Name: Federico Martín Kleiner //
فاروق // מנחם מענדל
Nationality or Ethnicity: Argentinian / Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish
Where do you live?: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Languages: Spanish (native), English, French (fluent), Portuguese, German), Arabic, Hebrew intermediate), Yiddish, Dutch (beginner).
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
It all started when I began travelling around the world, my first trip (outside of the Spanish speaking world) was at the age of twenty, to Europe and the Middle East. Then I realized how important is to see things through your own eyes, being in direct contact with locals and of course being able to communicate with them, in their own language when possible and if not in any other language that you could have in common. In that trip I improved my English and my Hebrew and I earned my first German and Arabic skills. When I got back home I started to study and to practice those languages and more. So communication and human interaction outside of the bubble where the first triggers I would say. After that I could mention knowledge as a second degree stimulus, when I realized that most of my favourite writers didn’t, in fact, write in Spanish, but in their native languages instead, so learning French would allow me to read Malraux and Saint-Exupery in their original forms, learning Arabic would put me closer to the real Mahmud Darwish and learning Yiddish could teleport me back to the Shtetl where most of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s stories take place.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
I would love to achieve a kind of native fluency in Arabic because I find it the most poetic language of them all. Nowadays I’m studying Dutch and Yiddish, so I spend some time practicing them but of course I would really like to be fluent as soon as possible. Dutch because my girlfriend is from the Netherlands and we plan to move there some day in the future. Yiddish because it is the language of my ancestors and I feel a natural connection to it, even though it has remined hidden from me until recently. I would love to be able to write in Yiddish in the near future.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I feel indebted with the Slavic part of the family, so I would like to learn Russian and Polish. Also Chinese, and I feel a strong cultural attraction to Persian.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
It depends on the context, could be Castellano Porteño or Brazilian Portuguese.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
The ability to connect, to analize and to understand everything from various sides, from a different point of view and with a diverse mindset. Once, I read that you have a different personality for each of the languages that you speak, and I think that’s true.
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?
Well, I think this is a question for a linguist, I can´t really say something scientifically based. In my humble opinion and experience, sometimes, for someone who is surrounded by a continent that shares the same language or for someone whose language is being learned by half of the world, yes, it seems that everything moves towards monolingualism (is this a word? I hope so XD). Then I met a guy from Nigeria who spoke, for its daily routine, English, Arabic and seven local languages…
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Do it, it´s not simple but not difficult either. Each new language will expand your mind, give you an extra life, some of them will open the doors of the past, some of them will open the doors of the present and some of them will open the doors of the future.