Twilight Learns Russian

by PresentPerfect

Chapter 1: Twilight Learns Russian

Twilight Learns Russian
by Present Perfect

"I figured since Russia is the largest nation on Earth, I'd be most likely to end up meeting with their leaders. You know, just by the numbers."

Twilight laughed as she stirred more sugar into her tea. "Turns out, I misread their world political situation just a tad. Kind of like how I memorized the Russian alphabet, only to find out everything's written in near incomprehensible cursive," she added with a grumble. "Still, once Starlight and I started doing research on human languages, I found the grammatical structures really intriguing."

"Do go on, dear," Rarity said, and if her interest was feigned, Twilight couldn't tell.

"So..." Twilight shifted in her throne, trying to get into perfect lecture position while debating where to begin. "In Russian, adjectives are declined to agree with the noun, like in French--" she nodded to Rarity-- "or German--" to Fluttershy. "But since adjectives precede the noun in the sentence, you have to know ahead of time what gender and number your noun is before you speak it!" She giggled. "I have to admit, it was a daunting challenge at first, but I found rising to it was very rewarding."

"Gosh!" Fluttershy nodded softly. "And I thought German grammar was difficult."

Twilight clopped her hooves together. "What's even more fascinating is the general lack of be-verbs! For instance, if I wanted to say, 'I am Equestrian', I would take 'I', put it with 'Equestrian', and that's it!" She drew herself up straight, placing a hoof on her chest. "Ya Ekvestrianka." She tittered. "Declined for the feminine, of course. But there's no 'be' in there! My mind was officially blown when I heard it the first time."

"Ohh," said Fluttershy, "that sounds scary. Or, um, exciting, I guess."

"Well, I don't know about grammar, darlings, but I absolutely adore the French language." Rarity sighed, sitting back in her throne, fluttering her eyelashes. "Pa-ree is such a marvelous city! It puts even Canterlot to shame! The glitz, glamour. Oh, we talked about art and cuisine and fashion, and we even toured the Tour Eff-ell, a truly marvelous piece of architecture if ever there was one!"

Rarity swooned across the arm of her chair, throwing a hoof over her eyes. "C'est magnifique, as they say! It was to die for!"

Twilight frowned. "Gosh, Rarity, that sounds like fun. Though I can't help but notice what you said sounded an awful lot like, well, things you usually say."

"I thought so, too," Fluttershy said quickly.

"I noticed as well, darlings." Rarity sat up, regarding them seriously. "I attempted to ask my instructor about it, but she wasn't as conversant in our shared language as her own. Still, the similarities only helped add to the, dare I say, je-ne-sais-quoi of France!"

Twilight smiled. "That sounds wonderful. I'm so glad you had a good time, Rarity! What about you, Fluttershy?"

"Oh." Fluttershy gave a soft smile, as if to herself. "Well, when I signed up to learn German, I got a little scared. I heard a lot of ponies, er, people say that it was a very, um, angry language."

Twilight quirked an eyebrow. "I'm not sure it's possible for a language to have feelings."

Fluttershy quickly shook her head. "Oh, of course not! And, I can maybe understand why some ponies might think that. There are a lot of, um, consonant clusters? Is that right?"

Twilight nodded, and Fluttershy continued.

"And, um, the grammar was challenging. But I think I already said that." She paused, giving another soft smile. "But really, I had a very lovely time." Her eyes shone as she spoke. "We learned about colors and flowers and, um, foals' things, I suppose. We sang a song about a bunny rabbit! And one about a little crocodile!"

Fluttershy was sitting up in her throne now, wings fully outstretched, smiling ear to ear.

"And even though some of the words were really hard to say, or sounded kind of rough, some things sound very, um, smooth? If that makes sense." She waited for her friends to give her an encouraging nod. "I learned how to say things like, um..." She blushed slightly. "Ich bin verschnupft."

Twilight felt her heart stop. Rarity, laid across the arms of her throne, went limp. Languages couldn't have feelings, but they apparently could be lethal. As Twilight pounded on her chest to get her heart going again, she contemplated the possibilities of weaponized adorable.

"A-are you both all right?" Fluttershy asked, concerned.

"Well enough!" Rarity shouted, lifting a hoof in the air.

At that moment, the door burst open, accompanied by the sounds of party blowers and guitar music.

"¡Ole!" cried a voice that sounded very pink. "¡Hola! ¡Bienvenido! ¿Como estas?"

