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.