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Why Can't R2-D2 Talk?

Is there an in-universe reason why R2-D2 and other Astromech droids can't / don't speak Galactic Basic?

Wikipedia notes:

In Star Wars, Astromech droids (or commonly, Astro droids), were a type of droid that served as automated mechanics, performing a variety of repair duties and often serving as adjuncts or substitutes for nav computers on smaller starships. They were also able to use the mainframe of a larger ship to their advantage. Many starfighters relied on astromech co-pilots.

It seems to me if you are building droids which are heavily dependent on verbal commands and are going to provide feedback to their masters, it would be easier if it spoke a language. Requiring a translator (C-3PO, X-Wing cockpit) or attempting to divine the melancholy whistle tones of your mechanic seems like a rather limiting feature.

marked as duplicate by Wikis, NominSim, BBlake, Chad, Gabe Willard Oct 5 '12 at 20:22

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    Marketing; "We've got this nice R2 unit here, on sale too! What's that? You don't speed beep-boop-beep language? Oh well lucky for you I've got this annoying piece of - I mean, this excellent C-3PO unit translator droid here. Unfortunately, he is full price." – NominSim Oct 4 '12 at 22:36
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    What if he can speak, and chooses not to? It'd fit with his personality. He's just screwing with Luke and everyone else. – John O Oct 5 '12 at 12:32

Actually, it's backwards. R2 units did NOT frequently need to communicate to humans.

There were, as you noted, automated mechanics and navigators; and most of the relevant information to be communicated to humans would have been in the vicinity of a computer screen (on a starship they are fixing or navigating, or socketed into a star-fighter).

The best real world analogy would be a modern car computer.

It can't speak English, but the only time it needs to communicate something to a human, it either has basic interface (car's dashboard) or a fancy interface (garage mechanics' software displaying car computer info in a readable form).

Luke having soul-to-soul conversations with R2D2 was a rare exception, NOT the rule.

I'm not aware of actual canon explanation, but fourth-wall-wise, it gave R2 more "spacey-robotey-futuristic" character - AND gave C3PO something useful to do :)

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    For a job as critical as on the fly maintenance, I'd definitely want my robot sidekick to be packing more useful tools, not a fancy vocabulator! Especially since it's spending most of its time in vacuum, where sound doesn't really travel well :p – Dungarth Oct 5 '12 at 6:34
  • @Dungarth C3PO is a protocol droid, he is therefore supposed to be a butler or waiter. Being able to speak many languages is one function of that task. – ewanm89 Oct 5 '12 at 13:22
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    @ewanm89 A proper butler does not speak. </addams_family> </star_trek_TNG> – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 5 '12 at 13:52
  • @DVK I'm wondering to which episode or movie of Star Trek TNG you are referring? – ewanm89 Oct 5 '12 at 14:18
  • @ewanm89 - If only there was a web site where you can ask questions about SciFi shows... :)))))) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Oct 5 '12 at 14:22

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