I speak/Je parle/Hanashimasu/Io parlo/Yo hablo/Naega malhada/Jag talar/Ich spreche/Ik spreek/Ana atakalam/Wo shuo
America+England(Lithuania), vaguely srs bsns/humor, language ridiculousness
England doesn't keep an eye on America. (This is a lie.) It's been almost two and a half centuries since America was a colony and he wasn't even all that important a colony - kind of a venture, really, but North America as a whole was sort of a disappointment and he can't really remember why he went to war to keep America in the first place and it doesn't really matter, because America didn't really matter.
He matters now, and sometimes that grates on England. (A lot.)
So he doesn't keep an eye on America except for when America is demanding everyone's attention, which is most of the time.
America reminds him a little of Sealand, except with terrifying strength and bases all over the world. They'd get along famously. Maybe he should send Sealand America's way, see if the big oaf actually recognizes him as a nation (only if he does, then England will have to as well. Bloody hell, no, that's a terrible idea. Why did he ever think of it?)
With the formation and strengthening of the EU, America has a hard time keeping straight which nations are members and which ones aren't, which is hilarious and insulting all at once. Also with the formation of the EU, trade talks take twice as much time because England has to go attend the EU meetings after the international ones so everyone can argue for hours about what's best to do. (Simpler times, when it took weeks to get from one end of Europe to the other and England spent most of his time finding ways to kick France in the face, are long gone, but as mind-numbing as arguing about beef standards is it's good to be at peace.) They speak English at these meetings, because that's the lingua franca now (England's fault, ultimately, and how he loves to rub it in France's smug stupid face).
So while the long and mind-numbing talks keep going (nations and bosses and more nations and diplomats) England doesn't watch America and this is what he sees:
When America isn't the center of attention he gets bored, and starts talking anyway. To anyone in his general vicinity. Some nations ignore him, but most converse back because it's America and it's better to be his friend. What surprises England is that he doesn't understand a damn word of it, because America converses with them in their own languages.
He's imagining it, right? America is an inconsiderate oaf: well-meaning, certainly, and England is perfectly happy to be in bed with him (metaphorically! Metaphorically, of course), but this level of consideration is surely beyond him. England watches Lithuania laugh at something America says and wonders how badly the young nation is mangling the language.
But he does it with Spain, too, laughing and rubbing the back of his head when Spain makes exasperated faces at him, and he does better with Mexico and Ecuador although America is always scowling a little when he talks to her and him. He does it with the Italian brothers as well (why Romano takes the certain butchering of Italian better than Veneziano is a mystery), and Japan, whose reactions are always a mystery; China makes America scrunch up his face in evident concentration until the ancient nation smirks at him. Egypt sometimes deigns to say a few words and America always lights up, eager, and rapid-fires Arabic back at him. Poland laughs and laughs and America laughs too, unembarrassed, until Germany hisses at them to shut up so he can hear and Poland says, "like, this is totally boring formalities and we all know how this is going to end" and Italy whines, "I'm hungry!" on Germany's other side and Romano rolls his eyes and Austria sticks his nose in the air and shushes them all and Poland demands, "who died and made you boss?" and Lithuania puts his hand on Poland's arm and Poland subsides but Italy keeps whining about pasta until Germany excuses himself and Veneziano and they go off to an early lunch and America watches them go with a wistful sigh.
It's a little less of a mystery with the Netherlands and Sweden and Germany and France; England, much to his chagrin, had forced America to suck it up and learn the bastard's language because it was the diplomatic language of the day; Netherlands and Sweden and Prussia and others all came to America's lands in those days and America spoke at least a few words of all their languages (It's easier to know them, he said, rubbing his chest as if nursing an ache, it makes me feel less like I'm ... you know ... in pieces.)
None of the other countries blink an eye at America's (fumbling) attempts at their own languages, which is what England really notices. How long has this been going on under his nose? He's shocked America's never boasted about all the languages he's taught himself. It's - it's technically none of his damn business and he's not paying attention, so he shouldn't bring it up at all.
Naturally, he does anyway.
"Stop insulting the other nations by trying to speak their languages," England says.
America's digging into his cafeteria dinner; he lifts his eyes to stare at England, then swallows hard and scowls. "Hey, old man, why do you keep forgetting you can't tell me what to do anymore?"
