How many languages do you know?

After looking at Siskia’s latest blogpost in Spanish, I got inspired and think about my language learning process and how many languages I have learned and how many languages I consider myself comfortable in (as in, besides that I am still learning, I can probably talk about almost anything in that language and understand texts and music) which the number differ from each and other. All of those languages were somewhat special to me because I learned and met people thanks to them 🙂

So, here is a list of the languages I have learned and the ones I know, use and feel comfortable speaking in are marked in bold.

0. Spanish

One of the languages I didn’t choose to learn it. I simply learned it because I was born in Chile and raised by Chilean parents. I had some speaking problems when growing up which I overcame them by going to a speech therapist.

Curiously, besides my main dialect (Chilean), I have picked up another dialect easily due to being exposed to foreign TV from a young age. In Chile we used to get plenty of Argentinean television via cable and they sometimes tended to have more interesting programs than the local ones or more children-oriented channels. Thus, I managed to understand it and incorporate some words from Rioplatense dialect to my daily speech 😛 😛 . Sometimes, without being aware, I can mix dialects and people would ask me if I am really from Chile.

1. English

A language I learned out of necessity. Sure, I started with English classes when I was in my first year of primary school, but they were never good. You could study how to conjugate the verb to be every year and you often read short stories and such. However, when I was 12 years old, I moved to the US with my family, as my father had to finish his studies there. We lived in the DC Metro area and my first 2 weeks in Middle school were horrible. I couldn’t understand anything and the rhythm was so different from my school in Chile. Sure, we got out of school earlier, but recesses there were shorter and you had the same classes every day with different classmates! Not to mention, I did know certain things in English, but I didn’t know, for example, science or maths in English. Nonetheless, I learned it quickly and by 6 months, most of my classes were the ones for native speakers and I also met many people who became good friends while studying there (sadly, there was no Facebook back then, so I am not in touch with any of them). Also, I had the habit of watching TV in English there. I felt quite confident with English when I came back to Chile for the first time. The problem was when coming back, not many people appreciated my knowledge in school and that was a big issue. I was even called “not patriotic” because I often found myself thinking in English than Spanish. When I finished school, I started English Literature and Linguistics at Uni and I had another problem there. I didn’t like the method of learning there, yet I loved Linguistics classes. This disagreement with the method made me take the decision to change my studies. On top of that, I went back to the US with my family due to my father’s job, and there I rediscovered my passion for other cultures that you’ll see later. Also, English allowed me to discover other cultures I could probably never have learned because Spanish materials for those cultures would be very faulty and so. Now, I feel more at ease with English and I hold no grudges against it.

  1. French

During High School, I started to listen to non-English music as a way to differentiate myself (yes, I was one of those alternative people in high school!). I would go to music forums and look for cool bands in either Russian or French. Now, why French? This language has a special place in my heart because part of my family heritage is somewhere in France and when growing up, I always heard about that connection in my family. Hey, I still remember getting a small map from France and Europe in French when I was a kid or when I tried to do an amateur translation of French with some faulty 80’s teach-yourself-French books there were in my house. I didn’t take French classes in High School because I didn’t live close to a French institute, plus I was busy with my exams, and then at Uni, I wasn’t sure about handling after Uni activities. When I was in the US, it was the best time to do it. Plus, it was the first time I learned a language through a foreign language. The result was excellent. I also felt I learned more about grammar in English and Spanish by learning French than by learning English at Uni. Also, after school, I would listen to a lot of French music or watch French movies. I think I even got up to a B1 level. However, when I came back to Chile, I lost track of my French and now, it is hard for me to think about the language.

