Name: Maureen F Millward
Nationality or Ethnicity: Scottish
Where do you live?: Northern England
Languages: English, Scots, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, Catalan, German, Afrikaans.
Several others at a lower level (Sicilian, Neapolitan, Greek, Russian, Egyptian Arabic, Slovak, Chinese, Gaelic, Welsh, Norwegian, Urdu).
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
Before age 16, I had language tuition at school but it was really awful and after 5 years of French, there was no way I could have a conversation with a native speaker. I still liked languages though and was constantly borrowing library books to try and learn other languages. This was in the days before skype, videos and resources on the internet so it was much harder to learn a language. I then studied Spanish at university and got a job using it. From there, I had to quickly learn Italian and Portuguese for work. I had work projects in Italy and Spain and was working with colleagues from those countries on a daily basis which enabled me to get plenty of practice without needing teachers. By my mid-20s, I was able to speak fluent Spanish & Italian, good Portuguese and basic Norwegian. Since then, the internet has opened up many more language opportunities for me and I have learned all my other languages through lessons on Skype. In the last couple of years, I returned to learning French as an adult with skype lessons and I am now a confident, fluent speaker.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
German and Afrikaans as I’m intermediate level and would like to reach advanced level. I’d also like to be fluent in a Slavic language and Celtic language but it all depends on time.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
Cornish if I retire to Cornwall, more Welsh if I retire to Wales, Scottish Gaelic if I retire in Scotland.I usually learn new languages I need for travelling just to A1/A2 level so during the next year I will learn some Turkish as I’m going to Turkey in a few months. A1/A2 is enough if I lack time for learning and just want to learn the essential language for travelling.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Italian will always be my favourite because of the sound, the people, the country and the good experiences it has given me.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
Positive experiences and interactions with people that I otherwise wouldn’t have got. Through other languages, I have made many friends from other countries. When I travel, I often have a friend in that country who I can visit. Language skills have enabled me to get certain jobs which have then opened up more opportunities to learn additional languages. I also discovered the online language community and made new friends. I now regularly attend language-related events all over the world and was an organiser for the Language Event in Edinburgh. I can read news in other languages and gain a different perspective. I also believe that languages are for helping people and particularly when travelling, I have helped lots of other people who were having difficulties in communicating in the local 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?
I think many countries and organisations are doing a good job to save some lesser-known languages. With modern technology, hopefully these languages will not be lost forever. Education is key. The more of the lesser-known languages that can be included in the education system, the better.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Languages have enhanced my life and I would encourage anyone to who is thinking about it to give it a go. You don’t need to aim for fluency as learning just enough for your needs can be very rewarding. Take something you’re interested in and read about it in your target language, find a good teacher or language partner and try to speak as much as you can without worrying about making mistakes. Teachers and language partners are there to help you, don’t be shy!