Lost in Translation

Captain’s Log, Stardate 102718

Our return to the fringes of Federation space has found us docked at Deep Space 57, yet another remote outpost. Their holodeck broken, subspace feeds minimal, and their station sprinkler systems malfunctioning, I have no choice but to engage in satisfying the bureaucracy that is the United Federation of Planets.

I must perform…paperwork.

Universal translators are a fickle thing. Yes, they can provide a literal translation but they can’t revise and rearrange ideas. Anytime a maintenance query or systems report request begins with “Shaka, when the walls fell,” I’m out.

Message not received. Lost in space. Subspace channel integrity compromised due to “temporal anomalies” and whatever.

While some captains may deride this as a true sign of underachievement, I call it efficiency in pursuing Starfleet duties. As such, I have a 100 percent completion rate in systems analysis inquiries and mission protocol reports.

And if other captains were being honest, they’d admit that I am not the only one who takes such liberties with the Universal Translator. Anytime this collection of algorithms and machine learning can’t provide the correct translation, you can be assured to find an exciting away mission. Many captains are aware of this trick and often use the UT filters to preselect missions.

This, I would never do. I’m not a glory hound like the Picard’s and Kirk’s of this grand institution. I am committed to the ideals and goals of unfettered exploration of the deep reaches of space. I just happen to want to pursue said duties with as little paperwork as possible.

Believe me, there is plenty of work left to do. The translator can only do so much. Even if I refuse to immerse myself in the Tamarian civilization’s entire back catalog of pulp fiction to understand their every word, the translator still has limitations.

By some purely inexplicable nod to intelligent design, nearly every language in the Federation appears to have English as it’s base. In fact, it’s so fundamental, that if you say, happened to place a hidden camera in a room with a couple of Klingons, they’d be speaking English to one another. (Well, at least until they discovered the Federation was placing hidden cameras, then they started using Klingon nearly all the time.)

Typical sentence structure and word placement for most alien languages are very often English analogs. Which begs the question, was this theorist from the distant past correct?


This little fact aside, even with Federation languages, we still have trouble with this so-called “Universal Translator.”

While some of these languages translate easy enough, the ideas are all jumbled. In fact, for the majority of aliens…err Earth-challenged Federation members, their speech, their thinking makes the topic of the sentence more important than the subject.

Like, somehow, they aren’t seeing the world from their own perspective. Which, coincidentally, defeats the purpose of a Federation of different planets. It would be more like a Conglomerate of Humanoids. Where’s the fun in that?

Anyway, I digress.  Maybe it’s best to just give an example.

One sec…

Here, here’s one. Right on top of the pile of reports which I’d macroed into my “to-do” folder during our trip past the Neutral Zone. I mean, it’s a prime example. The topic is placed before the subject.

Any person speaking logically would start with “I need…” But here, they start with “Help.” Seriously. Who does that?

“Help I need.”

Clearly, it makes much more sense if they…

“I need help.”

Oh, crap.

Categories: Discovery

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