Name: Dr. Eduard Fosch-Villaronga
Nationality or Ethnicity: Catalan
Where do you live?: Netherlands
Languages: Catalan, Spanish, English, French, Italian, German and Dutch.
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I think I can’t stop talking and I have a very international life… That might be the most reasonable reason why I speak all these languages. The truth is that I grew up outside Barcelona. At home, we always spoke Catalan. I even struggled to speak Spanish when I was a kid. I had a really Catalan strong accent, and people used to make fun of me. It’s funny, the majority of the people that made fun of me they were Spanish-only speakers. At school, we learned English as a third language. It was not until I changed school when I was 15 that I started studying French. I would never imagine that, some years later, I would decide to go to study in France and get my master’s degree there. A couple of years later I got to be accepted at the Erasmus Mundus Joint Doctorate (Ph.D.) in Law, Science, and Technology. It was coordinated by the University of Bologna and included a high mobility plan. I lived in Italy, Lithuania, Germany, Catalonia, and the U.S. As you can imagine, I fell in love with Italy and Italian and even if I only had a short summer course once, I ended up being fluent and also writing a journal article in Italian. In Germany, I could practice and consolidate the German I learned at the university. And I did a Lithuanian course when I was in Vilnius - can’t believe I ended up learning some Lithuanian at the time I was there. Then I moved to the Netherlands, where I’ve been living for a while now. I love Dutch! Ah, and I work in English, that is why I speak it.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
At this point Dutch, because I want to live in the NL and I believe it is essential to integrate into the Dutch culture fully. I’d like to perfect my German, but I can’t help it: I’d speak Italian all day long.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
At this point, modern Greek. My partner is Greek, and I firmly believe it is essential to know how to speak in your partner’s mother tongue. You talk to family in your mother tongue, don’t you? Apart from Greek, I’d like to learn Chinese. I took some private lessons a couple of years ago, and I got completely fascinated by it. Ah, and I love xiao long bao... so better to learn how to order them properly - hěn hào chī.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Call me cheesy, but I don’t think there is any sexiest language than Italian. Everything is beautiful when it’s in Italian.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
I have fun, and I get to know people better. People usually open up more to you when you speak them in their mother tongue. Nelson Mandela once said ‘If you talk to a person in a language s/he understands, that goes to his/her head. If you talk to him/her in his/her language, that goes to his/her heart.’ And that is precisely my experience. Now you know: talk to me in Catalan to get to my heart.
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?
It might be. Look at how Spain represses the Catalan language – and it’s a modern state, in European Union, and it is a language spoken by around 15 million people (counting all the different regions where it is spoken). Unless we have more ‘language-sensitive’ and ‘cultural/identity-empathic’ people in power that support, protect and encourage diversity in languages, we won’t be able to keep them all alive. When it comes to languages, the more the better.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Do it, learn different languages. It will help you be quicker and sharper, and it will make you aware of the existence of many other cultures and savoir-faires. This will make you more empathic! And this is what the world needs: people with empathy, people that travel and understand that there is richness in diversity, that our differences make us stronger.