MCU Explained: Why Do Most Marvel Characters Speak English?

Throughout all the MCU films, a fairly diverse range of cultures speaking all sorts of languages are shown. Though the films focus on a mostly American group of superheroes, fans have heard dozens of languages other than English spoken onscreen just as they would be in normal, everyday life. Some fans have been quick to notice that sometimes communication is a little too simple between characters, however. As gods and aliens show up in the MCU, they’ve often been able to quickly and easily communicate in plain English with locals here on Earth. Though ease of storytelling probably has more than a little to do with it, the MCU doesn’t commonly have overlooked details, and there are some explanations in-universe as to how characters can communicate in English so easily.

Not just an English issue

Most MCU titles are dubbed into over a dozen languages, so it’s not always English that the aliens show up on Earth speaking. While there’s certainly other languages spoken in Marvel movies, even alien ones, the language of the audience is always what most of the significant action of the film happens in.

This isn’t always the case. In the recent Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, much of the dialogue is in Mandarin Chinese because it’s the native language of the characters.Thor: The Dark World had the dark elves speak almost exclusively in their native tongue throughout the film, but inexplicably, when he meets Jane Foster, Malekith speaks perfect English.

Most moviegoers probably understand that this is done mostly so that the audience can easily understand what’s going on throughout the film without having to constantly watch subtitles. Some MCU films have, however, offered explanations for their ability to break the language barrier, and decades of comic tradition also give lots of possible solutions to communication problems.

The old sci-fi standby in the MCU

Kevin Feige
Kevin Feige | Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

In a recent discussion on Reddit, one fan was curious about how it was that so many aliens understood English. Many fans were quick to note that both Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel mention that the characters are using universal translators.

This brings up a lot of other questions about these translators though. As one fan mentions, “It really bothers me that the avengers can understand the guardians in infinity war even tho they don’t have the translator implants.” It could actually be the case that only one translator is needed, as Carol Danvers seems to imply in her film that her translator should be all that’s needed for her to communicate with humans.

The comics have offered other explanations for the issue, but mostly in the same form as a universal translator. One fan says, “In one of the first FF4 comics issues, Mr. Fantastic invents a universal translator.” This probably was seen as an easy fix for early comic creators, but the fan continues, “Which is never mentioned again.”

Magic

In a world that contains beings of unimaginable power, there are some tricks that Marvel characters may have to communicate with alien races that don’t involve the latest tech. One commenter even fills other fans in on the comic explanation for why all races understand the gods in words they can understand (remember Loki in Germany?), saying, “Thor and the Asgardians, as well as other gods use Allspeak, a magical language interpreted by every species as their native tongue.”

There are plenty of other literary devices Marvel has used to explain it over the years, and at the end of the day characters understanding each other just makes for better storytelling. Still, it’s amazing to know that the mythology and tradition of Marvel are so vast, that you can really explain every little detail in its rich multiverse.

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