Interview with

Alvaro Diez Campomanes

Name: Alvaro Díez Campomanes
Nationality or Ethnicity: Spanish
Where do you live?: Madrid
Languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, German, Italian, Chinese.

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

I  first really improved a second language, French, when I moved to Paris  during my studies at the university (Civil Engineering). There, I  studied for two years in a French Grande Ecole, with offers an  international atmosphere and great opportunities to learn and practice  foreign languages. I could improve English, French and learn Italian.  Moreover, I had a Brazilian partner so I also learn Portuguese. After  this great experience, I have been working mainly as tunnel consultant  in international projects for a German company. Because of this, I lived  in Germany for over a year so I got the chance to learn the language,  and after this period, I spent the next years working in tunnelling  projects as the metro line for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, an  intercity train from Mexico City to Toluca and the metro line to the  Perth airport, in Australia. In these job sites you find many  foreigners, and was the way I could keep all my languages up by talking  to native speakers.

In  addition, I got some months off in Madrid right after finishing my  university studies just to study Chinese full time. I could get a level  which allowed me to have a decent conversation, but after many years  without using the language I lost most of it, and because of this my new  goal is to get back my skills in this amazing and interesting language.

I  could say that I am civil engineer with a strong international profile,  and is the passion of learning new cultures and languages which has  driven my path of living in these different places.

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

All  of them are important to me and I always find the way to practise them  from time to time. Technology is nowadays a very good way to fulfill  this wish!

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

Modern Greek, Latin, Esperanto, Arabic, Hindi.

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

È  chiaro, l’italiano! This melodic language has always captivated my  attention and been the language I enjoy the most practising.

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

The  deep understanding of not only the culture but also the way of thinking  of their native speakers, and getting the chance to connect with them  in a more intimate way. By learning each language, you also learn a new  way of thinking and see life. It helps you to be more open minded, think  out of the box and see anything which happens in life from different  perspectives that would be hard to get otherwise. It is a unique tool  that can potentially make you wiser.

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  is true that the loss of minority languages is a fact, due to the  globalization and the increasing importance of widely spoken languages  that the youngest generations find more appealing and useful. I’ve seen  this sad reality mainly in Brazil and Australia, where the aboriginal  younger generations use less and less their native language and at the  same time get, ironically, more and more integrated in the Brazilian and  Australian society, respectively. I didn’t see this fact in the Mexican  state of Quintana Roo, where the local Mayan culture is still very  strong and the language is very present in their daily life. I was very  happy to see how they manage to keep up their roots, culture and  language.

Many  people in Spain have also asked me “why learning all these languages”,  just because they don’t see that they would be decisive in getting a  better job or not. Just English is ok, they say. Moreover, my fear is  that in a few years learning any other language might be not so  appealing and necessary if you think this way, as technology will make  possible to talk to another person face to face in different languages  and get an accurate translation in our own language.

I  believe it is possible to reserve the tendency I mentioned above, but  if we want to preserve the cultural and language richness that we still  have, we would need to acknowledge as society the importance to preserve  and keep up with the minority languages and the cultural side that they  bring together.

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

Learning  a new language is not just a simple translation of words and sentences,  something that Google of similar device can do. Learning a language is a  unique way to discover, explore and learn from different cultures and  societies. Through this fascinating journey you will be able to learn  new ways of thinking, connecting with so many people with such different  backgrounds and stories than you had. You will learn to see the world  from different points of view and make you open your eyes in a way that  one language alone cannot reach.

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

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