Tips for communicating with aliens


by ADAM EARNHEARDT

acearnheardt@ysu.edu

Two aliens have invaded my home. Don’t be fooled by their appearance. One looks like a 14-year-old girl, the other like a 12-year-old girl.

They’re good aliens, not at all like the kinds we see on TV. They’re polite. Sometimes they do funny things or make interesting noises. Most days they clean up after themselves.

My wife and I try to communicate with our new alien friends. But as those (i.e., parents) who have attempted interplanetary species-to-species communication will tell you, it’d be easier to find water on Mars than to have meaningful conversations with this type of alien.

We have a lot of difficulty finding a common language through shared experiences. We’re separated by more than three decades of life.

Oh, and they’re from another planet.

It’s not all bad. We occasionally find topics to discuss that don’t border on the mundane.

One common language we share is music. Over the past few months, the aliens have been home a lot (i.e., summer break), so we’ve turned to music to help bridge the conversation divide.

If I hear them listening to a song we listened to in the ’80s and ’90s, I perk up. “Oh, that was my favorite song in [random year],” I say. Even if it wasn’t really my favorite song, it gives us a jumping off point for connection.

We talk about the songs, the bands and what mom and dad must have been like in those days.

Earlier this summer, the 14-year-old alien jumped in the car as I was turning down the volume. The Dead Milkmen’s Punk Rock Girl was playing. She said, “No. Turn it up.”

I smiled, sang the lyrics out loud (and off-key). She laughed at me, asked me to replay it, and sang along. We talked about the lyrics and relationships.

About an hour later, I went to Spotify and created a “Songs You MUST Hear” playlist. Of course, I add the Dead Milkmen’s ode, but I also filled it with many songs from different genres and decades, some hits and some a little more obscure.

We share a Spotify account. It’s mostly “alien” playlists, all loaded with nonsensical music created by other silly aliens.

We hear them listening to songs my wife and I recognize. A fellow alien will take a song from our youth and create a parody about Minecraft or Fortnite. The parodies aren’t very good, but we hum along because we know the tunes.

Yesterday it was a-ha’s Take On Me. Last week it was something by Queen. It doesn’t really matter what song it is so long as it opens the door to making a deeper connection with our little aliens.

I know it won’t always be this way. The aliens will learn our ways. They’ll learn our language. For now, it’s nice to know we have music and a Spotify playlist to make a connection.

Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn.com.

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