Michele San Pietro
Name: Michele San Pietro
Nationality or Ethnicity: Italian
Where do you live?: Reggio Emilia (Italy)
Languages: Italian (mother tongue), English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Serbo-Croatian, Romanian, Albanian, Sardinian, all on a professional and conversational level. There are many more languages I know on lower levels.
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I discovered my talent in 1984, when I wasn’t even 20 and went to spend almost one month in the United States. My English was broken when I left, but that trip allowed me to acquire a passable knowledge of the language and I started studying it every day, becoming fluent within a couple of years. I also brushed up on my French, which, like English, I had studied at school, and began to study Spanish, a language I liked very much. When a reached a passable level of Spanish, I started learning Portuguese, making confusion with Spanish at first, since the two languages are very similar. In 1986, I started studying German, a more complicated language, and it took me three years to attain a fairly good knowledge. After the political changes in Eastern Europe, I began to study the local languages, learning Croatian, Romanian, and Albanian fluently. I’ve been working on my own as a free-lance translator since 1989. I’m an almost 100% self-taught person.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Those where I have a lower level of knowledge, such as Greek, Hungarian, Polish and Turkish.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
Chinese and Japanese.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
In my opinion, a language is never sexy.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
The certainty to get a better understanding of the world. I’m also happy when I meet foreigners who at first fear they are unable to communicate with me, but then are pleased when they see I can speak their 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?
No, I don’t. National languages will never die as long as they remain such. I think regional languages are much more at risk, and I’m also active in this field.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
To study constantly and try to practise as much as possible. A short time every day is better than a long time once a week.