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Theory of operationEdit

The universal translator works by peforming several functions. One function is to intercept the nerve signals of spoken language that is heard by the person using it and blocks the brain from registering them.

It also scans brain wave energy received not from the user but from those being translated, created while composing a sentence. The universal translator absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brain wave energy and then excretes into the mind of its user a telephatic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centers of the brain which has supplied them, leading to instant language translation. So what the user's ears hear and what their brain thinks it heard are two different things.

The speech patterns they actually hear decode the brain wave matrix which has been fed into their mind by the universal translator. Thus the universal translator effectively allows someone to read the minds of people who are talking to them, and doesn't actually translate sounds per se.

The final function of the universal translator is to actually serve as a brain wave modification device. It alters brain waves in the user's visual recognition region of the brain so that they see the people being translated forming words of the user's native language with their mouths. Otherwise the user would see a mismatch between the lip movements others make and the translated words. The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk).

Do you have any references for this? This sounds rather imaginary (even for Star Trek). --K 04:03, 6 Jul 2004 (CEST)
It sounds quite imaginary to me, but it would seem to be the only way such a device could work. In order to work on "first contact" peoples, it would have to actually translate the user's speech from within the brain before it gets to the tongue, or else it would be conspicuous. It's the most unbelievable "Treknology", but the most necessary for the storylines. Mal7798 04:51, 19 May 2007 (UTC)
One flaw. Hoshi isn't telepathic. --OuroborosCobra talk 04:57, 19 May 2007 (UTC)
I don't see that contradicting. The translator would have to read brain waves in some way to work, especially in first contacts. It would have to translate speech within the speaker's mind, both when listening to the other's speech and to one's own speech. Either that, or mismatching lips would not be as conspicuous as it would seem. It would almost have to send some sort of telepathic message to non-telepaths.Mal7798 07:36, 24 May 2007 (UTC)
This actually sounds more like a Babelfish from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy... -- Kooky 20:55, 20 March 2007 (UTC)
I red somewhere that the device is integrated into the communicator pin. Accourding to me this is impossible, because in many episodes the pins are stolen, broken or lost and everybody speaks english. Even in Voyager! It must me something you install on/into your body. The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk).
On Voyager they do say its tied in to the pin. One pin is enough, and other races have them, like in DS9 the Frangi have them in there ears. As well It dosen't work on first first contact, in many episodes they have had people talk untell it worked. The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk).
There is one major problem with the idea of the universal translator being some sort of mind reader. If that was truly the case, then Federation science would certainly allow for people using their thoughts to control computer or other such divices. There would be no need of spoken commands or tactile input. It would all be done with the mind. I think someone may want to rethink, as it were, this entire page. The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk).

Actually there are indications at times that there might actually be somewhat of a neural interface, at least in Star Trek: TOS, between the ship's computer and the Enterprise personal. In Star Trek; TOS for example did you ever notice on the Bridge, in closeups of the various control panels, how NONE of the buttons were labeled at all in any way. At the start of Catspaw for example we see a good closeup of Uhura's comm panel. None of the buttons have anything written above, below, or on them. It's almost as if there might have been some sort of neural interface between the user and the computer which reads the persons mind and lets them 'just know' which button they are suppose to push to perform various functions. Other possible indications in Star Trek: TOS of the computer being able to read peoples minds has to due with the strange way the ship's intercom works. On the bridge for example, it often appears when Kirk calls for someone, say McCoy in Sick Bay, that the computer knows ahead of time who Kirk wants to signal and directs the message to the correct location before he even pushes the button. Many times Kirk also too gives multiples commands to Sulu or Chekov and one of them often just pushes ONE button and many multiple tasks are then amazingly carried out in an instant. Again this suggests the computer can actually read their thoughts and that the single button often being pushed at the end is simply done to finish executing a number of already pre-thought out desires. The very small number of buttons, overall, on both Sulu's and Chekov's panels is quite remarkable really given the hundreds of operations (at the least) they surely must perform as both helmsman and navigator. In an example earlier in the series, in The Cage, Pike tells Tyler to set course for Talos IV and with the mere flip of a switch or two the ship is on it's way. It's logical that for security reasons that a final actual button would have to be pushed to execute a number of such pre-thought commands picked by the computer or else someone could just pop onto the Bridge and take over the ship just by thinking and have it do god knows what. So if the ship's computer can read peoples thoughts at all in this manner this principle could certainly be applied to the Universal Translator. The preceding unsigned comment was added by Hersheyssyrup (talk • contribs).

