Science Fiction Society Travel

Skipping the learning stage with the Universal Translator

Liked What the Universal Translator Tells Us About Exploring Other Cultures (

the trope of the universal translator is fundamentally about wishing that understanding other cultures would be simple, and that we didn’t have to work so hard. That we could go on endless voyages and encounter colorful people, and never have to worry about embarrassing gaffes where we announce that we are jelly donuts… In other words, more boldly going, less patiently learning.

Or really, when you get down to it, the universal translator trope is about wishing that everyone spoke perfect English, wherever you go.

I was annoyed by a book where the heroine was literally set up as a skilled linguist and then didn’t actually learn the language but got a universal translator 🙄 C’mon yo.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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