Choose Your Own Career in Linguistics

You push the big obvious button on the device..

You take a deep breath and push the button. A flash of light envelopes you and you find yourself in a sealed metal room.

After a few minutes, a little green creature with huge black eyes materializes in the room. You are frightened, but curious.

The alien presses a space on the wall, and it becomes a display screen. An image of a rocket ship crashing into a planet appears. “Hinxsho bah glector,” says the alien. Next, an image of a planet crashing into a rocket ship appears. “Glectcho bahwah hinxdor,” says the alien. A third image, of a rocket ship crashing into a rabbit appears. “Gavagai bahx glectol,” says the alien.

At this point your instinctive linguistic analysis takes over. Without thinking, you say, “Glectcho bahwah gavagai?” An image of a rabbit crashing into a rocket ship appears, and the alien, who seems pleased, corrects you: “Glectscho bahwax gavagain.”

Suddenly, another alien materializes in the room. He’s carrying a dog-eared copy of Akmajian’s textbook, Linguistics. He says, “Oh, Snurklifer, stop it with the ‘gavagai’ crap. Just admit that you speak English.”

Snurklifer looks at the other alien, then at you. “Oh, all right, Refilkruns, you are such a spoil sport.” You notice that, for no obvious reason, they have lilting British accents.

Three days later, you, Snurklifer, and Refilkruns are best buds. They’ve implanted you with a universal translator neurochip, and taught you 4,675 languages, half of them human, half alien, through hypnosleep. You all laugh together about the idea of a babelfish once more, and they send you home.

You go back to school, and try to get your story into the news. You manage to finish your last semester at school and graduate, but because of your claims about SETI and your new linguistic abilities, the physics department defames you, and the linguistics department disowns you. However, the Sci Fi channel is interested.

After several months of talks, they have to turn down your offer to let them make a movie about your experience. They are, however, impressed with your ability to seemingly create very alien languages on demand. They offer you work on a new series they are developing.

Take the Sci Fi job.

Tell them “no thanks” and try to get a regular job.