Name: Georgios Gkaraklidis
Natuionality or Ethnicity: Greek
Where do you live: Cyprus
Languages: Greek and Russian (both native), English, French and Spanish (fluent), Italian (intermediate).
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I was born in a bilingual environment and I feel that it played a huge role later on in my life. I learnt English along with Russian and Greek and then I opted for Spanish and Italian along with French which initially it wasn’t my personal choice but I came into terms with it.
I am pretty sure that my experience with foreign languages started even before I was born and this is mainly because I was exposed to different linguistic codes since back then. My mum is Russian and she studied in the UK while my dad is Greek who also studied there. Therefore when they met they used to communicate in English even though my dad knew some Russian and some German. Then, I was born and I remember talking differently to my mum and in a totally different way, with different words and sounds, to my dad. It was not something that made me ruminate about since I just a little kid who got used to different sounds along the way. However as I was growing up, I really wanted to understand the reasons people from my family speak differently than those I meet outside. I was eager to explore things a little bit more and it has been such a fascinating journey ever since.
We moved to Greece when I was around four years old, therefore I got the chance to learn Greek a little better than when we were in Russia. I used to hang out with children from school and their parents and they all talked to me in Greek. It was a little hard for me at the beginning to get used to the rhythm and the speed Greeks actually speak but as a child I managed to step up my game and become fluent in a matter of time. So by the age of five I already knew three languages if we add English as well.
I still remember when my parents made me watch cartoons only in English just because they thought it would be beneficial for me on the long run which turned out to be true. I enjoyed watching English cartoons and I could care less to understand every single word. I was just amazed by the cartoons, the drawings and the colourful screen we had back then.
Apart from cartoons though, I used to watch latin soap operas too, which my mum actually used to watch. Some of them were dubbed in Russian while others had subtitles. It was a weird language but so beautiful at the same time. I knew that I had fallen in love with it since the very first time I was exposed to it. I continued on watching the so-called “telenoveas” from different countries like Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela and Argentina but I didn’t understand a lot. That’s why when we had already moved to Greece I decided to learn the language at any rate. My parents were in vacation in Bilbao and when they came back they brough a method from English to Spanish to actually learn Castillian Spanish. I still remember it was July and I was waiting for them and I was so happy and excited after having received my present. I
was about 9 or 10 if I’m not mistaken.
I immediately started using the book and I combined it with the Spanish channels and the telenovelas we had on TV and I managed to learn it till I took the C1 level some years later.
Not a long time later, my mum told me that it would be really good for me to start learning one more language. She has always mentioned French as the best option and I followed suit. I started learning French when I was about 12 years old but I remember that I was never attracted to it. It was just my mother’s option and I just went along.
Along the way I managed to practise all the languages I spoke especially after I finished high school and went to study in the UK and in Spain, then I lived in Poland where I learn some basic Polish which was easy enough at least at the beginning because I already knew a Slavic language.
Portuguese and Romanian were also some choices I made along the way mainly due to the fact that when we moved to Cyprus, I met a lot of Romanian friends and I wanted to learn their language.
Italian came on my way because I have always wished to learn a language which was close to Latin. As Latin was no longer spoken therefore it was not a practical option, I opted for Italian as it is the closest and most related language to Latin. And there I am, visiting Italy every year since 2018 and trying to learn the language since last November (2019).
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Maybe Romanian and Portuguese which I started but then I dropped due to lack of time.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
As I mentioned earlier Romanian and Portuguese are definitely on my list, but Turkish and maybe German as well.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Spanish hands down. I have always stated it. It is my platonic love and I may be acting subjectively, but I feel that Spanish (especially Colombian. Argentinian and Mexican Spanish) along with Greek have the sexiest intonation and rhythm.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
Whenever I travel I try to listen to other passengers in the airport to figure out the language they speak. I approach them and I talk to them and we eventually become acquaintances and sometimes even friends. I love interacting with people, I think it is in my genes.
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 necessarily think that we are going to have fewer languages. I just feel that the ones we know now will be modified and will have to adapt to the new norms since we have such an advanced technology and the interaction among languages is inevitable. Therefore I think that languages will keep evolving and they will slightly differ to the ones we know today. As long as people keep expanding, the same will happen to the ways they use to communicate with each other.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Learn languages to broaden your horizons and eliminate any possible prejudice or a false belief you may have formed towards other cultures and people, along the way. Foreign languages is the only thing that separates human beings, and I will always strongly and steadily support. And besides, why not? Just do it out of pure pleasure!