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Interview with

Blanka Rzewuska

Name: Blanka Rzewuska (also known as Vessena)
Nationality or Ethnicity: Polish
Where do you live?: Warsaw, Poland
Languages:
Polish - my mother tongue (I am from monolingual family)
English (CPE obtained in 2007, I use it all the time now)
Spanish (I have finished iberystyka, which is Iberian Studies translated literally)
Portuguese (see above, but as it was my second language at the university, I am slightly worse, the last exam taken was B2, but I have been using it afterwards)
Russian (I have never taken any exam, but my current teacher estimates my speaking, listening and reading as C1)
French (I passed my exam for B2 four years ago)
Italian (I make myself understood quite efficiently, but it is quite similar to Spanish, so I am not sure about the real active level)
Norwegian (the placement test I took two months ago directed me to B1.2 course)
German (not sure, somewhere near A2/B1)
Croatian (or Serbocroatian) - (B1-ish, but due to the similarities with Polish and Russian it is easy to understand. I can't really tell how well I would cope with normal exam tasks)
Romanian A2 - probably. I understand it better than I speak, though.

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

I started learning when I was 7 years old. We came back from holidays abroad, where we had discovered I could learn to speak without too much effort. I started English, which was not obligatory in my primary school. At the age of 10 my school made me study Russian, which seemed easy too as I had Russian speaking relatives and could practice. When I finished school, I decided to attend Iberian Studies (Spanish and Portuguese philology). After it I followed up with French and Italian – as they come with discount if you already know the former. At this stage I did not want to spend more money on my hobby, so I started looking for free exchanges. I would offer help with Spanish, Portuguese or Russian and I wanted French or Italian lessons. It worked well, even though French seemed the most difficult language I had tried. I really had to spend long hours to understand the spoken language and to achieve good command of grammar. Nevertheless, I did pass my B2 exam some years ago. Then came the unexpected plot twist – I was seriously considering learning a new language so I posted an information in one of the Facebook groups that I was looking for languages exchange and I was offered a month of intensive Norwegian course. It was a good start and since then I have been learning on my own. Another plot twist was the current year – due to lockdowns and restrictions I had loads of time and I spent it doing what I thought I was the best at, that is learning. That’s why I have picked up some Croatian, German and Romanian. The latter is a result of my friend Andrzej’s invitation to their regular Romanian language meetings with native speakers. At the first meeting I could only get some very basic words, but now I am able to understand the conversation about most of the topics they usually discuss.

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

Norwegian – it is so hard sometimes to find people to speak with. But I wouldn’t mind practising more any of them, maybe with exception of English and Spanish as I have had enough of it so far.

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

My New Year’s resolution is not to pick up any new language for at least half year. I would rather improve my existing skills. But one day I could start Icelandic, spend more time with Swedish and try a real challenge: Basque.

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

I think this question sounds weird. I don’t consider languages sexy, they are practical. That’s why I study mostly European ones as I used to travel a lot in Europe BC. (Before Corona)

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

I can communicate with a lot of people. My languages helped me to earn money, to be successful in my research (After philology I finished sociology – my second master is in Anthropology), to have many friends in many different communities. I am recognised as a polyglot and I enjoy being asked questions about the 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?

The current number will be reduced, that’s clear for me, but I guess there will still be quite many left. If there is any society in a 100 years, that is. The climate change may wipe us long before.

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

Follow your heart, do not let minor obstacles like age, gender, geography or money stop you. If you feel you can do it, you can. It is just a matter of time.