Senior Director, Recruitment
Name: Matias Barmat
Role at HYPIA: Director of Recruitment
Nationality or Ethnicity: Argentina /
Where do you live?: Buenos Aires
Languages: Spanish (native), English (C1), Catalan (C1), Portuguese (C1), Italian (B2), French (B1), Galician (B1), Romanian (B1), Basque (A2), Greek (A2), Turkish (A2), Hebrew (A2), German (A2), Dutch (A2), Macedonian (A2).
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I'm from Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I did all my career. So, it's natural for me to say that Spanish is my first language. I began to learn English in an extracurricular course in parallel to my primary school. But, as often occurs, reading books, watching movies, in my case also programming and reading device manuals, even to interact with speakers also helped me a lot. Another source was watching TV, especially international channels. Since I got cable connection, I enjoyed learning Italian watching RAI (Radiotelevisione Italiana), French (TV5), and Portuguese through Brazilian O Globo and RTP Portugal. When I was a child, I used to read at my home a Spanish encyclopedia with infographs from Spain. I became very interested in "that part of Spain that really is not Spain". In fact, I began to learn more and more about Catalonia, Basque Country and Galicia up to the point to learn that languages thoroughly. All of them by chat. Catalan I began in 2002 thanks to a friend of mine, at that time in high school, who had serious troubles when he tried to write to me in Spanish. I mean, orthographic errors. Up to that point, I didn't realize that there were people residing in Spain which almost never use Spanish in everyday life. So he asked me, as a favor, if he could write to me in Catalan. And, as I had previous knowledge of French and Italian, due to similarities, I accepted his offer and I became fluent in Catalan as quickly as six weeks. Even though, I worked here in Buenos Aires from 2006 to 2009 with a Catalan resident partner in a small IT business: I used to spoke Catalan with him as a working language.
Galician, of course, was also easy to learn for me, because I had TVG on cable TV and the aforementioned Portuguese background.
However, learning Basque was a major challenge. In 2003 I began to post messages in an animalist and anti-bullfighting discussion forum, where I befriended with a 14-year-old girl from Bilbao. It took me three years of everyday chat to speak Basque but when I did, I became really fluent. A Jewish speaking Basque.
About Hebrew, although I never went to Hebrew schools, I began learning the language around age 13, in the preparation course prior to my Bar Mitzvah. Also, I improved taking lessons with private teachers and talking with some Israeli friends.
In 2016, I took fifteen lessons of Romanian in four months thanks to a female friend of mine at that time residing in Buenos Aires. But, my real passion, are basketball statistics. I have two minor degrees (Computer Systems and Sports Journalism) and a major degree (Journalism), and I could fuse my both careers in my website, www.worldhoopstats.com, the largest basketball stats database. My language skills enabled me to find all the stats by myself, reading everyday websites from national leagues and other web sources from 40 different countries and counting, extracting those stats and publishing them. So, my knowledge of languages like German, Dutch, Serbo-Croatian, Greek and Turkish (fluent reading and grammar knowledge but basic conversation) come from those sources.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Every language is worth learning. Without exception.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
Well, I want to get deep into other Germanic languages (I know German and Dutch at A2 level, at one time I was interested in Swedish), Hindi-Urdu, and Slavic languages, where I have a basic knowledge of Croatian and Polish. I'm focusing on Macedonian, which is a fascinating language.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Catalan! It's as refined as French and as romantic as Italian.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
When I speak other languages, I can access other cultures and understanding them better. Speaking the language of my peer gives me the greatest honor and the best way to show him respect for his values and idiosyncrasy. However, the most important of all, is that languages are undoubtedly communication tools. Speaking other languages gives you the power to access knowledge (data, information) beforehand. It's an advantage.
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?
Linguist and hyperpolyglot Eugen Coşeriu has made a clear distinction between language and norm, and between dialects, sociolects and registers.
It seems that the reason why is most important to speak a standard language in detriment of a dialect, it's a matter of prestige.
To speak a standard dialect instead of a slang, I mean, a slang regarded as a sociolect, it's a matter of prestige.
To speak a standard language instead of a mixture of two or more languages is a matter of prestige.
That perception of which variety is more correct or not, was historically shaped through four variables, four factors of destructions of civilizations and cultures:
- territorial conquest;
- economic interests;
- religious imposition;
- cultural industry.
Cultural industry, seen as a way of post-colonialism. While the creation of standard languages have been the cornerstone of the formation of modern nation-states, at the same time it was the cause of destruction of minority languages and dialects: the imposition of standard languages (and also the imposition of a specific way to speak that standard language, based on a normativity) is conditioned by the same variables.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
As I commented before, languages are communication tools: different communication vehicles that transport information which is interpreted by different codes we establish as a convention. Knowing languages represents a clear advantage to access other sources of knowledge than otherwise we could not.
However, there are many reasons why we do study languages; some of them are very personal. Being a national of a multilingual country or being a member to a certain community, working abroad, travelling, but also knowing other people and how they think. Their culture, their idiosyncrasy, also means a different way to create concepts and ideas, and a different way how we concrete or abstract them. And knowing their natural language is the natural vehicle to do so. So we are, to raise awareness of the importance to preserve the language richness and the culture of peoples.
Matias is also a HYPIA Scholar. Below is an excerpt from his Scholar interview.
1. HYPIA Research revolves around three main, interrelated activities: a monthly study group (to discuss relevant articles/chapters and videos), an annual conference (to present your own ideas about them) and the publication of selected proceedings from that conference. Ideally, we would be interested in accepting applicants that are able and willing to participate in all 3. On a scale from 1 (most likely) to 10 (less likely), how likely are you committed to this endeavour?
1 (most likely)
2. What are your main areas of research interest? Please, rank the following from 1 (most interesting to you) to 5 (less interesting).
(2) Language ideologies
(2) Formal linguistics
(3) Minoritized languages and/or language revitalization
3. Which linguistic concepts / areas / discourses would you like to explore as part of HYPIA Research?
My main focus can be divided in three parts:
1) Languages as entities: how do languages function;
2) Languages as communication vehicles: how effective are languages, in terms of both information coding (where grammar is only the most visible layer) and information transmission;
3) Language as the hallmark of a society.
4. What is unique about your language-related research?
I have not done language-related research yet, but I have not seen very much language-related research done in my area of interest. I would be interested in every aspect regarding language both as a vehicle of communication and as a vehicle of culture and heritage transmission and preservation.
5. Please, let us know your related academic credentials, if and as applicable.
I have a major degree in Journalism (since 2017) with minor (technical) degrees in Sports Journalism (since 2012) and Computer Systems (since 2006).
I made two lectures: at Poliglotar 2020 (Relations between Languages and Journalism) and at Polyglot Conference Global 2020 (Relations between Natural Languages, Programming Languages and Math), where part of my ongoing research was presented.