Name: Estevam Fortunato
Nationality or Ethnicity: Brazilian
Where do you live?: Natal, Brazil
Languages: Portuguese, Galician, Spanish, Valencian/Catalan, Occitan, French, Italian, Greek, English, Hebrew*, Arabic* and Amazonian Tupi* (Nheengatu)
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
When I was still a child, my father could speak English, some Spanish and he also had some knowledge about Italian and French. Besides that, he had a collection of 5 language learning books. One day, I asked him if it was possible for someone to learn all those languages. He said yes, and that those people are know as polyglots, and I can still remember that I said I wanted to become a polyglot one day.
But only when I was about 12 years old, I started learning English in a language school near my house, and that’s when I realised that learning a language wasn’t as difficult as I thought and that it could be fun. So I started learning some other languages at home, mainly Romance languages, such as Spanish, French and Italian. It didn’t take much time for me to realise how similar and close to each other Romance languages are, so I started looking for more Romance languages online, and that’s how I started learning Galician, Occitan and Valencian/Catalan as well.
Some years ago, I decided to take another step and learn Greek, which was, after English, my first non Romance language. I was a little afraid, it was not in my comfort zone, but it was incredibly easy to learn it, in only 1 year I was already able to talk to Greek speakers, watch films in Greek, etc.
And that’s when I decided to go even farther, so I started learning non Indo-European languages, such as Hebrew, Arabic and Amazonian Tupi (Nheengatu). The way those languages work is very different to what I was used to, it took me a little longer to get used to them, but I really enjoy the experience of being able to study those languages and to speak them.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practicing?
That changes all the time, but right now the answer is: Arabic and Amazonian Tupi.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
Yoruba, Persian, Chinese, Japanese, and the list goes on.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Galician (my wife’s mother tongue) and Portuguese spoken with the accent from the Northeast Region of Brazil (that’s where I’m from) haha.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
I love to see all the different features that human languages can have. Languages are extremely diverse and you can find lots of different expressions and structures in them. I really enjoy learning how different languages work and how unique they are.Also, talking to people from many different places in their native language is something I really enjoy, people usually get happy when you speak their language, mainly when they’re not used to hear anyone from other countries speaking it, it makes people smile, and then I get happy and smile too. :)
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?
Unfortunately, many languages are dying and disappearing these days. I’m sure that in a 100 years there will be fewer languages than today, and that’s extremely sad. Languages that lived hundreds or thousands of years, changing and evolving through time, until they became what they are today, will die soon.But I don’t think that there will be just a few languages left in a 100 years, there will still be lots and lots of living languages around the world, but I can’t predict how many and how the world will behave linguistically in the future.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Do it! If that’s something you really want to do, do it. There are a lot of polyglots around the world and most of them are just people just like you and me, people who love languages and spend a lot of time learning them. Polyglots don’t have superpowers. At least I don’t have any superpower, I’m not sure about the others haha. But if I can do it, I’m sure you can as well.