The International Association
Name: Luisa Meneghetti
Where do you live? Moving across the Alps, between Switzerland and the rest of the world (but mostly Switzerland)
Languages: English, French, Swedish, Spanish, Russian and Italian
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I guess it all started when, as a sociable 4-year-old Italian girl on holiday in a Spanish-speaking country, I decided that Spanish was an easy language: just put an –S at the end of each word! Many years after that, my thirst for understanding the world I lived in, led me to enrol in linguistic studies within the Italian liceo. English, French and Russian soon were not enough anymore; in my quest for independence, I moved abroad to attend the Swedish gymnasiet. Back in the days when Facebook was just an idea across the pond, and Duolinguo didn’t exist at all, it was a pioneering and risky move. Despite being self-taught, I ended up speaking the local language so well that distant relatives of my host family believed I was one of the siblings. Fast-forwarding a few years later, I received an Erasmus scholarship to continue my human rights studies in Geneva, Switzerland. I have been living here ever since, and am currently working in the sector I studied for. Geneva is a true linguistic nirvana. This “global village”, as I like to call it, gathers people from all corners of the world: on my typical day, I happen to cross path with speakers of dozens different languages; in my team alone, we are natives of six different languages, and add to them at least another couple each. Diversity is a treasure, and I could not imagine a world without it.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Definitely Russian. It is one of those languages that pose as many challenges while you learn them, as rewards, once you ultimately can interact with people who speak them.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I’ve always chosen my languages according to what resonated with my life in that specific moment in time. Right now, I deem it is time to let Turkish, Portuguese and Moroccan Arabic join the club. These languages are all deeply connected with places I love, and which feel like home to me. It is therefore natural to long for a deeper connection also with the people who live there.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
The sexiest language is the one you speak with the most passion! When you put your entire self -mind and heart – in sharing your thoughts, feelings and fears, people can’t help but be captured by your words, regardless of the language you actually use.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
I love to camouflage! Usually, nobody ever guesses my true nationality – people get stuck somewhere in the realm of Anglo-Saxon countries, or they turn to Eastern Europe altogether (however, I have once been asked if I was from Tunisia). They certainly do not expect an Italian born to (quote) “speak without an accent”. In this regard, I also enjoy breaking stereotypes that surround languages and those who speak such languages.
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?
Sadly, I think this is a possibility that will occur in a much nearer future. However, technologies and other tools have already been developed in order to mitigate the effects of this loss. As I already said, diversity is a treasure. I am doing my part to help keep it in this world, and I hope many others will join the effort.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Languages open doors of opportunities, you don’t want to miss out on them! What I learnt from my experience is the following: it is pivotal to choose a language which resonates and makes sense with your personal or professional life, not because it is trendy. Don’t worry if it looks like your choice is going against the mainstream. Later on, you will surely be rewarded for your honesty towards yourself, and for your bold choice.