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Interview with

Claudio Mastrangelo

Name: Claudio Mastrangelo
Nationality or Ethnicity: Italian
Where do you live?: Madrid, Spain
Languages: Italian, English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Dutch, Japanese, Portuguese, Latin, Neapolitan

Member since:


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

I was born in Caserta, a city nearby Naples, Italy. I don’t really recall exactly when everything started, but I remember going to my father’s work and some of his colleagues were from the United States. They were speaking a different language from Italian and I was intrigued. Then, at primary school, some of my classmates were from abroad: India, Argentina… I remember that they were speaking in another tongue with their parents. I had several nice English teachers at primary school, maybe that was when I decided to learn languages and dedicate my life to them. When I attended secondary school, I chose the linguistic option in which I added Latin, French and Spanish to my linguistic repertoire. I was fascinated my Japanese culture as a teenager and I started to learn Japanese by myself. I also remember teaching my classmates some basic Japanese and we were all having fun with it. Chinese then got my attention and I started learning it by myself as well, trying to practise it when I was eating at a Chinese restaurant.

At 18, I moved to Brussels. Before starting university, I attended a government-based school where I perfected my French and learnt basic Dutch to find a job. I then started working for Starbucks at Brussels Airport, which was an excellent opportunity for me to practise my language skills on a daily basis. I could switch languages with customers and colleagues without any problems, at least until closing time when I sometimes mixed them.

In Belgium, I completed a Bachelor degree in Translation and Interpreting in English, French, and Chinese. I initially wanted to continue studying Japanese but it was not an option. Knowing some Japanese and having a basic knowledge of Chinese, I learnt quite quickly compared to my Belgian classmates. I went to Beijing for a year to learn more about the Chinese language and culture. Meanwhile, I developed an interest in Arabic and Hebrew. I learnt how to write and read their alphabets and some basic conversation but I was too busy to dedicate more time to them.

Five years ago, I moved to Madrid, Spain, where I continued my studies with a Master degree in English Linguistics and another Master in Teaching. I passed the government exam to become an English teacher in secondary education in Spain. Currently, I work as a teacher, and during my spare time, I try to use my languages. I became interested in Brazilian Portuguese and I am currently studying it on my own.

I love to research on languages and language learning as well. I have quite a large collection of Harry Potter in different languages and I wrote my Master’s dissertation on translation techniques of proper names used in the book. I am going to defend soon my PhD thesis on Linguistic Relativity and categorisation, an empirical study in English, Spanish and Chinese. I hope to continue conducting research on languages and how they influence our perception of the world and life in general.

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

I really miss the multiethnic environment of Brussels here in Spain. I guess I do not have friends here with whom I can practise my languages. I really would like to improve my Dutch and Portuguese. I would not mind finding someone with whom I can have a daily conversation in Chinese as well.

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

I think I’ll never stop learning new languages. I really want to go back studying Arabic and Hebrew but I would not mind adding Korean and Russian. German is there too since Dutch would probably help me learning it. I would also like to learn Swahili.

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

I guess to my hear Spanish is probably the sexiest language. I really love the variation Spanish has across the world as well as its richness in vocabulary.

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

The greatest pleasure would probably be feeling part of a whole. When I was working for Starbucks and customers realised I spoke their native language, their faces lit up and they felt at home. The same thing happens to me every time I travel around the world and I can communicate with locals.

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?

Many languages are disappearing daily due to different factors; however, there is a recent trend in learning Aboriginal and endangered languages which is really fascinated. English is spoken by everyone today and other languages are taking its place as a third language such as Spanish or Chinese. I really hope to have a more polyglot future in front of me. What I fear is that today’s world goes more for a quick and efficient communication process which is endangering users’ vocabulary and grammar. Maybe we are living in a new transition to simpler languages? Goodbye difficult tenses and grammar?

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

I would say that it is never late to learn a new language (do not listen to those who say that after 18 is impossible to become fluent in a foreign language). For sure, it takes a massive amount of time and dedication to learn a new language because you are also learning its cultural aspects through it. Being able to speak multiple language is only enriching and helps you to discover a different page of this wonderful book that is our life.

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