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Related to this question: Questions about nationalities and languages in Death Note

It seems the Death Note 2015 series tries to incorporate the English language when appropriate, but even though Watari, L and Near are supposedly Western, they speak Japanese to each other. I guess it would be weird if they were played by Western actors even though their characters are supposedly Western. Artistic license and all that.

Might be a dumb question, but in the anime and manga, is it safe to assume that the Wammy's House members speak to each other in English?

I guess it's obvious that when Mello and Near here about L's death, they speak in English to each other and w/ the person who informed them about L's death.

What about for instance when Mello and Near were talking in the SPK place or whenever L and Watari talk privately? It's in English right?

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    They were all talking in Japanese though. In the comics, cartoons, live action films and live action series, they always talk in Japanese, not English. – Peter Raeves Oct 18 '15 at 13:09
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It seems safe to assume they're speaking English. This most likely is an example of a translation convention. As the first two paragraphs of that TV Tropes page put it:

When a group of people whose native language is not English are together, away from any English speakers, the audience may nonetheless hear them speaking perfect English.

This is not a case of Translator Microbes, in which an in-universe device is performing actual translation: We are meant to assume that the characters are really speaking their own native tongue, and it is being translated purely for our benefit (or the benefit of the casting director who is then free to hire English-speaking actors), like the dubbing of English dialogue onto foreign-made films.

Most of the time, when a translation convention is employed, the writers don't bother indicating that the characters are actually speaking another language, because the audience most likely doesn't care; the audience just wants to know what they're saying.

Further down the page, Death Note is discussed:

In the Japanese version of Death Note, the scenes at which Interpol convenes and speaks with a British detective, as well as Near's dealings with the American SPK and Mello's conversations with the US Mafia are all presented in Japanese; presumably, they're actually speaking English.

However, in the live-action movie, Lind L. Tailor, L's decoy, was voiced by an American, while a Japanese translator made a voice-over.

This is how it was done in the manga as well, although only the voice-over is shown. This is assumed to be in effect for Wammy's House as well, unless we are to believe that all the residents of an orphanage in England speak Japanese as their default language.

There's probably no real evidence anywhere in the series that the characters are speaking English (I certainly don't remember any in the manga). The audience can assume they're speaking English because they're at an orphanage in England. However, as part of the translation convention, we see them speaking Japanese on screen. It's presumed that the audience doesn't care that much to hear them actually speaking English, so the writers just cut to the chase and show them speaking Japanese.

Note, this is different from the situation where L, Near, et al. speak to characters whose native language is Japanese. There, we have to assume they are speaking Japanese (or everyone is speaking English--unlikely, as characters like Misa and Matsuda who probably don't speak English are seen communicating effortlessly with L). But when the Wammy's House members are speaking among themselves, it seems safe to assume they're actually using English and we see it as Japanese under a translation convention.

  • Thanks! What do you mean Matsuda and Misa probably don't speak English? – BCLC Oct 19 '15 at 2:02
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    @BCLC Because they aren't very smart. That's why I singled them out, although there are lots of other characters who probably don't speak English. – Torisuda Oct 19 '15 at 2:07

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