On the trip to the Engineer's world, David was learning to speak their language. But where did the lessons come from? On the star maps that were left, they showed a few symbols, but

  1. there don't seem to be enough for an entire language, and
  2. how would they know the pronunciation of the symbols?

David wasn't learning to speak the Engineer's language, he was learning ancient languages in order to be able to decode the Engineer's language. This is based on the theory that human languages are derived from the Engineer's language.

In the scene David is learning the building blocks of language and we see him taking a lesson in Proto-Indo-European (PIE) Linguistics, where a holographic professor, takes him through the ABC’s and recites Schleicher’s Fable. An artificial text composed in the reconstructed PIE, in 1868, to demonstrate the language’s use.
- The linguistics of Prometheus – What David says to the Engineer

  • 2
    The engineers sure had alot of words for livestock and wilderness elements and none for technology. PIE wasn't based on some space-faring race's language, that's for damned sure. – John O Nov 24 '12 at 0:10
  • I believe that was the reason the crew (outside of Vickers) where told that David was on the mission in the first place. Because they would need an android to translate/interpret on the fly if they did encounter the proto-language they assumed was the basis for all linguistics on earth. – Monty129 Nov 25 '12 at 0:26
  • Any thoughts on pronunciation? – John C Nov 25 '12 at 11:57
  • @JohnC Well, I'm not a specialist in Linguistics, but I think we have a pretty good idea how was the pronunciation of old languages. David is a formidably adaptive machine and seam gifted with languages, as far as a machine can. So he just adapted from what he learned on site. There was a scene like this in the original 1994 Stargate movie where Jackson explain that he able to communicate with the locals using dialect of Ancient Egyptian, despite the fact it had evolved completely independently from earth language. He just had to learn the pronunciation, but it wasn't a big deal. – DavRob60 Nov 26 '12 at 3:28
  • See also this answer for more details on the language(s) featured in the film. – Rand al'Thor Oct 22 '15 at 1:02

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