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, Turkish and Kazakh.
Currently studying (basic level): Armenian, Farsi, Georgian, Somali and Uzbek.
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.