When a character or group needs to be portrayed as foreign, primitive, or inferior in intellect, yet still able to communicate and is intelligible, the language of these characters is spoken as a grammatically abhorrent mess. Characters could be speaking a mutilated version of the language they learned from another culture, or a butchered version of their own language, or simply a language so "primitive" it appears from an outside perspective to lack complexity. This trope is Older Than Print, going all the way back to Chaucer.
If the work is taking on a superior versus inferior viewpoint, the superior beings might use Spock Speak or Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe to contrast the barbarism of the other group. The inferior race is often shown speaking pidgin English and omitting articles, auxiliary verbs, possessive pronouns, and sometimes prepositions. The speakers often refer to themselves in third person. It is quite similar to Hulk Speak, though even non-combatants can or will use it. In some cases, it is a form of Aliens Speaking English, in which the creatures have their own language and speak English as a very poorly learned secondary language.
This trope comes from two sources. First, English is a highly analytic language with little in the way of inflection (altering the spelling/pronunciation of various words to imply things such as case, number, tense, grammatical gender, etc.), so it requires a lot of words and many small auxillary particles to convey the same information some languages could in much fewer words. For instance, "no take candle!" would be a perfectly legitimate sentence in Latin (as would "no candle take!"). The second comes from pidgin languages, highly simplified languages used by groups without a common language to communicate. Pidgins are stripped down to the absolute bare minimum of grammar needed to get one's point across, to make them easier to learn; some common English idioms like "long time no see", "sorry, no go" or "no X, no Y" are presumed to have their origin in the Chinese-English pidgin that emerged when the United Kingdom started commercial relationships with China.note
There's actually a scientific word for this kind of speech pattern: agrammatic speech
Supertrope to the more racial Asian Speekee Engrish and Tonto Talk. Compare Hulk Speak and Strange-Syntax Speaker. If the character can speak proper language, but nevertheless chooses to speak like this for some reason, it's Elective Broken Language. If the speaker is otherwise very capable in their own language, then it is Eloquent in My Native Tongue. A softer version of this trope is Poirot Speak where characters who speak a language quite fluently will occasionally insert syntax errors or bad grammar to remind the viewer that they are indeed foreigners. Unrelated to You Can't Get Ye Flask, except in sense that we suck compared to computer overlords.
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fan Works
- Live-Action TV
- Video Games
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- Real Life
Other examples not included in the above:
- Demonstrated by Massacration, a Brazilian Affectionate Parody of metal bands. "Far away/across the sea/Master never grow/Now the way/Against the fear/Master will is sure."
- Jonathan Coulton's song Code Monkey is done entirely in this style, being sung from the perspective of an actual primate.
- From the Dethklok song "Face Fisted", lines like these:
I am be dangerous nowNot me hurtWhen stairs fell downMe pushed by youMe hit headMe nose brokeSoon you be dead
- Mark Heard's "How to Grow Up Big and Strong" (later covered by Rich Mullins) is like this throughout the song. "Strong man strangle universe/He drown the stars" and so forth.
- In one B.C. strip, the Italian Anno Domini and the Amerind Conahonty converse in this way. When asked how they can understand each other, coming as they do from different parts of the world, they explain, "Is universal language. Is broken English."
- The crocodiles in Pearls Before Swine mostly talk like this to convey their lack of intelligence.
- In Williams' Taxi pinball game, "Gorbie" (Mikhail Gorbachev) talks like this.
- "Boris" (a caricature of Boris Yelsin) does the same thing in Diner.
- The antagonist of Gorgar talks like this. Justified in that he has a vocabulary of seven words.
Gorgar: "Me... got... you!"
- Also done by the attacking aliens of Firepower, coming this with Machine Monotone.
"Fire - Power - Destroy - You"
- Yoshihiro Tajiri English sentences tend to be either overly simplistic or rudeness of the Cluster F-Bomb variety. It's played with however in that these almost always impress just because so few people know he can even speak English at all. Ditto his ECW rival Super Crazy.
- Lin Bairon in Tajiri's SMASH and Wrestling New Classic promotions. She spoke English with a lot of confidence and enthusiasm, displaying excellent pronunciation, a decent vocabulary and terrible grammar.
- Subverted in Mongrels. Nelson uses this to try to communicate with Rob the chimpanzee when he first meets him. Rob assumes that Nelson normally talks like that and responds in the same way, until they realise their mistake and switch to normal English.