  1. German

Again, in the US, I decided to take another language (wow!), yet it was not a good first experience. My German class in the US was really bad. My teacher didn’t speak the language well, plus she often skipped classes due to a health problem, leaving people more confused than ever. So I felt disappointed by the language. Then, in Chile, after my 2nd year of my new studies (History), I started German classes again at the Goethe Institut in Santiago. I must say those classes were so good and better than in the US. Highly efficient and motivated teachers, good class group and many other perks. However, when I graduated from Uni and started to look for a job, I had to put that on hold. Plus, truth to be told, I never felt like this… confidence thing with German. Sure, I did well and stayed myself motivated, but it was hard to be confident.

  1. Italian

I am still not sure about putting this because Italian for me was a no brainer thing. I took it because of the easy credit at University. It was the class everyone wanted to have because of the good marks you could get. Plus, it did help being exposed to Italian media when growing up (Italian football matches on RAI or Italian music that was popular in the 80s-90s in Chile).

I got the easy credit and sometimes I feel like I can write in good Italian just by looking at a good dictionary or grammar book. I can even feel confident in it with some drinks on my blood, yet it doesn’t feel foreign enough to me.

5. Polish

And here is everyone’s favourite part! I have already covered most of my motivation with Polish (meeting Poles in the US who loved Spanish language and Latin American culture and suddenly being interested up to the point of traveling once to Poland in 2012 and when I had the opportunity to learn it, I took it). I started learning Polish on January 2014 and since then, I haven’t stopped. It is also a language I can now feel myself comfortable with it. I often find myself thinking in Polish (even outloud) or I like to listen to Polish radios while taking a shower on weekends, reading a book or at work (with headphones on, of course). I am a big Polish media consumer and I believe that has helped me on my way to fluency. I still have a lot to cover. I don’t know how to use the Dative case (Celownik), I still mess up my verbs of movement or perfective ones, I still have a long way when it comes to talking or a working competence, which is my goal… but I can talk and write about different things, even politics or more current issues which for me, are excellent skills. I think Polish is a language that suits me well with its hard sounds and I learned to love it and take care of it as if it is my own.

Now… for language #6, I am still on my way of finding it out (still accumulating more resources).

How many languages have you learned? How many languages do you know by now? Please, share it in the comments section.

Krzysiek.cl in the media pt. 1

Despite I took this week as a cheat week and preparing myself for the next one, I have two big surprises for you, especially if you speak or are learning Spanish:

MEDIA APPEARANCES 😀

First one was an appearance at My Polyglot Podcast from Jimmy Mello in which I talked about Polish and language learning methods in Spanish. It was plenty of fun for Jimmy and I 🙂

Then, I had the pleasure of being Siskia’s first guest at her new podcast towards Spanish spekaers, Babeltitlán. I am happy to have showcased my motivations and some tips for people who want to study abroad without spending much time and money 😛

Each of those links will carry you directly to the places where you can listen me.

Interview with Kuba from LLL.

This time I interviewed my good friend Kuba from Poland. He studies Hungarian Philology in Poznań and recently he got a scholarship to study the language in Budapest for a month. He also has a blog related to languages: LLL: Languages, Linguistics, Life.

I am really proud to have met him not once, but twice this year as he is a great guy. We talked to each other in Spanish, English and Polish and of course, I had to ask him later to give me some time and answer me some questions I am happy to share with you.

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Can you tell me a bit about yourself? What is your main occupation?

My name’s Kuba and I come from Poland. I study there Hungarian Language (Hungarian Philology) at the university in Poznań, so I am mainly occupied with my passion, which is the best thing you can work with, to be honest! The general rule for my life is to do what you love and this is what I do. If it happens that I don’t and I don’t notice it at once, I work on this to let it go and learn to the full from those things.

How did you become involved with languages? Did anyone motivate you?

