The United Federation of Planets has a single language, spoken by all its citizens, as confirmed by official Star Trek media. Throughout the franchise’s 57-year history, nearly every species is able to understand the other. Part of this has been thanks to universal translators, but in 2020s Star Trek: Year Five #6, Lieutenant Uhura mentions “Federation Standard” to a Tholian outcast, and confirms everyone in the Federation speaks it.
In the issue, written by Jody Houser and drawn by Silvia Califano, the crew of the Enterprise are under the influence of an alien device that magnifies their thoughts, broadcasting them across the ship. This device has also affected “Bright Eyes,” a young Tholian the Enterprise discovered on a distant world. Lieutenant Uhura, who had been working with the Tholian outcast, discovers herself able to understand it, and vice versa. Uhura expresses astonishment over Bright Eyes speaking Federation Standard. Bright Eyes, however, does not understand what Federation Standard is until Uhura explains it’s a language spoken by all citizens of the Federation.
Federation Standard Answers Star Trek’s Language Problem
In the Star Trek universe, the problem of interspecies communication has never been a difficult one; varying species serve aboard starships, all able to understand the other. In addition, nearly every other species encountered by Federation starships seems to speak English as well. In the Original Series episode “Metamorphosis,” the franchise introduced the universal translator, which Kirk and company used to communicate with a non-corporeal being. The mechanics and science behind the universal translator have never been explained, and can’t explain how nearly every race in the Federation seems able to communicate without such gadgets.
Star Trek’s Official Language Raises Fascinating Questions
The revelation of the existence of Federation Standard solves a huge problem of the Star Trek universe: how its citizens communicate with each other. The universal translators were an excellent way to explain certain situations, but it did not work for them all. The translator is an independent device, and the various species working together on starships do not carry them around at all times – so how exactly do they communicate? This was exacerbated since everyone learning to speak English runs counter to Star Trek’s philosophy of embracing diversity, so another solution was needed that brought different cultures together, rather than giving any one primacy – enter Federation Standard. Uhura does not offer any further details on what Federation Standard looks like in terms of words or letters, leaving this glimpse a tantalizing one for now – especially since such a language would need to be equally accessible to many different species.
The idea that the Federation has its own language makes sense, and the intriguing story possibilities it raises are great. As stated earlier, Uhura did not explain Federation Standard at all, meaning another creator could come in and flesh it out. There is precedence for this, as the Klingon language has exploded, with dictionaries and famous works of literature translated into it. A similar tome on Federation Standard would be most welcome. Star Trek has confirmed there is one language spoken by the Federation – an idea the franchise now needs to develop further.
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