Name: Iglika Nikolova-Stoupak
Nationality or Ethnicity: Bulgarian
Where do you live?: mostly Bulgaria and France
Languages: Bulgarian (native), English, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Hebrew, Greek
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
It happened naturally; I never set it as a goal to “become a polyglot”. I loved learning English as a child, and I would come first at national competitions. Sadly, back in the days it was not the practice nor was it affordable for students to learn multiple languages, so I had to wait until high school to start learning another language (Spanish). When I met my husband, I could not speak a word of his language (French), so I eagerly took on the challenge to become fluent. I wish I had an interesting story to share about every language I have studied, but there has mostly been an inner sense of attraction to the particular language’s beauty. Opposite to some theories suggesting that languages can only be acquired correctly in childhood and young adulthood, my involvement with and proficiency at languages has been growing in geometric progression throughout the years.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Definitely Japanese. First of all, because it is the language I have learned that is most remote from my native one in terms of language family and, as a result, the one that is taking longest for me to master. Also, I associate the Japanese language with a feeling of calm and creativity that stems from Japanese art that I have been in contact with.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I have never learned “dead” languages (i.e. languages that are no longer spoken natively), so I think I would like to do that, possibly starting closest to home with Old Bulgarian/Old Church Slavonic.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
I would have to say French, but don’t take my word for it: I’m saying it because it’s my husband’s language.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
Each language brings with itself a specific way of organizing what one wants to say, especially due to its distinct grammar. As a result, I feel that each language I speak makes me discover a hidden side of me, and I love this feeling. Bulgarian Iglika thinks a little differently from English Iglika, who is turn thinks a little differently from Japanese Iglika, for instance.
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 so. In order for one to live comfortably, it already suffices to speak English (in addition to one’s native language). However, it is not merely for practical reasons that people speak or learn languages, and I think that the appreciation for languages will remain if not grow. This being said, we do need to play our part and put extra effort in order to make sure that languages remain alive.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
It doesn’t matter if you are young or not so young, nor if you feel like you have enough free time or resources. If you have motivation and you keep it, you will achieve your language goals.