Interview with

Alejandro Escalante

Name: Alejandro José Hugo Escalante Santos.
Nationality or Ethnicity: Salvadoran
Where do you live?: San Salvador, El Salvador
Languages: Spanish (native) English, Portuguese, French, Italian and German.

Interview Instrument HYPIA

Name: Alejandro José Hugo Escalante Santos.
Nationality or Ethnicity: Salvadoran
Where do you live?: San Salvador, El Salvador
Languages: Spanish (native) English, Portuguese, French, Italian and German.

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

I got interested in foreign languages when I was sixteen years old due to the contact that I had with the English language in school. Later I began following YouTube channels in English to get some practice on this language. Later when I got to the University of El Salvador I started to get more interested in learning languages, so I bought books to study them.

In the year 2011, I began learning Portuguese in a course that I took at The Center of Brazilian Studies. Pretty much I made up my mind about learning this language because I was interested in Brazilian culture. Later on I studied French at the Center of Teaching Foreign Languages at the University Of El Salvador (CENIUES); however I didn´t finish my studies in this Academy since I decided that it was better to finish up my learning of French at The Center of Professional Technology (CTP) in 2015. I was motivated to learn French since I was interested in traveling to France. Also I learned Italian, Portuguese, and German at the Association of Students of the Foreign Language Department of The University of El Salvador in 2012. Then, in the year 2013, I studied Arabic at the Language Department of the University of El Salvador. In 2014 I realized that the Italian language was being taught at CENIUES, so I enrolled myself in the course and learned the language. I decided to learn this language, because it is a language whose culture has a lot to do with music. I finished the Italian course and graduated in 2016 at CENIUES. In 2019 I started learning Arabic at the Islamic Shiite Association. Again, I wanted to get involved in the Arab cultures that was my drive to study this language. At the José Simeon Cañas Central American University (UCA) I studied Esperanto in 2007, and basically I took the course since I was motivated by a video I watched on YouTube on this language. After that I enrolled a German course at the German School in 2016, but I didn´t finished the program due to lots personal issues. However, in the year 2019, I took again a German course that was taught by the Association of Students of the Language Department (AGEIE). My main drive to learn German was the fact that I am a fan of soccer national team of Germany.

At the Institute of Nahuatl-Pipil –Association of Councils of Native Peoples of Cuscatlán (ACOPOC), I took a course on this Prehispanic language. I studied this language, because I think it important to preserve and maintain elements of Salvadoran native cultures, this protecting the linguistic heritage, which is important just as well. In 2019, I took courses on Japanese at the Language School of the Christopher Columbus School (CCCLA). In this particular case I was learning Japanese because I love watching anime series; unfortunately I didn´t finish the program, and, one year later in 2020, I began studying Chinese at the same academy. I think it is important to study Mandarin, especially because I am interested in its culture and its relevance and influence in the world.

Besides all the other languages I have already mentioned, I also have studied Greek, Latin at The Association of Students of Languages of the University of El Salvador. On my own just as well I have studied Swahili, Polish and Tagalog among others, but I don´t master these languages so well because I didn´t continue with my studies, and practically I have rather forget them.

I think that learning different languages has been important to me because it helps me to understand cultures and just as learning new things like history, economy, geography, and politics, etc. Learning languages also has helped me to feel empathy for people who are of different nationalities, sometime even without going abroad because there are lots of foreigner in here. Besides, I would say that knowledge of different languages gives access to a lot of information, as well as many articles on science, that otherwise cannot be found in Spanish.

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

I wish I could practice Mandarin, since it is a language that is completely different from my native language, Spanish. Chinese has a lot of characters, and its pronunciation is difficult just as well.

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

I´d love to learn aboriginal languages from Australia, African Languages and languages from the Southeastern part of Asia, but then my lifetime wouldn´t be long enough to achieve all these goals. Unfortunately they are too many.

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

I consider French and Italian being the sexiest languages since they are the ones that relate the most to love and romance.

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

I think that you get to have more empathy with people, and you get to understand more cultures; furthermore, you get to have more access to information that has not been written in the Spanish language just like scientific articles. Also you can make lots of friends with different cultural backgrounds. I believe that learning languages prevents Alzheimer and it improves your memory, but you don´t only learn languages, you also learn about cultures, countries, history, politics, economy and customs, etc.

Also I have met on social networks foreigners I can practice languages with, and I have made lots of friends in the courses I have taken here in El Salvador.

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 I believe so because there are lots of African, Asian and American dialects, etc. These dialects are disappearing due to lots of different reasons among these there is geopolitical influence of world powers. Linguistic barriers are erased in order to expand international trade, etc. Also young people are not interested so much in learning these languages. Many of these languages will end up in databases, in physical and digital libraries of universities and academies. Just few people will speak those languages, and linguists will know about and probably some scholars. There is a digital project known as the Rosetta Stone, created by the Long Now Foundation that records data on these languages that are at risk of disappearing. Just like this one there will be other projects that will come on different supports. In order for these languages to be conserved as linguistic heritage, so that evidence of their existence in humanity remains, but they will no longer spoken. Only few people will know these dead languages at risk of disappearing, they will be linguists, scholars and the speakers being left out. Basically these languages will not be passed on new generations since youngsters will be interested in speaking languages related to technology and scientific innovations. These dead languages will remain just as part of their linguistic heritage and elements of their past history.

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

I´d say to people interested in learning new languages, that they shall not give up because it is not so easy to get familiar with all these vocabulary, and goes just as well with conversational skills with writing, and listening. Moreover I would tell them not to be interested only in languages but also in cultures of countries, geography, history, economy, etc. The have to get acquainted with lots of aspects of countries in which those languages are spoken, so that they understand the population, their worldview and reality they live in.

The International Association of Hyperpolyglots - HYPIA. (c) 2020

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