Name: Christa Jane Parrish
Nationality or Ethnicity: British
Where do you live?: San Diego, USA
Languages: English, French, German, Portuguese, Dutch, and Spanish
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
As a child, I couldn’t wait to start secondary school so I could take French classes. I don’t even remember when I first heard the French language, but it became an obsession. I also started learning German at this time and my passion for languages was born.
I had the chance to start another language from scratch at university. After having spent most of my holidays in Portugal, I chose to take on European Portuguese. Shortly after making that decision, I met my future (Portuguese) husband and became even more excited about learning the language. I then did a Master’s in Translation, as I loved the code-cracking nature of translating into my native English.
After graduation, my husband and I moved to the Netherlands, which got me started on Dutch, my fifth language. A few years later, we came to San Diego, where I was inspired to learn Spanish and enter the realm of hyperpolyglottery.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Since moving to San Diego in 2016, I’ve had fewer opportunities to practise my French, German, and Dutch.
Fortunately, international TV shows are finding their way onto Netflix USA and there have never been more online resources and supportive language-learning communities. The key is organising my time to keep up with the language practice.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I would always learn the language of any country I moved to, as this is a great way to get the know the culture, make friends, and feel more at home.
Aside from that, I really enjoy seeing patterns in languages from the same family. This was the case when I learned Dutch after having studied German, and Spanish after Portuguese. Learning Afrikaans, Yiddish, Italian or Romanian would be a lot of fun.
Then again, I may find myself learning something completely different. When it comes to studying a new language, you have to go with your gut.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
I’ve always had a soft spot for the sound of the French language, but there’s one thing I find even more attractive: People speaking English (or any language, for that matter) with a foreign accent.
Speaking in another language takes courage, determination, and great listening skills. These are all incredibly appealing qualities!
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
I understand things that would have otherwise gone over my head. It may just be a comment or a joke, but these small forms of communication make up everyday life. They give me an insight into another culture or an individual’s experience and would lose their spark in translation after the moment has passed.
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?
While some less spoken languages may die out in the next 100 years, language will continue to play a huge part in any culture. Unless everyone on the planet adopts the exact same way of life, I don’t think most languages are at risk of extinction.
There may always be a few dominant languages in business and world politics, but these too may change over time. If anything, this creates more of a need for people to speak multiple languages, so they can better work together with other nations and cultures.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Go for it! You may think you’re too old, too young, too busy, or not good enough to take on more than one language, but you should give yourself a chance.
As with any skill, learning languages takes time and perseverance. There will always be an obstacle – that’s just how the learning process works. The only way you can really “mess up” is by giving up on your interest before you’ve even accepted the challenge.