Interview with

Angel Garcia Manso

Name: Ángel García Manso
Nationality or Ethnicity: Spanish
Where do you live?: Madrid, Spain
Mother Language: Spanish (European)
Foreign Languages: Catalan, French, Greek, German, English, Italian, Serbo-Croatian (fluent)
Conversational: Portuguese and Galician, Dutch, Russian
Learned in the past but completely forgotten: Mandarin Chinese
Currently learning: Basque (Euskara Batua)
Classical languages: Ancient Greek and Latin

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

Although I was raised in a Spanish-speaking household, I have always been passionate about other languages and cultures and started learning foreign languages very young. My parents realised that foreign language subjects at school were not enough for me and made an economic effort to bring language tutors and teachers home. French and English were the first foreign languages I became fluent in after spending some time in the UK and France. I was particularly interested in romance languages so I took up Catalan, which I mainly learned through TV and the internet. Later on I started to teach myself Italian, firstly learning on my own and later with a private teacher. I taught myself Portuguese since Portugal used to be our family’s summer holiday destination. Two years before my A-levels, I began to learn Russian and German, although I am nowadays only fluent in the latter. In 2015 I enrolled as a Translation and Interpreting student and I took my intermediate certificate in Greek, which allowed me to spend a year in Greece as an exchange student. Living one year in Greece widened my horizons and made me discover South-Eastern Europe, a region that still fascinates me. After my exchange program in Greece I spent some time in Germany and Italy working and improving my language knowledge. I decided to take up Croatian during one of these long stays in Germany after falling in love with one Croatian girl.

After graduating and spending some time volunteering in Serbia and improving my communication skills in the local language, I moved to Austria, where I obtained my first stable job as a Spanish language lecturer and continued my studies, although this time in the law field. However, the pandemic changed my plans abruptly and I came back to Spain, this time to study for a Master’s in Conference Interpreting on the beautiful island of Tenerife, which allowed me to start my career as a freelance conference interpreter and language services provider. Otherwise, I would not be making a living from languages. Nowadays, I use assiduously my working languages and I try to keep up with the languages I speak at a conversational level and I am actively working on my Basque. It seems obvious, but the language I try to polish the most is my mother tongue, since it is my main working tool. 

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

I am currently focusing my efforts on improving and practising my Basque, but I would like to find more time (and energy) to practise my Dutch and Portuguese in the mid-term future. 

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

Since most of the languages I have studied are Indo-European, I would like to learn other languages that do not belong to this group. I used to learn Mandarin Chinese until a pre-intermediate level, but I was not motivated enough to continue the learning process. I had the intention to learn Turkish while living in Austria, but the pandemic changed my priorities. I would say that I do have not intention to learn a new language for the moment: it is already a titanic effort to maintain so many working languages and improve the languages I know at a conversational level.

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

I am not driven by this kind of subjective questions such as what’s the sexiest/ugliest language. I think it depends on each one’s personal experience with people speaking a certain language or your referents who may use a particular language.

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

It has allowed me to have a dream job and the opportunity to meet extraordinary people who share this passion with me. Moreover, speaking many languages and being a hyperpolyglot is more than a mere number of languages, but is a lifestyle. I would not conceive my life without multilingualism.

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 I could not agree more: the world’s linguistic diversity will decline in the next 100 years because globalisation is unstoppable. Also, the internet and pop culture threaten linguistic diversity more than nationalism or totalitarian regimes. In spite of the effort that is being done to normalise some minoritised languages (such as Basque, Catalan and Galician), their future is not safe. We may not only have a few languages within 100 years, but I’m sure that many of the languages and dialects spoken at the beginning of the 21 century will fade out in a couple of generations. I hope that I’m wrong and that initiatives such as HYPIA contribute to raise awareness about this issue.

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

I would tell young people whose mother tongue is Spanish, French, English or Portuguese that being multilingual is not strange but common. Actually, there are more people who speak more than one language than monolingual people. Knowing a second language opens you as many horizons as being able to read and write or having IT literacy. Moreover, I would also add that it doesn’t matter what languages you speak. It’s irrelevant whether some of the languages you know aren not widely spoken. It pays off learning a language even if the speakers community is bilingual. Knowing any other language will help you speed up your learning process while acquiring new languages.