Interview with

Matheus Ventura-Lang

Name: Matheus (Matze) Ventura Lang
Nationality or Ethnicity: German, Brazilian, Italian
Where do you live?: Tübingen, Germany.
Languages: German and Portuguese (Native), English (C1), Spanish (C1), Italian (B2/C1), Dutch (B2/C1), French (B2), Norwegian (B1), Swedish (A2/B1), Russian (A2), Afrikaans (passive knowledge)
Latin (intermediary reading level), Ancient Greek (basic reading level), Old Norse (basic reading level)

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

I grew up bilingually (German and Portuguese) since my parents come from different linguistical backgrounds. These two languages are still those I feel most comfortable with. I started learning English in the 5th grade of elementary school and since then I never stopped using it on a daily basis. Having been brought up in Latin America (Brazil) I was always surrounded by the Spanish language, especially when I used to travel as a kid with my parents. Due to the proximity of Spanish with one of my mother tongues it was relatively easy for me to learn the language. To pursue my goal I went to Uruguay to spend some time in the country and it was just the excellent opportunity to get in touch with the language on a daily basis. Despite not being nowadays in constant contact with this language I try to read books and to communicate with my friends in it whenever I can. Although having Italian roots and being Italian myself I never had a close contact with the language during the first years of my life. Nonetheless after moving back to Europe and specially due to Campus life (I studied in Germany) I got in touch with the language. The geographical proximity of Italy and Germany allow me to be more often in the country and to have more contact with my Italian origins, something I couldn’t do in childhood. I’ve always been particularly interested in Germanic languages, especially its history and etymology. Since I did my last year of High School on a town at the Dutch-German border I used this time to travel to the Netherlands as much as I could and so I learned its language. My approach to French was pretty pragmatically. I realised the importance of the language in the subject of my studies (Philosophy) and so I decided to learn the language to be able to read philosophical works in the original version and to participate in discussions and forums of philosophy in that language. Although I’ve never been to Scandinavia I got in touch with some of the languages due to acquaintances and so I decided to learn some of them. First I began with Swedish but some time afterwards I started with Norwegian and so I got fascinated by its linguistical diversity and I fell in love with its poetry, especially in the Nynorsk written form. Having many friends of Russian origin in Germany made me decide to start learning the language. Although I’m still at a beginners level I can understand already a lot of it specially because I often have the opportunity to practice. As I child I’ve been once to South Africa and there I discovered Afrikaans. After learning Dutch I realised how similar these two languages were and so I decided to deepen my knowledge in the language. My studies of Social Anthropology motivated me also to learn more about it. Another thing that I discovered in University that fascinates me is the realm of historical linguistics. At the moment I’m studying for a Latin proficiency exam but also having studied some Ancient Greek makes me think of the interesting connections between language and thought. For my Master’s I want to deepen my knowledge in the Germanic language branch and so I started learning Old Norse and it amazes me with its vast rich literature.

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

From the languages I already know I would like to reach a C level in Norwegian and to improve my Russian as much as I can. I’d like to invest also more time in improving my skills in historical languages, specially Latin, Ancient Greek and Old Norse.

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

I have the personal goal of being able to be at least conversant (B1) in 15 languages until my 30th birthday. For that I still want to learn Irish, Serbo-Croatian, Icelandic and to some extent Danish, despite wanting to improve my skills in the languages I still don’t speak very well.

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

Tough question, although I would say Hungarian sounds really fascinating, especially when reciting poetry!

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

To get to understand – to some extent – the nuances that languages give to things in the world. It feels as if every language throws a certain spotlight at the several phenomena we have in reality. It’s a great source of epistemological richness!

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?

To some extent. With globalisation and the interconnection of people around the world it’s a tendency for the number of languages to decrease. On the other hand we got to acknowledge that language is not a static but rather fluid process and the new realities might also create the space for language to be born, renewed and reshaped.

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

Go for it! J Personally, with each language I learned I feel as if a new realm of possibilities has emerged in my mind and own subjectivity. Languages can be fascinating gates to entire realities!