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Interview with

Agata Szubstarska

Name: Agata Szubstarska
Nationality or Ethnicity: Polish
Where do you live?: Portugal
Languages: Polish, English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian

1. What's your story? How did you get into all these languages?

I was born in Poland, in a monocultural region, in a monolingual family. However, my story is somewhat winding and will take you through the narrow streets of southern European countries. First, let me take you for a short linguistic journey in time.

It was 2008 when I took my first adult decision to move to Tuscany, where I learned Italian and took up my studies at Universitá degli Studi di Firenze. Finally, I was breathing Italian, and I swallowed this language like a bite of a juicy Neapolitan pizza.

The next opportunity came in 2010 when I was given a chance to move to Valencia, Spain, for a professional internship. It was a memorable experience and helped me to sharpen my Spanish skills (even though my flamenco skills are still at ground level).

A truly culturally diverse experience came a few years later when I moved to Manchester, UK. Working in a multinational translation agency was an ear and mind-opening adventure. There is no other country in Europe that can serve such a multicultural mixture on one plate.

One day walking in the rain (such a cliché, isn't it?), a Cupid's arrow struck me, and my heart led me to the very end of Europe, the breath-taking Algarve region, in south Portugal. I arrived with a big linguistic ego, thinking that Portuguese will be a piece of cake with Italian and Spanish stamped in my language passport. How wrong I was! When Portuguese people finally stopped switching to English to ease my pain when having conversations with me, I understood that I finally got it, and it was gratifying. I guess this is what winning an Oscar feels like.

Last but not least, the East came after me, and I decided to learn Russian. I still have not been to Russia, but there is a lovely Russian community in the Algarve that aroused my curiosity about this language.

What's next on the list? I am still in between French and German. So, I think I'll choose to learn… both 😊


2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practicing?

Italian is love at first sight, and I always have butterflies in my stomach when I hear it. I wish I could practice it more often.


3. What are some languages you'd like to learn in the future?

French and German are next on the list. And after that, maybe Dutch. And in the meantime, I'd like to take up classes in Portuguese sign language.


4. So let's be honest, what's the sexiest language?

I am sure that my Portuguese family will give a big shout of disappointment when they read this, but it is definitely Spanish from Argentina!


5. What's the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?

It opens doors to meeting new people and making friends. It is a warm welcome to read books in their original language. Also, each language has its own untranslatable expressions, which you feel, but cannot explain.


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?

I can't entirely agree. Languages are just too beautiful, and there are too many of us, crazy linguists, who will fight fearlessly to preserve them.


7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?

It is never too early or too late to start! So give yourself time and be curious. It is as simple as that.