The International Association
Name: Elodie Turjman
Nationality or Ethnicity: French
Where do you live?: Paris
Languages: French (native), proficient English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese. Advanced German, Russian. Upper intermediate Polish. Low intermediate Swedish, Greek. Basic Czech, Turkish.
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I was 5 when I heard English for the first time. It was music to my ears. I had an Irish/French friend and she kept inviting me over every Wednesday and each time I knew I’d get to hear her speak English. As a kid I didn’t understand why she spoke another language at home when I only spoke French. It was so intriguing and nice.
Nobody is into languages in my family. I am so much into words I can’t content myself with one language only.
I started English when I was 12 and I remember looking forward to each lesson. It was the only subject I liked at school and I was waiting for it like a child waits for a present. I loved collecting those new words and grammar.
I learnt Spanish when I was 13 and it seemed hard at first. Maybe because I was not ready to open my brain to another foreign language. I kept listening to songs in Spanish hoping to get a hang of it.
At the age of 17, I was asked to pick another subject at school: economy or Italian. I went for Italian and loved every second of the learning process. My mind was used to new words and I felt ready to welcome some more. I started German, Russian and then pushed it a bit further with Portuguese and Polish.
My appetite for languages kept increasing. I remember buying a ton of books. I started going to Polyglot gatherings in Paris and got into Greek, Swedish.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
I care about them all as they all have a special meaning to me but I guess I’d love to spend more time practising Russian. I feel a special connection to this language and I can’t really figure out why. It is a mystery to me just like the feeling it gives me when I speak or hear it. It definitely has intriguing sounds to me. I started it 17 years ago and there is still much to learn.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I would like to get back into Mandarin. I studied it 10 years ago as my first students were from China. I wanted to understand the difficulties they kept coming across in my French lessons. I also want to learn Hebrew as it is my heritage. I recently started Turkish and Indonesian and I hope to be a dedicated student!
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Such a hard question but if I am honest I prefer harsh sounding languages. I am especially attracted to German and Slavic languages. I can’t think of a language I don’t like the sound of though. They all have something special. I am a melody lover and languages do provide me with joy!
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
I used to be a quiet and shy person as a kid and surprisingly when I started learning languages I gained self confidence. I am more talkative and spontaneous. I am not afraid of making mistakes because as a French teacher I know that mistakes are our friends. We need them to reach a higher level. But we also need to be kind to ourselves. The learning process is about as exciting as being able to utter your first words in your target language. I love sitting at my desk with a book and study till my brain is fed up. It is also quite rewarding when a native understands you and doesn’t switch to a common 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?
Who knows what the future holds? I am an optimistic and would dislike to see this happen. Languages bring people together. Some use them for work purposes but others do care about them and would even be ready to learn very ‘unpopular’ languages.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Don’t ask yourselves if a language is too hard! Life is hard too and yet people keep fighting! On a more serious note, have fun. Don’t be too hard on yourselves. It is more than fine to struggle at first. If there is an interest, chances are you will do a great job speaking whatever language you pick! You can learn at any age. Sometimes a specific language is not the right one but it doesn’t mean it will never be. You may have to give yourself some time and come back to it later.