England rolls his eyes. "It's a diplomatic suggestion," he snaps. "English carried the day and the other nations learn it well so you don't have to make an idiot of yourself."
America smirks at this. "Don't you mean so you don't?" he asks, and England sputters.
"Excuse me, who taught you French!"
"Yeah, yeah," America grouses, and starts cutting another huge chunk of meatloaf off his styrofoam tray. "Well, you don't have to worry about it. I speak a lot of languages pretty well."
England rests his chin on his knuckles, and he might be enjoying needling America a little too much. "I highly doubt that."
"How would you know?" America chews and swallows. "You don't speak Polish or Swahili or Russian or anything. Probably all the languages you know are dead."
"You speak English!" England shoots back, exasperated: he knows Old English and Latin and Welsh and Irish and Scottish and technically learned French because there was that time long ago when France ruled over him, but- "Or some butchered variety of it. Given what you've done to our shared language I can only imagine what you're doing to-"
"Hey, hey!" America puts out a hand, grinning even though his eyebrows are pinched. "At least my English makes some sense. Why does the word 'color' need a 'u' in it anyway!"
"That's how it's supposed to be spelled!"
"Admit it. You made up English spelling when you were like, five or something." America has the upper hand now and he pushes. "I read this funny quote on the Internet the other day - uh ... 'English is a language that beats up other languages in dark alleyways and rifles in their pockets for spare vocabulary'. Is that how it works, England?"
England grunts in annoyance; he's seen that quote too. "You tell me, if you know so many other languages."
America thinks about it for a second or two (is he being patronizing or insulting or both at once?), and comes out with the verdict, "It sure does." He grins and goes back to his meatloaf and mashed potatoes.
England huffs and tries to drag the conversation back to its point. "In any case, I'm simply trying to save you from making a fool of yourself. The other nations laugh at you when you're talking to them."
America gives England a hurt look. "They're not laughing at me. They're laughing because I said something funny. On purpose." He starts scraping up the leftover gravy with the side of his fork, other hand resting in his lap (funny American custom that it is). You don't get it. I really do speak a lot of languages - some of them not very well, I guess, and some of them I speak a little old-fashioned, or weird dialects, but I'm not butchering them." He pauses. "Except maybe Spanish. Spain's always making funny faces at me. I speak the versions that Mexico and Chile and the other nations from South and Central America have better, and it's a little hard to keep them straight. Portuguese, too, actually."
England sighs. "How many languages do you speak, America?"
"Uh ..." America screws up his face. "I dunno. How many languages are there in the world? I think I speak most of 'em."
England just looks at America for a long moment. "You taught yourself over two hundred languages and dialects thereof." It's not a question, because this is an outright lie. As much as America is all energy and eagerness and always looking for a fun time, he knows the hours the younger nation keeps, and they are purely ridiculous - and even if America spent all his free time teaching himself the languages of the world, he wouldn't be nearly through them all!
America laughs. "No way! Like I have the time!" He looks thoughtfully towards the cafeteria counter, obviously considering seconds, then glances at his watch and shrugs slightly. "I just know 'em!" He leans across the table as if he's telling England a secret; England resists the urge to lean back. "All these people from all the different nations come to me, and live with me, and a lot of them become part of me. So of course I speak the languages they brought from their old home. Isn't that how it works?"
England stares at him. "No, that's - that's not how it works at all," he protests. "People from other nations have become part of me as well, and I don't learn their language. Germany is similar, as are others."
America purses his lips a little at this. "Hm," he says, thoughtful, and sits back in his chair. "I wonder why, then?" After a brief little (puzzled) silence, though, America pushes his chair back and stands, swiping up his empty tray. "It's time to go back! Not that that's anything to be excited about ..." he grumbles and looks around for a trashcan.
But if America immediately forgets the question of why he (supposedly) speaks most of the world's languages, England doesn't. He puzzles over it for the afternoon and into the evening, and when they adjourn again for the day, he finds himself walking out side by side with Lithuania.
The nation is older than England, and he's very mild, especially considering that England never forgot when he and Poland were a Commonwealth and significantly larger than their current borders because they soundly kicked everyone's arse, but England recalls that the Baltic state had lived with America for a little while some ninety years ago. "Excuse me, Lithuania," he says, polite, and Lithuania looks round to him.
