Why aren't they using the Universal Translator at all in that dictionary scene in TUC ?

Discussion in 'Star Trek Movies I-X' started by at Quark's, Apr 15, 2017.

  1. Paul Weaver

    Paul Weaver Fleet Captain Premium Member

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    No -- Hoshi did, but Uhura didn't join in the 22nd century :D


    Most people - at least most educated people - are fluent in English and their native language. Some countries have multiple native languages.

    If you learn multiple languages growing up, it's easier to pick up new languages as time goes on. Brits, Americans, etc have a bit of a problem with languages - what second language do you learn? Manderin? Japanese? Arabic? French? German? Spanish?

    I've been to about 50 countries in the last 10 years, so I'm not exactly hiding under a rock internationally. I can count on 1 hand where French (the language I did at school) was spoken -- I think it's just France, Belgium and Switzerland (although the later two it's not exclusively French). German is just Germany and Austria. Arabic in a few more places (Egypt, Jordan, West Bank/Gaza, Dubai, Qatar), Mandarin, Urduo, Portugese, Swedish, Norwegian, Brazillian Portugese, Thai, Malaysian, Bhasa, Greek, Italian, Hungarian, and half a dozen more european languages. I can't possibly know them all, even if I was fluent in 5, 90% of the time I wouldn't be able to use it.

    I ordered a coffee at Gar du Nord a couple of years ago, said "Une Café sil-vous-plait". Buy behind the counter responded with "three euros fifty". I'd just arrived on a train from Brussels too, and hadn't said a word of english since getting off the train.

    What's the point in learning another language if you speak English? Chances are you won't get a chance to use it.
     
  2. MadeIndescribable

    MadeIndescribable Captain Red Shirt

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    Going along the previous cold war analogy, I was looking at Starfleet in terms of it being designed as a means of exploration, with having to deal with hostile situations, of which the TUC scene is undoubtedly a prime example, as merely a defensive and last resort scenario.

    As for the no contact people or linguists, the whole point of the five year mission was to make contact with new civilisations, so as much as it would make sense to have a specialist, I always figured that the general officers, specifically the bridge crew, would all be trained in this as much as their standard duties. Similarly I also figured Uhura would be a linguist in much the same way as Hoshi in Enterprise, or Saldana in the Kelvin timeline.
     
  3. MadeIndescribable

    MadeIndescribable Captain Red Shirt

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    Speaking as a Brit, French is normally the first foreign language taught in schools, (France being our closest foreign speaking country, and also being spoken worldwide) followed by either German or Spanish (German widley spoken in Europe, Spain worldwide), as far as I could tell generally depending on what teachers were working at what particular school.

    And I'd say there's lots of points of learning another language. Firstly, just the act of learning one itself is recognised as one of the best ways to keep your brain active and help against memory loss, dimentia, etc. I also get your point about ordering a coffee, but in my experience having a conversation in a foreign country's native language (as opposed to simple stock phrases) is always appreciated and helps to dispel the lazy/arrogant stereotypes often held against native English speakers.
     
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  4. Smellmet

    Smellmet Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Which we deserve a lot of the time.
     
  5. MadeIndescribable

    MadeIndescribable Captain Red Shirt

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    Because when it comes to foreign languages, it's pretty much true.
     
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  6. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    For the "what second language to learn?" question, it's pretty much an alternate formulation of the question "which continent do I want to be fluent in?", now isn't it? For South America, Spanish is a must, no matter how many hundred languages are spoken there. For Africa, French. Colonialism has its sides. Russian helps a lot in northern and central Asia, Mandarin in eastern Asia. Sure, you may get by with broken English, too, but don't bet on it.

    It's just that Spanish does you no good in Asia, French doesn't work well in South America, and Russian gets just odd looks in Africa, while broken English still has at least some odds of success everywhere...

    The "contact training" that no doubt is part of the Starfleet Academy curriculum might well include half a course in linguistics. It's unlikely to feature courses in languages, though, because the UT covers them all. Studying the language of an alien culture is on par with studying their architecture: it may provide added depth to the understanding, but communication with aliens can take place without language studies just like engineering analysis of alien structures can take place without architecture studies.

    In light of that, burdening the communications officer with language issues sounds dubious. Communications is important, languages are not; perhaps the botanist could be the linguist by second profession?

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  7. MadeIndescribable

    MadeIndescribable Captain Red Shirt

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    The way I see it, arguing this is like arguing you don't need a trained pilot, because of auto navigation. Yes there's the UT, but solely relying on it isn't going to end well. If you want to be picky, why wasn't the situation of a UT being recognised ever considered a possibility in the first place?

    "Communications is important, languages are not" - Personally, I also take issue with this whole statement. In terms of this thread, even assuming you have a UT, it's there to translate vocabulary and grammar, but so much of language is context, inflection, etc, that a computer couldn't understand, and therefore not translate.

    I can see we're not going to agree on this, but personally I'm gonna stick with Nichelle on this one. Not just because it makes so much more sense (to me), but as much as I'm all for headcanon, I'm gonna go with an actors expertise when she's been playing the same character on and off for 25 years.
     
  8. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    The thing is, I can't see a trained human doing better than the computer under any circumstances. And if the UT fails, this is far more likely to happen with a language the human is clueless about than with a language she is even remotely familiar with.

    Similarly, I wouldn't trust Dr Crusher as far as I can throw a scalpel if I had an EMH available as an alternative. Crusher may be an expert on human medicine, and perhaps knows a thing or two about Obnoxians and Xoticks as well, but that's it - and that leaves hundreds of potential patient species uncovered. If UFP medicine is of any help to begin with there, then the EMH can handle those all.

