Name: Dimitris Polychronopoulos
Nationality or Ethnicity: Greek
Where do you live?: Oslo, Norway
Languages: Greek, English, French, Italian,
Portuguese, Spanish, Norwegian, Mandarin
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
Each language I speak has a unique story. I’ve studied more than 20 languages, lived in seven countries and sojourned in another eight countries. My childhood dream was to travel the world. I’ve visited all seven continents and more than 100 countries and territories. Along the way I learned that I enjoyed spending extensive time in a country rather than visiting a place as a tourist. This offers a chance to use different languages at conversational levels and beyond. I grew up in the United States and did most of my bachelor degree studies there. Because of my longing to see places and learn languages and experience new cultures, I couldn’t stay put, so I spent time in France on a study abroad programme and three months in the Soviet Union on a people-to-people exchange. After my bachelor’s degree, I moved to Taiwan and began immersing myself in studying Chinese characters and Mandarin Chinese. Then I enrolled in UP Diliman in Quezon City where I completed a Master of International Studies. After that I began working on tours in the Aegean and lived first in Athens and then in the Argolis of Greece. I led the tours between Greece and Turkey and to get by in the Turkish language, enrolled in Turkish classes first in Athens and then in Istanbul. Then I began conducting tours in Italy, followed by Spain and Costa Rica, so I had the chance to improve my Italian and Spanish though increased contact with these languages. After moving from Greece to the Canary Islands and then to Norway, I completed an MBA at BI Norwegian Business School. Then I established yozzi.com as a writing platform to help advanced language learners with a venue to practice writing their target languages and to appeal to the community to help each other out with the improvements we can make in our writing. I also began to volunteer as sponsorship relations coordinator at the annual Polyglot Gathering.
In 2018 I co-authored diversophy® Norway with Agnes Bamford. It is a game to introduce newcomers to Norwegian culture and society. In addition I brought the Silicon Valley startup accelerator, Founder Institute to Oslo. We will see what interesting projects the future will bring. In addition to the six working languages listed at the Interview Instrument, I can also converse in: Portuguese, Mandarin, Catalan, Dutch and German. I also have some ability to get by in Russian, Tagalog, Bahasa Indonesia, Esperanto and Turkish.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practicing?
At present I am using LingQ and Rype the most because they offer an array of languages. The language I would most like to add to my list of working languages is Dutch, followed by Mandarin. Both are at an intermediate level and it takes a lot of time to push a language up to the advanced level. Rype doesn’t offer Dutch lessons, so I am using Bart de Pau’s intermediate Dutch grammar lessons online.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
Perhaps Arabic and Japanese.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
French or Italian. It's a toss-up.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
It’s a big advantage when travelling where the language is spoken.
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?
To some extent, we have the technology to keep small languages alive. For example, Manx went extinct but now people are studying it and striving to make it a viable language. It’s on uTalk for example.
To the extent that a language community succeeds at rallying around the identity of their language, they can help carry it forward for the next generation. However, there are many things that can happen to make it difficult to sustain a language community. This includes rising sea levels, drought, famine, war, and displacement of people. In addition, language is often about power and there can be pressure on minority languages from government and commercial interests. This can make efforts to save each endangered language like trying to swim upstream.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
It is easier to space each new language you add by about three years. If you have opportunities for immersion where all you can do is speak your target language, it is a big help as well. Your language learning journey also depending on your individual situation and resources. Once you reach a B2 level of a language, it’s much easier to maintain it. If you only reach A1 or A2 and then move on to a new language, it’s easy to lose what progress you made.