Name: Fernando Guerrieri
Nationality or Ethnicity: Argentinian / Italian
Where do you live?: Tours, France
Languages: Spanish (mother tongue), Italian (C1), French (C1), German (DSH3 – C1.2), English (C2 - Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency), Occitan (B1-B2), Danish (Modul 4 – B1).
Understanding skills for Latin, Catalan and Portuguese. Very basics of Arabic (grammar bases, reading and writing, not enough vocabulary to communicate).
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I was born in 1972 in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I grew up.
My grandparents were all immigrants from different countries : Italy, Syria and Armenia. Unfortunately, I could not know my Italian grandparents, since my grandfather had died before I was born and my grandmother died when I was one year old.
Conversely, during my first years of life, I spent much of my time with my maternal grandparents. At home they used to speak in Arabic among them. As many Armenians, my grandfather stayed for some tie in Lebanon before taking the ship to Argentina.
Until the early 1908’s, many old people in Buenos Aires were immigrants and used to mix their native languages with Spanish. This multicultural background and living in a port-city inspired my learning languages. Even if I had not formally learnt Italian. Italian was around e in my family, in the media and in the society. I could always understand it perfectly.
In the first years at school, I used to have bilingual education (English-Spanish). In high-school I had French as a foreign language. Later on I tried to learn Arabic at the Islamic Centre of Buenos Aires. Unfortunately, I could neither get enough fluency nor vocabulary to read a complex text or to hold a conversation.
Already at the university, I decided to study German. I thought I could move to Germany for my doctor’s thesis. In fact, I went to Germany even later, for a post-doctorate.
I have done my doctor’s thesis in Toulouse, France. On my arrival I started deepening my French abilities, required to write the thesis. Almost by chance, I met some people who were studying Occitan, the original local language of southern France. Occitan is similar both to Spanish and French. I learnt Occitan quite quickly and thanks to Occitan, my way to French has been paved.
For the last 5 years I have been studying Latin, mostly on my own. I want to learn Latin since I am passionate by the classical Latin and Roman culture and History. It is part of my identity.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Latin and Arabic. I only I had more free time, I could learn them in order to communicate and to enjoy reading and listening.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
Latin and Arabic. Maybe Romanian. When I read or listen to people speaking Romanian, I have the impression that I may be able to understand. Well, it is not the case. However, the Latin roots of some words remind me of Italian a lot.
Greek must also be nice. Phonetics sound like Spanish. But the words have nothing to do.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Italian! No doubt! Latin as well.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
Opening my mind, communicating with other people. Sharing different expression. As well meeting other polyglots.
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 do not really think so. Some languages and cultures will be reduced or disappear as spoken languages. Other languages will keep on evolving. And evolving means diversifying.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
If you like learning languages and you have the opportunity to do it, go ahead!
In the present times it is possible to obtain oral, written and visual material in many languages, thanks to the internet. We can even talk to other people all over the world.