Jefferson Ribeiro Correa
Name: Jefferson Ribeiro Correa
Nationality or Ethnicity: Brazilian
Where do you live?: São Paulo, Brazil
Languages: Portuguese (native), English, Spanish, Catalan, French, Italian, German.
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
It started when I was a young boy with English and Spanish classes at school. When I was 13, I started a French course and started learning German by myself (I’m still doing that!). When I was 19 years old I worked in Spanish with Catalan clients and decided to learn Catalan (my favorite language nowadays). Some years ago I went to Italy and decided to learn more about the language and culture and when I noticed, I could communicate in that language too. The same
happened with Russian, but only the basic words and expressions and now this is a language in my wish list, such as Czech, Romanian, Russian and Mandarin.
During my entire life I was connected to languages somehow, so there are many stories I could tell. I like to mention the ones related to experiences that I would never have had if I wasn’t able to speak the language involved. As example, when I was studying French I was about 16 years old - my teacher, born in France, she was 60 years old back then (the year was 2009) and she had come to Brazil in a ship some years after the war with her Spanish father and Italian mother, as they were trying to be away from Mussolini’s government and dictatorship. The fact is that they told me this story themselves and in French, 93 and 91 years old, drinking some tea with milk, in a simple house in a city called Itapecerica da Serra, in Brazil. They also told me how living in Germany, France and Italy was during the war and how their decision was made to come to Brazil.
Some years later when I worked with telemarketing in Spanish, I worked for a period of time calling clients in Spain and some of them would answer the phone in Catalan. That surprised me the much I could get from the language and decided to study it as well by myself. Then I found a Catalan cultural institute in my city, São Paulo, the only one in Brazil and I associated with it. During one event, I met a History Professor and writer that I admire, and after watching a movie in Catalan about the Spanish civil war, there were us, standing up, drinking wine and I listened to stories and family stories, in which their fathers or uncles battled in that war. They told me about the language repression they’ve suffered during Franco’s dictatorship and all of that speaking in Catalan.
Portuguese is my mother tongue and I do like how it sounds. As any other language we have our local accents, and as Brazil is huge, I admire listening to each sound we can make and still be one huge united country and language. Part of my family comes from the northeast of Brazil and the other from the south. I was born in the biggest city here and have family in the west and north as well. That said, I decided to try to visit all our states, we’ve got 26 and I could visit 25 out of them. It was amazing to visit and see each local culture and how our Brazilian Portuguese language reflects our history and influences. From the usage of “tu” (you)/ to “você” (you). From phonemes for the letter /R/ to the letter /S/. All this amazes me as a native Portuguese speaker.
I got really emotional with all these experiences and decided to study History in college, also, keep teaching languages as a teacher, so people could open their hearts to unique experiences like that. I commit myself to keep learning a bit everyday and traveling whenever possible or taking part in local events, so I can expose myself to that kind of experience, which is undoubtedly life worth living. Nowadays I am 30 years old, working teaching languages and being a recruiter in a company. I want to be able to pay for my house I bought 3 years ago and study for a master degree in linguistics (maybe a PhD).
I want to really improve all of the languages I'm not yet fluent to at least a B2 level, and I admire and keep my role as a teacher, so I can share a bit about this magic of being able to communicate with people around the world. I want to visit all 26 states in Brazil (1 to go) and 50 countries in the world (I have visited 20). And of course, I want to feel happy and know that I am making a difference in the world by touching people’s heart in what is related
to studying languages and culture.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Italian, German and Romanian. German is definitely the language that attracts me the most.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I am learning Romanian at the moment, and soon enough: Mandarin, Russian, Czech and maybe other Slavic languages.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Catalan, as I feel all my Latin languages veins pulse with any word of this beautiful mediterranean tongue. However, any language may be sexy when spoken.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
Getting to know people and their stories in their native languages is a plus, but lately I have realized that, what gave me reason to study this amount of languages was actually the pleasure of the communication and the sounds a language may have in its speech. Ars gratia artis.
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?
For those endangered languages it might be a sad truth, however many languages will prevail as I believe we are more open to culture research nowadays. I see a great example of Catalan and how the society deals with the language by promoting it as they can and getting a lot of space in the international community through all their actions.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Go for it! Communication is the basis of a society and I always repeat that speaking a language can get you to places and experiences that no one would have except for you.