IRJE: May 15 (Tricked)

In Tricked, book four of the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne, Siodhachan (or Atticus) O Suileabhain must train his new apprentice, Granuaile, to become a druid in order to preserve druidic magic. However, the journey from apprenticeship to full druidhood is a long one, requiring twelve years of martial and scholarly training before one can use even the barest hints of magic. One of the scholarly necessities is that of learning numerous languages. When discussing various aspects of druidic power, Atticus tells Granuaile one of the reasons she needs to learn so many languages.

One of the reasons I require you to learn so many languages is that you can use each of them as a different head-space; they’re going to provide you with a frame-work in which to multitask and they’ll also help you avoid mistakes. You’ll want to use Old Irish for you magic and English for everyday use, so that you’re firmly separating your bindings from your regular speech. Then you’re going to want to pick a language to use for elementals that’s different from  either. (p. 37).

Languages are a fascinating thing which are often mistaken for only ways of communicating. They are not. Much more dominantly, they are ways of thinking. Our vocabulary and sentence structures influence the way we think about and interpret the world, and though it is likely exaggeration in the spirit of fantasy to say one can operate in multiple languages at once, I do think that the sentiment of each language being a different head-space is at least in some ways true. I am not bilingual. I know a passable amount of French, but other than that I can only speak English (although my father is fluent in French and my mother in Swedish– I cannot fathom why they didn’t teach me those languages as a child). Still, I have had a great interest in lingual studies for quite a while. Overwhelmingly, I’ve found it impossible to contradict that language shapes thought. A sentence structure is a hierarchical list of all important information: where we place each bit of information determines its value in our minds. Vocabulary is also significant. For instance, in some First Nations languages, the term for plants translates to “those who take care of us.” Having this be the literal meaning of a word unquestionably would shape one’s disposition towards what that thing is, which is showcased in the difference between Indigenous values and those of the broader Western community. This is one of the reasons I so wish to learn more languages throughout my life– a new language unlocks not just words, but new ideas, new ways of living and being.

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