- Cookie Monster from Sesame Street usually talks this way.
- In The Dark Crystal, the otherwise well-spoken Skeksis Chamberlain speaks this way during his encounter with the Gelflings. In the original cut of the film, this would have been the only scene in the film in which a Skeksis actually speaks English, before it was changed to make their speech always understandable. The moment therefore makes little sense unless you assume that either Translation Convention is in effect for all other scenes featuring the Skeksis, or else that the Chamberlain is using Obfuscating Stupidity to unsuccessfully put the Gelflings at ease.
- The Goon Show occasionally had "primitive" characters (Africans, Arabs, Red Indians, etc), who were usually played by the show's resident (black) singer Ray Ellington. Any Unfortunate Implications of this were partly subverted by Ellington's character clearly being more intelligent than any of the white characters. And it was the 1950s...
- Parodied in a 1949 Bob & Ray skit featuring Pronto, sidekick to the Lone Agent:
Pronto (Bob): Ug. Lone, that be completely impossible. You would be implicating me in crime, in which I can have no hand.Lone (Ray): Huh? Is this Pronto speaking?Pronto: Ug.Lone: Where'd you get the education?Pronto: Me go Harvard. Me Boston brave.
- The Bob Lassiter Show had sketches of Dingo Boy, (voice of a then unknown Adam Carolla) who searched the land in order to "Find man who killed parents".
- In one of her standup acts, Margaret Cho once joked that an advantage to being of Asian descent in the United States while going out to bars was that, when getting hit on by a guy in whom you are totally uninterested, you can state in You No Take Candle that you don't speak English.
- Tabletop RPG Land of Og, and its more playable successor Og: Unearthed Edition, limits its caveman characters to only a few words while speaking in character. Each character has a different set of words they can use, such as "You", "Rock", "Stick", "Thing", "Hairy", "Bang", "Go", and "Verisimilitude".
- This is played straight within the BattleTech universe. The Clans, in their fanatical devotion to restoring the ancient Star League, speak strictly in Star League Standard English (with some new terminology and shorthand as needed to reflect their unique culture, but never contractions). Conversely, they consider the mishmashing of languages used by the Successor States and the mediocre quality of their English as further proof of their descent into barbarism.
- Although according to The Powers That Be, Star League Standard English sounds like Valley Girl-speak.
- Also, most of the Successor States use English as a secondary language and use a different language or languages as their primary one, such as German (the Lyran Commonwealth/Lyran Alliance), French (the Federated Suns), Mandarin (the Capellan Confederation), or Swedenese (a creole language of Swedish and Japanese used in the Free Rasalhague Republic). Despite this, all the characters in the novels speak perfectly understandable English with few notable accents or grammar problems.
- Ace Attorney:
- Machi Tobaye from Apollo Justice: justified in that his knowledge of English is rudimentary. Him not speaking English prior to Apollo proving he knew it in court was probably equally because parsing it was inconvenient.
- Played straight with Zinc Lablanc from Investigations.
Lablanc: Ah, you are pulling the sheep over our eyes.
- Averted with the entire population of Khura'in in Spirit of Justice. They all speak English rather fluently, despite being a foreign nation which still actively uses its own cultural language and writing system.
- Amnesia: Memories: The Good Ending for Kent has his Japanese voice actor say, "I'm sorry for waiting" in English. Since he was the second person to arrive at their meeting place, what he meant was he was sorry for making the heroine wait. The localized version fixed the mangled English sentence.
- Missing Stars takes place in a school in Vienna. Due to its international nature, most students speak in English. Those that don't either speak German or, to a lesser degree, French. Sofiya, unfortunately, cannot speak German and is still learning English. She and her sister Natalya speak English this way.
- "Confucius say, he who no take candle not very bright."
- In Chris Jericho's autobiography, he mentions that while he worked in Japan, he couldn't really speak the language and a couple of the friends he made there couldn't really speak English. However, he said that because he was fluent in "broken English" that he could still communicate; asking his friends "Would you like to go to the music store with me?" wouldn't work, but saying, "Maybe you me go CD shop?" would.
- Furby's will talk like this when speaking English.
- Amazing Amanda will sometimes talk like this.
- Amanda: "No hugs for Amanda? Amanda sad"
- this list of translation fails results in this.
"Slip and fall down carefully!"
- this video is mostly in correct English, but falls into You No Take Candle sometimes.
"My peepee is escaping!""We ran, but not able."