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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: orbitalmechanic
2007-06-15 02:30 pm (UTC)
Whichever is thematically consistent. That's a different answer, by the way, than "whatever works well with the plot". How are you addressing other differences? Most visitor-to-another-world stories aren't even as unfamiliar as oh say a westerner visiting rural China. In real life people can use squat toilets for three weeks and still freak out about them. If you're not going to mess around with that stuff, why explain about language?

Never use option "gloss over it". "Hey, isn't it interesting that I don't have an explanation for this? Yeah, I noticed too. Let's talk about something else." The rest of your options need to match your general approach to tech, right? Are you explaining other tech? If your character rides a horse all day and doesn't cry for an hour the next morning, she probably doesn't need to learn language slowly either. Unless it's part of your plot.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2007-06-15 06:05 pm (UTC)
That's a really good answer. Thanks!
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