Study Guide

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Language & Communication

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Language & Communication

ELLIOTT: Do you talk? You know, talk? Me, boy. Elliott.

Us, Shmoop. You, Shmooper. Why is it that whenever we want to talk to somebody who doesn't speak our language, we revert to caveman-speak?

GERTIE: Mommy, he can talk!

MOM: Of course he can talk. I'll be right back in ten minutes. Stay there.

Here we have an example of communication… and miscommunication. While Gertie's understandably stoked about E.T.'s new vocabulary, Mom thinks she's referring to somebody else.

[E.T. presses buttons on the phone.]

GERTIE: You wanna call somebody?

Before E.T.'s language skills really pick up, he communicates with the kids non-verbally, and they know exactly what he means. Even Gertie.

GERTIE: I taught him how to talk now. He can talk now. […]

ELLIOTT: E.T. Can you say that? Can you say "E.T."? E.T.

E.T.: Eee. Tee.

[ELLIOTT laughs ecstatically]

E.T.: E.T! E.T! E.T.! Be good.

GERTIE: "Be good"! I taught him that, too.

We're not going to lie: Gertie's the last person we would've pegged to be E.T.'s English teacher. But she embraces the role wholeheartedly. After all, she's still learning to communicate herself.

E.T.: E.T. phone home.

MICHAEL: My god, he's talking now.

E.T.: Home.

E.T.'s vocabulary is small, but powerful. He needs to make contact with his home planet, and he needs to make contact pronto.

MICHAEL: Stop that. No, don't. It's a fake knife. It's a fake.

Miscommunication can lead to hilarious results, as it does here, when E.T. mistakes Michael's Halloween costume for a real injury, and Michael struggles to communicate to E.T. that he's okay and doesn't need E.T.'s healing touch—especially not at this moment when they're trying to sneak E.T. past Mom.

DOCTOR: You say it has the ability to manipulate its own environment.

MICHAEL: He's smart. He communicates through Elliott.

DOCTOR: Elliott thinks its thoughts.

MICHAEL: No. Elliott—Elliot feels his feelings.

Elliott and E.T.'s telepathic bond takes communication to a whole new level.

GERTIE: I just wanted to say goodbye.

MICHAEL: He doesn't know goodbye.

E.T.: Be good.


E.T. may not know "goodbye," but he still knows precisely how to communicate his farewell to Gertie, as he makes a callback to one of the first phrases she taught him.

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