Name: Loana Eugenie Eleonora Kontogouri
Nationality: Greek & Romanian
Currently living in: Munich, Germany
Languages: Romanian, English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Greek- fluently, currently learning Hebrew and Dutch
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
Being born in Bucharest, Romania to a wonderful mother who was a translator, bookworm and art lover, the story of my passion for foreign languages began with her talking to us one week in French and one in English. When we got proficient enough ( me and my brother), she introduced us to the French and English classical literature, which made us fall in love with languages and books from a very young age.
Because my parents separated when I was only 8 months old, and my Father’s mother languages were German and Greek, my mother got sure I will learn German as well, which I did, beginning at the age of 7 and until I was 14. I learnt Greek later on, at 25, by following an amazing 5 months Programme at the University of Athens, where my amazing teacher, Lelia Panteloglu, made me fall in love again with my greek roots and the greek etymology, which amazed me from the very first day. Thus I got to the level B2 in 5 months instead of 2 years, and I currently speak it as a mother language.
I always loved Spanish and Italian, and their beginnings in my life are beautiful as well.
Around the age of 14, my grandmother used to watch Mexican soap operas, which my mother prohibited me to do, saying that they would be a waste of time. But the time came when for 4 months, 45 minutes a day, I watched one which was really close to my own life’s story, which made me learn the language perfectly. At the end of those 4 months I had read Don Quichot de la Mancha in the Spanish version and understood absolutely everything, which made me super happy and thirsty for more.
While already having begun to study Dentistry at the “ Carol Davila’ University in Bucharest, I started to work in a dental office where the dentist, also a polyglot, was speaking only in Italian to his dental technician who was coming from the North of Italy, which made me learn the language perfectly and in a super short time. The secret is having Romanian as a mother language and I assume that says it all. Years followed where I read all the Novels of Umberto Eco in Italian, listened to Italian music and went to dental courses which were held in Italian- the best of them being by the amazing Mauro Fradeani, in Pesaro, my favourite of all time, who also said to us- a group of 3 Romanian colleagues, how unfair it is that we can understand everything he says and he can’t understand a word of ours :)
Hebrew is a chapter on its own and it has a truly important meaning to my heart. Having come from a home where the jewish culture was deeply cherished- and going through a second world war where my grand grand father has saved a jewish family, having on our own distant jewish roots on my grandfather’s line, I was and am the only member in the family who made it a life goal to learn the language, no matter how long that would take. Last year I volunteered in a dental clinic for poor children in Jerusalem and promised myself I would come back at least one time a year to help them. It is in Israel where I understood what my life’s meaning and role is and the time spent there has shaped all my views on my further life.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
The languages which I wish I could spend more time practicing are currently Hebrew and Dutch.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I already have a list of languages I would like to learn in the next 10 years - written on the day of my 30th Birthday, on the 2nd of December 2020 -
- Portuguese, Dutch, Arabic, Bulgarian, Russian, Japanese, Sanskrit. - until I am 40. Parallel to that, if time will allow- Latin, Ancient Greek and Yiddish.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
The sexiest language? The most beautiful, hot, impressive, expressive, elegant, amazing language? French, French, French, French, and no other than French. My soul lies with it forever. The language which connects me to my mother even after her much too early departure from earth. The language I write poems in and I dream in :) My notion of forever.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
Connecting with people from so many countries at such a sincere level, and reading the pearls of litterature in their original versions…my greatest joy of all.
I am a dentist living in Munich, which is the perfect city to practice my languages all the time, having patients from Germany, Italy, Columbia, Spain, Greece, Romania and France, which allows me to have the best prerequisites for the time spent in the dental office. This makes most of the people fear the dentist less :)
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?
No, I really don’t believe that we are going to remain with only a few languages in the next 100 years….because the national spirit of each person allows them to cherish their mother language although they might speak English for 80 % of their time…..what I truly believe though is that our children might need to learn Chinese and Arabic….which is a good thing for their future synapses…..I am willing to believe that this will lead to less Alzheimer in the world :) and more love between the cultures, more understading.
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 everyone willing to learn multiple languages that they have to find their most important inner reason for which they want to do it. The fire within, a beloved person to connect each language with, a favourite book, a favourite movie or song, a feeling, the love for one specific country, for a specific artist or even for a sentence one once heard and fell in love with…… and less by beginning to worry how difficult the grammar of the target language is or how long will it take until you will become fluent. The secret is to find the love and apply it in your everyday’s endeavours on the path to proficiency.