Universal Translator failure in DS9Edit

I remember one episode of DS9, where the UT failed as well but I can't remember the name of it. It would be nice to add the name of this episode to the main entry for UT as well. The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk). July 6, 2004

That episode was DS9: "Sanctuary", and it involved the Skreea. The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk). July 6, 2004
It failed in DS9: "Little Green Men" too. The ferangi crash on earth and cant talk to primative humans. they start smacking their heads to fix it. its implied that the device is in their heads or in their ears. Frankly, the idea of the UT as an implant of some kind makes more sense than a comm badge. That's only HINTED at in the 37s because janeway gestures to her badge when talking about the device. Im sure if I looked i can find cases of the ut being used without the com badges around. 04:15, July 28, 2010 (UTC)
Based on what we've seen, my guess is that while UT implants are readily available by the 24th century (both within the Federation and other Alpha Quadrant species of similar technological stature, like the Ferengi), they're not required for all Starfleet members. By putting a UT in the combadge (or in the 22nd and 23rd centuries, the communicator), Starfleet could ensure that their people had a UT with them no matter what. However, some members of Starfleet likely chose to get an implanted UT anyway in case they lost their communicator--possible candidates for this that come to mind include Captain Kirk, who was without his communicator a number of times throughout TOS yet still was able to understand aliens without a problem, and Neelix and Kes, who otherwise would have had to learn to speak English fluently by the time of VOY: "Basics, Part I". -Mdettweiler 17:53, July 28, 2010 (UTC)

When the UT doesn't seem to workEdit

This is a quite fundamental Star Trek question, but I was hoping to have it answered in the UT article. It is not that seldom for other languages to be spoken, that the Universal Translator should be able to translate. For example, Piccard speaking Klingon and the UT NOT translating, is comprehensible, since he is NOT Klingon. But when the Klingons answer him in Klingon, or when they talk to eachother in Klingon, why don't we hear it in English? Any possible explanations? Aleksander Soleim 20:18, 3 April 2006 (UTC)

Because then the show would be less entertaining. The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk).
This is just a theory, but you'll notice that this usually only happens with races that the Federation see fairly often (Klingons, Romulans, Vulcans, etc.) so it would not be unreasonable to expect that in these cases both parties are choosing to forgo the use of the UT to better control their speech instead of depending on a translator. Picard in particular seems fluent in the Klingon tongue. That, or the translator is smart enough to know when the person does not want his speech translated.
Besides, we're viewing Star Trek through an imaginary storytelling window, and the writers have the freedom to represent language how they please, either by dubbing the voice for us or letting the audience hear the language and translate with subtitles. The Xindi Council scenes from ENT are perfect examples of both methods. 14:05, 14 May 2007 (UTC)
This seems like a good theory. I came here looking for the same answer, and this is suitable. It makes sense, as the the UT does analyze brain waves.-- 20:02, January 24, 2010 (UTC)
The UT only translates when it is necessary to translate. Therefore, when two Klingons speak to each other in Klingon, the UT does not translate. When a human speaks in Klingon to a Klingon, the UT does not translate. When a Klingon speaks in Klingon to a human who understands Klingon, the UT does not translate. – 04:09, January 30, 2013 (UTC)
This explanation doesn't explain general behavior - if the UT only worked among intended conversation participants, the plot device wherein people overhear aliens' plans would not work. Further, in TNG: "Firstborn", Crusher and LaForge both find themselves unable to understand a Klingon public performance, which presumably is intended for general understanding. Aprotim (talk) 01:42, February 11, 2015 (UTC)
One problem with the suggestion of Kirk (or most 23rd-century humans) having a UT implant is the courtroom scene in Undiscovered Country. In that scene, we hear Klingons speaking in tlhIngan Hol (with subtitles), while Kirk and McCoy are having the proceedings translated via headphone devices - or rather, as is implied, via a Klingon person live-translating into their ears as they do at the UN. If either Kirk or McCoy had an implanted UT, surely this would be unnecessary. It seems much more likely that either translators are part of a device habitually carried on the person or so ubiquitous by the 24th century that you can simply assume that the locale will have one on-site or enough of the people present will have one that no extraordinary measures will have to be taken as a matter of course.Notamaiar (talk) 16:42, July 30, 2015 (UTC)

