Multilingualism on DS9


The Universal Translator is the most boring invention in Star Trek, which is why I tend to ignore it. It’s useful for first contact, but the idea that everything someone says is translated means that we never get any depiction of linguistic diversity in Star Trek, particularly in something like DS9. Imagine the possibilities: 

  • Kira being sent on a crash-course on Federation Standard when she is made liaison officer.
  • Bashir sitting with several dictionary PADDs and a grammar, trying to figure out if the translation matrix Garak ran the Cardassian novel through has messed up or if Garak is playing a very intricate practical joke on him, because surely it can’t mean that
  • Molly cheerily code-switching between Japanese, Irish and English. Sometimes she throws in some Bajoran too – Aunt Nerys taught it to her.
  • Sisko asking for Kira’s help to get better at Bajoran. They meet over coffee and practice Bajoran.
  • Dax sometimes dreaming in languages she no longer knows, but previous hosts were well-versed in.
  • Kira and Odo always speaking Bajoran to one another and only switching to Standard when Starfleet folks are there.
  • The entire storyline of Garak, Kira and Odo with the Cardassian Resistance being in Cardassian
  • Kira learning Cardassian properly only then – before that she spoke only a Bajoran-Cardassian pidgin which developed during the Occupation.
  • Nog teaching Jake Ferengi as a way of returning the favour of Jake teaching him how to read.
  • Garak eavesdropping on everyone. No one is sure how many languages he understands. 
  • The chatter of dozens of languages on the Promenade – the gutturals of Klingon, the uvulars of Cardassian, the retroflex liquids of Bajoran.
  • Multilingual swearing!



Julian gets really confused because there are about fifteen different past tenses in Cardassian and according to Garak he’s using the wrong one every single time. There is only one future tense.



15 different past tenses and one future feels perfectly culturally sound for Cardassian.



Jake trying to write a story in Bajoran – which he thinks should be easy, because he’s been living among Bajorans for so long he can speak it almost as easily as Federation Standard – only to be hopelessly tripped up by the fact that there are actually three forms of Bajoran (colloquial spoken/written, formal/religious spoken, and formal literary) and he really only knows colloquial Bajoran



I love it! Kira agrees to read it to help him out with some of the dialogue. She’s all for the use of colloquial Bajoran in writing – feels more real. 



Jake, along with a lot of Bajoran writers who grew up during the Occupation and so did not have much formal schooling, start a literary movement of writing in mostly colloquial Bajoran. It’s very controversial, with some saying the more formal written forms of Bajoran are being lost and that’s another thing the Cardassians took from us, and others saying, what, so we can’t move forward and change just because we were occupied?



Has anybody written a series with this premise yet? Because I love it. As someone who writes in a language that’s not her own, and if she did, would do it in her our dialect instead of a neutral, I feel so attracted to this idea.



Yes, somebody write this, please?


#Star Trek #DS9 #fanfic #story ideas I will never write #language

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.