"Pinkie!" cried Rarity, halfway between a smile and a frown. "Goodness, you gave poor Fluttershy a start!"

Fluttershy, not startled in the slightest, said nothing.

Twilight grinned. "Something tells me you really hit it off with the language you chose to study."

"Did I ever!" Pinkie cartwheeled across the room, leaving party decorations hanging in her wake. "Speaking other languages is amazing! We shoulda done this ages ago!"

She bounced in place, grinning wide. "And you'll probably think I'm crazy, Twilight, but it turns out, I already knew Spanish! Or, should I say, ¡Español!"

Twilight could all but hear the inverted exclamation points. She frowned. "Pinkie, that doesn't make any sense. How could you already know a language that doesn't exist in Equestria?"

"It's easy, Twilight!" Pinkie reared up, spreading her forehooves wide. "It's in the song!"

And she began singing.

"¡Dale, dale, dale, no pierdas el tino! ¡Porque si lo pierdes, pierdes el camino!"

She likely would have finished the entire song, had not Spike suddenly arrived and shoved his claw in Pinkie's mouth.

"Good one, Spike!" said Starlight, laughing as she trotted in behind him. Pinkie did not seem perturbed in the slightest by the dragon hand in her cake hole.

"How was human language for the two of you?" Twilight asked.

"It was awesome!" said Spike, grinning ear to ear. "We played games, told jokes, watched cartoons, ate pizza..." His face took on a dreamy expression. "So much pizza!"

Frowning, Twilight asked, "Did you do any actual language learning?"

"Oh, sure!" Spike straightened up and cleared his throat. "Hic! Sunt! Dracones! That means 'here be dragons'." He polished his claws against his chest. "Yeah, the teacher and other students really got a kick outta me being there. The Crystal Empire, Ohio, wherever I go, celebrity is bound to follow!"

Starlight took her seat next to Twilight's throne. "That sounded a lot like Pony Latin."

"There might be a reason for that," said Twilight sardonically.

Spike removed his claw from Pinkie's mouth. A large cupcake, frosted and coated in drool, rested in his palm. He squinted at it with one eye.

"All yours, Spikey!" Pinkie said, hopping to her seat.

With a shrug, Spike jammed the cupcake in his mouth.

"How about you, Starlight?" asked Twilight as Spike waddled over to his little throne.

"Ugh!" Starlight tossed her head back. "Mandarin Chinese. I don't know how ponies in the human world deal with it! When you can say ma, ma, ma, ma--" her voice modulated up and down with each word-- "oh, and let's not forget ma--" this one was short and flat-- "and the only way to tell what they mean is the tone? Or the context! I swear. One of those is the word for 'pony', and don't ask me to remember which."

"I don't know," said Twilight. "I think the use of tones allows for much more efficient genesis of vocabulary. I mean, if you can take a limited syllabary and get five times the meaning from it..."

"Twilight, they don't have an alphabet."

"Oh!" Fluttershy quailed a bit as all eyes turned to her. "Um, I remember Twilight saying something about people who write with pictures. Is that right? It sounds nice."

Twilight nodded, looking to Starlight. "Their character system is derived from ancient pictograms, yes."

Starlight relaxed a bit. "I have to admit, I did find the writing to be a fun challenge. It's almost like trying to communicate with art! Granted, some of the characters can be extremely complicated to write, but apparently a group called the Communists simplified everything some time ago." She chuckled. "No idea who they were, but if this is the kind of thing they did a regular basis, then call me a friend of Communism!"

The others nodded in agreement. Starlight grew serious once again.

"But they still didn't fix the big problem with it." She stared straight into Twilight's eyes. "Twilight, without an alphabet, they don't have a natural, organized filing system."

Twilight's world spun. Next thing she knew, she was on the floor, supported from behind by Spike and Starlight while Fluttershy fanned her with her wings and Pinkie and Rarity looked on, concern written large in their features.

"I-I'm okay," she croaked. Rarity passed her a glass of water, and she took a long drink.

"Now you know how I felt," Starlight murmured.

"Yes," said Twilight. "We must do something at once. Spike, take a note! We are to have no further contact with the Chinese. A people without a filing system are a truly fallen civilization."

The others bowed their heads as Twilight let Starlight magic her back into her throne.

Then Applejack walked in, bright as could be.

"Well, hajjy-may-maw-shee-tay, y'all! Ah'm back from mah Nee-hone-goh learnin' on Earth!"

"Welcome back, Applejack," said Twilight with as much cheer as she could muster. "It sounds like you had a good time!"

"Yes indeedy, I did!" Applejack flopped into her throne and put her rear hooves up on the Cutie Map, ignoring Rarity's scoffing. "Met a whole lotta friendly fellers in nifty hats who told me all about the epic tales and legends of traditional Japanese culture they call ah-nee-may. Land's sakes, but them folks got a rich verbal history full o' magic an' sword-swingers an' monsters an' you name it!"

She chuckled and polished a hoof on her stomach. "If'n y'all don't mind me sayin', I also learned how to swear a cuss or three. Them oh-tay-koos sure know how to show a pony a good time! Though I never did figure out what a why-foo was. They spent a lotta time arguin' over 'em somethin' fierce."

"I heard about anime," said Starlight, looking puzzled. "We watched some with Chinese subtitles. But it was just cartoons, like for foals, nothing amazing."

"What?" Applejack sat up straight, hat flopping over her eyes. "You ever see a cartoon with a deep, rich plot and nuanced characters?"

There was a beat.

"These are true heroic legends I'm talkin' about! Rivallin' tales o' Mage Meadowbrook an' Rockhoof an' alla them! Anime is real!" She smacked the map, which fizzed and sparked.

Nopony knew what to say after that outburst. In fact, the awkward silence might have continued indefinitely if not for the entrance of the final member of their band.

Rainbow Dash dragged herself in through the open door with slow, measured steps. Her wingtips dragged across the ground. Deep port-wine circles ringed both her eyes. Her mane was the usual. In short, it looked like she hadn't slept in two months.

"Hey, guys," she mumbled to the floor as she crawled the last few steps to her throne. She was able to mount it only with help from the unicorns in the room, and once seated, all she did was flop face-first onto the map.

"Rainbow, darling, you look simply awful!" Rarity stuck out her lower lip. "Whatever is the matter?"

"Did the humans mistreat you?" asked Starlight. "I know I had quite a few asking for 'horseback' rides. Celestia only knows how many times I had to explain how offensive that is." She rolled her eyes.

"Did you get lost on the way back to Equestria?" asked Fluttershy, cringing. "Human transportation is loud. And scary."

"Maybe the food didn't agree with her," said Spike. He burped.

Pinkie put her front hooves on the map table. "Or she fell into a ravine and broke both her wings, then had to pull herself out using only her wits, a length of rope, and the left leg of the last pony who broke her wings there! Day in and day out, dying of thirst, with only her wits, a length of rope, a stick, a bear named Sammy--"

"Pinkie, that's not even remotely possible," said Twilight flatly.

Applejack snorted. "I'll bet she just got her flank kicked by language homework." With a smug grin, she added, "Y'always were kind of a baka, Rainbow."

Rainbow's hoof flailed in AJ's direction, and she spoke into the table. "That one. Whatever Applejack just said, that's it."

Twilight grew concerned. "What language did you study, again?"

Dash lifted her head and gazed at her friends with world-weary eyes.

"That wasn't a language. It was a punishment."

The others inched forward on their seats a little bit.

"The grammar had no consistent rules."

A little closer.

"Each letter makes like five different sounds in five different words!"

Even closer. Pinkie nibbled the tips of her hooves.

"It was literally, completely honestly, the worst. Language. Ever!"

Spike fell off his throne. Everyone else shouted, "WHAT WAS IT?"

Lifting her hooves skyward, Rainbow Dash let out the piteous wail of a mare who has been through Tartarus, lived to tell about it, and wished she had been lost to the darkness so she wouldn't have to continue living with the existential horror. She keened a single word that reverberated off the arched crystal ceiling and sent chills down the spine of everypony present.


Author's Notes:

Thank you for reading my silly, masturbatory fic. :V Every single language mentioned in this story is one I have personally learned to some extent, and a lot of the ponies' experiences and thoughts are my own. Specifically, Applejack's segment is a tribute to the guy in my Intro to Japanese class who found a kindred spirit in the people of "Southern Japan", who spoke slow, just like him.

Also, I apologize to the Bantu people for leaving Swahili out. :C I couldn't fit it all in!

Thanks to Patchwork Poltergeist, Snuffy, Georg, Allen Wight, Super Trampoline, Majin Syeekoh, kits, Icy Shake and Marcus Downing for feedback!

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