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Interview with

Javier Hernandez

Name: Javier Hernandez
Nationality or Ethnicity: Puerto Rican
Where do you live?: Although I travel and work around the world, my home is San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Languages: Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, Italian, Burmese, Interlingua, German** and Mandarin Chinese**


Reading Proficiency: Latin, Catalan, Galician, Aragonese, Corsican, Sicilian, Sardinian, Asturian, Occitan, Chavacano (Zamboanga dialect), Papiamento, Lingua Franca Nova, and Novial.

Member since:


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

I  grew up in Puerto Rico and the United States with a passion for  learning languages. My grandfather, Tomás Hernández, spoke Spanish,  English, and German. He inspired me to learn as many languages as I  could. I grew up speaking Spanish at home and learned English as a  child. During high school, I realized that I had a knack for learning  languages when I learned French, Italian, and Portuguese by the time I  graduated. Traveling to Québec, Italy, and Brazil solidified my fluency  in these languages. In college, along with strengthening these  languages, I also began to learn German and Mandarin Chinese via courses  and on my own. While earning graduate degrees in communications and  language education, I continued to use and foster my languages, learn  conversational Burmese and Interlingua, and also begin language studies  in Arabic, Hebrew, Japanese, Occitan, Catalan, and Galician. I use some  of these languages in my job in the field of foreign affairs and  international security, especially English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

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

In  my personal and professional life, I constantly use Spanish, English,  Portuguese, and French, but with more time, I would concentrate on  practicing and using more German and Mandarin Chinese.

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

I  look forward to learning Arabic, Hebrew, and Japanese at a  conversational level. In the future, I would also like to learn  conversational Slovio, a pan-Slavic auxiliary language.

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

Without a doubt, I would have to say Spanish.

5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?

As  a multilingual professional, I would say that the greatest pleasure in  speaking several languages is the realization that I can communicate  with many people, in many countries and regions, across national,  social, and cultural borders. My personal and professional relationships  are enhanced and amplified by being able to speak various languages.

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?

Sadly,  many languages across the world, especially those with few speakers,  are threatened with linguistic decline and extinction, especially as a  few world languages continue to dominate the world of politics,  economics, academia, the internet, and urban culture. I believe that  multilingual individuals, especially hyperpolyglots, have a role and  responsibility in helping to safeguard the linguistic diversity of  humanity. We must strive not only to speak many languages, but also to  try to save those that we can, mainly by doing what we as hyperpolyglots  do best: learning them. Currently, I am involved with an indigenous  community’s initiative of language revitalization. I am helping them not  only to structure and rebuild their language, but also in how to  promote the language in their community and safeguard it for future  generations.

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

I  learned from my parents early on that knowing multiple languages offers  one many personal and professional opportunities. Language unites you  with the world. From meeting people from many countries to working with  colleagues across continents, knowing various languages will make you an  invaluable asset of any organization and project. Learning languages  will make you a “world citizen” and “connector” of various peoples and  cultures, something that not everyone can do. Languages will also open  up a world of culture, music, ideas, and literature that would otherwise  be denied to you. Figure out which languages you want to learn,  dedicate time and commitment, and create your own system of language  learning, tailored to you. Use books, courses, music, friends, and media  to learn the languages of your choice by making the content relevant  and interesting to you.

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