Mau was good at reading important things. He could read the sea, the weather, the tracks of animals, tattoos, and the night sky. (2.65)
Mau can't read English because he's never needed that skill in order to survive. We hate to say this, but if Mau was so good at reading the world, how did he not know the wave was coming?
Mau hadn't understood a word, but some things don't need language. [Daphne] weeps because the bread is awful. (3.92)
The first little meal between Daphne and Mau doesn't go too well. Some things are universal, like laughter, crying, and bad cooking.
Mau sighed. [Daphne] must know I can't understand her but she goes on talking, he thought. (3.111)
Daphne's lonely and has no one else to talk to, so she blabs at Mau even though he has no idea what's going on. This is why some people talk to their cats. But not us. Nope. Not us.
If people came here, [Mau] would tell them about the Nation, and it would come alive again. (4.70)
It's a sad irony that people wouldn't be able to understand what Mau was saying about the Nation because he can't speak their language. He's lucky Daphne is so courteous and patient. (Daphne's lucky, too—she learns some pretty important things from Mau and his people.)
[Mau] would teach [Daphne] the language, so they both would remember. (4.73)
Communication is important not just for two, but for the remembrance of society as a whole. Think of ancient texts and documents that might as well not have existed were it not for a way to translate them, like the Rosetta Stone.
[Baby] was the common language. Probably everyone makes the same sort of cooing noises to babies, everywhere in the world. (6.57)
All the women of the Woman's Place come together to take care of Cahle's baby. What is it about babies that turns adults into babbling idiots? (Hey, there's a theory about that.)
"How are you?" was too complicated because it didn't really ask the question you thought it asked. (9.106)
Even though Daphne and Mau are able to verbally communicate simple concepts, some questions are too complicated to be answered with words. That's why everyone always just says "fine" when you ask them this.
Below [the fish] were a stick man and a stick woman, drawn very crudely in red, white, and black. (12.104)
This image signifies that Mau and Daphne are the leaders of the Nation. Stick figures are universal symbols. Everyone understands them, especially supermodels.
"How can I answer you? There is no language. [...]" (15.44)
Mau has trouble answering Daphne when she asks if he would change the past if he could, because sometimes words aren't enough. We've all been there, right? Sometimes it's impossible to adequately express what you're feeling with words. That's why there is art, literature, and music in the world.
It's hard to talk to someone who understands. (15.330)
Despite all their advances in communication, Daphne learns that sometimes you don't even have to talk to understand what your best friend is going through. A loving gesture will do the trick.