Universal Translator
This commonplace device is able to produce an instant translation of almost any language.

The universal translator is one of the most significant and valueable devices in use during the 23rd and 24th centuries. It provides an effectively instantaneous translation to and from any number of languages, including ones that have never been encountered before. Under normal circumstances it is so effective and discreet that most individuals take it for granted and barely acknowledge its existance.

The translator is built into starship communication systems, and provides translation of all messages to and from the vessel. In the 2260s, portable versions of the translator - 30 centimeters-long rods - were sometimes carried on shuttlecraft. Modern devices have been miniaturized to the point where they can even be worn inside the ear; these are favored by the Ferengi, who often encounter new species in their neverending search for trade routes and opportunities. The translator functions by analyzing the patterns and syntax of a language, and devising a translation matrix that permits instananeous verbal or data exchanges. The system is already programmed with a massive database of linguistic information derived from known languages. Thus, when it encounters a variant of a known root language it can analyze the new language incredibly rapidly and provide an accurate translation.

When the translator encounters an entirely unknown language, it analyzes brain wave frequencies, looks for universal concepts, and selects similar patterns; it then calculates the grammar and syntax and electronically generates a spoken translation in real time using an appropriate male or female voice. The translator requires a relatively large sample of a language before it can provide an accurate translation. Ideally, the sample should include several examples of two or more native speakers talking with one another over a significant period of time. Extensive pattern analysis allows the translator to arrive at a greater understanding of vocabulary, syntax, and cultural factors, and so create a better match.