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Interview with

Diogo Domingues

Name: Diogo Domingues
Nationality or Ethnicity: Portuguese
Where do you live?: Republic of Ireland
Languages: Portuguese (native), English (C2/native-like), Spanish (C1), Punjabi (B2), Urdu/Hindi (B1/B2), Italian (B1), Russian (A2/B1), French (A2), Mandarin Chinese (A1)

Member since:


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

I was born and raised in Coimbra, Portugal. I grew up in a monolingual, Portuguese-speaking household, but I grew up watching Doraemon and Ninja Hattori dubbed in Spanish on a Portuguese kids channel (Canal Panda). I also loved videogames, most of which were in English. I studied English and French at school, but I didn’t really like French at the time and, therefore, did not really learn much.

I have always liked to play around with different accents, which I believe often goes hand-in-hand with a love of languages.

When I was twenty-one, I became friends with a young Canadian couple living near Coimbra. Steph, the wife, was Portuguese-Canadian and—although she was more comfortable with English—she was bilingual and had no discernible foreign accent speaking either language. I had never met anyone who was bilingual in that sense, with essentially “two native languages”. I did not even know up until that time, as ignorant as that may sound, that it was possible for a human being to speak two languages like a native speaker.  So, I set a goal that many people considered unrealistic or outright impossible for someone my age, past his formative years, to attain: to sound like and become as proficient as a native English speaker from North America.

As my circle of English-speaking friends grew so did my exposure to the English language and my opportunities to practice. Later, I met Tiffany, a beautiful young lady from the South of England, who eventually became my wife. Today, English is the language I speak at home and one of the two languages that I teach as an online language tutor.

After we got married in 2017, we moved to the metropolitan region of Lisbon and, once we were there, we noticed that there were many immigrants from four countries in particular: India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
My wife and I take part in a world-wide voluntary educational work and, in order to work with people from those communities, I saw the need to learn one language in particular: Punjabi. This was the language that made me fall in love with language learning itself.

Punjabi was the most common language spoken as a native language by those immigrants that I encountered in an around Lisbon. I started learning Punjabi using Pimsleur and, as was using it on a daily basis, I became quite confident using the language in the span of about a year. Hindi, along with English, seemed to be the lingua-franca that many of them used when they did not share the same mother tongue. I started learning Hindi and, as it is similar to Punjabi, I made quick progress.

Without any initial intention to just add languages to my repertoire, I could now speak five different languages and had developed a love for language learning and the confidence to learn any language, however different it might be from English or Portuguese.

During the pandemic, a Russian-speaking, Moldovan-Portuguese, friend of mine asked me to teach him English. My experience with Punjabi and Hindi had sparked my love for language learning and given me the confidence that I could learn a language, even if it were very different from Portuguese or English. Therefore, I suggested we do a language exchange. He helped me with Russian and I helped him with English. I quickly went through all the five levels of Pimsleur Russian, started watching videos on YouTube providing comprehensible input in Russian (i.e: RussianWithMax, Yuroslava Russian) and eventually reached the level I am at right now. I still have a lot to learn but I can now have a basic conversation in Russian.

Around the same time, during the pandemic, I thought to myself: How come I speak Punjabi and cannot speak Italian or French? So, I decided I also wanted to learn those languages as well by watching YouTube channels like Impara L’italiano con Italiano Automatico, Podcast Italiano, among others.

I am currently learning Mandarin Chinese using Pimsleur and watching videos on Youtube in French.

2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
I try to read and watch content in each of the different languages I speak, but I am giving special attention to Chinese and Russian at the moment and, from time to time, I watch videos and read things in Italian and French.
I am also learning and practicing Guinean-Creole (Criolo da Guiné-Bissau) with some friends from Guinea-Bissau.

3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I would love to learn and speak as many languages as possible. It has now become a hobby of mine. The next language I would like to learn, once I have reach at least a B2 level in the nine different languages I currently speak is German.

4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Personally, there is no language and no accent that I find sexier than the one my wife speaks! Other than that, I do love the way Italian and French (the usual suspects) sound.

5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
I love being able to connect with people and access a wealth of knowledge that would otherwise be out of my reach. I love history and knowing different languages allows me to appreciate world history from different perspectives, which I find fascinating.

I also get a real kick from the mental endeavor itself of trying to figure out how a language works by gradually finding patterns and, over time, finding meaning where before only a mishmash of letters and sounds existed. Suddenly, once we have acquired a significant understanding of that language, you see a whole new world right through a fog that dissipates as you gain a clearer understanding of that language.

For that reason, learning a language, for me, is one of the most mentally-stimulating and rewarding experiences in life.

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?

The way things are going, and if no major cataclysmic world event were to occur, that sounds like a very likely scenario—an inevitable byproduct of the ever so globalized and interconnected world in which we live.

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

Just do it! It can truly be a life-changing endeavor, as I mentioned in my answer to question 5. It will, most surely, result in more job opportunities and a greater variety of experiences in life. You will very likely end up making great friends and possibly even find love.

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