Name: Christine Calafatis
Nationality or Ethnicity: French
Where do you live?: Italy
Languages: French, Italian, Spanish, English, Swedish, German, and basic knowledge of Portuguese, Catalan and modern Greek
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I grew up in a multilingual and multicultural family where we all switched between languages without even thinking about it. I followed the “family tradition” by studying and working in a variety of countries. Language learning has never been an explicit goal in my life but more of a means to reach my ambitions and a way to explore cultures.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Portuguese and Greek. The travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic are limiting the possibilities to practice these languages by the “full immersion” technique at the moment, but I look forward to spending some time in Greece and in Brazil to actively use my recently acquired knowledge of these languages.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I would like to give Japanese or Chinese a second chance…I tried both many years ago but I found the different structure of these languages, especially when it comes to writing, very challenging.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Hebrew, I find the sound of this language very exciting and sexy
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
To be able to understand languages that I have no specific knowledge of through mutual intelligibility.
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 don’t’ believe that the number of languages used in the world will be reduced just to a few. Globalisation and the extensive use of communication technologies tend to reduce the number of languages used for some purposes, like trading, business etc, but I believe minority languages play an important role at local level and within the family group.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
The first foreign language can be difficult to learn, because you have to change the way you process words. Once you switch to a different approach, where you stop translating directly, any additional languages will be much easier to learn, and the learning process will be more rewarding and fun.
Languages are the key to looking at the world from a 360° view, they open up minds and keep your brain fit!