Name: Cristian Mocanu
Nationality or Ethnicity: Romanian
Where do you live?: Deva, Romania
Languages: Romanian (N), Croatian, English, Esperanto, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish (all C2)
Intermediate (B level)): Danish, Dutch, Latin, North Macedonian, Polish, Slovak, Slovene, Swedish
A2: Aromanian, Tok Pisin
A1: Guaraní paraguayo, Tagalog, Turkish
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
Oh my! It’s really a long story, difficult to synthesize in just a few words. I think it would be fair to say that it all started with my disability. Due to medical negligence in the maternity ward, I had a brain haemorrhage in my 4th day of life, which affects my general mobility and some other motion skills to this day. I started walking as late as between the age of 5 and 6, but by then I already could read. Books and shortwave radio were always prominent in my personal universe. I didn’t learn my other 2 heritage languages (Slovak and Polish) in childhood, but my maternal grandfather and my mother spoke to me in German, so I grew up bi-lingual in German and Romanian. At school, I did English and French and it was unanimously stated that I had a gift for languages. Other languages I learned properly in my teenage years were Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Croatian. But I got all the (small) conversation guides available in Romania at the time, gaining some limited exposure to languages like Danish, Turkish, Swahili. But that was all there was, since those books were small and limited to a narrow range of situations. Plus, there was little or no grammar explained. Radio made me actually hear those languages as well. In my 20-s I learned Hungarian and Esperanto as well. Other languages would subsequently come.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, Upper Sorbian, Udmurt ; all started and regrettably abandoned after a short while
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future? Nepali, Komi, Hill Mari, possibly Greenlandic, very much in function of available material and the course my life will take.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
For me, Croatian (shsh, don’t tell my wife!)
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
At this stage in my life I would say: discovering the sheer beauty of each linguistic system and unlocking so many cultural universes.
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?
This prophecy is definitely going to prove false, although many languages, too many, are going extinct. On the other hand, we have also seen success stories of revival, also too many to count.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Never extinguish your curiosity. Approach every language with a lot of love for the people who speak it. Remember that language is not an abstract instrument of communication. It is also an identity marker and it has a community of people behind it with their joys and hopes, with their sorrows and wounds…This stands true for Esperanto and Spoken Latin as well. As you learn a language, this human universe will gradually open up before you. Try to approach it with an open mind, but also with tenderness and respect.