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Interview with

Amy Tal Rose

Name: Amy Tal Rose
Nationality or Ethnicity: Jewish; Israel & USA
Where do you live?: USA
Languages: English, Hebrew, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian – Conversational Mandarin, German, Swedish, Ladino, Galician, Catalan

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

I had the privilege of being raised bilingually with English and Hebrew as well as going to school near Washington DC which has a vibrant international community. I started taking Spanish class in middle school and loved it, so I joined the Spanish clubs and attended a full immersion academy which featured coursework in Arabic and Catalan. Back in school, I found a French textbook at my desk which sparked the idea of teaching myself the language before enrolling in an upper-level class. At school, I was fortunate to have native teachers for Spanish and French. After reaching what my school considered fluency in both languages, I started teaching myself Portuguese. These skills all came together when I taught Portuguese at the French version of the Spanish immersion academy I attended as a student.

My Spanish mentor was from Galicia which encouraged me to learn some Galician which felt natural after having studied Spanish and Portuguese. Inspired by the beauty of minority languages in Spain and in connecting with my Sephardic background, I started learning some Ladino. Alongside Galician and Ladino, I had started dabbling in Italian as well as German. In college I branched out to Mandarin and Swedish. The Chinese community at my university had a Confucius Institute which hosted classes taught by native speakers and was an excellent experience. Additionally, I’ve tried learning Hindi which is the most difficult language I’ve encountered so far. My progress is slow, but my motivation is high!

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

I wish I could spend more time practicing Portuguese because it’s such a joy to speak, but sadly there are not many lusophones near me. I’d also like to practice more Swedish and Hindi. Swedish, because there’s so much to learn, especially with the Norwegian and Danish mutual intelligibility. Hindi, because language skills are perishable and that language is a beast!

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

All the languages! I would specifically like to learn Arabic and Japanese, and some Native American languages such as Powhatan and Guaraní.

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

It’s cliché, but I think French is the sexiest language (pun intended). Spanish is a very close second.

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

I love connecting with people and surprising them when we can communicate in their native language! To me, learning a language is a sign of respect and it makes relationships much more special. I also love finding patterns between languages, especially between those from different language families such as Arabic and Spanish. These patterns teach us about history, religion, and culture as well.

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 think that a few languages in 100 years is too harsh, but if we don’t do anything about the decline in world languages, it sadly might be the case perhaps in 150 years. “Few” is a relative term and with the communications and technology capabilities we have now, we should be slowing and stopping the rate of language loss. However, nothing can replace face to face human communication with native speakers. We have the power and the duty to learn and promote endangered languages!

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

Language learning is a challenging and rewarding journey, go for it! Learning can be very accessible with many free apps and sites online and your local library, school, or university can be great resources, too. Learning even a few phrases is better than nothing, that courtesy can mean the world to someone, so leave your ego at the door and start communicating!