She wanted to ask more, but was silenced by heavy footsteps heading their way. Both girls froze as the footsteps stopped right outside the door. When they moved on a few bits later, they both breathed a sigh of relief.
"I think we better focus on what I am supposed to be teaching you now." the girl said after a few trills.
Kirei nodded, but she had one more question she felt she needed to ask first.
"You use the word I in reference to yourself when it's just us, but when the...the masters are around, you say this one, or this unworthy one. Why is that?"
Must remember to never call the Avriel winged demons out loud. That might well get me beaten to death.
"Slaves are not people. They aren't allowed to have thoughts and feelings, or hopes and dreams of their own. They exist only to serve their masters. As such, there is no "I" for a slave."
Kirei frowned. She knew that she had to obey that since she was a slave now. Fighting it would only bring her more pain. But she didn't have to like it.
"Okay, the first thing you need to know is that you aren't learning one language here. There are two that you need to learn. Dehasin is the language that is spoken by slaves. It is the one you will hear most often here, and the only one you are allowed to speak. But the Avriel masters speak Lorien. At times, you may be given an order in that language, and you will be expected to obey it instantly. For that reason, it is a good idea to learn the basics of Lorien; enough so that you will understand any orders you may be given in the language."
Kirei nodded to show that she understood.
"So, you're basically teaching me linguistics." she said with a smile.
One of her favorite parts of going to school was when the teachers would teach her words in Rakahi and Common and ask her to teach her classmates words in Xanthea.
"If I keep learning new languages like this, I'll be a polyglot."
The girl gave her a puzzled look.
It was Kirei's turn to nod.
"Linguistics is the study of languages. So basically, by teaching me Dehasin and Lorien, you are teaching me linguistics. Well...sort of, anyway. But rather than learning the languages themselves, understanding linguistics is knowing things like language families are groups of languages that share similar characteristics. Or that it is easier to learn a language if you are already fluent in another language within the same family because some words are similar. And a polyglot is a person who knows, and is able to use several languages."
The girl smiled.
"Were you a teacher before you were captured, then?"
"Hardly. I was still going to school."
When I bothered to show up, anyway...
"No one was going to ask me to teach them anything."
"I don't know about that. After all, what else is teaching if not sharing what you know with others?"
Kirei nodded, giving the other girl a thoughtful look. She had never quite thought of it like that before, but the other girl had a point. But they were there for a reason, and neither of them wanted to risk getting punished, so they bother turned back to the task they were supposed to be working on.
"Vocabulary is a big part of learning a new language, and it is probably one of the easiest to learn. Why don't we start there for now?"
The girl sounded uncertain, as if she wasn't used to teaching languages to other people. Her suggestion seemed like a good idea to Kirei at first, so she nodded. But then she hesitated.
"Am I going to need to know how to read Dehasin, and Lorien? Or just be able to speak them?" she asked.
"Both, why? Well, you'll need to be able to read and speak Dehasin. Lorien is just a spoken language, though. Avrielian Script is the written language of the Avriel masters. It is unlikely that you will ever need to learn how to read or write it, though."
"Then can you teach me the alphabet in Dehasin first? When I was younger, my teacher said that it was easiest to start with learning the basics when it comes to learning a new language. The alphabet forms words, and words form sentences. So by starting with the alphabet, it builds a foundation that I can build on by learning vocabulary, and so on."
The girl looked thoughtful for a few trills, then nodded. She found a few scraps of paper, and an ink pen. Then she carefully wrote out each letter of the Dehasin alphabet, naming each letter as she did so. When she was done, she gave Kirei the chance to practice for a while. Kirei carefully wrote out both the capital and the lower case versions of each letter several times while saying them out loud. The girl made corrections when Kirei pronounced one wrong, and had her start over repeatedly until she got them all right. Then it was time to move on to learning words.
The girl began teaching her a large variety of words. To make it easier for her to learn, the girl chose specific categories of words for her to learn, such as important question words. When she focused on a category of words, she tried to teach Kirei every word within that category that she could. So while they were focusing on question words, she learned the words for asking each type of question; who, what, where, when, how, and why. But she also learned the words she would need to provide simple answers to questions, such as yes, no, and because.
Another category of words the girl taught Kirei was basic directional words such as north, south, east, west, northeast, southeast, northwest, southwest, and the like. Kirei also learned more basic directions, such as right, left, up, down, come, go, and stop. The girl was very patient as she did her best to teach Kirei. With each new word, she would say it clearly so that Kirei could hear how it was supposed to be pronounced. Then she would wait while Kirei repeated the word over and over until she mastered how to say it. And every so often, she would quiz Kirei on the words she had learned to make sure she wasn't forgetting any as she tried to learn new ones.
The correct forms of address was another set of words Kirei had to learn. Since she would be cruelly punished if she dared address one of the masters in a way that they deemed inappropriate, the girl made sure to teach her words like master, mistress, sir, ma'am, and the like. After Kirei had begun to get those down, the girl taught her how to count. She also included counting words, like hundred, thousand, and so on. Once Kirei proved she could say the words, the girl showed her how to write out the numbers as well. As before with the alphabet, Kirei practiced writing each one carefully.
Breaks were spent in this fashion, and Kirei found herself enjoying every bit of it. Learning Dehasin was an absolute must for her if she was to survive long here; that much was painfully obvious. But she found that she truly loved learning a new language. It was like being given the key to a whole new world of information. Luckily, she seemed to be able to memorize the new words quickly. Kirei had a feeling that a failure to quickly master at least a working understanding of Dehasin so she could follow orders would result in punishments that she really didn't want to think about.