Name: Javier Garco
Nationality or Ethnicity: Spanish, Caucasian
Where do you live?: Lleida (Spain)
Languages: English, Spanish, Catalan, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Thai, Chinese, Russian, Indonesian, Galician, Basque, Dutch, and basic Hindi and Japanese. I have studied many others like Greek, Arabic, Tagalog, Korean, Maori, Swahili, Luganda, Quechua, etc. But I can’t have any kind of conversation in them.
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I have studied languages since I can remember. When I was 4, my aunt had an English academy and I asked my parents to take me there. I didn’t really know what English was, but it sounded really interesting! So I started. Then when I was 8, I borrowed some French books from my sister and learnt by myself. At the age of 10, I asked my parents to collect the weekly instalments of a German learning collectible. On a trip to Zaragoza with my school when I was 14, I bought one phrasebook to learn Basque, one to learn Chinese and one for Dutch people to learn Spanish. I even remember playing with a set of multilingual instructions for a TV when I was really young. Later I got to college where I graduated in Translation Studies with English, German, Catalan and Spanish, although I took outside courses in French and Galician. I also borrowed books from the library to learn Portuguese and Italian, and I got interested into more exotic languages from seeing other students’ books for Chinese, Japanese, Russian or Arabic.
After that, I worked as a translator for a few years, and then I moved from Barcelona to Madrid to start my career as an actor and singer. But in 2011 I decided to abandon everything and live my dream as a nomad, which continued until 2019. During that time, I lived in Indonesia, India, China, Russia and Thailand, and I learnt all those languages. Those were my golden years, when I could combine my passion for both languages and travelling.
I regarded myself as a polyglot only because my father once told me I was one, and I immediately loved and recorded the word. But that was all, I had never met other polyglots or even people with a special passion for multiple languages like I had. But then, in 2014, at the age of 34, I happened to meet a renowned hyperpolyglot at the resort I used to work at. He told me about facebook’s Polyglots group and that’s where I started to talk to other polyglots and make some multilingual friends. Until then, I had learned several languages, but never tried to keep them all active or take care of them. Once I learned a new language, I would leave the previous one aside. I kind of felt I didn’t need the previous ones anymore. At that moment I started to work on all my languages to try to keep them fresh and updated. And that’s how I became a self-aware hyperpolyglot.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Any language is good, although I would love to have more time to practise languages in general, and even better, more real opportunities to do so nowadays.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I would love to speak all languages of the UN fluently. That means improving my Russian and Chinese, and learning a good amount of Arabic.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Hmmm, I’d have to say Basque.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
It’s like my brain is free to play big, and it allows me to get to know people, cultures and amazing stories from the locals. And at the same time, I feel like I have many different I wouldn’t say personalities, but at least “selves”. In essence, I’m the same person, but I know I’m a tiny bit different in each language.
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 it will happen, or at least I want to think it won’t happen. It would be a terrible loss. More than just a bunch of languages like some people may say, it’s much more about culture and identity.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
I would tell them “go ahead, and do as you like”. This is because I hear many negative comments all the time, such as “people should not learn many languages at a low level, it’s better to learn fewer languages at a high level”, “learning a few words in a language is stupid, you won’t get anywhere”, “if you don’t have the time to be persevering, then don’t start”, “don’t try to learn two languages at once”, etc. I absolutely disagree with all this comments. Anything you do is very valuable and you should feel proud. Learning a few words in a language can open big doors socially, and it’s always beneficial for your brain. And if you’re in the mood to learn two languages simultaneously, then go ahead. Even if you make a mistake and then decide to stop one of them, it’s perfectly valid. We also need to learn from our own experiences.