by Heather Ruel
(Montgomery City, MO, USA)
Question: An earth woman arrives on an alien world. She only speaks English. Obviously we have a communication barrier. Let me state this right off- I am not Tolkien! I am not going to create an alien language. Without the earth woman continually repeating, "I don't know what you're saying," and my typing 'nothing' for the aliens to say, how do I represent this barrier? I want to show that the alien trying to communicate with the earth woman without typing *&%% ()@$ or the alien simply pointing at things. Ideas?!?!Answer:
Keeping things simple, you might start by describing what the main character sees the alien do. Since the reader is privy to the heroine's thoughts, you can describe how she interprets what she sees. She may only gradually realize the alien's actions are an attempt at communication and try to reciprocate.
You certainly don't need to quote the alien's speech, especially if its unpronounceable. And your heroine has no reason to think the alien would understand an English sentence (at least not at first). But you could make the process of how they learn to communicate quite interesting if you keep it real.