‘Scrubs’: What Second Language Does Elliot Speak in the German Version of the Show?

Scrubs was an international success. The medical comedy TV show was one of the first to bring comedy to the high stakes drama of a hospital, and it worked. The show went off the air a decade ago, but it has made a permanent impact on American culture.

J.D. and Turk had one of the original bromances, and their close relationship hasn’t been topped by any sitcom friendship to date. But being an international success brought about some interesting problems for the Scrubs crew.

Translating all the nuances of the show into multiple languages was no easy feat. 

Elliot spoke German in ‘Scrubs’ 

SARAH CHALKE | Matt Petit/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

In the episode “My Interpretation” in season two, fans learn that Elliot is fluent in German. Like in all episodes of Scrubs, the plot line of this episode leads J.D. to learn some hard truths, and it’s all thanks to Elliot’s German skills. 

It all starts when J.D. has a German-speaking patient. He suspects the man may have pancreatic cancer, but isn’t sure how to tell him because of the language barrier. The patient’s brother agrees to act as a translator.

When J.D. finds out Elliot speaks German, she talks to the patient and J.D. realizes that his patient’s brother purposefully withheld the upsetting information of his potential diagnosis. Luckily it turns out his patient doesn’t have cancer, and he uses Elliot to break the news that his brother didn’t tell him of his potential condition.

Realizing that the patient’s brother was being overprotective leads J.D. to realize he’s being overprotective of his love interest, Jamie. 

In the German version of ‘Scrubs,’ Elliot speaks Dutch 

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The fact that Scrubs has been translated into multiple languages posed an interesting problem for the German version.

In the original, Elliot speaks German. But if the show were in German, that wouldn’t make sense. So the German translators rewrote the show to make Elliot fluent in Dutch. 

Presumably this means that the person dubbing Elliot’s voice had to also speak Dutch, or at least had to learn enough to say Elliot’s Dutch lines. The original version of the show had no problem with this, however.

The actress who plays Elliot, Sarah Chalke, is actually fluent in German. She didn’t have to learn anything to pull off the German-speaking parts of the show. 

In fact, Chalke told Conan that she is trilingual. She speaks French, German, and English. Her parents believed that speaking different languages would be good for their kids, so she and her sisters all went to French speaking school, and German school at night. Plus, her mother’s family is from Germany, so she used the language to communicate with relatives. 

In the Spanish version of ‘Scrubs,’ Carla speaks Italian 

Elliot isn’t the only bilingual character on Scrubs. When the show was translated into Spanish, the interpreters faced the same problem as the German version. In some episodes, Carla speaks Spanish.

Just like they made Elliot a Dutch speaker in the German version, Spanish translators made Carla an Italian speaker in the Spanish version. 

Carla’s Spanish speaking becomes part of a major plot point when Turk reveals that he learned Spanish as a gift for her. In season seven, episode seven, “My Bad Too,” Turk tells Dr. Kelso and Dr. Cox that he wants to surprise Carla with his new skill.

The two older doctors convince Turk to keep this a secret, so he can use his Spanish speaking skills to his advantage later on. However, when Dr. Kelso gets mad at Turk, he tells Carla the secret anyway. Turk and Carla end the episode with a conversation in Spanish. Presumably in the Spanish-speaking version, Turk learns Italian.