State of Languages in the Federation

Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by grendelsbayne, Oct 4, 2013.

  1. grendelsbayne

    grendelsbayne Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Reading through the thread about nations surviving into the 24th century got me wondering about languages. Of course the shows make almost constant use of universal translators to avoid having to explain this sort of thing, but we know there must be quite a few languages across the Federation.

    So I'm wondering: how much do the characters on the show actually really understand each other?

    Did Spock learn English because of his mother? Do Odo and Kira really spend all their time speaking Bajoran? Does Picard actually speak French all the time? Have any earth languages other than english actually survived?

    Do the Betazoids and the Risians even have their own language?

    If you disabled every universal translator, would a Federation starship be rendered almost completely unable to function, or is English just the standard language of the organization, with extensive english lessons at the academy?

    And what about the Federation Council? In STIV, the clearly non-human Federation President seems to speak entirely in English. Is that translation or do the other member states really not care that even the council itself is entirely earth-centric?
     
  2. Mr. B

    Mr. B Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Starfleet would surely need a lingua franca for its members to function dependably, and English is most likely that. It's probably required coursework at the Academy.

    Among Federation citizens, I doubt the existence of the universal translator significantly affects their cultural identity. In societies largely free of scarcity, learning is one of the only things left to do.
    In the episode "Code of Honor," Data makes a comment that could lead the viewer to believe the French language is as dead as Latin. Picard's flawless English, English accent and affinity for English literature point to that as well. French is a dying language today.
     
  3. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    My take is that all people in Starfleet speak a common language (be it a future version of English, Vulcan, Galaxyan, or whatever), which is conveyed as English in the show. Universal translators can fail, and no sensible organization would make itself susceptible to such a critical failure if possible. All Federation officials would probably speak this language too, to ease communications in government, and the same applies to most Federation citizens. Being multilingual is probably quite common. Local languages (what we would call national languages) can be still used at home with family and friends, but not in planetary or interplanetary communications. It won't be much different from current countries with more than one official languages.
     
  4. Nine of Four

    Nine of Four Commander Red Shirt

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    That's what I always thought about the language, too. It would make sense that, in an effort to avoid accusations of favoritism, Starfleet would chose a language other the English, Vulcan, or Andorian, as those planets formed the Federation. I always pictured pre-ENT Federation leaders picking a language at random, which over the course of the next several decades would become the universal standard.
     
  5. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

    Happy Xmas (War Is Over) Fleet Admiral Premium Member

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    They all speak Federation Standard.
     
  6. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    I always kind of imagined that the dominant language in the Federation was a "universal English," and that it contained quite a lot of words and phrases from other worlds too (the stuff the Universal Translator sometimes doesn't translate).
     
  7. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    Well, short of inventing a new artificial language, someone has to be favored in this case, especially since 95% of the human population do not speak English as their first language, yet Star Trek has always been very cavalier with English as the default human language. If you can impose English on 7 billion humans, a few billions of Vulcans and Andorians should not be a problem. ;)
     
  8. David.Blue

    David.Blue Commander Red Shirt

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    I agree there must be a lingua franca or maybe more than one. What it/they might derive from is anyone's guess. Didn't the Orions used to have a widespread empire long, long ago? Maybe lots of folks speak Orion. There was a reference in "The Trouble With Tribbles" about folks learning to speak the Klingon tongue, while members of the Klingon crew in STiii clearly spoke in something other than Klingon to each other...sometimes.

    Evidently, English immigrants have taken over France. At a convention Marina Sirtis expressed great pleasure at this realization.
     
  9. Melakon

    Melakon Admiral Admiral

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    I like to think that Esperanto achieved some sort of resurgence in popularity and was used as the basis for Federation Standard. Of course, since Star Trek originated in America, the language and signage is primarily American English, and current nations frequently translate the dialogue into their own languages.

    I'm choosing Esperanto only because William Shatner did make a film (Incubus) done in it.
     
