Name: Dominic Montante
Nationality or Ethnicity: American
Where do you live?: Currently traveling the world
Languages: English (native), German, Spanish, French, Russian, Italian, Portuguese, Lao
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
Coming from an unusual background, I grew up in the US to immigrant parents from Italy and Laos. I had the benefit of growing up around three languages (the irony being that I actually learned Italian and Lao much later in life), which I feel imparted a distinct love for other languages and cultures at an early age. Every language I speak has its own backstory
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
I’d like to practice German more. It’s quite difficult to find Germans to practice with as they tend to speak English with high proficiency and will often quickly switch to English. If you’re reading this and you want to practice German with me, please reach out!
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I would love to learn Mandarin, Hungarian, and Arabic. One of my favorite parts of language is grammar: I love trying to unravel the horrid knots of complex grammar to uncover what makes a language tick. Each of those languages is known for their complexities, but also quite different from one another and each of the languages I speak.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
It’s a horrible cliche, but there is a smoothness to when someone speaks French delicately that just does it. I will give a close second to Colombian Paisa-accented Spanish.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
I’ve been solo traveling the world now for nine months at the time of this interview and knowing other languages has provided me with a richness of experiences I don’t think I would have otherwise had. I enjoy the richness and vastness of culture that you can appreciate when you’re able to connect to the 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?
I personally don’t think so. For every movement towards a lingua franca, there’s a countermovement to preserve the languages threatened by the expansion of common language. Look at French-language preservation laws in Quebec, the push to revive Gaelic, or even the resurgence of indigenous languages used in the Americas, there are deep associations of culture and identity that are worth preserving through language. Even when a language does die, and using the example of Hebrew, with enough effort, it can become revived once more. I believe tools such as AI will allow us to help preserve and maintain minority languages and even provide the ability to conduct real-time accurate translation that would eliminate the need for a common language between people.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
For me, it’s developing a love of the process. Oftentimes people become focused on the end goal of speaking the language and become frustrated with a lack of progress over time. If you instead focus on the journey, speaking will be the end result. It’s the difference between saying “I want to speak a language” and saying “I want to learn a language”. One focuses on the destination, the other on the journey.