Name: Francesca Gervasio
Nationality or Ethnicity: Italian
Where do you live?: Napoli, Italy
Languages: Italian (native), English, French, Hindi-Urdu, Spanish (fluent), Japanese and Portuguese (intermediate), Chinese, Korean, Bahasa Indonesian, German, Romanian, Russian and Turkish (beginner).
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I started learning English thanks to my school. I was 8 years old and I decided to buy a vocabulary. One day I told my mom I wanted memorize all terms! Gradually I saw there were a lot of languages in the world. I started learning French and at university I studied Hindi and French. Hindi was really hard because it shows a really different linguist pattern but thanks my guru gradually, I studied hard and after some months I was able to talk to Indian people. So now I’m happy because I understand all songs or movies in Hindi. As regards Urdu, I noticed that Urdu and Hindi are the same but with two different writing systems. I know Devanagari and I can read it but I don’t know much about the Urdu writing system. But I’ll do one day! Another language I know is Spanish. It was easy to learn because it is very similar to my native language, Italian. I bought a grammar book and I wanted to listen to Spanish songs and watch Spanish movies. After a few weeks I contacted some Spanish people and I was able to speak and understand. I had Goosebumps! One year ago, I started learning Japanese and Portuguese. During my graduation I watched a video on YouTube where a Japanese girl taught Japanese. So, in the night, I spent the time writing hiragana and katakana characters. I watched animes and dramas. My favourite ones are Hana Yori Dango and Mischievous Kiss or known as Inazurana Kiss. As regards Portuguese, this language at the beginning was very strange. Portuguese shares most of words with Spanish and Italian but there are others different aspects. Furthermore, the pronunciation is a bit still hard for me. But fortunately thanks to social networks I can find foreigners and talk to them in Portuguese so that I can improve my language skills. While I was watching Japanese dramas, I wanted also to watch Korean ones. My first one was City Hunter; watching more and more dramas I asked myself why not to start with Korean language. So, in the summertime, in the afternoons, I learned Hangul, the first words and sentences. It’s not easy because Korean presents several vowels, so, writing a word couldn’t be so easy. After Korean, I decided to buy grammar books for Chinese, Indonesian, German and Russian. During these years I realised that being able to speak with foreigner strangers is so wonderful: you study a language, and a culture as well. This summer I worked in Jesolo, near Venice. I worked in a hotel for a project. I organized a language workshop for kids and together we had a great time learning words of different languages. Amazing!
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Korean, because, for me it’s still hard to learn. Korean grammar is really difficult. I’d like to go to Korea and I hope that I’ll be able to speak fluently.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
After Chinese, Korean, German, Russian and Indonesian, I am going to study Afrikaans.
4. So, let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
French, no doubt.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
Feeling part of the world. Yeah because when you start learning any language, you become more and more close to that country. When I speak with my Indian friends, they show me photos about marriage, school, landscapes. Furthermore, we talk about also the main problems of India. We are members of a great cosmopolitan reality. There are no borders. In return I show some photos of my country, Italy and, furthermore, photos of Italian typical dishes. But sometimes I helped also foreigners who needed some help. They needed to go to hospital or to find a specific street. Thanks to my knowledge of that language I was useful. So I must say that learning languages make me feel well, rich and useful for our society.
6. Some people say the world is really just going to have a few languages left in 100 years, do you think this is really true?
No, although there are some languages spoken by just few people in the world and probably some of those languages will die, I think that our world won’t lose languages as they are a heritage of this world.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Be curious and keep studying all languages you want to know. Studying a language means exploring the world. Curiosity and knowledge can save our lives.