Universal Translator in EnterpriseEdit

In an episode (Dawn something?) where Trip gets stuck on the dark side of a moon with an alien and he has to work together, the alien and he get rescued. Trip asks the doctor in sickbay "can he understand me?". The Doctor replies, "He should, the Universal Translator is online". They then proceed to a normalish conversation.

Yet this conflicts with This version of the UT could be used for ship-to-ship communications only, and face-to-face communication or off-world missions required the use of a skilled linguist regarding the early history. Can someone update to include this?-- 23:08, 20 June 2006 (UTC)

I think "ship-to-ship communications only" is misleading. I believe the intention should be, that if the Universal Translator of the era was used, the ship had to be involved. It wouldn't make any sense to suggest that the translator could only be hooked into external communications equipment; the computer/program itself doesn't care where the data is coming from. Logically, the Universal Translator, with proper data routing, could be used from anywhere that could contact the ship. Inside the ship, it could obviously be used by linking to it through the ship's intercom system. And, to the point, the very first place to get priority for a special direct link to the Universal Translator almost certainly would be the sickbay where seconds lost in translation can cost lives. The next place would be the board room, where meetings with other cultures would be expected. And soon I would expect it to work via communicators if they could stay in link with the ship. You don't need dozens of translators spread all over when you only need one and dozens of otherwise necessary items can connect to it... --JCoyote 18:17, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
There is also an epsiode in which Archer is communicating with a girl on a planet, and the translator temporarily begins to fail. We can assume that it was tied in to the ship's computer. From other episodes though it seems that there is some sort of personal translator each person carries with them.--Michael
Additionally, in ENT: "Demons" portable Universal Translators are shown being warn by the various delegates, that were updated by Hoshi. I think this establishes that self-contained portable UTs were in use in 2155, at least in a limited form (only works with pre-input languages perhaps, though no canon to support this statement). -- Kooky 20:55, 20 March 2007 (UTC)

Universal Translator's Selective NatureEdit

The universal translator works perfectly but seems to know (without any sort of empatchic abilities) not to translate certain things. Such as Klingon words. The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk).

