  • One episode of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody had Zack's friend Bob (who can speak French) do this to Cody in order to help with a Zany Scheme of Zack's to have a French girl he's got the hots for but who is only interested in Cody to break up with him, as all of the translations are insults.
  • A downplayed version in A for Andromeda. When Kaufman announces that Mega-Corp Intel has effectively taken over the country of Azaran, the translator shows his disapproval by talking loudly over him. Also this scene:
    Kaufman: "The army and all other branches will report directly to the President. The present parliament will not be called back into session. Help will continue to be provided by..."
    (Translator gives long stream of Arabic)
    Kaufman: "...a new international technological and trading consortium..."
    Translator: "Intel."
    (Kaufman glares at translator)
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Rosa has purposefully mistranslated words in Spanish to Jake to mess with him. In "The Wednesday Incident," Jake mentions that she told him "el baboso"note  means "the dagger," causing him to try to use it as a cool nickname for himself.
    Charles: What about El Baboso, The Dagger?
    Jake: Yeah, turns out Rosa was lying about that. El Baboso actually means "the slug."
    Rosa: Ha ha, tonto. That means "dumb-dumb."
    Jake: It was very cruel. I referred to myself as El Baboso to several beautiful Latina ladies.
  • A League of Their Own (2022): When Maybelle asks Lupe how to say, "I'm a happy lady," in Spanish, Lupe tells her to say, "Soy una mensa," which actually means, "I am an idiot."

    Newspaper Comics 
  • This Dilbert strip has translators at the UN intentionally giving wrong translations as a "reckless prank" in the words of the narrator.
    Turban-wearing translator: He says "Who wants my parking space by the elevator?"
  • Madam & Eve: When the Andersons ask their housekeeper Eve to give them African names, she renames Mother Anderson "Ugogo We Sixhwele,"note  and Gwen becomes "Ingoco Ne Vila."note  The madams love their exotic-sounding names.
  • In this strip from 9 Chickweed Lane, Hugh asks his fiancée to tell her mother his heartfelt feelings about how much he loves and adores Xiulan after becoming aware she thinks Xiulan has been "polluted" by him.
    Hugh: Xiulan, please assure your mother that you are precious to me beyond all price. I love you dearly and completely. You are in sole possession of my heart and I could never to anything to "pollute" you.
    Xiulan: (in Chinese) He says he'll jolly well pollute me when and wherever he pleases, and I'll love every moment of it.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • La Parka would take the mic and make an outrageous statements, but it wasn't him talking. The voiceover would happen even if Parka didn't have the mic in his hand; towards the end of the bit's run La Parka brought a sign out to display while the voiceover happened saying "this is not my voice" or words to that effect.

  • Lexi orders a Babel Finch by mail in Latchkey Kingdom, but receives a Babel Funch instead, a large seabird who is incredibly rude and says whatever it wants under the guise of translating for her.

    Web Original 
  • French Baguette Intelligence: In Should we say "Latinx"?, Bowl deliberately mistranslates Fuck Cares' long Spanish speech to make it seem like a short insult.
    Starla: OMG, I literally don't give a shit if you can speak Spanish, FC. You're not impressing anyone and I'm not gonna translate it.
    Bowl: Well, I translated it and he said that you're fat.
    Fuck Cares: No, I didn't. I said that Latinos born in the USA can barely speak Spanish in the first place, so they have no authority on this debate.
    Bowl: I just translated that and it's French for "Like, really really fat. And ugly."
  • In Red vs. Blue, Lopez tricks O'Malley into calling himself a pendejo (asshole in Spanish) among other things, thinking that he's giving orders to his robot army. The fact that O'Malley is an AI (i.e. as much a computer as Lopez) should have allowed him to translate it. Then again, he's a crazy AI, so he might not bother.
  • SpongeBob rescues Gary in Russia has SpongeBob and Patrick go to a casino in Russia. But when Patrick uses his phone's translation app to order soda, the app makes a very vulgar comment in Russian. Turns out, Patrick's app was called "TranslaTROLL"; and that it was trolling Patrick by saying very bad things.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Simpsons episode "Midnight Rx", after Homer, Ned Flanders, Apu, and Grampa Simpson are arrested by Canadian Mounties. He has a French translator who's the one who got trolled.
    Canadian Mountie: We've confiscated your car and its contents.
    French Translator: Nous avons confisqué votre voiture et son contenu.
    Mountie: You may leave Canada, but never return.
    French Translator: Vous êtes permis de quitter le Canada, mais vous n'avez plus le droit de rentrer.
    Mountie: I am a big fat French idiot.
    French Translator: Je suis un grand gros - HEY!
  • In a Robot Chicken Star Wars parody, the Mos Eisley barfight was actually just a trolling Evazan drunkenly mistranslating Ponda Baba's innocent questions to Luke Skywalker. (The two are architects, according to the skit.)

    Real Life 
  • At the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, a man named Thamsanqa Jantjie stood alongside the world leaders eulogizing the civil rights icon "translating" into "sign language". Except he was basically just moving his hands around and faking it the entire time. So not only was it an example of this trope, it was also a major breach of security.
  • Trevor Noah pulled this on himself while presenting at the 2019 Academy Awards Ceremonies. Making a joke about viewers who thought Wakanda from Black Panther (2018) was a real African country, he said, “Growing up as a young boy in Wakanda, I would see T’Challa flying over our village, and he would remind me of a great Xhosa phrase: ‘Abelungu abazi’ uba ndiyaxoka,’ which means, ‘In times like these, we are stronger when we fight together than when we try to fight apart.'” It wasn't long before real Xhosa speakers gave away the punch line: The phrase in question actually means "White people don't know I'm lying"!


Video Example(s):


Abom Translates for Billy

When Billy gets the Abominable Snowman to translates for him for the villagers, he lies about what he's translating and gets the entire village to attack Billy so he can escape.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (17 votes)

Example of:

Main / TrollingTranslator

Media sources: