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The Fictional Linguistic Dilemma [Jun. 15th, 2007|12:49 am]
So, a question for y'all what read SF:

We have a (human) character from a fairly ordinary background who gets dragged off to strange and interesting places. Logically, the (also human) people in the strange and interesting places would not speak the same language. But these characters need to be able to communicate -- have conversations, even -- because otherwise it's all very boring.

Which of the following solutions to this problem do you find acceptable?

Ignore It: Just avoid the question entirely. Everyone speaks 'English' and language is simply never mentioned.
Gloss Over It: Acknowledge briefly how strange it is that everyone speaks 'English', but provide no explanation.
Translator Microbes: Describe a whatchamajigger that solves the problem, but don't explain how it works.
Babel Fish: The whatchamajigger is explained in a hand-wavy way, then we move on.
Universal Translator: Whatchamajigger with explanation; how it works is sometimes plot-relevant.
Fast Learning: Invoke technobabble to let characters absorb new languages very quickly.
The Low-Tech Way: Characters learn new languages through conveniently-available months of intensive study.
Other: some exciting and clever method I haven't thought of, which is described in a comment.

From: chaosqueen42
2007-06-15 12:47 pm (UTC)
Interesting that you should bring this up. I'm in the middle of reading _The_Sparrow_ by Mary Doria Russell. It's about a group of people who travel to another planet to see who lives there, after a radio signal is picked up by SETI. One of the members of the group, and one of the main reasons the group is even put together, is a Jesuit who has been trained to be an excellent and fast-learning linguist. He will help them learn to speak to the beings they meet on the planet. This book was written in 1996 and takes place between 2020 and 2060, so that seems to be to appropriate, since we Earthlings are nowhere near any kind of universal language dohickeys right now. Bringing someone who can figure out languages very quickly seems the most likely option.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: goobermunch
2007-06-15 01:00 pm (UTC)
The Sparrow is an awesome book, though somewhat painful. Children of God (the sequel) is also excellent.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2007-06-17 05:59 am (UTC)
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