Created By: ChaoticQueen on July 5, 2013 Last Edited By: StarSword on October 19, 2013

Aliens Speak One Language

An alien race has exactly one language across their entire planet.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope

Rolling Updates

In Real Life, humanity has hundreds of languages spread across the world, due to a wide variety of cultures. In Science Fiction, however, when aliens aren't speaking English, an alien race is introduced, and their entire species apparently has only one language in spite of how unlikely it might be. Bonus points if the language is named after the race.

Like many alien characterization tropes this is at least partly to save the creator some time, especially if they go to the trouble of designing a full-on Con Lang for the aliens. It's so widespread it can probably be considered an Omnipresent Trope and likely falls under Acceptable Breaks from Reality.

Compare Aliens Speaking English. Related to Planet of Hats and Planetville. See also Common Tongue.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Dragon Ball, the Namekians all speak the language of the same name. Justified as Namek is a rather small planet, and there are only a hundred Namekians left after a series of catastrophes nearly wiped out their race save for Guru, the only survivor who then hatched all the current Namekians.

    Fan Works 
  • In Bait and Switch (STO) the main character, a Bajoran, is once shown swearing in Glyrhondi dialect. She later converses with her ops officer, another Bajoran, in her native dialect, Kendran.

    Literature 
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • Averted with the Wookiees. Along with their main trade language Shyriiwook, at least two other dialects are known. Tyrant's Test introduced Thykarann, noted to have a wide lexicon of scientific and technical terms. Rebel Dawn gives us Xaczik, a language from the Wartaki Islands that Wookiee resistance fighters used as an unbreakable code during Imperial times.
    • Inverted and used for a Humans Are Morons joke in "Empire Blues: The Devaronian's Tale":
    Labria: What do you call someone who speaks three languages?
    Wuher: Trilingual.
    Labria: Someone who speaks two languages?
    Wuher: Bilingual.
    Labria: Someone who speaks one language?
    Wuher: Monolingual?
    Labria: Human.
  • Pointedly averted with the elves in Tolkien's Legendarium, including The Lord of the Rings. Among his many talents J. R. R. Tolkien was a linguist, and so he gave them two complete Con Langs: Quenya, the formal high tongue, and Sindarin, a simpler vernacular language.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Klingon language in Star Trek is perhaps the most infamous example, to the point that it's become an official language in Real Life.
  • Babylon 5 averted it with the Minbari. The race had three languages—"Light", "Dark", and "Grey"—one each for the Worker, Warrior, and Religious Castes respectively. The Narn and Centauri seemed to be monolingual however, as did the Humans by that point.
  • In the Firefly 'Verse English seems to be universally spoken, albeit with a number of Chinese words (mainly curses) included. Written Chinese characters are often seen on signs and such however.
  • In Defiance so far as we've seen each Votan species has one language (or at least Castithans, Indogenes, Irathients, and Volge do). Even though some species came from the same homeworld and it may be justified in that only a small part of their populations left on the Arks. And of course they speak English most of the time since formerly American humans are the majority in Defiance.

    Video Games 
  • Averted in Mass Effect. Due to Translator Microbes everyone can understand each other despite multiple alien dialects and the vast array of human languages explicitly being mentioned as continuing to survive.

    Webcomics 
  • The Uryuoms of El Goonish Shive speak Uryuomoco, which they can instantly teach to humans by zapping their minds.

Indexes: Acceptable Breaks from Reality, Alien Tropes, Artistic License Linguistics, Language Tropes, Speculative Fiction Tropes

Community Feedback Replies: 19
  • July 5, 2013
    StarSword
    This is probably such a common trope that only Playing With examples should be listed.

