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Interview with

Andrzej Olszak

Name: Andrzej Olszak
Nationality or Ethnicity: Polish
Where do you live?: Poland, Warsaw
Native: Polish
Fluent: English, Russian, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Czech, Serbian/Croatian/Bosnian
Intermediate: Swedish, Arabic, Hindi/Urdu, Romanian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Greek, Chinese, Persian, Turkish, Portuguese, Slovak.
Beginner: Indonesian, Japanese, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Dutch, Norwegian

Member since:


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

I had studied Russian and English at school in the early days, but after school I could not speak either Russian or English. I knew only their grammar. I've always envied people who could actually talk.

I tried to learn new languages from tutorials but no success.

Ten or eleven years ago, I tried again. I didn't believe I could learn, so I used the prop method. I made a list of the hundred most important books that everyone should read and signed up for the libraries - Instituto Cervantes, Goethe Institut and Institute Francais. Three new languages from scratch. My method was to read two books at the same time - in the original and in Polish translation. One sentence in the original and the same in Polish. Sentence by sentence and then paragraph by paragraph without looking in a dictionary. In this way, I read over 90 books in different languages, some in new ones. My first book in Spanish is One Hundred Years of Solitude by G.G. Marquez.

Libraries today are not just books, they are media libraries. You can borrow movies on DVDs, music on CDs, newspapers, etc.

Then came the Language Practice Community initiative on Google Hangout. Free conversations in different languages with a native speaker as moderator. I attended all the meetings even just to listen. Then language meetings in cafes appeared in Warsaw. An Italian friend living in Warsaw organized meetings in popular languages and I organized more exotic languages. Before the pandemic, we practically had meetings in all major languages.

Now there are many possibilities: language meetings in cafes or restaurants, many meetings online, podcasts, apps, movies and so on. There is no excuse for you not to learn a language.

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

Hindi, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Lithuanian, Indonesian.

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

Armenian, Hebrew, Hungarian, Korean

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

French when spoken by a woman, even as a weather report on TV.

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

My greatest pleasure was my speech in Hindi to about 800 people from India during Independence Day at Indian Embassy in Warsaw.

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 it can be true.

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

It is possible to learn many languages at the same time. The most effective are conversations in reality or online. There is no one method for learning foreign languages, everybody has to find his own way of learning. It is possible to start at every age, never is too late to learn.

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