Name: Jenniffer Francis De Los Santos
Nationality or Ethnicity: Dominican
Where do you live?: Dominican Republic
Languages: Spanish (native), English, French and Portuguese (fluent), Italian and Haitian Creole (intermediate) and German (basic).
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
My experience using languages started when I went to the USA for the first time. I was 8 years old and I only spoke my mother tongue: Spanish. I didn’t know what was going on! People were talking funny all around me so when I got back to my country, the Dominican Republic, I told my mom that I needed to learn English right away. She said no. She said I needed to be older. So when I turned 12, I went to an Institute to learn English. It literally changed my life forever!
After I had finished the English course, my mom decided I needed to learn French, so I did. It was amazing how one’s cultural experiences just change who one is over the course of time. The more one learns, the more you begin to see things differently.
Time passed and I got a job and had free time so I decided to learn Italian, then Portuguese, then German. I couldn’t stop. I was hooked. I loved the way it felt to know how to communicate with a wider range of people from all over the world.
Then the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 happened and I realized that in my search for learning languages I had negleted my neighbors and fellow islanders. I registered right away and learned Haitian Creole. I could speak to Haitians now in their owon language and I learned so much about their culture.
Time passed and I was busy with work and was able to make money with all of the aforementioned languages. But it wasn’t enough. Because of the way technology works now, I am able to learn, all by myself, Russian, Finnish, Polish, Latin and Esperanto.
I have dabbled in learning the alphabets of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Indonesian/Malay, Thai, Sinhala, Greek, Dutch, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Turkish, Arabic, Hebrew, Xhosa, Papiamento, Hawaiian, and Hindi as well as Urdu.
Because of the importance of communication, I have also learned the American Sign Language and Grade One Braille.
I hanged out with a lot of polyglots and have been able to learn a few words and phrases from several other languages like Hungarian, Toki Pona, Serbian/Croatian, Guarani, Irish, Welsh, Slovak, Cantonese, Nepali, Bulgarian, Romanian, Belarusian, Czech, Persian and Lithuanian.
Languages are my passion and they have been keys to open the doors of culture, music, art, movies, cuisine, and best of all friendship and joy. I recommend everyone to learn at least one other language!
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
German and Haitian Creole.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
Russian, Finnish, Polish, Latin and Esperanto.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
The way people respond to me when I talk to them in their own language because it means we made an important connection!
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?
English has been the Lingua Franca for so long now, and I have been lucky enough to speak to so many people from all over the world. I noticed that they all use English in some form or another, and that means that more and more people are concentrating their energies into learning English or other languages that are more international. If this tendency keeps up, that means that unfortunately only international languages will survive.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
You can do it no matter how old you are!! You have the number one tool at your disposal already and that is the willingness to learn and that is the key to unlock any language!