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In all the Star Wars movies, R2D2 just boops and beeps his way around. And everyone understands him perfectly, though he is obviously not speaking Basic.

How do people understand him - is there like an astromech language? If so, then would one have to learn it, or is it comprised of feelings and emotions (expressed in beeps), essentially making a tonal language?

If I may be permitted to use an example from the prequels without too many lynch mobs forming, Anakin Skywalker converses frequently with Artoo while in the Naboo fighter, but he couldn't have had much schooling at the age of eleven, especially because he was a slave.

So how would people, Anakin especially, be able to understand astromechs?

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    Funny randomness: After clicking "Post Question", SE asked me if I was a robot. The irony. :) – Peter Cassetta Oct 17 '11 at 13:31
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    Well... are you? – Loïc Wolff Oct 17 '11 at 13:38
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    If I recall corerclty, there's a boops-and-beeps-to-text translator in the fighters. I believe that's also how Luke talks to Artoo. I'll leave that as a comment since I don't have anything to back this up. – Loïc Wolff Oct 17 '11 at 13:39
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    It's just the same as how I can usually get a general understanding of what my cat is saying to me... even though i don't speak Catonesse. – eidylon Oct 17 '11 at 16:42
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    R2D2 speaks perfect English. It is just bleeped because he has such an immensely foul mouth to keep the rating at PG. – Oldcat Jan 8 '16 at 20:04
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All droids speak and understand Binary - the language R2 uses.

In general, the tones used can convey much of the meaning. Translators like C-3P0 have to translate for most people, though people who have spent a lot of time around droids can learn at least a little of what different sounds/phrases mean - just watching the trilogy, most people can figure out 'yes' and 'no'.

Luke especially spends a lot of time with R2, and has his X-Wing's computer terminal for R2 to 'speak' through - accompanied by the verbalizations he would make. Luke certainly has at least a basic understanding of the language.

The rest of what Luke displays can be attributed to his knowing R2 so well - He can guess how R2 will respond, get a basic idea of the question from what he knows, and fill in the blanks intuitively.

Interestingly, the Galaxy of Fear young adult series featured an R2 unit with a speech module - an optional component which allowed them to speak in Basic.

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    The prequels ruined R2D2 for me. Once I found out that this droid had been around humans for DECADES and never had a friggin' speech module installed, I totally lost all faith in George Lucas. Well, ok, lots of other things about the prequels made me lose faith too. But STILL. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 18 '11 at 1:49
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    @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇: If you were as superior in all ways (except handling those damnable stairs) to the meatbags around you, would YOU want to make it easier to talk to them? – Jeff Oct 18 '11 at 10:17
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    @Jeff, there's a scene in one of the prequels that shows R2 handling stairs... with rockets! He truly is the superior being. – John Sensebe Apr 11 '16 at 14:42
  • @JohnSensebe: I never said R2 can't handle stairs, just that humans are superior to him in handling them. Legs > burning rocket fuel when handling stairs. – Jeff Apr 11 '16 at 18:36
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    @Jeff, but rockets look cooler. – John Sensebe Apr 11 '16 at 18:51
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I'm not a Star Wars expert, but it certainly seems to me that people don't generally understand the astromechs. Generally, C3PO has to translate for R2D2 - the only time in the original films that Luke understands R2 without his help is when he's in his X-Wing, and it's clearly shown that R2's beeps are being translated on the screen of Luke's ship.

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For a direct answer as to how Anakin could understand, he worked as a mechanic for almost all of his slave life. Of the few things he did learn, he probably learned everything there is to know about piloting and robots. This experience would put him in the position to interact with many different droids, and the amount of exposure he had to them probably helped him learn the language (without ever really thinking that he is learning it too). Considering how a child develops language, and Anakin can clearly speak multiple languages (Basic, and Huttese which Watto speaks), it would make sense that he would learn the droid language also.

8

As you can see from the first deleted scene from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, the simple answer is that humans don't generally understand Artoo although they may have a basic understanding of "spoken Droid". Note that while Anakin is able to reproduce the sounds perfectly, his comprehension is limited and he is relying on the communicator to provide a textual translation.

Anakin: Artoo, where are they holding the Chancellor?

Artoo: [Beeps]

Anakin: No text

[Anakin hits the communicator]

[Artoo beeps]

Anakin: It's broken. Can you understand what he's saying?

Obi-Wan: I'm not a protocol droid

Anakin: I'm pretty sure that beep [he perfectly reproduces Artoo's "speech"] is down.

You will also wish to note that this is exactly the same way that Luke communicates with Artoo in the cockpit of their X-Wing, via a speech-to-text app.

  • Luke also talks to R2 on Dagobah, without the translator. Also, I have a hard time believing that the sound effects are genuine. It's just ridiculous. But that didn't stop Lucas from doing all the other ridiculous crap he did in the prequel trilogy, so who knows? – Wad Cheber Oct 30 '15 at 21:42
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    @WadCheber - He talks to him. There's no special reason to assume he understands him, beyond the same level of comprehension you and I have (e.g. Loud whistles = Hell No!, quiet low whistle = "I'm scared", etc). – Valorum Oct 30 '15 at 21:46
  • m.youtube.com/watch?v=p44pcTXpPOs It seems like R2 asks a question, and Luke answers "I don't know, it feels like..." – Wad Cheber Oct 30 '15 at 21:51
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    @WadCheber - If you remove Artoo's speech from the scene, it makes no difference to what Luke is saying. It's almost like he's talking to himself. – Valorum Oct 30 '15 at 21:55
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    That's the other interpretation. I like to think that they are actually communicating. – Wad Cheber Oct 30 '15 at 21:56
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Luke can understand R2D2 on Dagobah just before he's swallowed by the creature. He doesn't use a readout and he doesn't have C3PO with him. It must be familiarity, as Anakin also does this in the prequels.

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I think its both; you can communicate with them via text and communicators and or communicate with them through there binary language each string of beeps stands for a different word or letter. Think of it like people who can decode Morse code they hear beeping as letters and can understand whats being said while the rest of us just hear beep beep beep beep. So anyone who takes the time to learn binary can talk to droids. e.g: If uncle Owen had learned binary he wouldn't have needed to buy C3PO because he'd be able to talk to his moisture evaporators. e.g 2: In the force awakens Rey can talk to BB-8 because she has/had to learn speaking binary to make her way on Jakku.

Ok so after typing all that out I decided to check wookieepedia, just to make sure (check it out look for binary or droidspeak) and I'm kinda right .

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    Please use punctuation and proper sentences, to make your posts intelligible to others. Also, if you found an answer on Wookieepedia, please include a link in your post; answers supported by other sources (even though Wookieepedia isn't a reliable source) are received better here than those with no backup at all. – Rand al'Thor Apr 11 '16 at 13:21

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