The International Association
Name: Andrea Ripamonti
Nationality or Ethnicity: Italian
Where do you live?: Italy
Languages: Italian (Native), English (C1), Russian (C1), German (C1), Spanish (C1), Romanian (B2), Brazilian Portuguese (B2), Lombard (B1), Catalan (B1), French (B1), Bulgarian (B1), Swedish (A2/B1), Greek (A2/B1), Farsi (absolute beginner)
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
The first language I’ve fallen in love with was Spanish. When I was a kid, my mother used to watch South American soaps whose actors always had fascinating names. This made me want to learn Spanish, which I soon started to do on my own. I was like 10 years old. In school I was also learning English, but at first, I didn’t like it. After primary school I had the chance of starting to study German and it was another love at first… sound. I soon realized that learning languages was big fun. So, I decided to go to a “linguistic high school” where I could also study Spanish. In the mean time I fell in love with Brazilian and Romanian music and so I started to learn these two languages. At 19 I went to university and I picked Russian. I also bought a Swedish course and started to do it. Not much time later I also began to learn French, always on my own. At 23 I went on Erasmus in Bulgaria and took Bulgarian classes. Once back to Italy I wanted to be able to speak more European languages and so I decided to learn Modern Greek and Catalan. And now I’m currently learning Farsi, a language that has always intrigued me. Lombard, instead, is a language I have never actively learned. It is spoken in the area I live, alongside Italian. Constant exposure to it, thanks to my parents and grandparents, has enabled me to reach an intermediate level.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
I’d like to live in a multilingual country where people speak all the languages I know. But this is obviously impossible. So, I guess I’d be happy enough with the possibility of practicing Romanian and Russian on a daily basis because these two languages are my favorite ones. Being constantly surrounded by Romanian and Russian native speakers would be awesome!
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
For a language lover this is a hard question to answer. I usually start to learn the language of a country I’ve fallen in love with. So now I’m learning Farsi because I like Iran and Tajikistan. But in the years to come I’d like to start Korean because South Korea is growing on me. Swahili and Indonesian would come next, I guess.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Man, do I really have to choose? All languages sound sexy to me but if I had to really pick one, that would be Swedish… or Catalan... or Brazilian. Gosh, I told you it’s hard to say!
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
Definitely getting into the heart of other human beings. I was told that by learning English I’d be able to communicate with almost everybody, which is quite true, but it’s not enough. Communicating with someone via a foreign language is not as rewarding as doing it in their very native language. The smile on people’s faces is just so heartwarming, when they hear you speaking their language! Being able to speak so many languages has given me this unique opportunity to make friends with so many different people and get to know other cultures from the inside. And I can’t stop but marveling at how beautiful and enriching cultural diversity is.
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?
In my humble opinion this is true only to some extent. Some languages are really going to disappear, and this is also the case of a language very close to me, i.e., Lombard. Politicians haven’t done anything to protect it and foster its teaching, so now it’s only spoken by the elders living in the countryside. But fortunately, in our digital era we can store a lot of information concerning languages, so hopefully many other endangered languages won’t face disappearance as we can easily find good resources to learn them. I firmly believe that linguistic diversity is richness and therefore we should all commit to preserving it.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Learn as many languages as you can, guys! You’re only limited by the walls you build yourselves. So, if you want to learn multiple languages, then you can do it. I always like to say that languages are keys that give us the chance to open different doors. Each door, once opened, lets us access to the world from a different perspective. In other words, each language is a different way of seeing life. The more languages we know, the wiser we can get.