Follow TV Tropes


Playing With / Omniglot

Go To

Basic Trope: A character is extremely (and often downright unrealistically) proficient in a wide variety of languages.

  • Straight: Alice speaks thirty languages to a native level.
  • Exaggerated:
    • Alice speaks three hundred languages absolutely perfectly, despite only having been exposed to them for thirty minutes.
    • Alice can speak and write all languages (including machine/programming languages) flawlessly without exception in the multiverse, regardless of their complexity.
  • Advertisement:
  • Downplayed: Alice speaks a dozen languages fluently, though there are a few gaps in her knowledge.
  • Justified:
    • Alice has a brain implant that gives her excellent learning skills and memory.
    • A.L.I.C.E. is a robot designed to assist diplomats in a play set 20 Minutes into the Future.
    • Alice is immortal. It's easy to learn every language when you have, literally, all the time in the world.
    • Alice is an angel or other emissary from God and can speak in tongues.
    • Alice has Translator Microbes.
    • Alice is a higher-dimensional being where time is irrelevant. Because of this, any language she is exposed, she will automatically and instantaneously speak it flawlessly, beyond time.
    • Alice is telepathic.
  • Inverted:
    • Alice is monolingual in a society of omniglots.
    • Alice doesn't know a single language and can't communicate.
    • Alice can fluently speak every single language known to man except the one used in her home town, which she can't speak a single word of.
  • Advertisement:
  • Subverted: Alice tries to use her skill with languages to negotiate with the bad guys, but it turns out that she doesn't speak their language as well as she thought, and she ends up insulting them by accident.
  • Double Subverted:
    • ...But the fact that she at least tried to learn their language convinces them that peace is possible after all.
    • The bad guys greet each other through insults.
  • Parodied:
    • It becomes a Running Gag that Alice "just happens" to speak a number of increasingly obscure languages, with her excuses for why she knows them getting more and more ridiculous.
    • Somebody sets off a whole load of Angrish-laden nonsense, and Alice points out they called themselves a giant purple elephant who dances in ten different languages within one sentence.
    • Alice can speak over a dozen languages, just not the one most of her companions regularly use.
  • Advertisement:
  • Zig Zagged: Alice speaks thirty languages... but not the one language that she needs right now... so she learns it in ten minutes... badly... only to find that Christophe, to whom she needs to talk, speaks her language perfectly anyway, being an example of this trope himself.
  • Averted:
    • Alice admits to being hopeless at languages.
    • Except for her native English, Alice only knows a little Spanish that she remembers from school.
  • Enforced: The premise of the show has Alice visiting remote parts of a dozen obscure countries without a translator, so she pretty much has to be good at languages for the thing to work.
  • Lampshaded: "Jeez, I must have been doing it wrong. I studied this language at university for years and still make mistakes, but here you are speaking it and thirty others perfectly just from hearing people chatting on the bus."
  • Invoked: Alice's parents bombarded her with languages from an early age in an attempt to make sure she turned out this way.
  • Exploited: Alice gets hired as a translator.
  • Defied: Alice sees no point in learning other languages, and declines to do so despite evidence that she'd be good at it.
  • Discussed: "So unless you think you're some sort of cartoon super-genius and can magically learn Swahili by tomorrow morning, you're not going on that mission."
  • Conversed: "Y'know, as a language student, it really annoys me when these shows have characters learn a new language in half an hour. Have the writers ever tried to learn a language?"
  • Implied: Alice enjoys cultural festivals more than most and is part of almost every Five-Token Band in the area.
  • Deconstructed:
    • Alice does indeed speak a lot of languages, but the study and constant practice required to learn and maintain them takes up just about all of her time, and what was once a fun hobby has turned into a stressful chore.
    • Because she can speak many or all languages, languages aren't new to Alice anymore or at least as exciting to her.
  • Reconstructed: Alice speaks a lot of languages, and although the work required is huge, she finds that the things she can accomplish with it make all the sacrifice worthwhile.
  • Played for Laughs: Alice and Bob are at the movies, watching a film with Ominous Latin Chanting in it. Alice starts giggling because she knows Latin and they are saying something really silly and outright hilarious in Latin.

Back to Omniglot

Example of: