Four Languages Sigrid Dips Into on Duolingo

Spanish

Sigrid picked up a fractured Spanish in high school, which she later mended slightly for casual conversations at her job. She associates the language with the smell of disinfectants and the careful application of powders, cologne, perfume, and lipstick. It makes her think of coffee mugs and bony hands with prominent veins held in hers at a table, sunlight warming the chairs. She dips into Duolingo’s Spanish because she wants to explore more of the language, see the words in front of her and think more about the spelling and grammar.

French

To Sigrid, French is a wonderful clotting in the mouth and nose. It’s a language that renders even practical phrases nonsensically romantic. She finds humor in it and loveliness and frustration. It isn’t entirely beautiful, though. For instance, she doesn’t like the word pastèque, which is French for watermelon. It sounds like a gunky watermelon paste. But much of French is lovely, and it’s a hopeful language to her, because she imagines herself in France one day. Not even in Paris, but in lavender fields in the south or on beaches in the north and fields with white graves, gardens with des petits chats, and stony paths that lead to cathedrals.

German

So far, German is the language of clean airport gates. Glass made brilliant in sunshine, sleek curving chairs, planes patiently absorbing luggage. The same planes later leaping into the air and seeming weightless as they rise. It’s the taste of coffee and formalities. Ticket agents with their hair in a bun and their lipstick tidy. Screens displaying a schedule of flights and the promise of timeliness.

Welsh

When Sigrid works on Welsh she feels as if a dryad has arrived to summon her on a quest in the forest. She hears the language of earth and trees, and streams engorged with unexpected floodwater. The words are enchantment. They set her circling a forest glade barefoot, with pillowy grass and spikes of pain from twigs and stones. Sometimes, she smiles in wonderment when she encounters a new word. Pilipala, which is one word for butterfly. She wants to discover other words.

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