I think that, for frequently encountered languages, the translation program of the universal translator is heavily curated with a lot of manual entry. Because many languages use a lot of idioms and metaphors which would need a manual translator to give some context at some point. So for like Klingon, Vulcan, Romulan, Cardassian, etc the software is almost entirely manually curated with only a bit of machine learning for the occasional on-the-fly stuff.
I believe the translation software is only *completely* automated/procedural when it comes across a language never encountered before. I think that, in those cases, it’s not *nearly* as good as manually curated translation. But it’s *good enough* to be somewhat intelligible in most cases (with famous exceptions like in Darmok).
I’ve just been getting a whole bunch of Romulan headcanons lately, I don’t know why. Here’s another one:
Vulcans probably have hundreds of languages and dialects spoken, since they’re inhabiting the planet where they evolved for bajillions of years. However, since the Romulans seemed to be a somewhat unified group (perhaps a single nation or single ethnic group of Vulcans, or perhaps a cross-section of Vulcans unified in their rejection of theocratic rule), I think it is likely Romulans speak only a single language, or a handful at most.
Since the Romulans left in an era of modern-ish technology (they had space travel), I’m assuming that they had also invented audio recordings and writing by that point, which would have slowed linguistic drift. Thus, I think Romulans likely speak a language that is intelligible on Vulcan, despite the Sundering being ~2,000 years ago. I believe the Romulan dialect sounds particularly sing-song and lilting, even to human ears but especially to the ears of Vulcans who speak in a very deliberate monotone. I mean, all languages probably sound lilting to Vulcans, but I think Romulan does especially, since they’re speaking familiar words but in a strange sing-song manner.
The lilting accent is the first thing undercover Romulan agents and spies have to lose if they’re assigned to Vulcan. Of course they also have to learn Vulcan’s conventions and face culture. I think Vulcans, socially, would have endless Byzantine rules, unwritten expectations, and social conventions that you must follow perfectly, else you commit social faux pas and are considered weird or even become ostracized.
I was thinking about how, according to the canon, Vulcans and Romulans feel much more deeply and passionately than humans do. This is why the Vulcans believe it is imperative to prescribe emotional repression – they believe their turbulent and passionate impulses would lead them to ruin if they were allowed to express them.
But it isn’t really something we see explored at all with the Romulans. The narrative tells us Romulans feel deeply and passionately, and are free to express their feelings, and this is supposedly meant as a contrast to Vulcans. But we never really see them behave irrationally or irresponsibly due to their emotions. I’ve never seen a Romulan captain verbally abuse her lieutenant, for example. Or a Romulan commander slap or strike his engineer. I’ve never seen a Romulan cowering and shouting “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!” while immobilized with fear. We see it hinted at in TOS that they are passionate lovers, but TOS’ depiction mostly just amounted to casual sex. We don’t see the depths of the love or devotion they feel. That doesn’t really get explored.
Honestly, Romulan capacity for professionalism and controlling their emotions when they would lead to horrible consequences seems about on par with humans. Which is to say, I think, not perfect but pretty good. And they don’t take it to absurd levels like Vulcans, where it goes so far in one direction that it comes out the other side causing bad consequences again.
We the audience never really see what this deep and turbulent passion might actually look like in a Romulan.
So I suddenly got a headcanon that it is not shameful – and indeed is even sometimes seen as a deep sign of respect and sincerity – to openly weep. I like to think Romulans believe weeping demonstrates how completely you have been moved – by art or poetry or bad fortune or even by injustice. If Romulans feel so passionately I think it makes sense that there’d be no social or public taboo on weeping, and that it would not be equated with weakness. Since they seem to have no defined gender roles, I think it would be the same for the men and the women.
I also think that, after the Sundering and the Vulcan-Romulan war, the Romulans and Vulcans probably go out of their way to differentiate their cultures. So weeping might even eventually become expected in cultural contexts where appropriate (funerals, for example) and therefore Romulans might actually become good at fake crying. Which is ironic given that the tradition is all about showing the deep sincerity of your grief. Such is culture! This of course has the interesting mirror implication that the existence of the Romulans, rather than making the Vulcans question the validity of their own belief system (like, obviously you’re not going to die if you don’t follow your faith’s prescriptions, as the Romulans are very much not dead and are in fact alive), their existence instead makes the Vulcans double down on their faith. The Vulcans dig in and become more zealous and repressed the longer the culture war with the Romulans rages on.