Interview with

Ilker Aslan

Name: Ilker Aslan

Nationality or Ethnicity: Turkish / Swiss citizen

Languages: Turkish, English, Danish, German, Greek, French, Dutch, Spanish

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

I  was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. I have been living abroad for  the last 21 years in 6 different countries. I have started college in  Germany and completed in the US. After my undergraduate degree, I got a  scholarship from the Greek government to study Greek intensively before I  started my masters in EU Law in Denmark and learnt Danish. During my  masters, I moved to Belgium as a exchange student where I learnt Dutch  and French and worked at the European Parliament in Brussels.  Afterwards, I moved to Switzerland and did my PhD in Economics at  Switzerland’s only bilingual (German/French) university. Simultaneously,  I have learnt Swiss-German dialect as well as Spanish and Greek through  self-study and private lessons.

I  have also been interested in other languages but I was really blessed  by the fact that I have had the opportunity to speak and use these  languages on a daily basis with my friends and colleagues from different  linguistic backgrounds. My goal is always to keep these languages  relevant in my daily life in one way or the other. Even if you do not  have a conversation partner, even watching movies or documentaries on  YouTube or Netflix in the original languages can prevent your skills  from getting too rusty.

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

Greek  would be on top my list. It is a gorgeous language, however you need a  meat-cutter to go through the grammar and learn all the accentuation,  conjugation and nitty-gritty of the grammar rules. It is a language  spoken by roughly 14 million people. I wish I would have more of an  opportunity to practice it. Second would be Danish, which I have learnt  during my studies in Denmark. However, outside Denmark (except Faroe  Islands, Iceland and Greenland), Danish is not really a widely studied  language. I am a member of a rowing club in Zurich where many members  hail from Norway and Sweden so these days my ears have gotten used to  hearing Norwegian and Swedish. Swedish, Norwegian and Danish are by and  large mutually intelligible so when we communicate with one another, we  use a common “Scandinavian” vernacular.

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

My  goal is to learn Icelandic first. Hopefully, my exposure to Danish will  help me. I have also wanted to learn Italian for a long time. I have  been living in Switzerland for 14 years now and Italian is one of the 4  official languages, besides German, French and Romansh. I am fluent in  German and French. I also speak the local Swiss-German dialect well  enough to get myself in and out of trouble. After Italian, I would like  to learn the Romansh language, which is unfortunately a dying language  in Switzerland. It is a beautiful and melodic language and I would like  to help to preserve it.

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

Tough  question. However, there is something magically melodic with Icelandic  and Greek. However what makes a language sexy is defined by the  linguistic competency of the speaker.

5. Some people say the world is really going to have a few languages left in a 100 years, do you think this is true?

I  am afraid this is going to become a self-fulfilling prophecy as the  speakers of disadvantageous languages give up their native tongues to  seek employment or education opportunities. Large dominant languages are  gaining ground against the smaller and undefended languages. The  situation is even more critical for those languages which are not  officially recognized state languages.

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

Never  try to find a reason why you should find a reason to study a specific  language. Create the reasons yourself! Make your target language(s) part  of your daily routine. Keep the language relevant in your life. Travel  to that country. Read its literature, listen to its music. Even if you  are not the religious type, take part in their religious holidays. Learn  their history. Taste their cuisine. Connect with the native speakers on  social media. If possible, join their expat or student groups in your  home country. You will be amazed to see how rewarding such an immersion  could be and how welcoming people are who take the effort to learn their  language.

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

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