Trope-a-Day: Learnt English From Watching Television

Learnt English From Watching Television: While it’s not nearly as simple as that – as mentioned above under Aliens Speaking English, there are no universal/self-teaching translators – people’s EM transmissions, and indeed Internet, if any, are one of the places from which those highly skilled linguists get the information to start building their linguistic corpus.

Of course, they’re also usually gathering it in person, too, since in the absence of an FTL drive, arriving in an alien system to make First Contact means riding your lighthugging, antimatter-torch-powered scout cruiser backwards into the system, belching star-bright ambiplasma as it goes.  This is not exactly subtle, and doesn’t leave you a whole lot of time to prepare before having to talk to the locals.