Alien Languages

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crlisle
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Alien Languages

Postby crlisle » Wed Jul 22, 2020 7:15 pm

Do all aliens in sci fi stories speak English?
How do I show an alien speaking another language and being translated by a machine or chip of some kind?
I was considering using Spanish and translating it.
Or maybe Latin?
Or should I just stick to the alien speaking English?

Which is best?

Thanks for help with this.
Gracias por la ayuda.
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Dustin Adams
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Re: Alien Languages

Postby Dustin Adams » Thu Jul 23, 2020 6:20 am

I recommend what the classics have done. Universal translator, the TARDIS translates for us, etc. Mention it once then use English. Unless we aren't meant to understand each other.

What always pings my brain is when a universal translator is in effect, then an alien swears, like when Klingons yell Bach Loch! or something. Maybe there's no translation. I know several Jamaican swear words that don't translate. That's a good way to remind folks they are alien and speaking an alien language. Like when a show shows us the outside of the ship for a second or two before going inside, just to remind us we're in space.
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crlisle
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Re: Alien Languages

Postby crlisle » Thu Jul 23, 2020 10:37 am

Dustin Adams wrote:What always pings my brain is when a universal translator is in effect, then an alien swears, like when Klingons yell Bach Loch! or something. Maybe there's no translation. I know several Jamaican swear words that don't translate. That's a good way to remind folks they are alien and speaking an alien language. .


Oooh, I like that idea! Thanks Dustin
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TimE
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Re: Alien Languages

Postby TimE » Thu Jul 23, 2020 11:23 am

I had langa-weasels who could read the Broca’s area and angular gyrus and equivalents in brains of any creatures and thereby learn languages. They were bred to be interpreters and dependant on their owners and they couldn't be trusted. It was part of my one attempt at humour and only got HM.
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Dustin Adams
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Re: Alien Languages

Postby Dustin Adams » Thu Jul 23, 2020 11:24 am

Tim, that first sentence of yours was an alien language. wotf019
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Re: Alien Languages

Postby TimE » Thu Jul 23, 2020 11:25 am

Bullshit and gobbledegook - best way to pull the wool over people's eyes.
Some HMs More Rs - I keep thinking I'm getting closer, but perhaps not.
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einstein36
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Re: Alien Languages

Postby einstein36 » Thu Jul 23, 2020 11:36 am

You could do what I did with my sci-fi novel, I made it to where through dialogue or something subtle make a small suggestion that they learned or have a universal translator implanted near their ears and then definitely show the reader later that they are definitely alien by using ancient Sanskrit, a language hardly no one uses anymore unless the aliens were in our past..
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Andy Dibble
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Re: Alien Languages

Postby Andy Dibble » Thu Jul 23, 2020 4:27 pm

einstein36 wrote:You could do what I did with my sci-fi novel, I made it to where through dialogue or something subtle make a small suggestion that they learned or have a universal translator implanted near their ears and then definitely show the reader later that they are definitely alien by using ancient Sanskrit, a language hardly no one uses anymore unless the aliens were in our past..


Incidentally, one of the alien races in my story in vol 36 speak Sanskrit. Although, I did that because their culture was pre-modern India. I'm not sure I'd recommend using a human language for aliens in the general case (I'm not even sure it was the right choice in my story because it still raises the question, "Why are the aliens speaking a human language?").

I'm inclined to think that alien language should be especially alien. Aliens could "speak" with gestures, growls, fragrances, textures, etc. Consider the possibilities before you make the aliens speak just another Indo-European language (English, Spanish, Sanskrit, etc.).

If you're going to use a universal translator at least try to explain how the translator manages to solve the problem of translation (I can't imagine how a universal translator could work, but I can't prove that it couldn't work either -- maybe what TimE said about reading the Broca's area is a hand-wavy start to a solution). Perhaps what I love most about Ted Chiang's "Stories of Your Life" is that he takes seriously the immensity of the problem of translating the language of beings that think very differently than we do.


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