Name: Joshua Balata
Nationality or Ethnicity: Indian
Where do you live?: Paris, France
Languages: English, French, Hindi, Urdu, Kannada, Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam, Dutch
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I was raised in a couple of South Indian cities, all of which speak different languages. Three languages always ran around the home, and my parents loved languages themselves. I picked up English in school, and with my parents’ help- better than most other students. When it became my identity, I would work harder to acquire a new language to just make sure that I don’t lose that identity, this is how I got fluent in French. Moving to France, I had to nail the language or I’d have to kiss my identity goodbye.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Dutch and Tamil. Tamil is my mother tongue, but I’d love to learn to read and write it.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I would love to learn German.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
I thought it was French, but now that I speak it, I think it’s a foreign accent that’s sexy. Right now, a Swedish accent sounds super sexy. If I learnt the language, maybe another one will take the title.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
The quick ice break that happens with people. We’re generally polite with strangers, but above all, we’re reserved. Speaking someone’s language breaks the ice like nothing else I’ve seen. Despite not having much in common, language can connect people unbelievably well.
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?
Unfortunately, I do see evidence of this back home in India where my grandparents and their peers spoke better Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam than my peers and I. I don’t think everything will vanish except a few languages, but we’re certainly English/Mandarin/Spanish focused. I would hope that the richness of language diversity doesn’t cease to exist.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
If a 5 year old Chinese kid, a 5 year old German kid and a 5 year old Polish kid all speak their respective languages, chances are that you can learn it too. If you want it, you need to know that you can get it. It will take some persistence, but certainly not intellect