Interview with

Alexandra Ivanova

Name: Alexandra Ivanova

Nationality or Ethnicity: Austrian / Bulgarian

Where do you live? currently in the Middle East (but it often changes)

Languages: Bulgarian, German, English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Italian* and Swedish*

*Conversant

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

Born  in Austria to Bulgarian parents, I grew up bilingually in the heart of  Europe and started learning English early in school, as most Austrian  children do. During high school, I learned French, Spanish and Latin in a  language-focused class, where the curriculum featured subjects entirely  taught in English and intensive lessons for new languages. At the same  time, I wanted to learn Italian so I enrolled in extracurricular classes  and language institutes. All these languages were rather similar and  increasingly easy to master, which led me to start learning the Arabic  alphabet before graduating from high school. After moving to France for  two years of studies in Social Sciences in French, I had the opportunity  to continue studying Modern Standard Arabic and add Levantine Arabic  during a gap year of intensive language studies. Throughout my  postgraduate studies and early work experiences, I continued heavily  investing my time and resources in Arabic. This led me to learn  different types of Levantine and Gulf dialects and eventually fully work  in Arabic.

My  story has been about living, studying and working in different European  and Middle Eastern countries where I sought to closely connect to the  culture through language.


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

Depending  on the country I live in, I always miss the languages I speak more  rarely which thus changes throughout time. I must admit that I rarely  miss English. Spanish, Swedish and particularly Italian have been among  the languages I do not speak as often, since I have not permanently  lived in any country where those are official languages.


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

I  imagine learning Persian as a rewarding experience, after the laborious  acquisition of Arabic. I have also been curious about the Japanese  language and culture, which is of similar nature to the curiosity I had  for Arabic in the beginning. In the long run, I would be intrigued about  learning a very different language, possibly a rare one which exists  only in spoken but not in written form.


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

I  would say it depends on who is speaking it, but mostly people with  mixed accents from different languages (I may disagree with the majority  about French in there). As a musician, I always prefer Italian due to  its melodic intonation and many vowels. I have also come to appreciate  language mixes as more attractive and multi-faceted ways of expression.


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

My  greatest pleasure is to cultivate my multiple identities and  personalities through the languages I speak, to look at the world from  different thought cultures and connect to people’s personalities in an  intimate manner through their mother tongue. I truly enjoy building  friendships and integrating deeply in different cultures and societies  and through language.


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  would have some reservations about this statement. While globalization  may challenge the survival of rare languages, there are also new and  different “types” of English spoken around the world nowadays. Maybe  those will one day evolve as different dialects?At the same time, new  languages are constantly being created as language is, by its nature, a  continuously evolving medium, integrating new words and creating new  meanings when needed.

I  believe in the immortality of language, as a whole. Certain languages  will extinguish or merge while others will be created, then formalised  and recognized as a language – what about coding or text languages for  instance?


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

Keep  trying! The most difficult thing is defying the language barrier which  is only a mental barrier. Studying languages is about never stopping to  try and asking for words you are missing… and eventually trials become  more successful and words are missing less often. If you struggle  motivating yourself, just imagine all the friendships you can create by  speaking more languages!

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

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