Name: Joseph Farah
Nationality or Ethnicity: Syrian Canadian
Where do you live?: Montreal
Languages: English, French, Arabic, Japanese, Spanish, Korean*, Chinese*
What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
On a fateful day, I told my mother on a whim that I wanted to learn Japanese. She, caring & attentive, somehow managed to record that tiny bit of information. The same year, on my 15th birthday, my parents gifted me a subscription to a local Japanese school in Montreal. Unfortunately, as the Japanese lessons were not offered in the summer, I had to enroll in the YMCA International Language School to pursue my passion for this language. I don’t know why, but the universe somehow allowed me to cross paths with the president of HYPIA Usman W. Chohan who stated on the first day of class that he could wrestle intellectually with 8 languages. The sole idea that he could connect with so many people from around the world fueled me with passion to go beyond my studies in Japanese and take additional language courses in Spanish, Korean, German & Chinese.
Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practicing?
I really wish I could brush up on my Korean, since I find it to be such a playful and extremely funny language. My attachment to it comes from the fact that Korean is a nasal language, so it matches my type of voice. Time is a limited resource, but my feelings right now are stronger for Chinese & Japanese. This is a true love crisis for polyglots, sorry Korean.
What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
In a very distant future, I think it’s a battle between Czech and Russian. Somehow, I feel connected to the idea of knowing more about Eastern Europe and its people. In my mind, its history seems very dark propelling me to know even more. We’ll see where I land!
So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Mi amor, it’s Spanish when spoken softly and beautifully. If you add the language of the eyes, then you get a deadly combination.
What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
I get to be a different person in every different language I speak. In Japanese, I am the Joe who’s super specific about detail and super vague at the same time. In Arabic, I am a very expressive hospitable guy who accepts people with open arms. In English, I think & complain. In French, I am a poet. At the end of the day, I am expressing myself in different ways to reach the hearts of many. This is what counts the most.
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?
Nope, as long as there is people to communicate in the target language, that language will never die. People ensure that need of communication by creating communities. Communities of any scale last for a very long time since human bonds are harder to break than molecular bonds. However, if everybody in the world miraculously gets a smart phone, then we’ll talk.
What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Anybody can learn any language they set their mind to. You don’t have to be a genius, you don’t have to have the best resources, you don’t have to live in a specific country for a very long time, you don’t have to criticize yourself for not understanding, and you don’t have to be worse or better than Gerard who speaks 40 languages. What you have to do is be honest with yourself with self evaluations. Am I studying the language everyday by writing texts, studying songs, making friends who speak the desired language, memorizing a few words between my sets at the gym? Live the language and go nuts! You want to go far GO NUTS. YOU ARE THE LANGUAGE.