Guten Tag, Bonjour, and Xin Chao, without practice

When I thought about today’s challenge of a machine that I would create, if I could, two recent obstacles came to mind: 1) My increasing dislike of crossing time zones and dealing with jet lag and 2) my insatiable desire to speak foreign languages fluently when I travel.

I stumbled on this strange concocted ‘machine’ attached to a side of a skyscraper in Tokyo. The odd scene out of metal looked like a well-coordinated parasite attached to the streamlined facade of a high-rise office building. It immediately conjured up thoughts of the films The City of Lost Children, Brazil, Clockwork Orange and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, all films I adored and enjoyed as a youngster.

One of the attractive attributes of these film is the ability to transport me to another place and time, without the ill effects of jet lag. I love to travel, but as I get older, I don’t want to deal with all the tiredness, headache and spaciness that accompanies jet lag. Perhaps I am less tolerate of inconveniences for the novelty of a new experience, and I am now more selective about what inconveniences I am willing to tolerate. Thus, I wish there was a machine that would transport me easily to other parts of the globe without forcing me to suffer the horrible time-zone effects. And to address my second problem, I would want the machine to be a real Babel fish, a la Arthur C. Clarke’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (another favorite), from which I could speak and understand whatever foreign language I needed to speak and understand, without having to practice and spend unimaginable amount of time and effort (and frustration) actually learning it. A machine that could do both would definitely open up new travel opportunities.

Guten Tag, Bonjour, and Xin Chao, without practice


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