    Literature:
    • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
      • Averted with the Wookiees. Along with their main trade language Shyriiwook, at least two other dialects are known. Tyrant's Test introduced Thykarann, noted to have a wide lexicon of scientific and technical terms. Rebel Dawn gives us Xaczik, a language from the Wartaki Islands that Wookiee resistance fighters used as an unbreakable code during Imperial times.
      • Inverted and used for a Humans Are Morons joke in "Empire Blues: The Devaronian's Tale":
      Labria: What do you call someone who speaks three languages?
      Wuher: Trilingual.
      Labria: Someone who speaks two languages?
      Wuher: Bilingual.
      Labria: Someone who speaks one language?
      Wuher: Monolingual?
      Labria: Human.
  • July 5, 2013
    xanderiskander
    Aside from being easier to write for than giving aliens multiple cultures. I think this trope might be because some people believe one way to unite humanity is to adopt a universal language so everyone can understand each other. And the aliens in fiction have just gotten there first.
  • July 5, 2013
    Generality
    ^ Yes, aliens who exhibit this trait tend to have advanced to the point that they live on a planetville (albeit a big one).
  • July 5, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Related to Planet Of Hats.

    Live-Action TV

    • Babylon 5 averted it with the Minbari. The race had three languages--"Light", "Dark", and "Grey"--one each for the Worker, Warrior, and Religious Castes respectively. The Narn and Centauri seemed to be monolingual however, as did the Humans by that point.
  • July 5, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    ^^^ In a lot of science fiction set in the human future (e.g. Star Trek, Babylon 5) it seems to be implied that Humans also speak a common language (usually English--well, heard as English anyway per narrative convention)--there never seem to be language barriers among them, although if there's some Translator Microbes mechanism at play there wouldn't be (in Star Trek there is, but in Babylon 5 per Word Of God (IIRC) there isn't).

    English is a very common lingua franca for business (and a lot of pop culture) around the world in the present day (although due to this it is changing and adapting new words from other languages as well), so it's hardly implausible that such a process wouldn't continue if the world were to continue to "shrink" so to speak. So on alien worlds, a dominant or particularly flexible language (as English is quite flexible) might evolve and emerge to become universally used as well--not necessarily "adopted" in some deliberate action, just coming to be so over time.
  • July 5, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    Another humans-in-future example:

    Live-Action TV

    • In the Firefly 'Verse English seems to be universally spoken, albeit with a number of Chinese words (mainly curses) included. Written Chinese characters are often seen on signs and such however.
  • July 5, 2013
    Diask
    See also Common Tongue.
  • July 6, 2013
    Arivne
    This is on The Grand List Of Overused Science Fiction Cliches, Overused Sci Fi Settings.

    107. Although humans still have multiple languages, each alien race has only one language.

    When this trope is launched that line should be changed to Pot Hole to it.
  • July 6, 2013
    NateTheGreat
    I think you may be confusing Vulcan with Klingon.
  • July 6, 2013
    zarpaulus
    • In Defiance so far as we've seen each Votan species has one language (or at least Castithans, Indogenes, Irathients, and Volge do). Even though some species came from the same homeworld and it may be justified in that only a small part of their populations left on the Arks. And of course they speak English most of the time since formerly American humans are the majority in Defiance.
  • July 7, 2013
    arbiter099
    • Averted in Mass Effect. Due to Translator Microbes everyone can understand each other despite multiple alien dialects and the vast array of human languages explicitly being mentioned as continuing to survive.
  • October 15, 2013
    StarSword
    Here's one from one of my own fics:

    Fan Works:
    • In Bait And Switch STO the main character, a Bajoran, is once shown swearing in Glyrhondi dialect. She later converses with her ops officer, another Bajoran, in her native dialect, Kendran.
  • October 15, 2013
    m8e
    Related to Humans Are Divided where humans are divided and aliens/fantasy races are not.

    It not launched yet, but...
  • October 15, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Namespaced an example.
  • October 18, 2013
    StarSword
    Is anyone updating this? I'll take it over if not.
  • October 18, 2013
    grapesandmilk
    Maybe we should expand this to be about no cultural differences between the aliens as well?
  • October 18, 2013
    somerandomdude
    Related to Planetville.
  • October 19, 2013
    Arivne
    ^^^ The OP Chaotic Queen hasn't posted since originally creating this back in July so it's Up For Grabs.
  • October 19, 2013
    StarSword
    ^Paradisesnake had posted though, and I always like to check anyway. Rolled in the example from my STO fic and did some cleaning.
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