He doesn't remember learning Greek, just knows that Dad doesn't approve when he laughs as Mom tells him about hearing Greg speaking it with some of the other kids at the park.
"Of course he did," Dad says. "It's hard to be the center of attention when no one understands you." He chuckles and gives Greg's arm a soft punch, pretending it's all just a joke, but he doesn't fool anyone.
"Don't tease him, John," Mom says, and smiles over at Greg. She squeezes his hand. "I think it's wonderful."
Greg stares down at his plate and doesn't say anything.
In Egypt, he picks up his first bits of Arabic at a dig site when one of the men waves him over. He stands at the edge of the pit. There's a precise grid laid out in the dirt, and the man points down at one of the diggers, who is pulling a piece of pottery out from the dust. He says something, and Greg realizes that the sounds have assembled themselves into words in his mind.
"Look here," the man says.
"What is it?" Greg asks, without thinking about words or languages.
The man smiles. "A clue," he says.
Dad tells him to stay on the base, so Greg sneaks away every chance he gets.
On a street corner far from the front gate he sits on a bench, closes his eyes and just listens, trying to pick up rhythms and tones in language the same way he does when he's trying to work out the chord changes in a song.
At the hospital, after the accident, the doctors talk openly in front of him, thinking he can't understand. Some of the medical phrases slip past him, but then he realizes he's hearing one word again and again: buraku.
House is bored when he finds the book on Hindi and leafs through it, never meaning to learn it at all. But every time he hears an unfamiliar phrase, he opens the book again, wanting to find out more.
He never speaks Hindi with anyone, doesn't care that his accent is bad. That's not the point.
All he wants is to be able to understand them, to eavesdrop on the students at the next table and find out what they know. To know their secrets. The first thing he hears is that they don't like him. He already knew that.
It begins with Yiddish, with a curse House doesn't know. He studies it, hearing the way German and Hebrew grew into something more. Yiddish leads to Hebrew, Hebrew to theology he doesn't believe in.
He finds an old book on the shelf after the infarction, after Stacy, when he's looking for a distraction. He tells Wilson it seems appropriate to read backwards now that everything else in his life has been turned upside down.
Somehow he always ends up at discussions on the same theme: "Because of our sins, we were punished." He doesn't believe it, but he keeps reading.