Saturday, January 12, 2013

Our Favourite "Foreign" Characters

Following our discussion on foreign dialogue, we got to thinking about foreign characters, that is, characters that speak a language other than the main language of the show or film, or no language at all. Here are a few of our favourite characters that speak in a foreign language, a constructed or fictional language, or are indecipherable altogether.

Toshi (American Dad)

Friend to Steve Smith in the TV show, Steve's nerdy Japanese friend is always subtitled, though the characters often misunderstand or outright ignore what he's saying in favour of a racist joke. He is often imparting his wisdom to no avail. His sister on the show is fluent in English.

Imagine one of these capable of flight, only
made of rainbows and with a unicorn head.
Lady Rainicorn (Adventure Time)

The amazing sausage-dog-esque rainicorn from Adventure Time only speaks Korean. Why? Niki Yang, who lends her voice to the character, is Korean and also provides the voice for the games console BMO, or Beemo, who speaks in English with a Korean accent. You'd be a fool to start questioning the logic behind Adventure Time.

Dora (Dora The Explorer)

Dora doesn't really speak a foreign language all the time, but she is bilingual. She teaches kids how to speak Spanish. In the Spanish versions of the show her dialogue is changed so that she teaches kids English. We'll take this opportunity to say that we don't care much for Diego and think he's just copying Dora.

Jabba The Hutt (Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi)

Given the large number of languages spoken in the Star Wars universe, Jabba The Hutt has a voice and language to match his personality. Though he speaks a foreign language, all the characters around him seem to understand him half of the time, and in Return of the Jedi he had the assistance of C-3PO who acted as his interpreter.

Apparently American post boxes are
big Star Wars fans too!
R2-D2 (Star Wars)

One of the only characters to feature in all six Star Wars films, the three good ones and the three bad ones, and can be considered the narrator of the original trilogy. R2-D2 was the droid that communicated in nothing but beeps and whistles, while everything he said was inferred by C-3PO's responses. We're not sure why C-3PO never would answer R2-D2 in his own language...

Kenny (South Park)

It's entirely possible that Kenny from the TV show South Park speaks a foreign language. No one really knows for sure however, because nearly everything he says is unintelligible due to his signature orange hooded sweatshirt. We imagine that he keeps it tight around his face at all times to keep the cold mountain air away, but it also lends an air of mysteriousness to the language he uses. He's also living proof that tone of voice communicates just as much as the words themselves... that is, during the rare moments on the show when he is living!

Amy Wong (Futurama)

Another character in a TV show that infrequently utters things in a foreign language. Though the cursing exhibited by Amy in the early episodes of Futurama is actually poorly-spoken utterances of Cantonese, we prefer it to having no foreign language at all. Personal favourite Dr. Zoidberg occasionally says things in his own language, too.

Sooty and Sweep (The Sooty Show)

Sooty and Sweep (after his introduction in 1957) were two puppets from the long-running The Sooty Show. Sooty, the yellow and black puppet, was portrayed as entirely mute rather than foreign, except when communicating with his puppeteer. Sweep the dog only communicated in high-pitched squeaks, though other characters appeared to understand him.

Who are your favourite "foreign" characters? Are there any we have missed that deserve a mention? Tell us below in the comments.

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