“Try again,” she says.

I love the way her lips flex when she speaks our tongue. I could watch her do it all day, which is pretty much what I’ve been paid to do for the past few weeks, after they landed and the government got in touch.

When I set out to become a translator, I could never have imagined that it would lead to this. My mother was Polish, my father Scottish, and I was born and raised in Italy. So, from the age of two-and-a-half, I could speak three languages. That’s what other polyglots call “an unfair advantage.” (We’re highly competitive, don’t let anyone tell you any different).

I’m told I was their first point of contact, since I now speak thirty-two languages. I would list them for you, but I’m not so vain. Besides, I can’t keep my eyes off her lips.

“Huh?” I say.

She rolls her two orange-sized, Disney-character eyes and smiles a human smile. On those thick, red lips it looks like a time-lapse video of some exquisite flower striving towards the sun.

“Try again,” she repeats.

I can’t look away.

“What shoes which puppy does carrots,” I say.

She nods. Her antennae lightly brush my forehead. I love it, like I love everything about them. I love how similar to us they are, yet completely alien. I love that they see the best in us, without ignoring the worst. I love my teacher and, most of all, I love her lips.

“Very good,” she says.

“Er,” I stammer, “what did I just say?” It’s been weeks. I’m normally intermediate level about this time. But, the one catch with their language, the one that has confused and confounded all the other translators working for them is that, just like their bodies, it’s so close to ours, yet so different at the same time.

They stand erect on two legs. They eat food. They defecate. They even fart. The majority of them also think this is hilarious. Their language is identical to English in every way — syntax, spelling, grammar, pronunciation (though they tend towards R.P.) — with one simple caveat: all their words have completely different meanings from ours.

She smiles at me once more. I have the distinct feeling I’m being made fun of. I don’t care.

“I think my teacher is beautiful,” she says in her perfect Oxford English.

I laugh. She laughs. Then, I surprise her.

“Go throttle that what shoes which puppy does carrots, what shoes hair does my best carrots by when is there red water,” I say.

Her eyes, impossibly, widen. She smiles again, and then, before I have time to consider the ramifications or the lack of professionalism (or the fact that we are obviously being monitored, by both our species), we’re on each other; kissing, groping, grinding.

I’ve got to confess, I told a white lie: I’m already proficient in their Mad Libs English, I just needed more time to win her over. Turns out our mating signals are not so different after all. I just told her that not only do I think her beautiful, I think she’s the most beautiful thing on this or any other planet. But, I can’t say any more as those lips, those thick red lips, are on me, and I’m falling, falling.

There’s just enough time for me to utter one more thing before I succumb:

“France you towel, yellow burden!”

If you can work that out, let me know. We need more translators.


Matt Cowan is an English teacher and proofreader who doesn’t understand why the overwhelming majority of sci-fi aliens speak perfect English when he’s still fighting with it. A regular contributor to Cracked, his short fiction has also appeared in Daily Science Fiction.