The good news is: Yes we can.
The bad news is: But only in movies.
That said, there’s some not-so-bad pseudo news floating around; but, before we get to that, let’s first chat a bit about “alien language”.
We humans have created a hypothetical study of alien language and have termed it as Exolinguistics, Xenolinguistics or Astrolinguistics. Every hypothesis, calculation, or document translation performed by this study is purely speculative in nature. This is because we have yet to discover intelligent life beyond earth. And, where there’s no intelligent life, there’s no language and therefore no translation.
Researchers on Mother Earth are merely creating the structure and form of a potential alien language and generating academic debate around the concept. Many scientists are of the opinion that we will establish contact with aliens in the near future, and therefore, before this event occurs, we should be ready to understand what our alien friends (or enemies) are saying.
Alien Language And Science Fiction
Many science fiction writers have already created fictional languages. Many sci-fi movies feature a universal translator that can convert any alien language into plain English.
However, such languages are born from the fertile imagination of creative writers. Even creating a universal translator is probably far outside of our current technological capabilities.
Movies and TV shows such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Babylon 5, Dune, etc. feature translators that can convert alien lingo into plain English. It’s easy to translate extraterrestrial jargon in movies, but very difficult (if not impossible) to do so in real life – mainly because we yet have to establish contact with aliens.
What Form Can Alien Language Take?
Human beings communicate using words, body language, sign language, facial expressions, drawing, and writing. Likewise, any aliens that could potentially communicate with us will also be an intelligent species. They too, would likely communicate similarly to us humans. It also may be possible that aliens do not speak, but communicate using by nonverbal means. Therefore, exolinguistics would need to go way beyond mere word translation and incorporate non-verbal forms of communication.
Researchers have discovered that many earth creatures like the chameleon and the cuttlefish communicate in non verbal ways, changing their body color to pass on messages. Ants and bees use pheromones to communicate. Therefore, it is possible that the aliens that may visit us could only communicate in by non-verbal means.
Mathematics might play a huge role in communicating with aliens. Freudenthal, a Dutch mathematician, described a constructed language, Lincos (an abbreviation of lingua cosmica), which uses a dictionary that relies upon mathematics to create a working vocabulary.
To Sum Up
Will we ever be visited by extra terrestrial life forms? It’s definitely possible because we’re probably not the only creatures in the ever-expanding universe.
Will we be able to communicate with them? The answer to that is, unlikely, at least at first. And, we don’t know whether a “universal translator” will be ready by the time aliens establish contact with us.
Until that happens we can play around with the many “for fun” alien language translators out there on the Internet. That is one place where almost every human has gone before. ;-)
Ron T. Combs lives in San Diego, CA where he works as a human document translator with companies like ASTA-USA, Inc.