Translator Microbes: More or less ubiquitous, in one form or another, and pretty much essential to sustaining galactic culture. Advanced cultures use neuroprosthetic translators, which are embedded directly into the language center of the brain (or are software run on more sophisticated brain implants) which provide real-time translation between ear and thought, thought and mouth, with a thinker-class AI to provide seamless, real-time (you hear the alien language; you just understand it), and meme-level translation; less advanced ones rely on handheld devices, or translators built into clothing or jewelry – which repeat, rather than go in real-time – and lower standards of translation quality.
Either way, there’s no such thing as a “universal” or “self-teaching” translator; the translators generally require the software and database package (the “linguistic corpus”) to be obtained and installed for every language you expect them to handle, and producing those in the first place requires a lot of time and work from professional linguists. Fortunately, two people with translators that both work to/from “Trade” – for all intents and purposes, a simplified Eldraeic I pidgin – can communicate enough for most simple purposes.
So a Babel fish would do those software engineers out of business? 😛
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