Name: Marcos Duleba Mendoza
Nationality or Ethnicity: Argentinian / Italian
Where do you live?: Argentina
Languages: Italian, Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, German, Catalan, Norwegian, Esperanto.
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
My grandfather was the first polyglot in the family. He was born in Germany and lived in Hungary, Italy, Brazil and Argentina. He was in close contact with most Slavic languages and Guarani, his wife’s first language. My father was the second, but with a focus on Romance languages. On my mother’s side, English and Quebecois French were almost a native language du to our connections with Canada; Quechua was also spoken by my grandfather, who was a physician in Indigenous communities. I grew up surrounded by languages, dialects and accents, and my childhood between Argentina, Italy and France, made Spanish, Italian and French my first languages, all spoken with a very marked Northern Italian accent. I’ve learnt English also “naturally” through series, music, articles and listening to my family, who usually uses it as a lingua franca, along with French. In my High School, we had German classes and both A1 and A2 tests were available to students who completed certain number of hours. My father’s family came to America during the 1930’s and they had two options, the United States or Brazil, so I learnt Portuguese by talking with them and reading books in Portuguese (Duleba’s World Congress is held in Sao Paulo). I’ve heard about Esperanto, and how is that learning it is helpful for learning other languages faster, so I started studying during a trip to Colombia, and I got fluency after three days. My passion for Romance languages led me to study Catalan, through contact with people from Andorra, Barcelona and Valencia. Finally, I decided to study Scandinavian languages, but I knew that only studying Norwegian, I could understand the rest to a very high degree, so I started to contact students from the Universities of Bergen and Oslo that wanted to practice Spanish, and I found several ones that helped me to develop the language.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Nowadays, I want to practice more Norwegian, and start to learn Farsi. I have the time, but for the moment I’m using it for University.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
Farsi, Polish, Bulgarian, Biblical Hebrew, Biblical Greek and Swahili.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
For men, Spanish. For women, Catalan.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
Being able to communicate with people from around the world, and reading books in the original language.
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 that it is possible. Nowadays, thankfully, there are some movements to revive almost extinct languages. It was possible with Hebrew, now Irish and Asturian are having a revival too.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Study languages your passionate about. Maybe you’ll have to learn one or two as obligation, but the rest are up to you. Never try three or more at one time. Don’t worry if you don’t see fast results, it’s like a seed. Use all the resources we have online, there are many of them. And don’t ever think you’re wasting your time, learning a language is not acquiring a new vocabulary, grammar and syntaxis, it’s a whole new way to see the world, and that’s worthy of our time and resources. I congratulate you for starting those journeys, now start.