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Interview with

Joop Kiefte

Name: Joop Kiefte
Nationality or Ethnicity: Dutch
Where do you live?: Portugal
Languages: Dutch (native), English, Esperanto, Portuguese (C-level), Spanish, French, German (B-level), Ido, Toki Pona, Italian, Afrikaans (A-level).

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

The Dutch school system taught English, French and German, although I didn't do well at all with those, but I felt something was off with how the school system teaches these languages. When I learned Esperanto this was pretty much confirmed for me, because I managed pretty well to learn Esperanto and had a lot of fun with it. I picked up actual French with an Esperanto trip with French friends and German with the marriage of Esperanto friends. I really love to talk and just start picking up any new language when I get in touch with it and people who speak it.


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

I still have the goal to get more into slavic languages in general, and to get beyond the language groups I speak now, but I leave that for the moments I have an actual need for them, because otherwise it only stresses me out... The languages that I made a little start with but really need more exposure are Russian, Ukranian, Polish, Czech/Slovak, Chinese, Arabic and Persian.


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

The languages I just mentioned and probably languages like Indonesian, Tagalog, Catalan etc.


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

I'm split between Esperanto and Portuguese. Portuguese is really an unreasonably beautiful language I cannot get enough of, and now living in Portugal I actually use it every day, altough because I work in my native Dutch, still not as much as I would actually like to use it.


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

Knowing people how they really are, meeting people and linguistically meeting them at where people are most comfortable. I often don't feel at ease speaking English because I see the other person is struggling to communicate well with it, and English is so often a contest of who learned it the best, and it really shouldn't be...


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 am pretty sure that is true, yes, for the one simple reason that people are wired for efficiency and really want and need to understand each other. Every next generation doesn't have the same cultural importance of the languages of their parents as their parents did, and nowadays our tribes are online cross-country. On the other hand, our online tribes do enable rare languages to find new speakers, so it's very well possible that some languages that are almost or completely dead will actually survive in new contexts. Any language stays alive when people find value in it, and we have great new options to enable endangered languages to gain new importance and value. 


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

Find a language and community that motivates you. You can learn a language for many reasons, and whatever language you learn, without the right motivation you will just not manage it. Don't try to collect languages just for the sake of it, have a goal however small with any new language. That goal can be as simple as saying hello to the person that motivated you to learn that language. And it's perfectly okay to only know a few words of many languages: that is how I survive pretty well in any new country I get to.