Name: Dante Rocío
Where do you live?: Minneapolis, USA
Languages Known: Italian, Spanish, English, Polish, French, Portuguese
Languages in Progress: Arabic, Japanese, Hindi & Ukrainian
Writing Systems/Alphabets: Braille, Morse, Futhark, Devanagari, Cyrillic (Ukrainian & Russian), Latin, Greek, Arabic, Katakana, Hiragana, Kanji, American Sign Language, Polish Sign Language
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
Were we to discuss the first milestone of my whole adventure with languages on all planes, I’d definitely say that this unforgettable stage took place between the end of elementary school and the beginning of middle school, with English and French. Before that time, I used to be just one of those numerous kids that had been studying English with average results throughout all those years of early childhood, thinking I’ll get by without any other language in the world, getting a tad better in it though due to the preparation to an English contest in my last grade of elementary school.
However, once I started middle school and my parents chose French for me as my second language of study there, my interest had been successfully piqued and I slowly started venturing into that language, both in the class and on my own, going off the deep end in the second grade with the curatorial French contest preparation that enhanced my skills quickly. Once that was off the list and reached a pretty high level, I directed my interest towards Spanish thanks to external influences and my private French teacher skilled also in that second Romance language. With her help, I had progressed quickly those two next years in my first steps with the language, standing strong and on an advanced level nowadays, due to my individual commitment later on and side support from the outside. After that, there came eventually all of a sudden a pull toward Italian and Portuguese in the August of 2019, Latin in the October of the same year, Russian for a while during the first COVID-19 quarantine, Arabic in the June of 2020 and Japanese in September, and a bit of Turkish, Ukrainian and Greek recently, all continuing their growth gradually through the individual study mostly, discovering my passion for the Language itself. It all keeps progressing alongside the topics that interest me and cooperate with every language I take up, because each of them has been chosen for a very specific, personal reason (e.g. Arabic to study Islam, Japanese to understand better the ideas behind the art of Kyūdō or Japan’s modern classical music).
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Certainly Arabic and Japanese, additionally Tibetan and American Sign Language. Given that my first 5-6 languages are on a quite satisfying level to me with their quality, I intend on focusing the most on the ones that are still crawling and need a direct approach instead of learning just through practice like with English or French, for example, to proceed forward and keep everything on a more or less equal level of proficiency. Due to the fact I’m a person of many projects and interests, I find it difficult to spare more than one or two hours a week alone or with a teacher to practice my languages and pay more attention to them, to comprehend their general picture and personality before anything else. Arabic, Japanese or Tibetan, as we know, belong to completely different language systems than the Indo-European family known the best to those of us who come from Europe, thus a new approach and connections between the synapses are suddenly required to get closer to them if you’re starting from Polish or English for example as your first language. Not only do the alphabets in the beginning require more focus and time spent on getting it through to your system and memory, but there also come pharyngealised consonants in pronunciation, different rules of syntax or new particles… These are all complex issues new to my comprehension that need more polishing and support, even more when I’m considering what plans I’ll be conjuring for them in the future.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
First of all, what I’ve realised recently in the subject of what Language means to me, is that what matters is quality over quantity, devotion over knowledge (still a lesson I have to learn once for good). When I’m up to the studying process and series of personal encounters with one specific human speech or a couple of them, I keep my eyes zeroed in on them rather than try chasing thoughts of what other linguistic systems I’d wish to enter next, not even mentioning counting how many of them would finally leave me satisfied. However, when I did have an occasion to ponder on it, I’ve made up my mind for the moment being that once I become stable in at least the majority of the languages I’m working on, I wish to switch to Thai, a Chinese language, Irish, Indonesian, Hebrew and Malaysian. Chinese languages work their way through the depth of all the detailed words, symbols, meanings, their tradition’s long history, patience and Taoism’s wisdom. Thai walks lightly in baby blue, inviting you to its serpentine alphabet of gloomy rainforests and fishermen’s villages in five intonations. And Irish is just one big dance of colours and folklore melodies with great histories and legends to discover on your own, and I can’t wait to get started with that type of adventure. Even if I were to abort the whole idea of studying any of those languages, they will catch me sooner or later, I’m sure of that. For example, I’ve studied more or less some part of Chinese medicine, and once I’ll get back to it, I know I won’t go far without being more acquainted with the specific nomenclature there is to know necessarily.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
