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Interview with

Anne Van Marsenille

Name: Anne Van Marsenille
Nationality or Ethnicity: Belgian
Where do you live?: Brussels, Belgium
Languages: French, Dutch, English, German, Swedish, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Farsi, Wolof, Swahili, Fula, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Greek, Turkish, Hindi.

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

I am Belgian. My mother is French-speaking, my father is Dutch-speaking, I was born in Brussels. I started with two languages at birth. My mother was an interpreter Spanish-English. I travelled to Spain and England with her as a child. I learned two more languages. My mother told me to practise sport in Flanders every summer. I loved it. I had an exchange with a girl from Antwerp. She never wanted to speak French. I spoke Dutch all the time and I was very happy. Besides, I enjoyed learning old Latin and Greek at school. I studied Germanic Philology at University: linguistics and literature in English, Dutch and German. I studied for one year at Edinburgh University, two years in Leuven and two years in Germany. I did my Doctorate in Foreign Language Education at the Open University, Milton Keynes, England. As I was working as a language teacher, I did this part-time. I went to London to meet my supervisor every month for 9 years.

My home, Brussels, is a multicultural city. I can speak any language there. Every day, I speak three or four different languages. I love it.


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

I am now learning eight languages at the same time: Hindi, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Turkish, Arabic, Greek, Swahili and Fula. I love this.


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

I was used to learning one language at a time. It is much more fun to learn several languages at the same time. Of course, I am staying at a basic conversational level for a long time, but this is good for me. I may reach a higher level in those languages in a few years. It will take a long time but I don’t mind. I love having fun learning languages. This is my life now. I am busy with this every single day of my life.


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

All languages are sexy to me. My French-speaking students say Flemish is not sexy. I find it sexy. As long as you like a language and you have friends who speak it, that language is sexy.


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

I want to be close to people and their culture. I love making efforts and speaking foreign languages all the time. I refuse to speak English in non-English speaking countries. Either I learn the local language or I make all the necessary efforts to speak it every time. I travel a lot for work and leisure. I learn a lot of languages.


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?

No. I hope not. It would be too sad.


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

Do this! Please don't use English everywhere! It is so great to speak many languages all the time!