That’s the gist of this interesting and informative episode of Exposing PseudoAstronomy.  Here’s the episode’s abstract:

Linguist, Dr. Karen Stollznow, discusses some of the communication problems on our own planet and how that translates to the huge potential problems of communicating with any type of intelligent creature who originated off our planet. We used this information to discuss some claimed contactees and how linguists have debunked their claimed communication with aliens.

Since my background deals so much with translation, I can tell you there are all sorts of issues that are overlooked in “alien contact” research that are raised in this episode. Why would we assume aliens (if the contact were real) would speak in English? Any human human? Why would we assume they’d use sound at all? Visual imaging only takes you so far, too, as any translator knows. Abstract concepts require more than concrete images. Language is required.

Basically, contactee and abductee accounts are sorely lacking with respect to explaining this disconnection. Telepathy requires either imagery and words (both, really) — and so telepathy actually isn’t a very good explanation for alien communication. But this is the sort of stuff only linguists would think of to challenge our thinking.

The episode is one hour and is well worth it.