Mar 21, 2019 9:52 AM
Holmes and Watson in Kith
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"Excellent, thank you." They head downstairs and request some breakfast in accented but comprehensible vernacular.

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They get oatmeal with fruit in it.

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The familiarity is reassuring. When they're done eating it they do whatever everybody else is doing with their dishes.

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Bussing them for the proles to wash!

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How convenient. Back upstairs to ask Miriqua for more language lessons, ideally including a start on their troublingly non-phonetic writing system. They've learned a handful of words from context cues but something more systematic would be appreciated.

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"I think most people who don't begin knowing our language never learn to read very well," Miriqua warns.

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"Unsurprising, since your language is not constrained by being easy to teach. We shall simply have to make do as best we can."

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She will teach them some common words' characters.

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Are there any patterns whatsoever in what collections of lines correspond to what meanings, or is it entirely arbitrary?

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There are some repeated components - the system did evolve over time, it wasn't designed whole cloth to be maximally confusing.

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Then it has that advantage over memorizing the properties of three hundred kinds of tobacco ash. It's not as orderly as the Latin-derived names of every bone and muscle and nerve in the human body, and Watson will never complain about English orthography or Latin grammar again, but they both press on.

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Miriqua is a very patient teacher.

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They'll keep at this all day, minus the time it takes to get some lunch and bring it upstairs.

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Lunch is served in the same way as breakfast; it's eggs and rolls.

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They eat their eggs and rolls and go right back to studying.

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Since the writing system is so difficult Miriqua focuses mostly on speaking, and occasionally writes notes for them in Latin characters.

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They copy the notes into local characters for practice.

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"- you need to be able to recognize thirty thousand characters to read a typical newspaper," she says.

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"And probably even more to read a medical journal."

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"Well, it would cover fewer topics, but you'd certainly need different characters for that," she says. "People created as children can learn it if they start then, but adult learners usually just get by with the spoken language."

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"Are there enough of those that it's possible to be illiterate without being a burden on society? I do still hope to open a practice here."

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"It's possible, yes."

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"Then I think I'll get really good at the spoken language first," he says in the local language.

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"Good. Once you know how to speak it you'll be able to ask almost anyone to read things for you, and until then I'm the only third party you can talk to," she says.

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They keep up their lessons for the rest of the day, if Miriqua is willing. At some point they'll probably want to wander around outside getting used to voices and cadences other than hers, but it doesn't need to be this afternoon. 

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