Name: Lindsay Shorten
Nationality or Ethnicity: Irish
Where do you live?: Dublin, Ireland
Languages: English (Native), Irish, Spanish, Danish, Portuguese, German, Polish, Italian (Advanced conversational level), French, Dutch, Mandarin Chinese, Romanian (Intermediate conversational level), Turkish, Greek (Conversational), Indonesian, Farsi, Basque, Japanese, Korean, Punjabi and Hebrew (Beginners).
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages? I realised I had a passion for learning languages when I was 14 years old. I noticed at this time that it was one of the few subject areas I looked forward to studying at school and I loved the thought of being able to travel using my languages. For me, it was a very practical, even exotic skill to have and I knew early on that it would open up many doors for me. I found learning grammar and vocabulary interesting and relatively easy, a lot less mundane than studying maths formulae or chemistry experiments. My language learning started with Irish, Spanish and German. I then moved on to Portuguese, French, Farsi and Basque among others once I started university. My goal was never to become a ‘polyglot’ or to be able to speak a certain number of languages. I just enjoyed the language learning process and one thing lead to another. I’ve also lived in Italy, Spain, Germany and Poland during and after college which helped enforce what I had learnt but I never felt that living in the country was a necessary part of learning a language. Most of the languages I’ve learnt are self –taught and were not learnt in the countries where they are spoken. Languages are now a very important part of my life, they’re like having 21 friends that help add meaning to my life on a daily basis.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising? The internet has completely changed the way I learn and use my languages to the point where, if I have the time and energy, I can practise almost any language I like online at any time. However, it is sometimes difficult to find online tutors for minority languages such as Basque. Finding materials for Punjabi is also quite challenging. As years have passed, I’ve become more careful about what languages I choose to learn – I always check to make sure there are enough resources to keep me going from beginners level, all the way up to advanced level!
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future? At the moment I think I need to focus on the languages I once learnt to a conversational level that have now gone slightly rusty such as Indonesian and Farsi. When I get the point where I am content with my levels in all languages, I would love to learn Icelandic!
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language? I don’t think I find any language ‘sexy’ per se but I do find Japanese very endearing. I love how the Japanese communicate with each other and the respect they hold for people that can be seen through the usage of their language.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages? For me, the best language learning experiences I’ve had are while on the journey to becoming conversational in a language. I love the little milestones such as – pronouncing a tricky word correctly, understanding a native speaker’s point, having that first 30 minute conversation, reaching the point where the native just speaks to you like you’re one of them. Learning a language is just a gift that keeps on giving because it’s all about the journey, there is no eventual ‘final destination’.
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? Yeah due to the speed of globalisation, our cultural differences are becoming fewer and fewer and so languages and other traditions are being lost on the way unfortunately.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages? My best advice for people out there looking to learn several languages would be to choose languages to learn for which you have several sources of motivation to keep you engaged. Choose languages that have easily accessible resources to learn from and at the same time, don’t attempt to learn from a large variety of resources at the same time, this will leave you overwhelmed and you will feel like giving up. Be consistent, study every day you can and also try speaking as early as possible, even if you just know a few words – speak those few words fluently! Make many mistakes along the way, you will be so much more interesting and more successful than someone who will only give it a shot when they think they have it just right. Perfectionists lose out on countless opportunities to get it right much earlier on.