Jenny Suno Wu
Name: Jenny Suno Wu
Nationality or Ethnicity: Italian/Chinese
Where do you live?: I'm a nomad. A world citizen.
Languages: Fluent in Italian, Chinese (Mandarin), English, Spanish, French, Catalan.
Mixed basic-conversational levels in German, Russian, Japanese, Bahasa Indonesia, Swedish.
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I always had a passion for lifelong learning, travelling and human connection. I have been to almost 100 countries and being a polyglot definitely made my experiences better. I was born in China but moved to Italy when I was 5. Changing reality at that age made me notice and appreciate the differences in languages and cultures. I had English lessons at school, and I picked up some French during beautiful hikes in the Alps. As I enjoyed talking to other kids during these walks, I wanted to study French but I couldn’t afford a teacher. That’s when I realised I could actually learn on my own, with patience and perseverance! In high school I took Latin for 2 years and German for 1 (they’re quite rusty now). Although I didn’t like the sound of the German language, I appreciated how precise and structured it was. After high school I decided that I wanted to know more about my Asian origins because I was fascinated by Eastern philosophies and cultures. I went to university in Xiamen, where my expat life began for real. When I lived in China and South East Asia between 2010-2015 I met lots of Spanish speakers, so I decided I’d learn Spanish soon. This turned out to be very useful later on because it allowed me to get a PhD scholarship with my UK university and the government of Barcelona. Given my research with Catalan policy makers (sustainable tourism policy), I learned the local language in 2022. In my free time I learned some Swedish for fun because when I was younger I had considered moving to Scandinavia, I picked up some Russian as I had many Russian friends in China and I had a great trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg, and I’ve recently started Japanese because I want to spend more time in this beautiful country and be able to order more delicious food! Lastly, I’m about to start Bahasa Indonesia because there’s a very interesting project in sustainable tourism development that I might join after my PhD.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
At the moment, Japanese and Russian.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I’d like to be fluent in all my current languages before jumping into Sanskrit, Farsi, Hebrew, Swahili, Korean and Thai.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Italian J However, I think it’s the speaker who makes the difference, so any language can be sexy depending on who is speaking!
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
On a personal level, the potential to better connect with other people. On a professional level, I enjoy helping others communicate with each other and sharing cultural insights (e.g. when working as an interpreter or leading tours for my clients around 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?
I think most people will stick to a few major languages, but I believe there will always be those who are strongly committed to preserving their language and culture.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
It’s always a good time to start cultivating your garden! With all the available resources out there and a global community of polyglots, it’s never been so easy to expand our little world. I would recommend quality over quantity, mastering one language before moving onto the next one rather than learning 3 at the same time. I think it’s important to find ways to learn that you truly enjoy (so it doesn’t feel like a chore), be consistent and patient with yourself.