Jose Miguel Clar
Name: José Miguel Clar Llusá
Nationality or Ethnicity: Spanish
Where do you live?: Palma de Mallorca, Spain
Languages: Spanish, Catalan, English, Greek, Turkish, French, German, Italian. Basic knowledge of Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew and Russian.
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
Languages have been part of my life since I can remember. I started to learn languages when I was at school and those were my favourite subjects. I remember getting as a present a Craig David CD when I was 8 years old and how passionately I was translating the lyrics from English into Spanish. Another class that I loved was Catalan language class. In Mallorca, education is bilingual, so I had the chance to study some subjects in Spanish and others in Catalan. It was an incredible experience to be able to study in two languages and also being able to speak them.
Since I grow up in a quite touristic island I was constantly exposed to different languages. As a child I remember interacting with foreign kids and feeling intrigued and curious by the fact that they were communicating in a different language. One childhood memory that I have was when interacting with an Italian kid who was speaking to me in Italian. I couldn’t really understand him, but I just felt amazed listening to the sounds that he was making. And of course, as children we make any single effort to communicate without the need of verbal communication. That’s when I realized that non-verbal communication was also very important.
Luckily, my family was open to traveling when I first said that I wanted to go to Italy and then to France. My parents don’t speak English, so they were a little bit afraid of traveling outside Spain, but I kept going to travel agencies and getting leaflets about affordable trips to Italy and France. Finally, my parents accepted to take our first trip to Rome. We didn’t have a single problem with communication! I was just 9 years of age and I had bought a conversation guide in Italian. I studied it a little bit and while traveling I used it to communicate with hotel members, citizens on the street and at the airport. It was an incredible feeling and memory. The same happened the next year when we travelled to Paris for the first time.
As I was growing up, this passion for languages didn’t stop. I kept learning other languages like German and Greek. German was an optional course at my school, and I didn’t hesitate to take it. Even though the contents were very easy and repetitive year after year, I was able to grasp the basics of the language and then when I went to university to study my first bachelor, I did my Erasmus year in Germany. However, in the meantime I started developing a passion for Greece, its language, and its recent history. I wanted to learn Greek so much, so I started to do it in Mallorca during high school. My mom, who at that time knew that her child was passionate about languages, supported me and found a Greek lady living in Mallorca. She was the one who guided me on my first steps of learning Greek.
At University, I studied Tourism and economics as my first bachelor. After, I worked at hotels for several years, but I couldn’t conceive my life without working with languages, so I decided to go back to University and I studied Spanish language and literature. Then I knew that I had made the right decision. My grades were good, and I felt so happy when studying. I also started to study in University Latin and Ancient Greek. I do have still so knowledge about those languages. I really enjoyed ancient Greek language and I would love studying it deeper in the future.
Eventually, at the age of 25 years old I made it. I moved to Greece! I lived there for 5 years working at a hotel first and then teaching Spanish at different language schools. My Greek finally boosted, and I was able to finally obtain the C2 level. I felt like a Greek! I felt that Greece was not a foreign country anymore. It was home. I guess that is another side effect of learning a foreign language to a very deep level. Then I decided to study a master’s degree in Spanish teaching as a foreign language.
While living in Greece, I met who would be my first Turkish friends. As I was getting to know more and more about the modern history of Greece, I couldn’t avoid wanting to learn more about Turkey. Suddenly I felt that I had a connection with that country and language. I couldn’t believe it! I had to go to Turkey and experience it with my own soul. I went to Izmir, Bodrum and Fethiye and I immediately felt in love with the language, its people, and landscapes. So, when I went back to Thessaloniki in 2017, I started to learn Turkish. I was studying Greek and Turkish at the same time, working in Greece, and spending my summers in Turkey. It was a lovely time. When I was in Greece, I also learned about the Sephardic Jews. Thessaloniki, at a certain time during the Ottoman empire had a very big population of Jews. That’s how I decided to start learning Hebrew. I took a 6 months’ course, and I learned some basics. The same I did recently for Arabic and that’s what I would like to do with Mayan languages.
In 2019 I came across the organization Peace Boat, a Japanese non-profit organization and I decided to join it to work as an English and Spanish teacher for its 102ndglobal voyage. I got accepted and I joined it for the first time. Then I got onboard again for the 103rd short voyage around Oceania and finally, after the pandemic I came again for the 114th voyage. One of the things that I enjoy the most of being on Peace Boat is the linguistic diversity and the fact that we go to so many different countries and get to experience different languages and cultures.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising? Turkish and Japanese.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future? Kaqchikel would be the first Mayan language that I learn. I want to start learning endangered languages and this one is one that really calls my attention.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language? J I believe that any language can be the sexiest or the ugliest. It all depends on the person speaking and the person who is listening.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages? When I speak a foreign language I feel with my soul, it’s like a feeling of electric impulses through my body. I think that probably it’s the pleasure of getting to know other personalities inside of me through languages. Also, I can widen my curiosity and feel the bliss when I’m studying a foreign language.
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 don’t think that this will happen in 100 years, but I do think that if we do not change people’s mentality it might happen in the mid future. What it can happen in 100 years is a deeper and stronger linguistic hierarchy and more linguistic discrimination.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages? I would say to them that this is a chance to discover new personalities in you. It’s a chance to see the world differently. When you learn a new language, you also develop a slightly new personality. When you know so many languages you can adapt and adjust to many environments and this is some type of nice superpower that I wish all humans could develop.