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Interview with

Elena Parmigiani

Name: Elena Parmigiani
Nationality or Ethnicity: Italian
Where do you live?: Levanto, Italy and Lausanne, Switzerland
Languages: Italian, English, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese, Chinese, Russian.

Member since:


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

I grew up by the sea in a touristic place in Italy. As a child, I remember the first time I heard some kids speaking German on the beach. I was immediately fascinated by the idea of being able to speak in a different way from what my parents had taught me. Later, when I got home, I found a German book from my mom, and I made my first attempt at learning German by myself when I was about 12 years old. Back then, I only managed to learn some conjugation and the lyrics of songs by "Die Toten Hosen," but the dream of learning the language remained. 

I never really planned on becoming a polyglot, but after learning German and English, I became curious about Russian, then Spanish, then French, and so on. My passion for languages and cultures in general motivated me to move to other countries. I studied at university in Germany, worked in Spain, the Dominican Republic, Switzerland, and Brazil... and who knows what will come next? Nowadays, I've turned my passion into my full-time job, and I teach Italian online to people from all over the world!

2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?

All of them, especially Russian and Chinese, which I speak the least fluently. Languages require constant practice, so even on my busiest days, I dedicate a bit of time to language learning, like reading a book in German before going to sleep, listening to a podcast in Portuguese while grocery shopping, or watching a video in Chinese during lunch break. Sometimes I focus on studying one language intensively, but every week I try to get exposure to all of them.

3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?

I don't learn languages merely as a technical exercise; I learn because of life experiences that bring me to connect with different cultures. I don't really have a specific plan—I prefer to see where life takes me in the future. A few years ago, when I was speaking "only" six languages, I thought I would stop there.. But then I had the opportunity to travel to Brazil, and now I work online for a Chinese language school. So I couldn't help but start learning Portuguese and Chinese as well.

4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?

For me, it's German, which I know isn't usually considered as the sexiest. But to me it sounds great, brings back childhood memories, and is my favorite language to speak. You never really stop learning a language, so I'm now focusing on improving my German because I want to teach it to my soon-to-be-born child.

5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?

I associate every language with a feeling or a memory. For instance, Portuguese and Spanish are the languages of holidays and vacations for me—I feel relaxed just by speaking them. German, on the other hand, is more rational; I become more "serious" as soon as I start speaking it. Languages and cultures are deeply connected, and I love using languages to explore different cultures and make international friends. I also enjoy using the languages I know to teach Italian to my students and make comparisons among them!

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 the number of languages may decrease due to globalization, but the interest in learning them will remain strong and even grow. As people become increasingly mobile, and with the abundance of online resources, learning a language is no longer a luxury reserved for a few—it’s accessible to people all over the world. Of course, there are advanced tools like AI that can make language learning seem less necessary, but for real-life interactions, we will always need languages!

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

Learn what you enjoy, and don't give up! Learning a language is a lifelong process—find resources that genuinely interest and motivate you, not too easy and not too challenging, and never get frustrated. If you start feeling overwhelmed," just pause and try a different approach. Our brains learn best when we're enjoying the process, so just have fun!

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