Interview with

Francesco Giommoni

Name: Francesco Giommoni
Nationality or Ethnicity: Italian (Greek origins)
Where do you live?: Arezzo (Italy) but I lived in China and Turkey, and I am planning to go back to Asia as soon as possible

Fluent: in Italian, Greek, French, Spanish, English, Mandarin.
Conversational: in Portuguese and Turkish.
Currently studying (basic level): Armenian, Farsi
Basic (mainly written): German, Russian, Azerbaijani, Romanian.
Old languages: Latin (good)

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

I  was born in Italy. Although I have Greek origins, only my grandmother  could speak Greek. Nobody from my family could understand her. That is  the reason why she started to forget her native language. I remember  that we had a pocket dictionary at home, and when I was around 12 I  decided to learn Greek. I learnt the alphabet (my grandmother had to  leave Greece when she was only 9, so she cannot write and read Greek),  and started to speak the language. I improved a lot and I am proud that  my family has not lost its Greek heritage. Greek was not the first  language that attracted me. I was only 8 and I decided to attend a  German course because I would have learnt French in middle school and  Spanish later. The reality was exactly the same. I chose French and  English at middle school, French, English and Spanish at high school  (liceo linguistico). I couldn’t stop learning new languages and I learnt  Portuguese on my own. Later on I studied Chinese, Turkish and  Azerbaijani at University and had the chance to practice these languages  during my long stays in China and Turkey. I am currently learning  Armenian and I will start a new master in Eastern Languages and  Civilization in September and I will pick Turkish as major and Farsi as  second language.

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

I  have enough chances to practice Turkish nowadays, even if it is still  not enough for me. I would like to have more chances to practice Chinese  since I am worried to forget this incredible language. I am keeping on  studying German and Russian (basic level) and I have recently started to  study Armenian and Farsi.

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

All  of them, I have books and courses to learn Khmer, Laotian, Thai, Czech,  Cherokee, Crimean Tatar and so on… ok, it’s a utopia I know. If I can  choose only a small numbers, I would go for Farsi (I have just started),  Levantine Arabic, Armenian and several Turkic languages (my real  passion), mainly Kazakh, Yakut and Uyghur. Ah, yes, Mongolian too!

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

Italian… am I too patriotic? Actually, I think that all languages can be sexy in a different way.

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

Apart  from languages, I have another passion: traveling. I am lucky since  while traveling abroad I need to use the languages I know. This is my  greatest pleasure: being able to communicate with people who live  thousands kilometres away from me, with a completely different culture,  language, religion etc.

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?

Unfortunately,  it is true. Languages are highly underestimated. People do not believe  in the importance of knowing languages. All parents should teach their  native language to their kids in order to save languages from  extinction. But language learning is a long and hard process, and many  people fail before starting it. It is my aim to learn an endangered  language, possibly a Turkic one. Noting down vocabulary, grammar rules,  and audios so that the language, even if it dies, it can still be learnt  and go through a revival as many other languages did.

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

After  few days at high school, I already knew that I wanted to learn more  languages, especially exotic ones. The majority of people I met and  talked with discouraged me from studying too many languages. 2/3  languages are already enough and it is better to focus on these rather  than losing time learning new ones. When I chose Chinese and Turkish, I  found other negative comments: “you will never learn fluently those  languages”. They were wrong. Of course, I still make some mistakes, I  need to use the dictionary in some cases, but I am fluent in Chinese,  and I am sure that, with practice, I will be fluent in Turkish too. So,  this is my message: never give up. Languages are incredible difficult to  learn, you will often lose hope and self-confidence, but you will reach  your goal if there is a real interest. It is possible to learn more  languages, also at the same time.

The International Association of Hyperpolyglots - HYPIA. (c) 2020

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