Writers artistic license. --OuroborosCobra talk 16:55, 8 September 2006 (UTC)
Maybe those sneaky Klingons and some others have tricks to scramble Universal Translators when necessary, or when they just feel ornery. In fact, in an environment with competing empires all having such devices, I would expect all of them to have some device capable of this. --JCoyote 18:21, 19 September 2006 (UTC)
More likely the device would recognize that our intention was not to say something that was translated... for example, if you were speaking english and you were to drop a french phrase, it is usually implied in our voice that it exists in quotes. ex: my 'raison d'etre' for feeling this way etc... It isn't that far fetched to believe that it can recognize when a comment is spoken not to be translated. This doesn't cover every single instance in Trek, but it is interesting to note that often aliens (Vulcans and Klingons especially) will converse with each other in their own language. This seems to indicate that the device determines speaking intentions.--Michael
Also, its likely that there is a "Censor" mode, since more often than not, language that isn't translated seems to be curses. Additionally, as far as Klingon goes, usually items that are not translated seem to be proper names for things, of course there are a few exceptions as well. -- Kooky 20:55, 20 March 2007 (UTC)
There has to be some kind of selectivity for personal names. After all, when Picard talks to some alien, his name comes out JEAN-LUC, not JOHN-LUKE. :p --StarFire209 01:48, 4 September 2007 (UTC)
What about a section for episodes like VOY: "Time and Again" where people are clearly seen communicating without such a device, when it's not possible that they would be speaking the same language, i.e. plot inconsistencies -- 23:55, 18 May 2007 (UTC)
Under this would be the many times that Federation personell are deprived of their combadges yet communicate with "aliens" just fine. A bizarre example of this is the Voyager episode "Basics, Part II", once on Hannon IV, the crew cannot communicate with the pre-warp people on the planet, yet Janeway and Chakotay can easily communicate with Tuvok (for example). This not only demonstrates the UT's "fickleness" as the above noted, but also gives clear basis that the UT isn't located in the combadge (and can be backed up by many other episodes where different species are communicating without a combadge present.) -- 22:46, 24 October 2007 (UTC)
Just some speculation, but Tuvok's a pretty smart guy. I don't doubt that he picked up a little English in his 83 years working alongside Humans (Kes can be explained away, but no explanation for Neelix). We know some Ferengi implant a UT in their ear, some Humans and other species might do the same for combadge-less environments.--Tim Thomason 04:18, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
I'd also suggest that after years (in Tuvok's case, decades) of using a UT, it might actually cause permanent changes to the user's brain to the point where you become capable of understanding a language you're accustomed to hearing translated directly into your brain, even when the UT is not present or malfunctioning. This tracks with real-world language acquisition; with a second language it's always easier to understand or read than to speak or write, because reading/speaking are passive while speaking/writing are productive, and that ability sticks even after years of disuse. It would be interesting if the UT still formed new neural pathways the way that normal language acquisition does - I'd contend that it would have to, and that's why it takes a while for the UT to recognize and translate a new language: it's not just collecting adequate vocabulary to form a syntax, it's helping your brain rewrite itself! - without the recipient of the translation being aware of it. So most Vulcans in Starfleet would become accustomed to hearing English and understanding it as Vulcan, and Humans would be able to hear Vulcan and understand it as English (assuming, of course, that English is still the Earth standard, though in hundreds of years it's certainly plausible that Earth would undergo a sufficiently tectonic lingual shift that even 24th-century Humans would have difficulty understanding 20th-century Humans, the way we struggle with Old English and EME; this would handily explain why Quark, Nog and Rom are unable to understand the Humans in Little Green Men - they had never heard this dialect of English before, and their translators were damaged). Humans wouldn't be able to actually speak Vulcan or vice versa but everybody would be able to understand each other. Notamaiar (talk) 17:03, July 30, 2015 (UTC)

Background information (or lack thereof)Edit

What about some "background information" for this article? I was expecting to find information about how the universal translator serves as a convention used in order to keep the focus on the action, and not on the potential subtitles. That's all I have to say... ^_^--Mathwizard44 17:57, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

It's a wiki. That means that you can add information like that, especially if you can source it somehow. -- Sulfur 18:00, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

There. I'd just like to add that my favorite part of Memory Alpha is the background information on many of the articles. ^_^ Keep up the good work.--Mathwizard44 18:45, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

I am willing to suspend my disbelief only when the UT is ignored Edit

Bear with me, my point might be a little hard to communicate clearly. I think the UT is an absolutely essential plot device, it would be impossible to write Star Trek without it. However, it would be very difficult to write science fiction with a UT that is internally consistent, and it would be even harder to make it plausible. In Star Trek, the UT is both inconsistent and implausible, but that is alright most of the time. Where is the UT located, in the comm badge, or an implant? I don't care. How does it translate everything correctly, considering how ambiguous language is? I don't care.

However, I get really annoyed whenever Star Trek draws attention to the UT. I am willing to suspend my disbelief and ignore the UT, so long as the writers ignore it too. Here is a prime example of the writers drawing unnecessary attention to the inconsistencies of the UT: In the episode ENT: "Civilization", the universal translator is working as usual, and allowing Captain Archer to mingle among pre-warp aliens without them realizing he is from another planet and cannot speak their language. Then his UT malfunctions temporarily, and he cannot comprehend or speak the local language. Why did the writers put that in? It brings up all the questions I wanted to ignore, such as: What did his lip movements look like while the UT was working, and what would they have looked like while it malfunctioned? Clearly, if he was successfully impersonating the locals, the UT not only changed the sounds the others heard coming from his mouth but also changed the appearance of his lips to match.