This story is a little bit knotty, because I may say I actually owe my passion to one girl I once talked to only through internet and now I don’t even remember her name, but my interest started when another hobby was put out (but didn’t disappear!). Firstly, in high school, I wanted to study Psychology and I’m not gonna go into details about how I gave up on this idea, but meanwhile I attended the Spanish class. I was good at this, I liked it, I wanted to learn more than the others. At that time, I talked to this girl, she woke up the spark of interest in me towards this direction. She asked: if you don’t know what to do, look around, why don’t you study Spanish at the university, for example? And the story begins… I thought, okay, Spanish, but I want to study something less popular. That day, I was sitting at my computer, I remember, I discovered Finnish, Mandarin Chinese, Burmese and many other languages. I drew up a list of languages I want to learn. If I remember well, the first version of this list is 24 languages to learn. So then I just started to learn, I grabbed a little bit of Mandarin Chinese, Czech, Esperanto, Portuguese, Swedish, German, Hawaiian and so on. Hence, I wouldn’t say someone motivated me. I think she just opened my mind to languages and I realized this is something what I want to do.

Have your family, loved ones and friends been supportive with your language interests?

To be honest – not really. If you have such a strong passion that takes you from the people that don’t have any kind of passion, they will only complain and they will not understand you. I know only a few people that I know about that they get the point. On the other hand, I don’t really need support, I just follow my path I found it’s mine, that’s all what I do.

I know you were studying in Hungary under a scholarship. How was your experience there? Can you tell me how were your classes and what did you do to apply?

I applied for Summer School in Budapest; that was a one-month scholarship and my teacher at the university helped me to complete all the documents.
I really liked the atmosphere there, because I was there to learn – surely, not like everyone. But I also met people there who, just like me, really wanted to learn this language. I got awesome teachers, really helpful people who answered every question and tried to deal with any problem we had. Additionally, we did a cultural program about literature, music, cinema and had a lot of excursions.

Did you ever face a hard moment while learning languages? How did you overcome it?

Hard moments appear when you do something wrong and when you push on yourself too much. That is, if you are too stricted, too planned, too organized. You may love learning languages, but don’t make the process of learning something you will hate. I was like this many times and this is also a very enriching moment when you realize you shouldn’t. There’s no universal rule, you cannot apply the same learning style every day, to all the languages you learn, in every moment in your life. You need breaks, breaks are okay. You need to know your goal, you need to know what you need now from this language. So if you struggle, just sit and think why.

What languages are you currently interested in right now? How do you practice them? What are your lifehacks for that language?

Now two main languages I practice are Hungarian and German. This is obviously because of my studies, but I still want to keep on with Spanish and English.
Now, after this scholarship in Hungary, I know I need a lot of speaking. I am seriously thinking about talking to myself.
German is another story, but the best thing I can do now with it is to go back to the basics.
Of course, I am not perfect in reading in Hungarian, but this is not the priority now – so once again, you should firstly notice what is your lack, your need and then focus on this.

Are you interested in a certain language that you know, more or less, you will not be able to learn it properly?

Should I really list every language in this world? 😛
I would love to learn a lot of them, some of them just to compare to the others, some of them to speak, some of them just to have fun. But that’s how passion works. However, if I was to choose only one language, I think I would choose Finnish.
Can you tell me a short, positive anecdote about your language learning history?

Sure, there’s one when I was with my family in Barcelona for the first time, just after one year of learning Spanish on my own. We were supposed to rent a car and so we took the bus to the office and I started to talk to this Catalan guy in Spanish, meanwhile my father asked me some questions, so at one point I felt like a real interpreter. But the funny thing was that I spent there approximately an hour, not because I couldn’t understand the Catalan guy, but only because of my father that couldn’t understand me. Wasn’t I speaking Polish to him? I don’t know, but the point is that I wouldn’t be able to communicate with this guy if I didn’t ask at the information desk about a simply thing – direction to the bus stop. A small step, but the crucial one to my further progress in Spanish.

Thank you Kuba for this interview! He also left this really cool quote:

Good days give you happiness, bad days give you experience, and the worst days give you the best lessons.

Interview with Adam Young (and learn Amharic with him!)

