Despite his famed linguistic prowess, Illya finds that mathematics is his most natural idiom other than his mother tongue. He has always viewed language with a sort of detached intellectual amusement. For Illya, language is the stringing together syllables, sounds and symbols to express imperfectly conceived thoughts and emotions. He's been flung around the world for long enough under too many guises to count to know that people are fundamentally the same, just wearing different clothes, but none of them seem to know how to say what they mean. It's just that language provides an extra layer of obscurity, a convenient ploy in how much honesty to reveal.
Math cuts through the peculiarly endearing mess of human misunderstanding that festers because of weak words or particular cases of their nonuse. The beauty of math is how it offers the possibility of finding logical, provable solutions to the irrational conundrums that complicate reality. Numbers have provided order in his life where people are always haphazardly dropping in and disappearing; science and math are Illya's educational polaris as they form a universal platform of knowledge he can always draw upon when all else is uncertain.
Learning new language is supposed to foster new ways to cover up for things he's lost in the ruptures that make up the transitions of his life. Russian as a boy, German under the jackboots, French and English as he moves from academic institution to institution; the list goes on as he can speak and swear in more languages than he has fingers and maybe even toes. The act of translation is really a symbolic exercise in empathy, an attempt to get into the head. The consistency of math provides a welcome conceptual refuge as his own private language. Sideways figure eights ceased to conjure up images of skating as a boy on perfectly frozen ponds and instead evoke the infinity that is his life's work, an impossible series striving toward a utopian world.
Sometimes, during particularly dull stakeouts, Napoleon insists on conversing in languages other than their respective native idioms in order to keep their skills sharp. Illya doesn't have the heart to tell his partner that his accent is terrible no matter what dialect it expresses. Still, it's at moments like these that form the bedrock of a relationship, where each learns to read the silences and gestures when words do not suffice. Illya doesn't lie to Napoleon, but the way he talks about his personal life is best likened to infinitely closer approximations of the intimate truth, approaching but never quite reaching the heavily defended plateau of full disclosure. The language of truth is one not always so conducive to words, but somehow his partner has a sense of what Illya's thinking even when he doesn't say it.
Under Napoleon's tutelage, body language – a lingering gaze, the gentle pressure of a hand on the shoulder, arms cradling a wounded chest - complements mathematics as Illya's favorite idiom.