    Back in those simpler times, McCoy at least can rest assured that his patients will be human, give or take a surprise guest who may or may not be helped, and perhaps a few special cases aboard who aren't surprises. A linguist won't have humans as her "patients", and if Kirk wanted a linguist as part of his TOS team, he would have little reason to prioritize Klingon skills over others. Uhura being a linguist is allowed although unlikely; Uhura being a linguist particularly skilled in Klingon really is astronomically unlikely.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  9. MadeIndescribable

    MadeIndescribable Captain Red Shirt

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    In which case why train a crew at all when a ship's computer can do literally everything for you?

    Star Trek was all about "seeking out new life, and new civilisations", with the Federation at it's very core built on principles of meeting, understanding, sharing with, and learning from other cultures. Yes the UT is a useful tool, but why would you rely solely on the computer taking over the very thing that is at the heart of your civilisation. No offence but I really do think you're underestimating the importance when you said "Communications is important, languages are not". Kilingon or not, I don't see why Uhura wouldn't be a skilled linguist.
     
  10. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    It's not quite as bad as that. But yes, it's almost that bad.

    And yet it doesn't matter. Our heroes get to space thanks to their skilled computers. In case everything else fails, they can grasp at the straws of their own skills, but that basically never happens. And in the meantime, they can seek out new life and new civilizations and not worry about irrelevancies such as piloting, staying healthy or knowing languages.

    Why not? The UFP civilization wouldn't exist if it didn't spit on its language differences and start talking in a common lingo. Diversity is violence, unity facilitates.

    But by your argument, everybody in the show ought to be. And it's impossible for a mere human being to be particularly skilled in more than a handful of things, so it's a game of Find the Specialist here.

    Uhura isn't the person using language in TOS. Kirk is the one who makes the speeches. If Kirk can't get his message through (but Uhura has done her job of keeping the subspace radio properly beeping so the fault doesn't lie there), then perhaps he needs to study the local language a bit more. But he never ever consults Uhura on the issue; once he comes close to consulting Spock (the "troglytes" thing in "The Cloud Minders"). Perhaps he is a cunning linguist himself, and doesn't need to?

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  11. JonnyQuest037

    JonnyQuest037 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Well, there was a bit of alien language pre-Okrand. We first heard Klingon in the opening scene of TMP, in guttural sounds devised by James Doohan. That was the main thing Okrand had to work with when he officially developed the Klingon language for STIII.

    From what I understand, the TMP scene of Spock failing to achieve Kohlinahr and the "He's so... human/Nobody's perfect, Saavik" exchange in TWOK were both shot in English, and then later dubbed in "Vulcan," creating new sounds that matched the actors' lip movements. (I do remember a theory in an old Best of Trek collection that theorized that Spock & Saavik were actually speaking Romulan to each other for extra privacy, though).

    And there's the scene in "Metamorphosis" where Kirk & Spock jury-rig a universal translator to communicate with the Companion. Kirk explains a few of the basic principles of the device to Cochrane. So I think the unspoken implication from that episode is that the universal translator is working in most Trek scenes with alien races, even if they don't mention it.

    :vulcan: ...Dr. Daystrom, is that you? ;)
     
  12. Paul Weaver

    Paul Weaver Fleet Captain Premium Member

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    Yes, I spent 5 years learning French, and 2 years learning German. Both completely pointless for practical use in the real world.

    The point is I travel widely, and hardly anyone speaks $LANGUAGE. France is used in some parts of Africa which I haven't been to yet (Senegal for example), not used in Egypt, or Kenya, or Tanzania, or South Africa, or Nigeria. German is barely used anywhere. I could be fluent in Spanish, but when I went to South America it was Brazil, where they speak a Brazilian form of Portugese which differs from European Portugese.

    The 500 hours I spent learning foreign languages at school is 500 hours I could have spent learning something worthwhile instead. Law, politices, car maintenence, electronics, economics, modern history. Arabic is the only language I feel is useful, gives you experience in non-latin script, in right-to-left writing, and is widely spoken.

    It makes perfect sense to learn English as the 'lingua-franca' of the world, but to learn other languages? In Trek, it seems everyone speaks Federation Standard (English). Kirk could be fluent in Klingonese, but not only do Klingon Captains like Koloth speak fluent English, on 92% of Kirk's missions Klingons weren't involved. However as an explorer, having people with a good understanding of languages (and other forms of communication - body language is just as important, and far trickier with alien speciaies) onboard is very useful in Kirk's time, just as it was in Archer's time, not because they can act as a universal translator, but because they can help communicate.
     
  13. MadeIndescribable

    MadeIndescribable Captain Red Shirt

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    I guess it comes down to what you consider "practical". I did French to GCSE, and German A Level, of which I can still remember enough to at least get by in Germany (and with people from Austria and Switzerland), and it has opened doors to me that I wouldn't have had other wise. I've also made many great friends I wouldn't have if I only spoke English, so to me it's totally been worth it.
     
  14. Foxhot

    Foxhot Commodore Commodore

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    Probably the true reason Uhura's using the old-school dictionary is the same reason the Big Three are ''rowing the boat'' in TFF:
    after the humorous approach for VOYAGE HOME brought in bigger bucks, it was required to repeat that route.
     
  15. MadeIndescribable

    MadeIndescribable Captain Red Shirt

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    Yep, even Nichelle Nichols admitted (her dissapointment over) that very reason.