The UT creates numerous inconsistencies which cannot be explained gracefully, and the explanations themselves are often completely improbable. Using my previous example: the UT in this episode of Enterprise is clearly a hand held device that Archer carries, and he covertly tweaks this device when it malfunctions. This single device enables him and any other humans in the room to hear English and see English lip movements, while at the same time any aliens in the room will hear alien language and see corresponding alien lip movements. This means that the device is telepathically communicating with the aliens to change their perception of the sounds AND visuals surrounding them, because that was required for successful infiltration. This change in perception is probably telepathic and illusory, because it would be very difficult to change the physical sound waves and photons. The sound waves and photons could only be changed if they were changed into multiple forms - English sound waves and photons for the humans, others for each set of aliens. That is conceivable, you could target one hologram to the left and a different one to the right, but then what about echoes? What if a camera records someone speaking with a UT, and then the video tape is played back without a UT to an audience of multiple species? Can all of the audience members understand the speaker? Or just one species? How does the camera know which lip movements to record, or will the visual be modified, months or years later, between the screen and the eyes of the viewers? If they have UTs that are so skilled at deception (either telepathic or holographic), then how come they can't use those technologies for other purposes?

These are all the questions that I start asking myself after just one mention of the UT. The answers are not graceful, they are not clever, they are just kludges. In science fiction, you should focus on a piece of technology if it is cool, clever, or graceful. If it was just a plot device, IGNORE IT LIKE THE PLAGUE!

The exception to this is DS9: "Little Green Men", in which the Ferengis' UTs malfunction because of the nuclear bombs on Earth. That is just hilarious. The writers were clearly poking fun at the awkward and inconsistent nature of UTs.Flouborate 03:38, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

Not sure where you are going with this, is this an essay (and therefore rhetorical questions) or legitimate questions? If it's the former, the this is not what talk pages are for. If it's the latter, then they are a bit too speculative for my taste. --Alan 03:59, 23 April 2008 (UTC)
A) Generally in the combadge, it seems. In the 22nd and 23rd century they had hand-held devices (although it may have been in a communicator as well). The Ferengi, and likely other species, implanted a UT under the skin (in that case, the ear).
B) The translation more than likely has to do with some sort of brainwave-reading, reverse aphasia device, but that's speculative. Would also explain why people THINK they see them talking alright.
C) The writers believed that having the futuristic technology malfunction in their early stages created drama (like the minor transporter malfunction in ENT: "Strange New World").
D) If my speculation about the reverse aphasia is right, then any Akaali would think his lips were moving correctly. They would know they're not when the UT stops working.
E) I don't think the multiple hologram explanation makes much sense (especially in Enterprise's era), so I'm not sure how they would handle echoes. Since they're sound waves like any other, I presume they'll be translated in whatever way they're translated.
F) I'm not sure if we've ever seen a recording of people translated with the UT (as opposed to perhaps a known translation algorithm). I know we saw a translated and untranslated version of Weyoun and Damar, but the UT wouldn't have been necessary there.
G) They probably could, if the recording recorded the appropriate brainwaves... or whatever.
H) I'd guess more than one, but that's all speculative.
I) In my opinion, neither will the camera (some kind of UT camera?) "selectively record" lip movements, nor will it be modified for some purpose. The brainwave thing will presumably make people THINK they are seeing the right lip movements.
J) There's nothing to indicate that UT's aren't used for other purposes.
Again, the UT has been appropriately ignored tons of times, so we don't actually have the answers to these questions. Like you said, it's best to ignore the plot device, even if our mantra makes it necessary to cover and report every mention and appearance of said device.--Tim Thomason 04:42, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

I would like to thank both of you. [Edit: This is wrong: I will move this discussion to the forums, because that is clearly where it belongs. I didn't realize the forums existed.Flouborate 06:57, 23 April 2008 (UTC)]

Wait, where am I supposed to idly discuss and wildly speculate about fictional technology? Are there Star Trek forums somewhere? Perhaps someone could post advice on my user talk page, and then I will delete this. Thank you.Flouborate 07:03, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

Universal translators don't translate pets! Why??Edit

Whenever we invent the Universal Translator sometime in the 2020s, there will be so many pet lovers who will want to talk to their pets like humans, someone will HAVE TO make universal translators that will allow us to talk to our pets.

