We all know how hard it is to be good at something that’s decidedly outside of your career field, like expecting your electrician to have good financial investing advice. But even if we exonerate actors and actresses from being experts in any foreign languages they’re asked to perform, we still expect the movie to get it right. And some do, but there are plenty of movies out there that just inserted a random language or random words—or even gibberish!—for their foreign language lines.
Here are 16 movies with embarrassing foreign-language-speaking scenes that these people just couldn’t get over!
1. Speaking Irish Wrong in Buffy the Vampire Slayer
One person shared, “Irish is often used as a stand-in for some fantasy language. Though the funniest instance was actually in a TV show—Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The summoning spell for a demon is largely a copy and paste of a news article describing a new bus service opening in Dublin.”
Another one replied with a similar discovery in another movie, “Guillermo del Toro’s Trollhunters features a scene where a teacher is possessed/affected by a potion (I forget), and starts speaking in tongues in a demonic voice while contorting all The Exorcist style. He’s just speaking Spanish, but that was the joke.”
2. The German in Die Hard
Somebody said, “Isn’t the German in Die Hard famously just a nonsense of random words strung together? I think the director even admits this in the audio commentary.”
Another Redditor replied, “Die Hard 3 is just as bad at that. They have one or two actors who manage a believable sentence or two, but most of them clearly just repeat the lines without understanding them. I love the part where two of the goons talk about what to do with the briefcase bomb Zeus handed them.
“‘ICH WILL DAS NICHT!’
“‘SCHDELLZ HINTEN RRREIN!’”
3. Al Pacino’s Korean in the Devil’s Advocate
“In [The] Devil’s Advocate, there’s a scene where Satan (played by Al Pacino) is speaking Korean (and another language) on the phone. The Korean is terrible—clearly he learned it phonetically, but the intonation especially was all wrong,” stated one user.
“To be fair, Pacino’s intonation of English is pretty weird, too,” replied another.
“We’ve got a devil’s advocate over here,” added a third Redditor jokingly.
4. Frenchie’s French in the Boys
Somebody commented, “Not a movie, but Frenchie’s French in The Boys is soooooo bad.”
Another person replied, “I just found it funny that they hired an Israeli guy to play a Frenchman. They couldn’t find a single French actor to play a guy named ‘Frenchie?’”
Finally, the third added, “Technically speaking, the comics heavily imply he is only pretending to be French. So I always felt he was doing the same in the show, especially considering his actor is Israeli.”
5. Laotian in the King of the Hill
“In King of the Hill, all the Laotion they speak is gibberish. I think they did take some words out of a translation dictionary or something, but it’s probably about as coherent as Peggy’s Spanish,” said one user.
6. Sacha Baron Cohen Speaks Hebrew in Borat
Somebody said, “In the first Borat, whenever they are supposedly speaking Kazakh, Sacha Baron Cohen is actually speaking Hebrew, usually the words that match the subtitles, but I don’t know what the other actors are speaking.”
“He does that a lot. There’s the scene in the dictator where they’re supposed to be speaking what I believe is Arabic but he’s actually speaking Hebrew,” replied another.
7. The Spanish in My Name Is Earl
One user commented, “In the TV show, My name is Earl, in the episode ‘Barn Burner’. Catalina starts swearing at Joy in Spanish, or so the viewer would think. But actually what she says is:
“‘I want to thank the Latino audience that tunes in to watch the show every week. And to those of you who aren’t Latino, I want to congratulate you for learning another language.’”
8. Matt Damon’s Afrikaans in Invictus
“I have to rewatch it but I seem to recall Matt Damon throwing out a few words in Afrikaans in Invictus which didn’t sound native either, though I think it was proper Afrikaans that mostly made sense, it just sounded rushed and … off. They had to because his character was a native Afrikaner, even though they kept pretty much all of Matt’s dialogue in English with an accent.
“So I guess he also learned it phonetically, like Cillian Murphy did for Oppenheimer. But Cillian learned it from Hoyte van Hoytema (the film’s cinematographer), so this is a fail on them for not confirming that others would understand it,” commented somebody.
9. Mandarin in Firefly and Serenity
“In Firefly and Serenity, the characters occasionally mix in Mandarin, usually for insults, but even before I saw the interviews with the staff who made the translations, I knew there wasn’t a Chinese person amongst them because it’s gibberish. I literally have no idea what they are saying,” said one.
“Serenity was the first one that jumped to mind. It’s just tossed in randomly—a phrase here and there every now and then. I recall just kind of making an odd face and asking, ‘Is that supposed to be Mandarin?’. Then after a few more lines thinking, ‘I guess it’s Mandarin?’ It was just so far off that I kind of didn’t understand the point of it. It was more off-putting than anything else,” replied another.
10. The Korean Market Woman in Black Panther
“Black Panther—the ‘Korean’ market lady. I’m not even Korean but even I know Lupita did better at attempting Korean than that lady smh,” said one.
“I was looking for this … my family busted out laughing at Lupita’s ‘komawoyooooooo’ but it really was the only thing we could understand. Market lady was fully speaking in tongues,” the second person replied.
11. Georges St-Pierre’s Dialect and Accent in Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Somebody mentions, “Not a language, but dialect/accent. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier … the bad guy at the beginning is supposed to be Georges Batroc, an Algerian-French mercenary. Except he’s played by MMA fighter Georges St-Pierre who is from Quebec and he speaks French with a very heavy Quebec accent in the movie. Everyone in the theater when I saw the movie in Quebec laughed so hard, it was really weird because he has a really rural Quebec accent too.”
12. The Bad French in Prey
“In Prey (2022), it’s almost impossible to understand what the French fur traders are saying even if French is my first language. They hired anglophones with a very (very) bad French instead of hiring French Canadian actors,” shared somebody.
“I was waiting to see if someone commented on that. It was so baffling since they filmed in Alberta. Guess it was to costly to make a Montreal casting call and book a flight for the actors. Still, it’s truly awful and distracting,” replied somebody else.
Finally, the third added, “My head canon is that the movie is from the protagonist’s point of view, so we hear French as she heard it, and since she can’t speak it, it comes across as gibberish.”
13. The Romanian in Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula
One person stated, “In Coppola’s Dracula, Gary Oldman is supposed to be speaking Romanian since he’s playing Vlad the Impaler and there’s barely any semblance of the language in his lines. It’s mostly gibberish.
“Sir Tony Hopkins, on the other hand, spoke actual Romanian in his brief scenes.”
Somebody else agreed, “Yes!!! I was going to make the exact comment.”
14. The Swedish in Fincher’s the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
“The Fincher [The] Girl With [the] Dragon Tattoo is painful because even though it’s all in English, they decided to keep all the Swedish names of people and places so listening to Daniel Craig struggling to say his own name … painful,” commented somebody.
15. The English in Assassination Classroom
Somebody said, “Japanese anime will sometimes have an American character appear that speaks English in the original Japanese dub. It is often times hilariously bad. They seem to just find a Japanese person who can somewhat speak English to say the lines, so it sounds exactly like what you would expect it to. The accent is really bad and they struggle with the words.”
16. The Russian Accent in Stranger Things
“My boyfriend’s first language is Russian, so whenever an actor speaks Russian I ask if it’s a good (enough) accent. Apparently, the Russian spoken in Stranger Things is accurate, but heavily accented to the point where he knew it was barely anyone’s first or second language, but The Queen’s Gambit, The Sopranos, and many other movies/series do have actors who speak fluently. I always find it fascinating to hear about accents in other languages,” commented somebody.
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