Interview with

Jeronimo Perez Cachafeiro

Name: Jeronimo Perez Cachafeiro

Nationality or Ethnicity: Argentinian

Where do you live? Buenos Aires

Languages: Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, Italian, Catalan, German, Polish, Icelandic

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

I  grew up as a monolingual Spanish speaker. I've had English classes at  school since kindergarten, but I didn't really learn anything until I  taught myself the language. In Argentina, as in most other countries,  languages at school are taught in an artificial, grammar-centered way;  that didn't do it for me. So, at the age of twelve, I became interested  in game design. Most game design books I wanted to read were written in  English, which made me learn the language without realizing it. English  is the only language that I don't remember actually learning, as it was  just a tool that I used to learn something else.

When  I was sixteen, I began to watch some "polyglot videos" on YouTube. I  remember being amazed by them; I didn't know you could learn so many  languages as an adult. They also validated my earlier experience with  English: you don't need to go to a language school in order to learn a  new language, you can teach yourself wherever and whenever you  want!First I studied French, and then some other romance languages:  Portuguese, Italian, Catalan… once you learn one, you want to learn em'  all! Then I went on with German, Polish and Icelandic, in that order. I  could talk about the many reasons why I chose each particular language,  but this interview would never end.

Basically,  my main goal when learning any language is being able to read in it.  I'm the "academic" type of polyglot. That is, I prioritize a passive and  linguistic knowledge of the language, including "diachronic" language  skills (being able to read older variants of the language i.e. Medieval  French, Medieval Spanish, etc.). Speaking and writing have always been  secondary to me, but that's starting to change.

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

I  would like to have more opportunities to practice my Icelandic. That's  the only language I've never had the opportunity of speaking here in  Buenos Aires. I would also like to speak all my languages more  regularly. I'm looking for new ways to integrate them into my life.

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

Ideally,  all of them. A little less ideally, every major Germanic and Slavic  language, plus Finnish, Greek, Arabic, Persian and Hebrew.  Realistically…

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

Strangely  enough, I've always found "harsh" languages, with lots of consonant  clusters and guttural sounds, quite attractive. So, Klingon?

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

First  of all, I get the pleasure of reading literature in the language it was  written in, and understanding many of the untranslatable nuances I  would otherwise miss. Besides that, I've made friends from all around  the world. It's not just a matter of having one language in common and  communicating through it. Learning a language means becoming acquainted  with  a culture; by learning a language, I'm signaling to the people of  that culture that I cherish and celebrate their heritage, and that I'm  genuinely curious about them. If I go to Barcelona and I only speak  Spanish, people will see me as just another Argentinian tourist. But if I  go there and speak Catalan, they will treat me differently, they will  invite me to have dinner with their entire family and offer me to stay  in their apartment (true story).

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?

It's  undeniable that linguistic diversity is diminishing. The languages of  dominant cultures, like English in the West and Chinese in the East,  will keep on expanding and many local languages and dialects will be  lost. Nevertheless, I hope that revitalization and preservation efforts  will keep many of these alive, but many will inevitably vanish. Being a  "global villager" by caring about the preservation of other cultures and  learning many different languages is a great start!

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

Being  twenty years old, I don't know how wise and mature my advice can be.  What I can say is that learning a new language is one of the most  enriching activities  a human being can have the delight of partaking  in. It will make you grow intellectually, emotionally and even  spiritually. Start simple. Choose a learning method that you like, based  and your preferences and priorities, and just do something every single  day. Consistency is key. Don't get discouraged, it gets easier with  time.

The International Association of Hyperpolyglots - HYPIA. (c) 2020

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