We’ve all seen them in the movies and their merchandise in stores. We’ve seen children mimicking them with a silly voice while running around with their friends.
Minions have taken the world by storm thanks to their cute catchphrases and speech, but what on earth are they actually saying?
What language do Minions speak?
Minions speak “Minionese”, a fictional language. Minionese is an entertaining blend of multiple real-life languages. Different words were spliced together with expressive tones and body language to form the new language.
Minionese was a language originally created for the hit animated film “Despicable Me”. Thanks to the booming success of the film, many sequels have been released since.
These sequels include Despicable Me 2 and Despicable Me 3, and also the spinoff films Minions and Minions: The Rise of Gru.
Each of these films contains the made-up blend of language “Minionese”. This has led many viewers to question what it is and where it came from.
What led to the decision to use multiple real languages instead of creating a new language altogether? The movie’s plot where the minions originated, “Despicable Me,” provides an explanation.
Minions learned multiple languages by being servants
According to the story of Despicable Me, Minions are a nomadic tribe who aim to serve the biggest bad guys of their eras. By following these people from many different places, they’ve picked up bits and pieces of many different languages.
Thanks to the 2015 movie “Minions”, we know more about the Minions’ history.
The Minions have served both real-world and fictional people including the following:
- The Pharaoh (where they learned Egyptian)
- Napoleon (where they learned French)
- Count Dracula (where they learned Transylvanian)
- Gru (where they learned English)
Minionese is an erratic blend of words from different languages, including many one-liners. The movies portray the Minions saying a lot of catchy phrases that actually have real-life meanings.
Let’s check out a few of them.
Examples of Minions speaking Minionese
“Banana!” -English for “banana” (bet you didn’t know that!)
“Gelato” -Italian for “ice cream”
“Terima kasih” -Malay for “thank you”
“Sawasdee ka” -Thai for “hello”
“Kanpai” -Japanese for “cheers”
Pierre Coffin created the Minion language
The director of the Despicable Me and Minions movies Pierre Coffin was the brains behind how Minionese was created.
At first, the Minions were supposed to be much more beastly and ugly creatures. Coffin later decided that light-hearted and fun Minions would be better for the movie’s tone.
Part of the Minions’ charm became them picking up bits and pieces of different languages, and using them together as a cute and memorable quirk.
How people can understand Minionese
Minionese is written so that people can understand what’s going on even if they don’t understand the specific words.
Every 1-2 sentences usually have a keyword in English so that the audience understands the main point. Minions are also extremely expressive in tone and body language. This allows the meaning to be expressed more clearly.
In different dubs of the movies, certain keywords are always presented in the target audience’s language. This is so that people can easily understand what the Minions are saying.
That’s right! The producers decided to dub Minionese in every different language the movies are dubbed in.
It was all to make Minionese understandable to the average viewer.
To take it a step further, Coffin (the creator of Minionese) not only created this incredible blend of language- he also voiced it!
Pierre Coffin voiced the Minions in every movie installment
The director of the Despicable Me and Minions movies Pierre Coffin didn’t always imagine himself as a voice actor.
Coffin designed Minionese in a specific way to be fun and understandable. Because of this, he recorded a sample voice-over to teach the voice actors how to best portray the Minions.
The producers liked Coffin’s sample so much that they insisted that he do the voices for the Minions throughout the entire film.
While it was an unexpected role, it did cement Coffin as an invaluable part of the movie series.
Minion language vs. other fictional languages
To those who may not speak another language, a large part of Minionese may sound like gibberish. Gibberish is meaningless or unintelligible talk.
There are a few gibberish words in Minionese, such as when they try to remember the word for “toy” and instead say “papoy”.
However, the vast majority of Minionese comes from real-life languages. It cannot be considered gibberish because their words have established meaning.
This is quite unlike the fictional language used in the video game The Sims, “Simlish.”
Simlish is a gibberish language made of random syllables spliced together. These made-up words aren’t strung together by any discernible grammar, either.
Simlish doesn’t borrow any words from real-life languages, so the audience must depend on body language, context, and tone to understand it.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Klingon.
Star Trek has its own fully developed language, “Klingon,” which is well-known among the more hardcore fans. Klingon has grammar structures and a full vocabulary and is entirely viable as a standalone language.
You can even learn Klingon on Duolingo!
Minionese falls somewhere on the spectrum between these two, as it is more realistic than Simlish but far less practical than Klingon.
So maybe aiming to speak fluent Minionese is a bit far-fetched. That doesn’t mean that you can’t pick up some bits and pieces of language along the way, just like the Minions did!
You might just find yourself saying phrases that sound like Minionese, such as “Hasta la vista, banana ga daisuki!”
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.