"Oh, England! Hullo," he says, in perfect and only slightly accented English. "What's on your mind?"
"It's not my place to speak for America, but as a fellow English-speaking nation, I apologize for his attempts to speak Lithuanian. I tried to persuade him today to stick with English but-"
Lithuania startles him by laughing. "America's Lithuanian is very good," he says, and England's eyebrows rise. "It's a little rusty now, I can tell, but he spoke it perfectly when I lived with him. Rather, he taught me English."
"I'm sorry for that, too," England says under his breath, but he's surprised, and it shows.
Lithuania walks just a little closer. "A lot of my people moved to America when I lived with him. He spoke excellent Italian, too - Romano helped a little - and a good amount of German as well. It's all thanks to the immigrants he took in, and I'm grateful. He's less accommodating now, I guess, but he's always been welcoming."
"But how does he just - learn new languages when new people move to his land?" England protests. "It doesn't work that way. It doesn't work that way for you, does it?"
Lithuania's face falls and England smacks his face into his palm. "I'm sorry, that was unthinking of me."
"No, it is unusual," Lithuania says, brushing the incident aside with a slight hand gesture. "But it's easy to know why. America doesn't have an official language - he never has. Yes, English is his dominant language, but he never decided it was the only language he speaks." Lithuania smiles at England. "I think it's rather kind of him. And given his strength ... I think we should all be relieved he's chosen kindness."
Lithuania tips his head forward and shakes England's hand in farewell for the day, and England stands on the street corner, contemplative - as if America thought it through! - until America slings his arm over England's shoulders, startling him. "Hey, old man! You're done with the boring EU talks for today, right? Let's go get some proper American food!"
England shrugs America's arm off. "I'm going back to my hotel room. And I'm drinking tea."
"Ugh," America says, making a face. "Have fun with that." He pauses. "By the way, I was thinking about why I can speak the languages of all the immigrants, and I realized of course I can. I'm awesome!"
England raises one bushy eyebrow. "I've thought about it too, and it seems more likely that your indecisiveness on picking an official language is to blame. What's wrong with English, I ask you?"
America looks vaguely guilty, which for him is hardly guilty at all - his brows pinched into a worried look, his shoulders slightly hunched. "Nothing, really," he says. "But - I like knowing all these languages. I like that everyone can speak comfortably with me. Is that wrong?" He pauses. "Not that your opinion's gonna change my mind."
England thinks of history, of language barriers, the translators in the UN and his slow-to-settle shock that America could serve for all of them. "It's - very typical of you," he says at length, to avoid giving America a compliment, but he clearly hears one anyway.
America puffs out his chest. "I know! It's really cool, isn't it?" Then his gaze shifts over England's shoulder and he waves at someone. "Hey, Australia, I've totally been meaning to catch up with you!"
"What about me!" a plaintive voice from a distance and England turns to see Australia and ... ah, yes, Canada walking towards them.
"You too," America says, and starts forward. "Gotta go, England! Maybe you should brush up on your French. I think France called you the son of a midwife and a horse or something and you didn't even react." He winks and runs off, waving.
England sucks a huge, shaking breath through his teeth and goes to find that bloody French sod, because fortunately, their armistice does not forbid bar brawls.
a few notes:
the title is written in English, French, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Korean, Swedish, German, Dutch, Arabic, and Chinese, mostly because I could find these written out in the Roman alphabet and don't seem to be butchered. I myself speak only English and a little Spanish and Japanese.
To this day America doesn't have an official language (although many states have official languages) - a fact that had brought some consternation in recent years with the heavy influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants. (Neither does the UK, although each country within has its own laws, which I conveniently ignore in this fic because 95 percent of England's population speaks English primarily.)
Lithuania has a high suicide/homicide rate and a low birth rate. He's also a combat butler and along with Poland kicked Austrian, Prussian, and Russian ass back in the day.
England was at one point owned by the Roman Empire and later occupied by France, hence knowing Latin and French.
Americans keep wildly long work hours compared to most European nations. Also, it is customary in America to put down one's knife while eating and leave the unused hand in your lap. Most European countries' etiquette is to keep both fork and knife in hand for the whole meal.