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Universal translator

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A universal translator, or UT, was a device used to translate alien languages into a language which the user can understand.

As early as the 22nd century, communicators had translators installed, while their wearers kept them out of view, while conversing. However, not all communicators were such. Self-contained systems such as PADDs, tricorders and starship computers did not have automatic translation capabilities. (ENT episodes: "Civilization", "Acquisition", "Precious Cargo")

Translators in the Federation began use as hand-held units, but were eventually adapted as implanted modules that could be subcutaneously located near the ear or placed in the brachial plexus. Like a subcutaneous transponder, an implanted translator was mostly composed of rubindium crystal. (TOS episode & novelization: Metamorphosis; TOS - Rihannsu novel: The Romulan Way; DS9 episode: "Little Green Men")

By the 24th century, implanted translators or combadge translators were common practice. (VOY episode: "The 37's"; DS9 episode: "Little Green Men")

Brain waves were known to play a role in experimentation of a totally incompatible dialect, and a translator used scans of such to synthesize a suitable voice print to match the speaker's sample. (TOS episode: "Metamorphosis"; TOS novel: First Frontier)

Some Hortas had universal translators attached to them to allow them to easily communicate with other lifeforms. In case of emergencies, such as a universal translator malfunction, Horta were also taught how to burn messages in Federation Standard as an alternative form of communications. (DS9 novel: Devil in the Sky)

In 2282 the translators used by the Gorn Hegemony only had a five meter range. (ST - Alien Spotlight comic: "Alien Spotlight: The Gorn")

23rd century limitationsEdit

Universal translators were sometimes unable to re-produce a dialect without any known syntax of reference, resulting in untranslated speech passing between users. (TOS movie, novelization & comic adaptation: The Voyage Home; TAS episode & novelization: The Counter-Clock Incident; DS9 episode: "Sanctuary")

Jurisdictions outside the UFP often confiscated universal translators from those they captured - as ships could track down their signal and locate hostages. Also, when UTs were used aboard ships - especially in Klingon space - they are easily recognizable on two-way transmissions. (TOS movie: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)

24th Century LimitationsEdit

Universal translators did not easily cope with period slang, much to frustrations of often perplexed visitors to the Vic Fontaine holosuite program. (DS9 novel: Avatar)

UTs are still a progressing art and science, with many new introductions of speech. Damage and incomplete basis or analyses also have been known to cause them to be inoperative. (TNG episode: "Darmok"; DS9 episodes: "Sanctuary", "Babel", "Little Green Men"; VOY episode: "Hope and Fear")

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