Name: Bianca Flowers
Nationality or Ethnicity: Australian / Swiss
Where do you live?: Dakar, Senegal
Languages: English (N), French, German, Spanish (C2), Mandarin Chinese, Brazilian Portuguese (B2/C1), Esperanto (B2), Swiss German, Italian, Russian (B1), Indonesian, Dutch, Wolof, Modern Standard Arabic (A)
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I had to learn my first foreign languages, French and German, for school when I moved from Australia to Switzerland. Spanish was my gateway into learning languages just for fun, which resulted in an Erasmus exchange year in Madrid. After the fascinating experience of learning Chinese in Beijing, I thought to myself – why stop here? Since then, language learning has been an addiction, in symbiosis with my love of travelling. More recently, I discovered the polyglot community at the Polyglot Conference. I was a little intimidated at first by all these accomplished polyglots until seeing what a welcoming crowd it was and realizing that the community can a great source of inspiration for everyone’s personal language learning journey.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Most of them! Especially Chinese, Italian and Indonesian need some maintenance these days. I’m also learning Dutch at the moment.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
Arabic, Swahili and Rumantsch.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Spanish – the language that first sparked my love of learning languages for fun, not just out of obligation.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
I love having my worldview challenged, discovering new cultures and connecting more deeply with people from different countries. Language is a window into new worlds.
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?
Just a few is exaggerated but definitely fewer than today, given endangered languages’ lack of use in younger generations and limited resources for language conservation. Those communities that invest in linguistic preservation and transmission, for example using digital tools, will have the greatest chance of surviving and even growing over the next 100 years. I also expect that the delineations between languages will become more blurred than today due to greater global connectivity. We may even see the emergence of new languages and creoles on this basis.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Anyone can learn a language if you want it enough. There’s no special “language learning gene”, just different language learning speeds. If you accept that the road to fluency may be long and learn to enjoy the journey, tiny step by tiny step, you will get there eventually no matter your background. Just trust the process!