Finally, interviews are back! 😀

The first person who accepted my invitation was Adam Young, who is living in the UK, an 18-year-old aspiring polyglot who knows English, Hungarian, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, German and taking the challenge to learn Arabic, Danish and Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia.  He also has a website devouted to spread the language and learn it together: http://adamyoung1997.wix.com/learnamharic .

Can you tell me a bit about yourself? What is your main occupation?

I am a student in my last year at school, studying French, German, and Spanish. I am from Hungary but I live in England. After school, I hope to go to university to study linguistics, possibly with a language.

How did you become involved with languages? Did anyone motivate you?

As I mentioned above, I was born in Hungary, and lived there for four years until moving to England with my family. I am adopted, and my parents are English; they’d been learning Hungarian while they’d been in Hungary, but weren’t fluent, and so English was always spoken at home in Hungary. Because of these two things, I forgot Hungarian, and if you’d asked me to say even “My name is Adam” in Hungarian five years ago, I would have told you that I couldn’t.

In Year 8 at school (when I was 13) I decided to start learning Hungarian again. I started off simple; numbers and greetings, and started to study a little bit of grammar. At this time, I was already studying French and German at school, but I was in the lower groups – it wasn’t so much that I wasn’t good at the languages, I’d just never fully put myself into them. So, fast-forward a year, and I’m now deciding what GCSEs to take (exams taken at the end of Year 11). I chose French and German, and was put into the higher groups, as my language level had improved too. At this point I was now able to say a few things in Hungarian. I don’t fully remember the point where the passion took off exactly, but I just know it was sometime around the age of 14. I realised, through learning the grammar of Hungarian, that I found grammar really interesting, and not just in Hungarian, but other languages too (like French and German, for example).

Have your family, loved ones and friends been supportive with your language interests?

Completely. They are unbiased towards the languages that I learn.

How did you start to be interested in Amharic?

I went to Zambia last year from June 23 – July 6, and we flew with Ethiopian Airlines with a connecting flight from Addis Ababa Bole Airport. Before the trip I didn’t know Amharic existed, so I was confused as to what language I was seeing on the plane. I asked the passenger next to me, and he told me it was Amharic. So, when I got back from Zambia I looked it up, as what I’d seen and heard on the plane and in the airport had really fascinated me. I then started to learn it and, seeing as it is the official language of Ethiopia, started to learn about Ethiopian culture, history, and cuisine – all three of which really intrigued me. I am also learning Amharic as it helps serve as a memento of my trip to Zambia, which was life-changing.

Have you ever faced a hard moment while learning languages? How did you overcome it?

I’d really only say a hardship I’ve encountered is a lack of resources for the language (the language in question being Amharic). Despite it having around 60 million speakers, there aren’t so many available resources out there on the internet for it. This is one of the main reasons that I’m creating my website.
What languages are you currently interested in right now? How do you practice them? What are your lifehacks for that/those language(s)?

My main three interests (not in order of interest) are Amharic, Portuguese, and Hungarian. Hungarian I am now fairly fluent in, and Portuguese I am conversational in. To practice them, I Skype native/fluent speakers of the language, study the grammar, practice writing sentences. Things to help with language output.
Are you interested in a certain language that you know, more or less, you won’t be able to study?

Yes – I really like ancient Semitic/Middle-Eastern/North African languages. Languages like Phoenician, Akkadian, Ancient Egyptian, and Coptic – three of which are extinct (Phoenician, Akkadian, and Ancient Egyptian), and one of which is used solely for liturgical purposes (Coptic).

Can you tell me a short, positive and funny anecdote about your language learning history?

I haven’t had any of those embarrassing public language mistakes (thankfully), but I have started speaking Hungarian to a French speaker. She’d come in to talk the French class for practice, and I was telling her about my family and I spoke Hungarian, and as I then carried about how the rest of my family don’t speak Hungarian, I’d switched into Hungarian! I wondered why she was looking at me confused.