Javier Gomez Tejeda
Name: Javier Gómez Tejeda
Nationality or Ethnicity: Spanish
Where do you live?: I presently commute between Salamanca (where I am a student at the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting) and Oviedo (where my family lives)
Languages: Spanish, English, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Catalan, Galician, Ladino, Modern Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Urdu, Turkish, Tagalog. I am conversant and can read and write in Arabic, Latin, Bulgarian, Russian, Croatian and Armenian.
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
Being born into a family where English and French were everyday languages (my parents specialize in religious tourism, bringing pilgrims from America and Australia to Portugal, Spain, France and Italy) clearly helped developing my talent for languages. I was also diagnosed with Asperger´s syndrome when I was 9 and my interest focused primarily on languages, religion and history. At school, I learned English and French, which I practiced at home along with Tagalog (my first Asian language) and Croatian (my godmother is from Serbia). Modern Greek and Turkish followed because, as a child, I had many friends who spoke those languages and I loved watching Disney films in order to memorize the lyrics of many songs. Moreover, I am deeply in love with the history of the Ottoman Empire and Turkish literature, so Turkish and Arabic have helped me delve deeper into those fields. I learnt Italian in 4 days during a trip to Italy and now I think it is my most “trusted” language. German was always present in my life (my mother studied in Germany and she passed on her knowledge of the language to me). I learned Portuguese on the course of several visits to Portugal, and my Catalan family helped me pick up the language. I became nearly obsessed with religion after Pope John Paul II died, and I learned Latin and Modern Hebrew so as to be able to read the Bible in its original languages (plus Greek, which I already knew). Hindi and Urdu came into my life as a result of my lifelong love of Bollywood films and history of the Indian subcontinent. I also can read Russian and Bulgarian (I was fluent in Bulgarian before but lost it after my Bulgarian friends seemed to disappear all of a sudden) and have a basic, not very complicated conversation in those languages as well as in Croatian and Armenian (a language I began learning after discovering the works of the great Armenian poet Daniel Varujan).
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
A normal day can have me speaking Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, Italian, Greek and Turkish. As a Translation and Interpreting major, I catch every single possible opportunity to practice my languages. If I had to choose, though, they would be, without a doubt, Turkish and Hindi. I can feel they are growing rusty from the lack of use.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
At present, I am learning Romanian (which I started learning five years ago on Duolingo but then abandoned because Turkish got on the way on a deeper manner) and Dutch. In the near future, once I feel comfortable enough in those languages, I plan to turn towards Aramaic.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
French when spoken softly and in a low voice, Turkish if you want to sound mysterious.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
I have no accent in whichever language I speak (due to my Asperger´s syndrome, which made my hearing abilities blossom from a very young age) so whenever I travel to a foreign country, people ask me which area of their cities I come from (especially in Italy). I normally live in a city with a high number of Erasmus students, so I only have to go downtown to meet as many foreigners as I please and instantly connect with them. I also like meeting people who speak many foreign languages as I do, and polyglot groups have given me the chance to do so. Nowadays, thanks to my knowledge of several languages, I can say I truly feel a citizen of the world.
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?
Not in any way. A language is the clue to its speakers´ identity and also to an entirely new world for everyone that learns it, so I think that, as long as there are people interested in communicating and opening doors to the world, the number of languages existent will not diminish. We, as polyglots and language lovers, have the power to ensure it will never happen.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Please do! You will benefit from learning multiple languages in innumerable ways. You will be able to have friends coming from all over the world and not worrying about how to interact with them, you will learn endless things about other cultures and traditions, and you will always feel the world is your home. Once you learn a new language, borders do not matter. Turn this into your motto when you decide to start learning and you will never regret your choice.