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Interview with

Fernando Perez Pena

Name: Fernando Pérez Peña
Nationality or Ethnicity: Mexican
Where do you live?: Guadalajara, Mexico
Languages: Spanish (native), English (C2), Japanese (N2), German (C1), French (C1), Italian (B2) and Greek (B2). A good understanding of: Russian, Swahili, Nahuatl, Portuguese, Esperanto and Mexican Sign Language.

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

I started learning English since I was a little kid. I was lucky enough to study in a bilingual school throughout my childhood. French was mandatory since junior high, and at the same time I decided to study Japanese. When I finished high-school, I was struggling to decide what to do next. My options were: psychology, graphic design, and languages. I finally decided to get a bachelor’s degree in languages. During college, I learnt Italian and German. From there, I started playing with other languages, including Chinese, Russian, Nahuatl, Portuguese, Esperanto, Romanian, Mexican Sign Language, Greek and Swahili. I took courses, bought books and so on. However, from all these, only Greek has made it to my “top list” so far.

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

Spoken Japanese. I use it a lot for work, but it’s only written, and I don’t have many opportunities to practice conversation. Also, if it wasn’t that hard to find opportunities to practice Swahili, this language would probably be part of my main ones as well.

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

More than “adding” new languages, I would rather improve the ones I already started. Mainly Russian, Swahili, Nahuatl, and Mexican Sign Language, I think.

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

Oh my God, this is so hard to answer. Have you heard Evangelion’s Ayanami Rei speaking in Japanese? Or German singer Peter Heppner’s voice? I just can’t choose… Let’s say Greek, German and Japanese.

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

It’s just super fun and fascinating to hear yourself making these series of sounds that mean something but didn’t make any sense to you some time before. It’s fun to be able to watch movies, play videogames or read stuff in other languages and understand not just the words, but their view of the world. Also, getting to know people from everywhere and being able to really make a deeper connection with 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 do believe we are going to have less languages in the future, and I think that’s normal. This process is a natural part of a very positive phenomenon: unification. As communication and transport becomes better and better around the world, we slowly become one, our cultures start merging more and more. This has a sad side, but a very good one as well. I think we will choose to have more than one language (or just a couple of languages) though, for the sake of identity.

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

I will always be the first one to support them. Learn them all! However, be careful not to be learning languages just for the sake of numbers, it’s not a competition. Really enjoy the process of learning each and every one of them. You’ll be happier this way.