Sure, Archer had a pet, but that was before the era of Universal Translators in their reality.

Now, to Star Trek: Generations- Kirk had some dog who died nine years before, and he only barked, despite there being a universal translator.

Why didn't Roddenberry decide to let UTs translate pets as well? If he did, then how would Star Trek be different?

And when UTs that translate everyone and pets arrive in our reality, how would you feel about that? -- 02:59, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

They only translate language. Dogs and cats either don't have language or their language is too weird for the UT - there are actually several known species who can't be translated with the UT. --TribbleFurSuit 03:21, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
In the episode ENT: "Acquisition" it was stated that Porthos' brainwave patterns were too simplistic or something similar like that (lower lifeform) for the translator to pick up on it or something to that effect. — Morder 04:40, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
Nothing about brainwave patterns, just:
  • GRISH: I can't lock on to its language.
  • MUK: It's a lower lifeform, you fool.
...right after they ask the dog a question and in barks in response. --Alan 06:02, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
Where does 2020 come from? The universal translator will be invented shortly before 2151. SennySix 18:05, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
I think the guy is predicting that is when we will do it in the real world. We do tend to get many things long before Trek predicts (though it is debatable that Trek inspired the inventions, and therefore would not have happened that early without Trek). --OuroborosCobra talk 18:10, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
Pets don't have a language, just like if you lived by yourself all your life and nobody taught you a language, you might grunt and have a few sounds that mean 'stick' or 'rock' but that would be it. The preceding unsigned comment was added by Junglecrus (talk • contribs).
Actually, pets, and animals in general, do have a language. If I recall my communications studies correctly, barks, meows, croaks, chirps, clucks, even grunts and moans, etc. all have meaning behind them. They convey messages and are thus considered a language, albeit a "primitive" one. --From Andoria with Love 23:20, 15 December 2008 (UTC)
Okay, I agree it's a primitive language, maybe it conveys a message, but like I stated, "you might have a few sounds that mean stick or rock but that would be it"... When your dog barks at you, he or she is simply trying to get your attention, which MAYBE you could translate as "hey", but they are not saying "hello" or "can I have a puppy treat", even though that is what they want. I know we would like to think that there are word based thoughts going on inside our pet's heads, but use yourself as an example, sometimes you sigh or whine and that means you are sad or bored, but those aren't words (well, sigh and whine are words, but...) maybe the universal translator could translate that an animal is hungry, tired, angry, sad, etc. by the sounds they make, but there isn't a word based vocabulary. --Junglecrus 15:47, 15 December 2008 (UTC)


Can I just say on the one hand we have "that's not what talk pages are for", on this very page even, when somebody made comments which aren't about editing the article, and on the other hand, the same contributor says "hmm, talk page isn't broke" when he moved this one from the Reference Desk. Which way do you want it? SennySix 19:00, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

Not at all, preferably, but nonetheless, it does contain a legitimate question responded to with a legitimate answer. --Alan 20:41, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

Not what I asked. Where do you want them? The preceding unsigned comment was added by SennySix (talk • contribs).

And not at all was the answer, with regards to the type of question posted in the past discussion. --Alan 21:17, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
Well, actually, your comment history has 2 other answers, and they contradicted each other. 7ny6 was just asking which of the following was the real story: Talk: ain't broke so let's put it there, or, Talk: pages aren't for this at all, alternative unspecified. The past discussion and this current one aren't any different, so, I can understand why clarification was sought.
From the Reference Desk: "The Reference Desk serves a similar function as a library's reference desk. If you have a specific question that you want answered by Memory Alpha, then post it below! Please note that, after a specific question has been answered, the thread will be moved to an article talk page, or removed completely." So, it hardly matters where someone asks a question that's not about article content, because if it doesn't get deleted it might eventually wind up on a Talk: page anyway, as it was in this case, even though Help:Talk pages and others say "that's not what talk pages are for". Still, if "talk page isn't broke", then why have a RefDesk at all? And why give people a hard time for Talk:ing, if it's going to get moved here anyway? If the preference is to not have this stuff on MA, don't archive it in Talk:, just remove it from RefDesk as promised. Anyway: Here's what I did find, regarding where chitchat about where stuff not related to actual article contents actually should go. From Help:Talk pages: "talk pages are not used simply for general discussion or chat; that's what our chat room is for". --TribbleFurSuit 21:37, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
Well, now that this discussion has gone terribly off-topic, yes, the very last sentence above was what I was referring to in the first discussion, from ages ago. It was not an implication "that this does not go on the talk pages, it goes on the forums", it was a statement that talk pages aren't for general discussion or chat. Seeing as this most recent post has the very name of the article in the title of the post, the first choice would be the talk page, because the above mentioned archiving process rarely gets done, so why not make it a little easier for everyone to find it the next time they come to this talk page to discuss the same topic. --Alan 21:48, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

