Alvaro Díez Campomanes
Name: Alvaro Díez Campomanes
Nationality or Ethnicity: Spanish
Where do you live?: Madrid
Languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, German, Italian, Chinese.
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I first really improved a second language, French, when I moved to Paris during my studies at the university (Civil Engineering). There, I studied for two years in a French Grande Ecole, with offers an international atmosphere and great opportunities to learn and practice foreign languages. I could improve English, French and learn Italian. Moreover, I had a Brazilian partner so I also learn Portuguese. After this great experience, I have been working mainly as tunnel consultant in international projects for a German company. Because of this, I lived in Germany for over a year so I got the chance to learn the language, and after this period, I spent the next years working in tunnelling projects as the metro line for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, an intercity train from Mexico City to Toluca and the metro line to the Perth airport, in Australia. In these job sites you find many foreigners, and was the way I could keep all my languages up by talking to native speakers.
In addition, I got some months off in Madrid right after finishing my university studies just to study Chinese full time. I could get a level which allowed me to have a decent conversation, but after many years without using the language I lost most of it, and because of this my new goal is to get back my skills in this amazing and interesting language.
I could say that I am civil engineer with a strong international profile, and is the passion of learning new cultures and languages which has driven my path of living in these different places.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
All of them are important to me and I always find the way to practise them from time to time. Technology is nowadays a very good way to fulfill this wish!
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
Modern Greek, Latin, Esperanto, Arabic, Hindi.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
È chiaro, l’italiano! This melodic language has always captivated my attention and been the language I enjoy the most practising.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
The deep understanding of not only the culture but also the way of thinking of their native speakers, and getting the chance to connect with them in a more intimate way. By learning each language, you also learn a new way of thinking and see life. It helps you to be more open minded, think out of the box and see anything which happens in life from different perspectives that would be hard to get otherwise. It is a unique tool that can potentially make you wiser.
6. Some people say the world is really just going to have a few languages left in a 100 years, do you think this is really true?
It is true that the loss of minority languages is a fact, due to the globalization and the increasing importance of widely spoken languages that the youngest generations find more appealing and useful. I’ve seen this sad reality mainly in Brazil and Australia, where the aboriginal younger generations use less and less their native language and at the same time get, ironically, more and more integrated in the Brazilian and Australian society, respectively. I didn’t see this fact in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, where the local Mayan culture is still very strong and the language is very present in their daily life. I was very happy to see how they manage to keep up their roots, culture and language.
Many people in Spain have also asked me “why learning all these languages”, just because they don’t see that they would be decisive in getting a better job or not. Just English is ok, they say. Moreover, my fear is that in a few years learning any other language might be not so appealing and necessary if you think this way, as technology will make possible to talk to another person face to face in different languages and get an accurate translation in our own language.
I believe it is possible to reserve the tendency I mentioned above, but if we want to preserve the cultural and language richness that we still have, we would need to acknowledge as society the importance to preserve and keep up with the minority languages and the cultural side that they bring together.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Learning a new language is not just a simple translation of words and sentences, something that Google of similar device can do. Learning a language is a unique way to discover, explore and learn from different cultures and societies. Through this fascinating journey you will be able to learn new ways of thinking, connecting with so many people with such different backgrounds and stories than you had. You will learn to see the world from different points of view and make you open your eyes in a way that one language alone cannot reach.