Dr Who’s universal translator and interpreting system

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Dr Who’s universal translator and interpreting system

Did anybody see the bit in the second episode of the new Dr Who when Jodie Whittaker explains how the humans could understand the language of the Stenza? The answer is obvious – an alien health pod implants universal translators into the necks of Tardis team Graham, Ryan and Yaz (making them able to understand Angstrom, Epzo and Illin). Of course!

This got me thinking about how this universal translator compares with the tardis translation system. The system famously helped Bill communicate with Latin-speaking Romans and in 2017, the system even lip syncs, matching people’s mouth movements to the English equivalent of whatever they’re saying in their own language. Clever, eh?

The tardis translation system is not invincible however

The Radio Times remembers that there have also been some languages that the tardis doesn’t translate, including an old Aborigine dialect in Fifth Doctor story Four to Doomsday, a complex alien language in the 1980’s The Leisure Hive and incredibly ancient languages like the words of the Minotaur in 2012’s The God Complex and the language of the Beast in 2006’s The Impossible Planet. Judoonese, by contrast, is apparently too simplistic to be translated, which could also be the explanation behind why the speech of some more bestial aliens – as well as human infants and real-life animals – is left unclear to the audience.

A previous Doctor has been shown to be able to bypass the system to speak words in different languages (for example the Tenth Doctor’s catchphrase of Allons-y, the French for ‘let’s go’) due to his superior control over the system, while normal users have a slightly different response. For example, when Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) tried to speak Latin while the tardis was translating her words into that language, it was filtered back into her own tongue which was perceived as Celtic by the Romans.

So how does the implanted universal translator and the tardis translation system compare with Knockhundred’s amazing translation and interpreting service? Seems we stack up rather well. Not only do we use real human beings (not an alien in sight) for our interpreting and translation assignments, but we take a pride in being able to provide the service in the rarest of languages.

If you would like to give our translation service or our interpreting service a try, do please get in touch and one of our project managers will be delighted to help.


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