Interview with

David Katz

Name: David Katz
Nationality or Ethnicity: German
Where do you live?: Berlin
Languages: Russian, English, German, Yiddish, Dutch, Ukrainian, Hebrew, Polish, Spanish.

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

I was born in Uzbekistan, the USSR in 1976, in a Russian-speaking family. My grandparents spoke Yiddish among themselves, and I absorbed this language, and then I learned it again upon the study at the university. When I was a child, my mother used to speak to me in English. Later, I went to a Jewish school, where, in addition to English, I also learned two varieties of Hebrew: Biblical Hebrew and modern Hebrew. Then I lived in Israel, and then in Holland, where I learned Dutch. I taught this language for several years and even wrote a grammar guide.

Then I went to Germany to study linguistics. I enrolled in the Faculty of Empirical Linguistics, Department of Indo-European Studies, where I studied mainly ancient languages: Sanskrit, Latin, Ancient Greek, Old Armenian (Grabar) and Old Church Slavonic. But I also studied Turkish, Zazaki and Aramaic, plus I taught Hebrew at the university. My second faculty was Romanistics: the first language was Spanish, the second was French.

After university I learned Polish, Ukrainian and Arabic.

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

Basically, these are the languages that I am currently learning. I would like to practice my Turkish more, but it would be nice to speak more Spanish and French, which I have forgotten quite a lot.

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

Well, Arabic, Turkish, maybe some Bulgarian.

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

Italian! And maybe French. Ukrainian speakers are also very sexy.

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

This is an opportunity to use my brain to the maximum. I also enjoy when I destroy the wall between me and the other people, and speak with them in their language.

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?

Well, being a linguist, which dealt with a lot of dead or currently dying languages I don’t really believe it’s that sad. Indeed, the number of languages is rapidly decreasing, but humanity will never come to as few as just 100 languages. Besides, nobody knows how long the hegemony of English will last.

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

First: find a good reason why you need to learn languages. This is hard work which won’t be soon awarded. With no motivation you won’t be able to move ahead. Then: do it regularly and as often as possible. It’s better to learn 20 minutes a day, than 140 minutes once a week. Last but not least: find native speakers and talk to them all the time. Remember words you didn’t know and learn them afterwards. And so on.