Name: Jeronimo Perez Cachafeiro
Nationality or Ethnicity: Argentinian
Where do you live? Buenos Aires
Languages: Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan, German, Polish, Icelandic
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I grew up as a monolingual Spanish speaker. I've had English classes at school since kindergarten, but I didn't really learn anything until I taught myself the language. In Argentina, as in most other countries, languages at school are taught in an artificial, grammar-centered way; that didn't do it for me. So, at the age of twelve, I became interested in game design. Most game design books I wanted to read were written in English, which made me learn the language without realizing it. English is the only language that I don't remember actually learning, as it was just a tool that I used to learn something else.
When I was sixteen, I began to watch some "polyglot videos" on YouTube. I remember being amazed by them; I didn't know you could learn so many languages as an adult. They also validated my earlier experience with English: you don't need to go to a language school in order to learn a new language, you can teach yourself wherever and whenever you want!First I studied French, and then some other romance languages: Portuguese, Italian, Catalan… once you learn one, you want to learn em' all! Then I went on with German, Polish and Icelandic, in that order. I could talk about the many reasons why I chose each particular language, but this interview would never end.
Basically, my main goal when learning any language is being able to read in it. I'm the "academic" type of polyglot. That is, I prioritize a passive and linguistic knowledge of the language, including "diachronic" language skills (being able to read older variants of the language i.e. Medieval French, Medieval Spanish, etc.). Speaking and writing have always been secondary to me, but that's starting to change.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
I would like to have more opportunities to practice my Icelandic. That's the only language I've never had the opportunity of speaking here in Buenos Aires. I would also like to speak all my languages more regularly. I'm looking for new ways to integrate them into my life.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
Ideally, all of them. A little less ideally, every major Germanic and Slavic language, plus Finnish, Greek, Arabic, Persian and Hebrew. Realistically…
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Strangely enough, I've always found "harsh" languages, with lots of consonant clusters and guttural sounds, quite attractive. So, Klingon?
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
First of all, I get the pleasure of reading literature in the language it was written in, and understanding many of the untranslatable nuances I would otherwise miss. Besides that, I've made friends from all around the world. It's not just a matter of having one language in common and communicating through it. Learning a language means becoming acquainted with a culture; by learning a language, I'm signaling to the people of that culture that I cherish and celebrate their heritage, and that I'm genuinely curious about them. If I go to Barcelona and I only speak Spanish, people will see me as just another Argentinian tourist. But if I go there and speak Catalan, they will treat me differently, they will invite me to have dinner with their entire family and offer me to stay in their apartment (true story).
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's undeniable that linguistic diversity is diminishing. The languages of dominant cultures, like English in the West and Chinese in the East, will keep on expanding and many local languages and dialects will be lost. Nevertheless, I hope that revitalization and preservation efforts will keep many of these alive, but many will inevitably vanish. Being a "global villager" by caring about the preservation of other cultures and learning many different languages is a great start!
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Being twenty years old, I don't know how wise and mature my advice can be. What I can say is that learning a new language is one of the most enriching activities a human being can have the delight of partaking in. It will make you grow intellectually, emotionally and even spiritually. Start simple. Choose a learning method that you like, based and your preferences and priorities, and just do something every single day. Consistency is key. Don't get discouraged, it gets easier with time.