Discussion in 'General Trek Discussion' started by indolover, Dec 11, 2012.
Uhura Prime knew Swahili but not Klingon. Her Nu-counterpart knew all three dialects of Romulan but apparently they are so similar to Vulcan that the previous communications officer couldn't tell them apart. Maybe Nu-Uhura simply picked up Vulcan from her boyfriend and the Romulan dialects were childishly simple for her. Much as Asian languages have words that appear to western ears to ve quite similar in places but to a native speaker a minor difference in tone or pitch changes the meaning. Uhura's good ear could simply have made those differences more obvious. It's not that she learned Romulan, she learned Vulcan and picked up Romulan almost by default. She could have just wanted to play the pre-holodeck version of Vulcan Love Slave in it's original language.
Which role do you think she played?
Only if the translation is imperfect. But the Universal Translator gets puns and nuances across all right - and even translates an alien term for a cave-dwelling slave race as "troglyte", inserting suggestive Greek roots where there originally were none, to demonstrate that it is way smarter than its users!
The UT makes language a completely outdated concept. Not just the learning of languages, but their very existence. It is the new thing that replaces language.
Or at least it should damn well suffice for one. No hero ought to require even a native language in order to be perfectly understood and to perfectly understand everybody else, across lightyears and millennia and cultural and biological borders if need be. Every time this does not happen is an inconsistency in Star Trek, really.
...Perhaps the UT only replaced language in the 24th century?
Learning languages is engaging and complex, and specifically Latin would allow a much greater appreciation of history, including everything Earth history can teach us about war, diplomacy, politics, and human behavior over the long run.
And while technically the universal translators can make fluent changes, sometimes there may simply be no English word to match the foreign one. You see that today all the time with cultural idioms, or even simple vocabulary. In German, there's a non-vulgar word which refers to a person who is outrageously tactless, arrogant, or otherwise insufferable: Backpfeifengesicht. The closest approximation English can make is "a face that cries out for a fist in it". So the universal translators, on seeing that word, must either turn the one word into that roundabout (if humorous) phrase, or else replace it with some other, less perfect word. Perfectly fine for day-to-day, but the true zest of the original would be forever just out of reach...
Or the Borg...
Actually it seems to be a popular English idiom these days to say that someone has a "punchable" face. So that comes pretty close.
Maybe Latin was just an extracurricular course, that Picard took. After all, he did encourage Wesley in "Samaritan Snare" to study more than Academy had to offer.
Plus, you never know when you're going to get stranded on a Roman gladiator planet without a universal translator . . ..
^Oh, that's no problem. They conveniently speak modern English on Roman gladiator planets.
And on Mirimanee's planet too. Kirk didn't have a UT for the months he was living there.
This is a factor only if it is possible to separate a man from his universal translator. Which becomes fairly difficult if the device is actually an implant. (Not in the mechanistic sense, as a sharp knife solves most of the problems of this world and others, but in the sense of figuring out that there even exists a UT to be dug out.)
The bulkier external devices, commbadges and whatnot, might be necessary for deciphering newly encountered languages, such as Gorn, Companionese or Basics Caveman. But the implant might be programmed with already known languages, such as the Latin they speak at Merikus' planet, or the NavahoMohicanDelawareish they speak at Miramanee's.
They're going to program it in Latin and NavahoMohicanDelawareish but not Klingon (as seen in TUC)? Also, the TOS universal translator is the size of a flashlight. I don't even want to start thinking about where and how they would implant that.
Where would they have learned Klingon? The first two are Earth languages, well known to the Federation. In case of the latter, scholars are limited to phrases like "Prepare to be boarded!", and even those are no doubt more commonly delivered in the language of the victim, just to get the message across.
Kirk's ability to imitate a Romulan officer in "The Enterprise Incident" is not particularly contradictory, as we later learn that (sorry, Diane Duane!) Romulans do not speak a language markedly different from Vulcan...
That would be the UT capable of deciphering new languages. The one merely storing known ones could be microscopic rather than "microphonic".
Besides, we didn't really see any actual TOS universal translators. We saw a gadget Spock built out of existing elements to serve the special needs of the day in "Metamorphosis", and an alien one provided by the Metrons. Starfleet-issue "external" UTs might well be the size seen in ENT or somewhat smaller, quite possibly integrated into the communicators.
Nobody had a UT in Trek TOS, except for the handheld universal translator in "Metamorphosis" and perhaps two or three other episodes where computer translating circuits were mentioned. The concept of the UT being a commonplace tool didn't exist until TNG. Before then, we just assumed everybody in the galaxy spoke English. (Well, shouldn't they?)
But once the retcon is said and done, it dovetails perfectly to TOS. DS9 gives us explicit ear implants (for the Ferengi, but the technique would be sound). VOY shows us that after the removal of commbadges and other external devices, aliens who should have no business knowing English (the Kazon and Neelix - Kes is admittedly a quick learner) continue to be perfectly understood by our English-speaking (?) heroes, but the acquisition of a new language becomes impossible. And ENT brackets this with stories involving an external UT and others involving translations achieved without such. Kirk having an implant is a good "out" here, especially as implanted IT devices of all sorts are likely to be exceedingly common and expected by the audiences of today and tomorrow...
What a depressing way to look at it.
I used to type essays and term papers for college and university students. One of my clients was from a Cree reserve. Her first language was Cree. She told me that she sometimes had trouble completing her assignments because some of the concepts she wanted to discuss simply had NO WORDS in English to adequately describe them and convey the meaning she wanted to get across.
If the concept itself doesn't exist in a language, good luck with that universal translator.
And consider this: Latin is mainly used by doctors and scientists, and people who want to learn it so they can read the old Roman poets, playwrights, and historians in their original versions (that's why I'm trying to learn it). But just because very few people use it NOW, who is to say it won't ever go through a revival? I can just see a bunch of historical re-enactors who decide to go off and set up their own "New Rome" colony somewhere. It would be entirely natural that they would want to learn Latin and use it in their daily lives.
Besides... Patrick Stewart did a masterful job of portraying the villainous Lucius Aelius Sejanus in the BBC series I, Claudius. Star Trek and Latin are a natural fit.
Well, English copes easily enough by simply assimilating, and if need be, adjusting. There's no need to translate schadenfreude or ombudsman or blunderbuss, let alone learn German or Swedish or Dutch in order to get the translation, as long as you learn that this new English word has this certain meaning. This counts as "learning English", not as "translating".
The UT automates even that process by inventing words like "troglyte" for the user and letting him slowly catch on.
Do languages undergo revival? It appears that they simply die out one by one, until presumably only one is left (and with something like the UT, perhaps none). Except of course as hobby projects for an insignificant minority; there is always an insignificant minority available for X regardless of the value of X.
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