Interview with

Maher Akil

Name: Maher Akil

Nationality or Ethnicity: Chinese/Lebanese

Where do you live?: Hong Kong

Languages: English, Cantonese, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Arabic

1.    What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?

I  was born in Hong Kong to a Chinese mother and a Lebanese father.  Growing up in Hong Kong till the age of 9, I had to learn Cantonese,  English, and Mandarin as part of the school curriculum. From age 9 till  18, I was living in Lebanon studying Arabic, English, and French; again,  as part of the curriculum. Even though I’m not fluent in French today,  my now-regrettable lacklustre-effort in French class over the years,  unintentionally prepared me for Spanish and Portuguese for the near  future. I moved to the US after high school to attend the University of  Michigan, where I picked up Spanish classes. After 4 years, I went to  Brazil to start my own China-sourcing business. I lived on the border of  Brazil and Paraguay, with my work being on the Paraguay side, while I  lived on the Brazilian side. 3 years in, I was fluent in Spanish and  Portuguese. Life would later take me to Angola, Africa where I would  spend 2 more years, before finally settling down in Hong Kong. Currently  working as a Regional Business Development Director utilising my  languages constantly.

2.    Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?

Spanish, French, & Hokkien

3.    What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?

Italian, Japanese, & Slavic

4.    So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?

All  languages sound alike when Siri or any AI is reading it. Language is  not the sexy part, the delivery & tone mixed with the right body  language is what makes it sexy.

5.    What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?

Too  many to pick just one. I would say mainly is the exposure of new  cultures, and all the new experiences that come from it. Every culture  have their own music, movies, jokes, values, recipes, and many more  aspects for you to explore. Every language is a key to a whole new  world.

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?

100  years is relatively short, that’s at max 3 generations. It will take a  few more generations to really kill a language. The main thing I look at  is the population of each language, the smaller the population, the  easier it is for them to abandon teaching it to the next generation. As  they see no use in it. If you look at the top 100 languages spoken by  population count today, even at the 100th spot there are still Millions  of people speaking it. So I don’t think the “a few languages” phenomenon  will happen in the next 100 years.

7.    What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?

Attach  each language to something you love, or else it will be hard to stay  motivated. For example, my love of Spanish started when I first heard  reggaetón music. I started reading the lyrics and wanted to understand  them, and a love for the language was developed and stayed strong till  today. The love of that specific thing, will bring you back to the  language over and over again. Whether it is a Japanese anime, Italian  cuisine, or the mystic Chinese Qing dynasty that intrigues you; use it  as a starting point to learn a new language, it will make it that much  more fun and exciting.

The International Association of Hyperpolyglots - HYPIA. (c) 2020

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