  10. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It would seem likely. Spock's mother was said to have been a school teacher, while never made clear in-universe, I always imagined that she taught English to Vulcan students.

    Betazed children (the majority) can't communicate telepathically until puberty, so the Betazed would need to have a spoken language

    There was a episode of Farscape where everyone's translator microbes stopped working, none of them spoke any of the other's languages.


    Problem there is how many of the multiple species with membership in the federation would be able to form the spoken words in each other languages? Would a person from Cait be able to annunciate English, even with instruction?


    Look at it this way, apes can be taught sign language in order to communicate (to a limited degree) with Humans, but they can't be taught to speak to us because their vocal apparatus is incapable of producing Human speech.

    I frequently watch Star Trek in Spanish.

    :)
     
  11. Vanyel

    Vanyel The Imperious Leader Premium Member

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    Well if all the UT's went out they might do this:
    [yt]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xtbbo_lHqAs[/yt]
     
  12. Bad Thoughts

    Bad Thoughts Commodore Commodore

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    I've been in this situation before: two Moldavians spoke to a Russian scholar in Russian, who translated to me in German, and I translated to a French railroad official in French and English. It went more smoothly on I Love Lucy.
     
  13. iguana_tonante

    iguana_tonante Admiral Admiral

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    I'd say pretty much the same number of species that can have sex with humans, i.e.: any number the writers want to.

    Good for you?
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2013
  14. The Wormhole

    The Wormhole Admiral Admiral

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    DS9's Little Green Men certainly seems to imply that at the very least Quark, Rom, and Nog are speaking the Ferengi language and rely on their UTs to understand everyone else and to be understood. The Japanese guy in Voyager's The 37s was speaking English though he claimed to hear everyone else speaking Japanese. Presumably everyone is speaking their native languages.

    I'm sure there are exceptions. Given Spock is half human and chose to work among humans he probably has learned English. Worf should actually be speaking Russian given he was raised by Russian parents. Though since they are always speaking English it stands to reason he learned the language. T'Pol likely was actually speaking English given UTs weren't as common back in the day.

    Actually, all Data said was that French was "archaic." Which implies it isn't a dead tongue, just not a common one.
     
  15. R. Star

    R. Star Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    It's English and English only. The west rules the galaxy. :p
     
  16. grendelsbayne

    grendelsbayne Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    So basically, it seems likely that most of Starfleet would be ok without the UTs, but DS9 (and to a lesser degree, Voyager) would be screwed? (The Bajoran militia, having been fighting Cardassian opression for 70 years, seems unlikely to have had time to learn Federation Standard, and aliens like Neelix and Kes certainly never would have even heard of it.)
     
  17. Ln X

    Ln X Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    If non-humans are not speaking English then why are their mouths forming English words? I mean early on in DS9 Kira and the Bajoran Militia would know only Bajora and a bit of Cardassian. So the UTs would translate the Bajora to Federation Standard, but the mouths of the Bajorans would be speaking Bajora and not FS.

    Also acoustically you would hear Bajora being spoken from the Bajorans and FS coming from the UT. That could get distracting pretty quick...
     
  18. Happy Xmas (War Is Over)

    Happy Xmas (War Is Over) Fleet Admiral Premium Member

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    Because its a TV show and no one was speaking any language but English when it was recorded.
     
  19. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    In "Space Seed," Khan explicitly mentions that "I thought I heard . . . English?"

    I doubt that's the Universal Translator at work. Why would the UT provide an English translation for a Sikh from northern India?
     
  20. grendelsbayne

    grendelsbayne Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    But that's just the magic of UT's. The only time I remember a translator not entirely blocking out the original spoken words is the courtroom scene in TUC, which is 23rd century, and Klingon tech as well. Even on Voyager, where we can be guaranteed that Federation standard is entirely unknown, the officers have routine face to face meetings with entirely unknown aliens via the UTs without any distracting double-language acoustics...