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: .

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.