There a couple purple women sitting in the waiting area at the airport, between a yellow with a briefcase and a green in sunglasses. One of them is playing games on her everything; the other's scrolling the internet on hers. When new waves of disembarked passengers course through the corridor the one playing games looks up.
"Afen wants all his grandkids to know at least five," says Klimati. "It's sticking better with some than others - Hala and Kaloa are supposed to be working on Voan and Tapap and Oahkar and Evaleen. Hala's solid on the ones they support in her school and she can more or less watch TV in Voan and Evaleen, it's hard to tell this early how well everything'll stick for Kaloa."
"I know most of those! Not anywhere near fluent in Oahkar - Oahkar's so different from place to place that it didn't seem like one of the best choices if my goal was to maximize the number of people I could talk to, but I think my Tapap is pretty decent? It's not as strong as my Anitami, but I think it's pretty good. And I can totally blabber at people in Voan if anyone wants that while I'm here. How many does Afen know?"
"That is so cool."
It does mean that she's gonna have to find some different axes on which to surpass Afen Kisan-fucking-tami when she gets around to doing that, but hey, nothing worth making your life's work is easy.
"How many languages are you gonna learn, Kaloa?"
"Good for you! I'm a native Voan speaker and I'm pretty much fluent in Tapap and Evaleen. If you wanna try talking in any of those while I'm here, I'd be really happy to help you practice. I heard you like chemistry, too, that's awesome."
She switches over to Voan. "Awesome! I like chemistry, too. My favorite things are physics and astronomy, but understanding chemistry is really important sometimes, too."
"Physics is the one that tells you how things move and exert force on each other!" She gives the equivalent word in Anitami. "It's really important when you're working with spaceships."
"Oh, cool!" She admires Kaloa's toy spaceship. "This one is really nice! Spaceships are my favorite things ever."
"Aww, I'm sorry! I'm sure you'll get to go to the moon, too. I spend lots of time on the Voan one."
She plops onto the couch beside them. "Neat! I'm gonna be back up in space before then, I'm on vacation right now."
"I fix spaceships! You have to be really sure that spaceships are in top-notch condition before you send them anywhere. They're not like cars or planes, you can't really make emergency landings in space. I'm fundamentally the same as any other kind of mechanic, though, just with more expensive toys and much lower margins for error."
"It's such a good word!" says Zada, in Anitami.
"It's a lot harder if you're older! Plus it's hard to pick up new things from speech if you don't already know a sizable chunk of the vocabulary. Way easier to isolate and remember new vocab if you're missing one word in a sentence than if you're missing all but one."
"Man, Kairda watches stuff with subtitles all the time, and she's never picked up anything but Voan either. Little kids and Afen Kisantami have language-processing superpowers. Everyone else has to go through, like, actual language-learning regimens. Which you could still do, if you want to learn Voan, but you should note that your sample of how many languages the average person speaks has been pretty hopelessly skewed."