Arrival and Common Ground

Something happened on Friday that hasn’t happened to me in years: I went to the theater to see a movie, and even though I was 40 minutes early, it was sold out.

This, of course, only made me want to see the movie even more! So I bought tickets to a later show that night and returned to watch it.

The movie was Arrival, and it did not disappoint. Amy Adams is wonderful for many reasons, and one of them is that she picks great scripts–I always trust an Adams selection.

I don’t want to say much about the movie, but here’s the hook in case you haven’t heard of it: A few alien spacecraft arrive on Earth, and various governments try different methods of communication to see why they’re here.

At it’s heart, the movie is about communication–those were my favorite scenes. So I was delighted to find an absolutely brilliant marketing video for the movie that tackles the subject of communicating with someone whose language doesn’t resemble your own.

Again, I don’t want to spoil anything–the video is less than 2 minutes long. It’s basically just a series of clips of two people in a room trying to find common ground with one another…except they don’t speak the same language.

I’d recommend that you stop watching it at the 1:25 mark (when the teaser for Arrival begins), as it gives a way a few key moments of the film.

I can’t recall the last time I tried to speak with someone who didn’t speak at least some English. Have you had that happen? How did it go? Were you able to communicate without a shared language?

5 thoughts on “Arrival and Common Ground”

  1. Great trailer. I toured the International Institute this weekend and it included a 20-minute lesson where the instructor didn’t speak English. Humbling. But also way more possible than I expected. So many tools at our disposal, like the video showed. Especially this month, we should all be tuned into this topic, challenge and opportunity to connect to our fellow humans (or others!).

    • That’s awesome, Emma. And well said. You can see a genuine attempt and desire for people to connect in the video, and I’m trying to do the same in the political realm this month (and beyond), especially with people who have very different points of view than mine.

  2. Jamey,

    While I’ve now been in the foreign language arena for more than two decades there was a time when I wasn’t as attuned. In 1994, while visiting China, I asked the guide what I should say to the young woman which would serve as a polite greeting. His response was, and I’ll spell it phonetically, “Woh-Ai-Nee” which I used with great abandon. The reactions were always very positive but almost always with a bit of a giggle. I had more food, beer, coffee, or whatever else I ordered brought to me. The last night we’re in Beijing, we’re all sitting at this large table at a sumptuous setting and this stunningly attractive woman, garbed in an exquisite dress sang several songs in Mandarin. She then switched to pitch perfect English and said, we now have another song for our friends who have joined us from across the ocean (looking at our table)…called, “Woh-Ai-Nee” or “I Love You” ~ I could have strangled our guide.

    In the intervening years, I’ve now always attempting to learn 50-100 words of any language to ensure that I can meet basic needs…and for those I meet, especially in the D.C. area, I can help them as well with directions, food, and other needs.


    • That’s a great story, Joe! I guess there are much worse things you could be walking around saying. 🙂 Coincidentally, the word for love in Japanese is also pronounced “ai”.


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