C-3PO is a protocol droid that is fluent in over six million forms of communication, but it seems like everyone in the galaxy can understand every other language. Has C-3PO ever had to translate?

I do recall him translating R2's beeps at one point, but I'm not positive.

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    3PO's primary function is that of a protocol droid. Think along the lines of an Executive Butler + Master of Ceremonies. The fact that it is also a robot and can be programmed to translate 6 million forms of communication is just a way to help it fulfill its other duties. Also, in addition to translating R2's beeps occasionally C-3PO also translates the Ewok language. +1 for the Q though
    – Xantec
    Commented Apr 21, 2011 at 22:34
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    @Xantec, he doesn't really do that ever either... I always figured they meant protocol in the sense of machine communication, and that 99% of the 'forms of communication' he knows are printer drivers. Which I guess makes him IT. "Hey '3PO, my mouse doesn't talk to my computer anymore!"
    – DampeS8N
    Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 13:02
  • It's also worth noting that the only characters we see who are fluent in alien languages are Ben Kenobi (who plays the part of the old wise man, who should speak lots of languages) and Han Solo. Han works and lives with Chewie (he'd better understand the Wookie tongue) and spent quite a long time working for Hutts (meaning that understanding Huttese would be a vital survival trait - they couldn't speak over his head while he was there)
    – Jeff
    Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 13:04
  • I've always thought if him as a protocol droid and not a protocol droid, which is reasoned from his "six million forms of communication."
    – riv_rec
    Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 15:15
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    @spencer I always assumed the latter, as he was owned by a Princess who'd need to know the latter more than the former.
    – user1027
    Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 15:50

5 Answers 5


In A New Hope, he translates R2-D2 while they're on the Death Star and R2's getting information from the computers.

Early in Return of the Jedi, while he's working for Jabba. Later in that film he translates Ewok into Basic, and provides protocol information about why his friends are going to be killed and cooked.

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    "protocol information about why his friends are going to be killed and cooked". Suddenly, you make protocol so much more exciting and less boring! Commented Feb 14, 2013 at 20:44
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    Re: working for Jabba. I'm not convinced of 3PO's Huttese. It's one of the most common languages in the Galaxy, but 3PO speaks it haltingly and with an obnoxiously prissy Coruscanti Basic (a.k.a. British English) accent. "Ah-two ... day-toe-ah ... ay... Say- ... thray-pay-oh ... ah." Fluent in six million forms of communication, my ass.
    – Wolfie Inu
    Commented Oct 8, 2015 at 8:00
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    @Wolfie That’s part of the joke that is C3PO. He’s fluent in over six million forms of communication, and he has a dreadful, posh, English accent in absolutely all of them. Commented Feb 13, 2016 at 17:26
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Yeah, I have to wonder at the advantages of programming him that way. Maybe 9-year-old Anakin was not the Galaxy's best droid-builder.
    – Wolfie Inu
    Commented Feb 15, 2016 at 4:14
  • @WolfieInu The only logical explanation is that Anakin's contraption got trashed as soon as possible and replaced by a proper droid they had in storage. "Of course it's your droid, Anakin. What do you mean, it's different?" They didn't have time to check the skills file "Fluent in FORTRAN, COBOL, C, C++, XML, HTML and 6 million forms of communication... Will do. Where is the activation key? Quickly!" Commented Nov 25, 2020 at 19:19

If I remember correctly he does some translation in the beginning of A New Hope. He translates some of R2-D2's speech especially while Jawas are selling the droids to them.

Also he does some translations between Ewoks and others.


Remember we never see (except possibly during the closing scenes of RotJ) C-3PO in a setting where his function as a protocol droid would be beneficial. His job is as a court functionary, not a fugitive smuggler or warrior in a rebel band.

As to everyone speaking common, Jabba the Hutt didn't. Nor did several of the people in Mos Eisley so not everyone in the Star Wars universe speaks the same language.

The fact that everyone (or almost) the main characters come into contact with does may be either a fluke or designed that way to make the movies easier on the audience. A conversation that takes over twice as long as it should because every sentence has to go through a translator doesn't make for very good cinema after all, so I call artistic license here.

The fact that Leia had a protocol/translator droid with her on her diplomatic mission indicates to me that she did expect to need those services in some capacity. It just never made the cut.

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    The Star Wars novel by Lucas at one point embellishes on 3PO and Luke in Luke's speeder; It's implied in the movie that 3PO is driving. In the book, there's a whole conversation about 3PO being called to "do things that would have appalled his designers" (and we're not being dirty here). He's been programmed with a whole host of secondary functions to complement his primary function of protocol and interpretation. Of course, the prequels have Anakin building C3PO, so that bit of the canon probably went out the window.
    – KeithS
    Commented Sep 21, 2011 at 1:00

This answer addresses both the original question (e.g. whether C-3PO ever did his job) as well as clarifies the discussion in the comments on whether his job was "protocol" as in communications protocol or "protocol" as in diplomatic protocol (e.g. etiquette).

The short answer to the latter is that it was the latter (etiquette) but as part of that purpose he was definitely designed as a specialist in communications protocol.

  1. He was the protocol (in diplomatic sense) droid, both by design and sometimes (relatively rarely) by function. This was noted in post-ROTJ books, as well as the following source quoted in Wikipedia:

    in 1977, Lucas provided a guide for early Expanded Universe creators, in which Threepio's origin on Affa was established, and also the fact that he was "totally reassembled by a young boy working for a junk dealer" before joining the Alderaanian diplomatic corps "several years" later.

    Also, from starwars.com

    Protocol droids are vital in smoothing differences encountered by the many farflung cultures interacting on a regular basis throughout the galaxy. Programmed in etiquette and equipped with formidable language skills, protocol droids assist diplomats and politicians and also serve as administrative aides and companions for high-ranking officials.

  2. He actually fulfilled that diplomatic function (as opposed to simple translator) a couple of times when Leia was serving as official of New Republic. I don't have specific book quotes but Wiki C-3PO article lists a couple of obviously diplomatic assignments.


Yes. In the original trilogy, he does his job in each of the three movies.

Episode IV

  • Translating R2-D2's beeping-whistle language for Luke.
  • Specifically, translating R2's warning about the approaching life forms (Sand People) on Tatooine.
  • And most importantly, telling Luke that R2 has located Princess Leia aboard the Death Star.

Episode V

  • Speaking with the Millennium Falcon to help diagnose its problems while in the asteroid field.
  • Translating the language of love between Han and Leia, and interceding at the most inappropriate time for the two of them.

Episode VI

This is where C-3PO really gets to shine.

  • Translating for Jabba the Hutt, which while not exactly heroic, is his job as a translator.
  • Translating the Ewok language for the rebel strike team.
  • Most importantly, translating the strike team for the Ewoks, and convincing them that he is a Golden God of great power and anger.

I can't recall him doing any sort of translating in the prequel trilogy though, not even for R2. Though presumably he may have, at some point, acted as translator for Owen Lars. And at the beginning of Episode 3, he's clearly working for Padmé in some regard, though we never see any of it on-screen.

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    C3PO is working for Padme at the beginning of Ep3, and is standing around her and the other senators. While we don't see him actively doing anything, this implies that he was functioning as a protocol droid for her.
    – phantom42
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 14:27
  • @phantom42 Very good catch. Added.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented May 28, 2014 at 14:30

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