We came to the parrot cages, my other favorite place. The birds spoke all the languages of the earth: human foreign tongues and the exotic tongues of Gnomic, Elfian, Ogrese, and Abdegi (the language of the giants). I loved to imitate them, even though I didn't know what they were saying. (6.30)
Why thank you, Ella, for that handy introduction to the languages we'll be encountering in this book. Such a considerate main character.
I hesitated. It was one thing to imitate parrots for Simon or to speak to a baby. (7.30)
It's true, parrots are no Rosetta Stone. Ella may know she's pretty awesome when it comes to languages, but she's also aware of her own limitations. Good for her!
She started to teach me right then. Once heard, always remembered is the way with languages and me. By the end of an hour I was forming short sentences. Areida was delighted. (9.48)
There goes Ella demonstrating her genius with languages again. This time there's a bonus: she's making a friend while she's at it.
"Look! Queer ducks flock together." The speaker was the tallest pupil in the school. She pronounced her l's as y's, mocking Areida's accent. (10.16)
Language can be a weapon—and not just in the mouths of toothy ogres. (Also in the well-orthodontia-ed mouths of mean girls.)
Whenever I had time, I practiced the languages, especially Ogrese. The meanings were dreadful, but there was an attraction in speaking the words. They were smooth, sleek, and slithery, the way a talking snake would sound. (10.71)
We're not saying ogres are evil or anything. But if a language sounds like Parseltongue, its speakers are probably up to no good.
Sir Stephan was quiet for a rare moment. (16.20)
Some people are talkers. We get the sense that Ella's more of a listener, unless she has something important or clever to say. Or unless she's trying to make Char laugh, which she seems to spend a lot of the book doing. Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.
Midmorning of my second day of servitude, Olive joined us in the kitchen. "I'm hungry," she said, although breakfast had been only an hour earlier. "Make me a white cake… No, I want Ella to do it." She stood at my side while I measured and mixed. "Talk to me." (23.48-51)
This poor kid is seriously malnourished when it comes to socialization and story time. Maybe she'd be better with language if Mum Olga had spent a little more time talking to or reading with her. Just sayin'.
"What a clever daughter I have." Mum Olga beamed at Hattie." As clever as she is beautiful," I said. They both began to answer me and stopped, confused. "Hattie isn't pretty," Olive said. (23.31-34)
Communication isn't always direct in this book. Luckily for Ella's snappy dialogue, she's under an obedience spell, not a truth spell.
Words rose in me, filled my mouth, pushed against my lips. Yes, I'll marry you. Yes, I love you. Yes! Yes! Yes! I swallowed, forcing them down, but they tore at my throat. A strangled noise erupted from me, but not words, not consent. (29.52-53)
What happens when language betrays you, when the words you speak are not your own? Welcome to Ella's life, where this nonsense happens all the time.
I refused to become a princess but adopted the titles of Court Linguist and Cook's Helper. I also refused to stay at home when Char traveled, and learned every language and dialect that came our way. (Epilogue.12)
Being translator to the king is a pretty nifty job. Since Kyrria is so multicultural, it's probably an important job, too. It warms our hearts to see Ella not giving up what she loves just because she married into the royal family.