Name: Javier Hernandez
Nationality or Ethnicity: Puerto Rican
Where do you live?: Although I travel and work around the world, my home is San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Languages: Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, Italian, Burmese, Interlingua, German** and Mandarin Chinese**
Reading Proficiency: Latin, Catalan, Galician, Aragonese, Corsican, Sicilian, Sardinian, Asturian, Occitan, Chavacano (Zamboanga dialect), Papiamento, Lingua Franca Nova, and Novial.
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I grew up in Puerto Rico and the United States with a passion for learning languages. My grandfather, Tomás Hernández, spoke Spanish, English, and German. He inspired me to learn as many languages as I could. I grew up speaking Spanish at home and learned English as a child. During high school, I realized that I had a knack for learning languages when I learned French, Italian, and Portuguese by the time I graduated. Traveling to Québec, Italy, and Brazil solidified my fluency in these languages. In college, along with strengthening these languages, I also began to learn German and Mandarin Chinese via courses and on my own. While earning graduate degrees in communications and language education, I continued to use and foster my languages, learn conversational Burmese and Interlingua, and also begin language studies in Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese, Occitan, Catalan, and Galician. I use some of these languages in my job in the field of foreign affairs and international security, especially English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
In my personal and professional life, I constantly use Spanish, English, Portuguese, and French, but with more time, I would concentrate on practicing and using more German and Mandarin Chinese.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I look forward to learning Arabic, Hebrew, and Japanese at a conversational level. In the future, I would also like to learn conversational Slovio, a pan-Slavic auxiliary language.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Without a doubt, I would have to say Spanish.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
As a multilingual professional, I would say that the greatest pleasure in speaking several languages is the realization that I can communicate with many people, in many countries and regions, across national, social, and cultural borders. My personal and professional relationships are enhanced and amplified by being able to speak various languages.
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?
Sadly, many languages across the world, especially those with few speakers, are threatened with linguistic decline and extinction, especially as a few world languages continue to dominate the world of politics, economics, academia, the internet, and urban culture. I believe that multilingual individuals, especially hyperpolyglots, have a role and responsibility in helping to safeguard the linguistic diversity of humanity. We must strive not only to speak many languages, but also to try to save those that we can, mainly by doing what we as hyperpolyglots do best: learning them. Currently, I am involved with an indigenous community’s initiative of language revitalization. I am helping them not only to structure and rebuild their language, but also in how to promote the language in their community and safeguard it for future generations.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
I learned from my parents early on that knowing multiple languages offers one many personal and professional opportunities. Language unites you with the world. From meeting people from many countries to working with colleagues across continents, knowing various languages will make you an invaluable asset of any organization and project. Learning languages will make you a “world citizen” and “connector” of various peoples and cultures, something that not everyone can do. Languages will also open up a world of culture, music, ideas, and literature that would otherwise be denied to you. Figure out which languages you want to learn, dedicate time and commitment, and create your own system of language learning, tailored to you. Use books, courses, music, friends, and media to learn the languages of your choice by making the content relevant and interesting to you.