Eduardo Alexandre Teiga
Name: Eduardo Teiga
Role at HYPIA: Director of Outreach
Nationality or Ethnicity: Portuguese
Where do you live?: Switzerland
Languages: Portuguese, Spanish, Catalan, English, German, French, Italian
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I was born in Lisbon, Portugal. Both my father and mother knew Latin and to some extent French, German and English. Even though they didn’t actively teach me those languages I would often hear famous quotes or excerpts. A library with books written in all the above-mentioned tongues, some of them dating from a couple centuries ago is a hallmark of our picturesque residence “Villa Gaudeamus” whose name derives from Latin “Let us rejoice”. So even though I never attended an international school nor lived abroad during my childhood family background played a strong motivational role.
Pursuing education abroad is highly praised in my family and at age 18, I moved to the bilingual town of Barcelona to pursue my medical studies. Classes were mainly taught in Catalan while Spanish was the dominant language on the streets. After 6 months I reached fluency in the local language. Such achievement greatly impacted my integration process. As we all know, there’s great tension and divide in Catalonia. Spanish words may stir up, depending on your audience, feelings of invasion and disrespect. I highlight the word feelings. From early on I realised how powerful language is, how it determines identification and creates empathy, especially in a delicate political environment. The idea that it is possible to bring down boundaries through the sheer power of communication is empowering.
I spent 10 years in multicultural Barcelona, which greatly shaped my personality. In order to complete my degree, it was compulsory to enrol in a considerable number of extracurricular courses. I decided to take multiple language classes which set the foundation of my polyglotism and career perspectives abroad. I shared flats with people from very different backgrounds, had many like-minded expats friends, foreign work colleagues and a great deal of immigrant patients. Multiethnicity was the norm. Such permanent contact granted me magnificent skills in regard of cross cultural sensitivity.
I’m committed to combine my two great passions: high-tech resolutive medicine and languages. In this regard multicultural, multilingual and prosperous Switzerland, my current location, suits me just perfect. I enjoy the daily challenge of refining my language skills to effectively overcome communication barriers and create empathy with my patients while providing them with state-of-the-art medical solutions.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
At this point I would say German as in Lausanne (French-speaking) I’m mainly exposed to French, and to a lesser extent to English, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I dream about one day being fluent in Russian, the language I find most exotic.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Italian… it has both melody and elegance
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
Many. The abundance of possibilities and opportunities. The sense of limitless.
The invaluable ability to analyse local events from a global standpoint.
Having friends all over the world. Being mobile. The search for kindred souls.
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 think globalization played an important role on diminishing the attractiveness of scarcely spoken languages. Nonetheless, I remain optimistic that most of the endangered languages will prevail.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Passion. Passion determines achievement. Passion gives you willpower. There’s no such thing as a born talented polyglot. There’s even strong scepticism among the scientific and medical community that the plasticity and learning-ability of the brain decreases with age. Language grants you access to new worlds, new cultures, new perspectives, new possibilities and opportunities. The limits of your language are the limits of your world.