Name: Anna Andrzejewska
Nationality or Ethnicity: Polish
Where do you live?: Poznań, Poland
Languages: Polish (native), Italian, Spanish, French, English, Portuguese, German, Russian
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I call myself a language enthusiast and never ending (language) learner. Since I can remember, I was truly passionate about language learning.
As a kid I started creating songs without truly knowing the meaning of English words. Language learning was always a lot of fun to me: singing, writing, creating. It has also been a fascinating journey to unknown worlds and cultures.
Later I picked up some German and Spanish at school. I fell for Spanish so much that the path continued with Language Studies: Spanish Language & Literature at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan. I wanted to challenge myself even more so I added French Studies after playing in a chess tournament in Montpellier, France and falling in love in Molière’s language. The language love story continued as I always wanted to learn Italian because of its unique sound and rich culture. It led to a third Bachelor degree, this time in Italian Studies.
At the university my brain was on fire! We learned Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Catalan, Latin and English. At the same time we dove into French, Spanish and Latin American literature, linguistics theory, techniques of translation, history, culture and philosophy among many other topics.
My passion for Romance languages resulted in four diplomas, one Master Degree in Spanish Studies and three Bachelor degrees (in Spanish, French and Italian Studies). During the studies we co-translated a children’s book to Portuguese “O rapaz de bronze” and I also acquired some Catalan. During summer vacations I taught children chess & foreign languages as an au pair in Tenerife and Ibiza. At work in an international company I also picked up some Dutch and German classes.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
There are many chess books at my home in Russian, German and Spanish that I would like to devour more!
My love for languages always gets fired up when I am able to communicate with people from all over the world, e.g. during chess tournaments in Spain, France or Denmark, during my Erasmus exchange programme, at polyglot gatherings or just anytime while travelling abroad. Wherever I meet a foreigner, I like to speak in his/her native language, to soak up the culture of destination and grasp cultural references. Many untranslatable concepts get lost in the translation and some aspects are just impossible to translate.
Being able to communicate in the source language gives you the keys to these mysterious worlds, inaccessible to monolingual speakers. I believe it is crucial to immerse ourselves in the culture of the destination we are travelling to. You can choose the easy path and rely only on global lingua franca, but your experience won’t be the same. The range of human cultures can be a source of infinite enlightenment and unforgettable adventures.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I do not search for a new language; it finds me itself! Russian, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, Turkish, Greek… all these beauties waiting to be discovered! I could go on and on. It is difficult to choose. I am also fascinated by sign language.
I believe this passion for language learning never ends. Gaston Dorren, a linguist and polyglot said that ”counting the languages of the world is as difficult as counting colours”. There are many different shades, tints and values of colours. There are also different idioms and slangs, variations, idiolects, dialects of languages, etc. The journey of continual (language) learning can never be exhausted.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Every language is beautiful in its own way. My heart will say Polish, of course, with all the unbearable “sz”, “ś”, “ć” “dź” sounds. Brazilian Portuguese is a pleasure to listen to. Melodic and tasty Italian. Elegant and crunchy French. Poetic and spiritual Hindi. Exotic and oriental Arabic.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
Learning the language and using it to communicate with natives is the main pleasure for me in and of itself. I love immersing myself in sounds and tastes of words, experiencing different cultures and sharing different views on life. Speaking a target language is the greatest respect I can show to the native language speakers. Learning (and living) the language communicates to a native speaker that you care enough to endeavour time and energy trying to understand what his heart sings.
My linguistic synaesthesia grows out of the need to embrace reality with all the senses at the same time. Language does not exist without its users and their culture. Words describing colours, sounds, tastes, scents are all vivid in my head. I love the taste of words, they are like exotic dishes. I can be proud of national delicacies, and still want to savour a kaleidoscope of various delicious flavours filled/accompanied with spices and sweet-and-sour combinations.
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?
There are about 6000-7000 languages spoken around the world – and they all have different grammatical structures, complex vocabularies and particular sounds. Each language is a separate universe with its own unique history and culture. With the endangered languages all the precious knowledge encoded in words, stories and names will be lost, “the intricate structures of the worlds we inhabit” (Alok Rai). Whenever a language dies, its culture and history also fades, like in the case of Lower Sorbian language, spoken mainly by older people in Lower Lusatia (part of Brandenburg). I hope we will cultivate the minority languages in order to preserve their rich culture for future generations.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Learning a foreign language is a challenging and fascinating journey and an enriching experience. Understanding cultural differences in human interactions matters. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Native speakers will appreciate you respecting the part of their heritage which is their language. Speaking a language shows a lot of respect to the community: It takes time, effort and energy to learn. As a result you can get to know better local people that are not always connected to English speaking world. As said by Nelson Mandela: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”