Article Problem Edit

I believe this statement is incorrect:

"The universal translator's capabilities are focused on interpreting the brain patterns of humanoid lifeforms. For entirely non-human lifeforms, such as the cytoplasmic lifeform which attached itself to B'Elanna Torres, the universal translator is completely stymied."

In the first-season TNG episode "Home Soil", the inorganic life form that is found on Velara III makes use of the universal translator. The life form is entirely non-humanoid, which disproves the above statement.

UT cannot translate holograms? Edit

I've removed this bit of speculation from the article:

For the same reason the UT was unable to translate foreign languages spoken by holodeck characters. Kathryn Janeway was unable to understand her charges' use of Latin while in the holodeck. (VOY: "Learning Curve")

This would seem to be speculation. There's no reason why the UT wouldn't be able to handle holodeck characters; after all, they're completely computer-controlled, so the computer obviously knows what they mean to say even if it can't actually "read" their brain waves. The reason why, in the example cited, Janeway wasn't able to understand the Latin, was likely just because the kids were intending to speak their lines in Latin. The UT wouldn't be able to translate this without changing the original intent of the speaker (namely, to speak in Latin); it seems that it's smart enough to figure this out and let those words pass verbatim. Presumably, this is also why famous quotations and the like come through in their original language when intended as such. Same thing with when somebody says something in Klingonese and all of the humans can't understand it.

Of course, all of my rambling is just speculation, so it obviously can't go in the article. :-) Nonetheless, it would seem obvious that the example from "Learning Curve" above doesn't really apply to holodeck characters speaking foreign languages in general; it rather falls under the category of "quotation-like stuff" as I surmised about. Since the exact same behavior's been seen for flesh and blood life-forms, this is not at all exceptional. -Mdettweiler 17:12, September 1, 2009 (UTC)

22nd century universal translator design Edit

According to the article's second and third paragraphs (too long to quote here), the 22nd century universal translators were built into communicators as of 2151, and by 2155 had been "miniaturized into a smaller, self-contained version". I'm currently working my way through Enterprise and am about halfway through Season 2; so far, in all occurrences the universal translator has been a distinct device that's a little bigger than a communicator, the top of which the communicator can dock with. Since I haven't yet seen the later seasons, I can't verify the 2155 reference, but it seems to me that the device I've seen so far fits the description of "smaller, self-contained" and can "be worn on clothing and provide personal communication face-to-face". Much of these first few paragraphs in the article seems potentially inaccurate and conflicting; can anyone out there who's seen all of ENT confirm for me whether the UT design changed at all during the series? If not, then I'll rewrite those two paragraphs in the article to correct the various confused wordings therein. At any rate, the idea of the UT being built directly into the communicator of that time frame is definitely an oversimplification.

Additionally, the third paragraph states, "These portable translators continued to have a similar physical design for at least the next one hundred and ten years, however becoming more wand-like by 2267." Nowhere was it ever seen in canon that the ENT UT design was kept for at least 110 years; all we know is that somewhere between 2155 and 2267 the design was changed. Not to mention, the wand-shaped device used in "Metamorphosis" was quite bulky, especially compared to the ENT device; considering the numerous occasions in TOS where the crew ran into aliens who surely would have had to be UTed, and couldn't have been carrying something that big, the logical conclusion is that there must be some sort of smaller UT that they carry around normally, and the big wand thing (which in the episode did specifically come from a shuttle) may be a "ship-sized" version, which in that case was better equipped to handle the decidedly wacky lifeform they were trying to communicate with. Of course since we haven't seen such a device in TOS we can't make a specific note on it, but it might be worthy of a mention in a bginfo box. -Mdettweiler 21:54, February 19, 2010 (UTC)

