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Interview with

Maureen Millward

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).

Member since:


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!

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