Correction: The German Was Silent

Okay, I went back and found the episode of Azumanga I referenced a week ago (it was #11) and found out I had mistaken “foreigners”. In both sub and dub, the German is silent while Yukari-sensei flaps her arms in the guy’s face; he’s too far away to hear anything anyway. What I really meant to talk about was Kagura’s struggles communicating with a non-Japanese speaker.

So here’s the breakdown. Sorry if I’m spoiling any jokes.

First, Kagura is walking past the airport and sees someone having trouble carrying his suitcases up stairs. She approaches him and asks if she can help; when he responds in English (“What?”), she realizes he’s a gaijin.

She tries to communicate by pointing to the guy’s luggage and herself while speaking one word at a time in Japanese but the gaijin is still confused. So, after saying to herself “you can’t understand me, huh?”, she raises her arms and yells, “HELP! HELP! HELP ME!” After she helps the man carry his luggage, he thanks her in English. Kagura resonds by yelling “Yay!” and giving him a thumbs up.


When she gets outside, Yukari sees her and mocks her lingual proficiency, saying she would have done better (and acted less akwardly) if she had pay attention in English class. Kagura asks what Yukari would have done and she offers to demonstrate. She looks around, finds a “target”, and runs over to him. After failing with the German, Yukari gives up and runs away, giving Kagura a funny story to tell her classmates.


(K: Kagura; G: gaijin)

Japanese (from DVD subtitles)
K: Excuse me…Want some help with your luggage? Excuse me…
(G turns around)
K: Shoot! He’s a foreigner!
K: Let’s see…Um, help you…I’ll..with that…
G: What?
K: You can’t understand?
K: Help. (raises arms) Help! Help me!

G: I really appreciate it. That helped me a lot, thanks.
K: Huh? Um… (gives G a thumbs up) Yay!

Dubbed English
K: Hey, need any help with your luggage? Hey!
(G turns around)
K: Shoot! He’s a foreigner!
K: Let’s see…el helpo lifto…langua bago?
G: Eh (or Que?)
K: Me word no comprende?
K: Helfen? (raises arms) Das Help. Helpa me-o!

G: (something in Spanish) Muchas gracias.
K: Um…(gives G a thumbs up) Yahoo!


In the original Japanese, the foreigner’s language was English, while in the dub, it seems to be Spanish. I thought the adapted script was somewhat clever in that Kagura tried to get her point across in fake Spanish, and then fake German. However, it still falls short of the original in funniness because yelling “HELP ME!” in a airport usually means you’re being assaulted, not volunteering to assist someone else in carrying luggage. This, along with “YOU…ARE..FOOL!”, is one of my favorite moments from the series.

I guess that goes to show that it’s not that easy to translate people’s multilingual communication problems into English. I hope that the guys at Funimation do a good job with BECK’s Engrish and I also hope Funi did a good job with Bob (Saiga’s foreign friend) in Speed Grapher. If they kept, or gave him a different, funny accent or speech pattern, I’ll be happy. Guess I’ll find out in a month when volume 1 comes out.


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