Name: Fridolin Blasl
Nationality or Ethnicity: Austria
Where do you live?: Vienna/Los Angeles
Languages: German (native), English, Italian, Hebrew, Arabic, Hungarian. Conversatrional in Croatian and Russian.
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
My story starts with J.R.R. Tolkien. Once I had read the Lord of the Rings for the first time, I was fascinated by Sindarin and Quenya, the elven languages of Middle earth. It was the first time I bought a book with the simple purpose of studying a language. However, having reached a certain knowledge of Quenya (I still know the most important poems in Quenya by heart) I wanted to go for languages that were actually spoken in the real world. My first project was Hungarian, which I always postponed and postponed until I finally got a possibility to learn from native speakers. I graduated in German, English, Latin and Italian.
Those were the only languages that I knew well when I had finished high school. My real journey began in Israel. For male Austrian citizens there is a mandatory social or military service. I chose to do a social service and to work in an Austrian hotel in Jerusalem, in Israel. During work I picked up first Levantine Arabic and then Modern Hebrew. After some time I have found teachers for both languages, but I learnt the basic by classic immersion into culture. At that time I realized how much I love expressing myself in another languages and that I hadn’t faced many obstacles during my studying process, although there wasn’t much time besides work to study. When I came back from Israel I started off at a Viennese Acting School and at the university of Vienna with Slavic studies. Luckily there was a group of Hungarian actors that were performing in the theatre where my acting school was located, and so I joined them and kind of learned Hungarian through rehearsing and being on stage. At the same time I studied Croatian and Russian, which I still speak, but not on a professional level. My acting ambitions have brought me now to Los Angeles where I am almost exclusively working in English (although I just participated in a short film project where they had me speaking Hebrew for a small role). My Italian colleague at my acting school in LA helped me to improve my Italian very much (we are the only Europeans in my class) and we keep it as our secret language outside of class.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Right now I wished I could practice Croatian and Russian more, because I don’t get to speak those languages that often and so I am maintaining my levels by listening to news and podcasts.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I got a bucket list that is quite long, speaking of my future projects: On the top of my list are Japanese and Irish Gaelic Irish as well as Spanish. Right now I‘ve started off with Czech, let`s see where that is going.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
For me that`s clearly Hungarian: You can say the naughtiest things and it will sound as if it was an enchantment.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
I love how people suddenly open their doors and their hearts as soon as you speak to them in their native language(s). It`s a great experience to see them happy and eager to talk to you, when you are attempting to acquire their language. The door opening effect also counts for my profession: acting. To me it opened up opportunities like working in Hungarian on stage with actors that I would have never worked with in German, Back in my time in Israel my American English opened a door for me to a musical theatre production and only after a couple of months in the country I found myself performing on stage in English for the first time in my life.
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 don’t think that is true at all. Given that Irish Gaelic has more learners on Duolingo than there are native speakers, shows the great potential, that modern technology offers all of us concerning language acquisition. Cornish (another Celtic language) and Manx Gaelic are seeing a slight revival by motivated people, that are keen and eager to learn how to speak languages, that have been considered extinct.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Speaking more than one language broadens your horizon inevitably and makes you set your feet out of your comfort zone. Who knows what and whom you will encounter on your journey? I would love to quote Tolkien here: “Still `round the
corner there may wait a new road or secret gate; and I oft have passed them by a day will come at last when I shall take the paths that run west of the moon, east of the sun.” Be led by curiosity, because the adventure is around the corner. That is my main message to everyone who is in doubt about their language acquisition journey. My impro (acting) teacher always said: When in doubt, open a window. Language learning is such a window.