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We've seen more than a few MCU characters visit Earth (or people from Earth talking with MCU characters off-Earth), but no one has (to my memory) had language issues.

When Thor first visits Earth, he has no problems in communication (culture shock, yes, but not communication). Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel makes a passing mention of a "Universal Translator", but I feel that this is humour rather than fact-based since I don't recall any other character make mention of this.

I don't believe that Tony Stark has invented a translation device because he may have mentioned it a few times.

Is the language issue explained, or is it simply ignored?

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  • 1
    Simple google search: quora.com/Why-does-everyone-in-the-MCU-speak-English Mar 12, 2019 at 14:53
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    Because if they had to address the language issue with every single movie then you would have over a dozen movies which spend more than half their time addressing an issue which is not essential to the plot. You would have a dozen Arrival (2016) movies
    – MonkeyZeus
    Mar 12, 2019 at 20:35
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    I don't think Carol Danvers's mention of a translator was meant to be a joke, even if it was during a humorous scene. Also, humans probably don't need a translator if aliens already have them. Mar 12, 2019 at 21:57
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    What part of "I am Groot" do you not understand?
    – Kenneth K.
    Mar 13, 2019 at 16:08
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    If you pay close attention, they also never seem to use the bathroom. Mar 13, 2019 at 19:30

4 Answers 4

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It is mostly hand-waving, but they actually do make references to universal translators. For example, Peter Quill is noted to have a universal translator implanted in his neck.

An image from GoTG that shows enhancements of Peter Quill

They seem to be common. They would almost be a necessity in a society where people can fly from one planet to another with such ease.

For Asgardians, they probably use something similar as "magic and technology are one and the same" to them.

EDIT

As Rarst pointed out in the comments, in the comics Asgardians have something called All-Tongue or All-Speak. This language gets translated to the native language of whoever hears it. This could be just another name for the "universal translator".

As far as I know, they don't mention All-Tongue in the movies, but they presumably have it.

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    Asgardian thing is supposedly AllSpeak, which is everyone understands them as if native language, see scifi.stackexchange.com/a/64131/41308
    – Rarst
    Mar 12, 2019 at 18:22
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    An explicit reference to a universal translator used by the Kree is made in Captain Marvel. This could easily be a common tech. Mar 12, 2019 at 20:04
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    All-Speak would not lip sync though.
    – Almo
    Mar 12, 2019 at 20:40
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    @Almo Presumably any real universal translator would have to work on some psychic level. You can handwave that as also editing mouth actions to match. Mar 12, 2019 at 21:47
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    Actually most of the characters can't understand Groot for example. Mar 13, 2019 at 6:57
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In addition to DeeVs answer, it's mentioned in Infinity War that Thor took an elective at school to learn Groot so I would assume that it is taught at Asgardian schools since Groot is quite an obscure language as laid out by the films.

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    According to the director that was Thor making a joke. As per my comment on the other answer supposedly asgardians don't need to learn languages.
    – Rarst
    Mar 12, 2019 at 19:22
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    This is similar to how language is handled in Star Wars - it's mostly handwaved away, but there are occasional language barriers - for example, Han, Rey, and possibly Yoda understand Chewbacca's language, most others don't. Mar 13, 2019 at 12:16
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    @RobertColumbia I can answer for SW! There is a fairly universal language spoken by most of the population of the galaxy - "Basic". That's what they are speaking when we hear English (or whatever language the movie is dubbed into). There are species and cultures who can't/won't speak basic, and those require a translator - enter protocol droids.
    – Baldrickk
    Mar 13, 2019 at 15:38
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    @RobertColumbia Obi-wan understood Chewie too (it's how he found the pilot to get them off Tatooine). Mar 14, 2019 at 14:34
1

Canonically Asgardians have this thing called "AllSpeak" or "All-Tounge" which just means they can speak any language its some sort of magic thing I don't know.

Quill can't speak any language but can understand any language because he has implanted translators, so do the rest of the guardians I think although I think that would cause issues in the new guardians movie considering that they don't understand the children besides for Drax.

Characters like Capitan America and Natasha just speak an ungodly amount of languages.

Wanda is bilingual

Groot - it is mentioned a lot of times about how most people can understand him.

The aliens I think is just for simplicity considering there are so many of them it would just be a pain to have everyone speak multiple languages and is easier for the film

Hope this helped :)

0

Translator devices or technology

The language issue in the MCU is mostly explained by the use of translator devices or technology.

For the Guardians of the Galaxy characters, James Gunn, the writer and director of the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy, confirmed on Twitter that all of the Guardians (except for Groot) have implanted translators. It can be assumed that most of the space-faring characters, like Captain Marvel and the Kree, have similar devices. Captain Marvel explicitly mentions her universal translator in Captain Marvel (2019), when she thinks that the person she is talking to isn’t able to understand her. (Captain Marvel: "Do you understand me? Is my universal translator working?") 

As for Thor and the Asgardians, in the comics, there is something called the "Allspeak" or "All-Tongue". This magic or technology is presumably also present in the MCU, serving as the Asgardians’ "universal translator".

All-Tongue in the comics

Relevant James Gunn tweets (2023-03-26):

Question: James, is it true that all the guardians talk in the language of their planets but manage to understand each other thanks to translators present in their necks?
James Gunn: Yes.

James Gunn: Translators work both ways. All of the Guardians other than Groot have implanted translators. They understand and can be understood by others.

Relevant James Gunn tweet

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  • That would seem to be pure fantasy because from what I have read it is impossible for any computer, now or expected in the future, to immediately translate an unknown language just by listening to it. Tests that have been done with AI listening to thousands of hours of speech, the best it can do is identify some words as adjectives or other modifiers. At some point someone has to hold up a banana and say "banana" to get the translation ball rolling, no matter the method. And certainly a computer cannot listen to just one sentence and immediately know what it means, and likely never will. Nov 6, 2023 at 14:26
  • @StevePemberton Yes, it's pure science fiction. Nov 6, 2023 at 14:44
  • Understood that most of what is called science fiction also contains quite a bit of fantasy. Some people (not everyone) are interested in knowing what parts are actual science theory and what parts are just fantasy. Just like some people (not everyone) have an interest in what parts of a biographical drama are historically accurate and which parts are not. My comment was intended for the smaller group of people who are interested in whether an explanation given in a science fiction film or show is based on science, or just a plot convenience (beam me up Scotty being an example of the latter). Nov 6, 2023 at 15:36
  • @StevePemberton A lot of stuff in the MCU doesn't make sense based on actual science theory, and is fantastical e.g., Pym Particles (Ant-Man) and the time-traveling shenanigans in Endgame and Loki. Nov 6, 2023 at 15:41
  • galacticninja - again understood, and I would go further and say the majority of it is fantasy. I have made no judgement on that, most people including myself enjoy the movies, which are obviously intended for entertainment not education. However I notice that many discussions about fictional stories refer to reality in the discussion, i.e. if a character does or says something, people routinely refer to what people in similar circumstances in real life do as a way to explain the actions in the film. As I mentioned a smaller subset likes to do similar comparisons in sci-fi films with science. Nov 6, 2023 at 18:15

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