To answer one part of your question, the UT was clearly built into the communicator in ENT: "Civilization" Blair2009 22:01, February 19, 2010 (UTC)

I'm pretty sure that in that case, what we're seeing is the communicator attached to the UT. I too thought the same thing when I saw that episode (where it wasn't that clearly visible), until I saw "Precious Cargo"--see here for a good picture of it. That looks to me like a communicator attached to a larger device; it can't be just the communicator, since as seen here that's just the black thing with the gray flip-top. And if you look at this picture from "Civilization" closely, you see that it's attached to the larger UT device. -Mdettweiler 22:09, February 19, 2010 (UTC)

P.S.: Here is an even better picture showing the general outline of the standalone communicator. Now that I look at that I see that the communicator does have a small grayish strip along the left-hand side; since seeing that in the "Civilization" screencap was my reasoning behind stating that that one was attached to a UT for sure, I take that part back now. :-) Still, considering that the communicator in "Precious Cargo" was clearly attached to a larger device (which was clearly referred to as a universal translator), I would expect that either that was the case in "Civilization" as well, or it was a rather big continuity blunder. I'll have to dig out my copy of "Civilization" to verify it, since Trekcore's screencaps are too far apart for me to be positive that's the best shot of it. -Mdettweiler 22:16, February 19, 2010 (UTC)

To tell you the truth, I always assumed that the larger device was something that Hoshi could use when she wanted to initially translate an unknown language, but that after the language was known, the standard communicator could have the language programmed into it, and it would suffice. That's just my interpretation, though. Blair2009 22:19, February 19, 2010 (UTC)

You know, you may be right. I just checked "Civilization" on DVD, and it was the standalone communicator. In fact, that would make perfect sense--the larger device is the "universal translator", per se, since it can translate new languages and is thus truly universal; the communicator does the actual work of translating, whether based on preprogrammed data or on live data from an attached UT. That would explain why they say "your translators have been programmed for x language" before taking just the little communicators down to a planet.

The tricky part is how to work this into the article without crossing the line into speculation. I'll have to think about that one a bit... :-) -Mdettweiler 22:30, February 19, 2010 (UTC)

Spectre of the Gun Edit

"Spectre of the Gun" is an OS episode that keeps confusing me with respect to the universal translator. The alien people there (called Melkot) apparently have a means of communicating by telepathic technology. No problem so far. But the strange thing about this is the reaction of the multinational Enterprise crew. Everyone on the bridge thinks that the message was in his or her respective mother tongue (English, Russian, Swahili and Vulcan). But what about their own tranlation devices? Shouldn't they have the same effect? Compare this with the Voyager episode "The 37's". 12:50, January 22, 2012 (UTC)

Sky Spirits technology Edit

Sky spirits translator

When Chakotay loses his combadge in "Tattoo", he is able to speak with a Sky Spirit by making physical contact with the device shown in the screenshot to the right. I'm not sure if it's appropriate to include on this article, or if it needs its own page. —Scott (message me) 22:03, February 1, 2012 (UTC)

Real world applications Edit

Decades after their conception through TOS, universal translators are slowly becoming a real-world technology with the introduction of Google Translate, a program that performs the task of an incredibly early prototype of a universal translator. Since then, constant improvements have been made to the early publicly-accessible automatic translation service, with teams of linguists adding and refining nuances of every language being worked on, with more languages added periodically.

The section added today about "real world applications" needs citation (and probably a better title) much like we do over at Communicator. There is currently no Star Trek reference or connection other than the fact this Google thing is a similar technology. 31dot 21:54, May 29, 2012 (UTC)

All this is nice, but not relevant without citations, and it reads like an ad. I've removed it to here until someone does provide a citation, since translating Spanish to English isn't xenolinguistics, which is primarily what the UT does. - Archduk3 22:26, May 29, 2012 (UTC)

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