This week I am featuring one of the most interesting interviews so far. Olga is from Poland and I met her this year in Debrecen. She attended Hungarian language classes while I attended my History ones. However, I do like to take any opportunity to practice Polish and since there were many students from Poland, I met her. She runs a personal blog called Polish Pea (in Polish, that is) and I was lucky to be featured some weeks ago as part of her Młodzi ambitni (ambitious -in a positive way- youth) section. She also collaborates on the student-run magazine about Polish-Hungarian relationships called Magyazyn.
Here is my interview with Olga!
Can you tell me a bit about yourself? What is your main occupation?
My name is Olga and I’m 21 years old. I think I’m a little bit weird, because I study… Hungarian Philology. I’ve just finished my second year at the University of Warsaw (the best Polish university, yay!). As you might imagine, I’m truly interested in every single issue connected with Hungary (Hungarian culture, language, literature, geography, theathre…).
I’m also really into art, especially music. I used to sing in a choir (I was a member of a choir for 10 years!), I was playing the keyboard, and I was a member of a flute band that performed only medieval songs (yes, I’m not normal). What’s more… I was an actress/singer/dancer in the amateur theatre in my home town.
Right now, due to my few health problems, I’m very interested in alternative medicine and nutrition. I have been doing yoga for 2,5 years.
I also love reading books, watching films, going to the theatre, writing (but it’s waaay easier to write in Polish), my village and my cats! Plus spending time with my friends.
I almost forgot! I’m also writing a blog: www.polishpea.blogspot.com (only in Polish, sorry!).
Ok… It supposed to be an interview about language 😉 So, of course I’m also keen on languages. That’s why I’m learning English (as I’m not a native speaker I don’t think that someday I’ll be able to say: “I DO speak English”, Spanish and Hungarian. And as a proud member of the Polish nation I speak Polish (what a surprise!). My university department is called the Department of Finno-Ugrian Studies, so within the curriculum, I have to choose another Finno-Ugric language, either Finnish or Estonian. Any of them is going to be my 5th language (or maybe 6th one ifs I’ll be crazy enough to choose both of them, who knows?).
How did you become involved with languages? Did anyone motivate you?
I think these days everyone understands that knowing languages is very important. I’m not sure how does it looks like in other countries, but in Poland most young people speak at least two languages (or maybe only among my friends?).
As a kid I used to travel a lot with my parents and my aunt. They showed me a lot of great places, but I wasn’t able to communicate easily. I wanted to be more independent while going abroad and that’s why I was motivated to practise languages. Later I started to travel on my own and I was happy that I’m able to speak some foreign languages.
I’ve never had any problem with English at school. During my primary school I attended some extra English classes. Then I went to the lower secondary school where we were supposed to have some regular classes in English, but… they didn’t work out. At that time I’ve started to learn Spanish and fall in love with this language. I’ve decided that I’ll go to the “philological module” in high school. Once again I wasn’t lucky… it turned out that I couldn’t continue learning Spanish and I have to start from the very first beginning (learing numbers, colours and stuff…). Anyway, at that time I’ve joined a great language course that took me about 8 hours per week + regular classes at school + studying at home. Finally I was able to pass my final exams (the Matura exam which is the exam you take after high school in Poland) in Spanish, English and Polish.
I was pretty sure that I’m going to study something connected with Spanish, but it appeared that my score wasn’t good enough to study what I wanted to (but to be honest I wasn’t sure what I really wanted to study). I had a plan B, a study in which I would have to wait for a year and try to apply once again. It was Hungarian Philology. When I started to learn Hungarian and explore Hungarian culture I’ve understood that it’s something I want to do in my life.
Have your family, loved ones and friends been supportive with your language interests?
My family have always supported me and encouraged to learn languages. But… I have to admit that my grandparents weren’t happy about the fact that I’m studying Hungarian. I love them, but I had to turn a deaf ear to their talking and… I’ve trusted my instinct. And I’ve never regretted it!
How did you start your journey with blogging?
It may sound rude, but I’ve always known that I can write. I’ve been practising it a lot, for example while writing the articles that I publish for Magyazyn (www.magyazyn.pl), an online magazine about Hungary created by Hungarian Philology students. Since I knew I could write well, I wanted to improve it. Moreover, my personal blog helps me to express my feelings – it’s like an autopsychotherapy, and of course it helps me to be more organized.
Have you ever faced a hard moment while learning languages? How did you overcome it?
Being honest I think that right now I’m having that kind of moment… Due to my health issues I had to took a gap year at the university. I’ve been watching my friends and I’m a little bit jealous, because they are already growing up so fast. But I love them so much and I’m happy for them! I’m sure that it’ll only make me stronger and I can’t wait to feel good enough to learn more.
What languages are you currently interested in right now? How do you practice them? What are your techniques for that/those language(s)?
Finally a question in which I can express my feelings and say: “I don’t like English!”. I do watch films in English, I do read English books, but I don’t like to learn its grammar. I’m not sure how to explain this, but I just don’t feel like improving this language. I know my English isn’t perfect, but I’m happy that I can express my feelings and it’s enough for me.
What about Spanish? Lately I haven’t had a lot of time to learn it, but I’m planning on dedicating it some more time. During my first university year I’ve attended two Spanish classes per week with the best teacher I’ve ever met in my entire life. I really wanted to continue with them, but it appears that he… passed away. I really miss him and the way he was giving classes. Right now, I just try to watch films and listen to songs in Spanish.
Hungarian is considered to be (one of) the hardest language(s) on Earth. I can confirm it. Above all, it’s not like other languages I’ve ever had contact with before. Everything looks so different. As an example – there is agglutination there! However, I study Hungarian at the University, I watch Hungarian films and I read books in Hungarian. I also have a lot of friends from the Pepper Country with whom I can practise my Hungarian. I travel to Hungary as often as possible. During the summer holidays I spent a month in Debrecen at the Summer University (and I’ve met Krzysiek there!). Last year I spend few weeks hitchhiking through Hungary with my best friend. It was an amazing experience and it was the very first time I was able to hear a normal, street Hungarian.
Are you interested in a certain language that you know, more or less, you won’t be able to study?
After learning Hungarian I don’t think there is a language I wouldn’t manage to learn 🙂 Seriously, I’m pretty sure a man can learn any language. It’s just the matter of time and perseverance.
There are a lot of languages I’m interested in. For example: Portuguese, Italian, Indian, Croatian, Swahili, Romanian… But I think that right now I should just focus on practicing languages that I know.
Can you tell me a short, positive and funny anecdote about your language learning history?
I’ve been learing English for 13 years, but it doesn’t mean I don’t make mistakes. During our last year’s trip to Hungary, we were hanging out with our friends in Budapest. One of them had some contacts (it’s so good to have Hungarian friends!) and he took us inside the Parlament building. As he was somehow connected with one of the political movements, he said: “We are going to the *** (*** being the name of a political party) party! I was pretty excited that we will be able to join some political event. I put on a fancy dress, and I was almost dreaming of drinking champagne with Hungarian politicians. We had visited the Parlament and while we were heading to the exit I asked: “And what about the party?!”. Of course there was no party, but I’ll never forget that the word party can also concern more serious issues than just drinking alcohol and dancing, like for example political party.
Thank you Olga for your dedication and time spent answering these questions! 😀