*Burst of laughter* Well, that is certainly a question I would have never expected to deal with in a linguistic talk, to be honest! What’s more, being asexual makes it even a tad harder for me to truly let that topic sink in and consider it! However, since we’re up to the task already and now that I think of it, I will declare that to me, for the moment being, there is certainly no other language as shaking and passionately luring in than Arabic. Due to my personal bond with the Language, with the help of some synesthetic experiences taking place in the back of my head, my beginner’s knowledge in this field stands as no obstacle to my wilder interactions in shortcuts of thought sets. Guttural sounds and emanations, vocalisation with stronger breathing within phonetic details resembling that of a catatonically emotional confession, trembling and one’s vibrato held rich… The complete set those aspects make results in a dangerous and passionate fusion that succeeds in setting me aflame every time I have a chance to listen to Arabic, especially through music, and it gets my nervous system to go berserk in such condensed focus. The purest sexuality, as I feel it, is not being left excited by one’s nudity like a forbidden fruit or found in metaphors via allusions to intercourse in bed. It may be in fact the moment of philias and events that leave you finitely burnt from the inside, reforming you and leaving you anew for burning again. And people aren’t its source – they’re just its vessel. Just like poems kiss knowing no lips in flesh will be able to replace them for you. The same goes with the choice of a human language till we’re still here.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
Certainly, the greatest pleasure of them all is, in my case, the still ongoing extension of my conscience, identity and sensitivity. Every beginning warrior is taught that their weapon must be the very extension of their arm if not the whole body and mind, right? So, if you’re a Linguist, beyond mere scientific knowledge and ability of analysis, it is the Language as of whole that should become sooner or later your very extension. Its penetration surely has not missed me on its path, and words can’t express my gratitude for this fortunate turn of events. Having met and drawn so many connections between myriads of similarities between specific speeches, ways of presenting them, seeing them and how they interact with all the other planes of existence, I’ve grown to see images and smokes of words’ hues, forms, and sounds, to exist more clearly in the sensations of our conscience and aesthetic allegories in greater pondering that they can provide you with. To use all those lessons and private experiences to expand my capability of sheer understanding, listening, feeling, putting Poetry into words, and interacting with the world. It can be noted especially in my moments of ecstasy, be it positive or negative – if I ever lose control over my feelings, I lose control over all the languages I know and start rambling incoherently in almost every one of them at once. However, I don’t even feel confused, quite on the contrary: I feel ecstatic and powerful, more myself than being trapped in my first language only. Furthermore, even mannerisms and culture a certain language holds within itself (that you can never put away whilst interacting with it no matter how much you want it) permeate you and act as a parent raising you and your thought set, and that is also another fascinating process that should be certainly mentioned. I wouldn’t be what, where and who I am today without the Language coursing through my feelings, approaches, and volatile interpretations of anything I face that serves as redemption.
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?
With the help of the first linguistic knowledge I’ve acquired so far apart from my own wonder, I believe firmly there is no way that will happen (unless some higher force from above decides it will take place by all means necessary). Given that we have more than about 6.5 million languages in the world (dialects included of course), how they can pass like water through any obstacle and hide in any place they take as their abode unknown to us, the task of diminishing indirectly the number of all the speeches we have seems to be as incredibly difficult as taking out the famous Excalibur out of its stone sheath. In my opinion, languages work like ideas; they can’t be killed or quenched, they will always find a way to function and overtake new minds and hearts, and even if they do happen to die out due to our actions or laziness to learn new ways of expression (instead of eliminating them with English or genocides for example), they will always emerge in a new form like a reincarnation. I fear imagining even what would humanity look like and what processes it would take to lead to the situation of only a few languages existing, and what consequences would that entail…
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Out of all the possible pieces of advice one could give in studying multiple languages, what I find the most important is that you should never force yourself to learn a certain language unless you feel it yourself. If you desire truly to penetrate any specific language, you will find a way to do so no matter what circumstances you’re in, and there will come a possibility of using it. However, if you feel repulsed, you will never stop your inner battle with it, nor will you use it concretely even after studying for hours or finding it really practical and urgent to know. Don’t focus on the number of languages you want to learn, but on the quality and uniqueness each one of them has, especially if you do that not to feel worse than those who speak 15, 27 or 59 of them for example. Your value lies in your sole person, not your skills or knowledge. You’re not your thoughts, feelings or abilities. You’re a conscience. Practice them in accord with your own being, as often and as much as it feels fitting to you, in topics that cooperate with them, not chasing proficiency in the blink of an eye. Meet the Language directly, as a person it is, letting it change you and speak to you. Treat it not as a mindless tool to reach some goal, but first of all as a goal in itself. And at last; may it serve you as a source of wisdom, freedom and happiness. Let it breathe. Let it flow. Let it be fragile and audacious in its imperfection.