Interview with

Mikail Darbinyan

Name: Mikail Darbinyan

Nationality or Ethnicity: Armenian

Where do you live?: I live between the Caucasus, Spain and the United States

Languages: Armenian, Spanish, English, French, Italian, Russian, Turkish, Portuguese, Polish

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

Languages  and cultures have been a hobby of mine since childhood. I had always  been exposed to different cultures, be it personally or through  literature. However, I only started learning languages systematically  from the age of 17. For reasons unknown to me (as I have never  psychologically assessed why languages were so interesting to me) I just  like speaking and hearing different languages, so I would start  learning one, and whenever I had sufficient knowledge of it I would  start another. Years of traveling and living in different countries  surely helped me learn and progress in the different languages I have  learned so far.

Which language do you wish you could spend more time practicing?

Armenian  by far is one of the most difficult ones despite being my mother  tongue. It is a language with more than 54 dialects and innumerable  sub-dialects, with different verb conjugations, extremely flexible word  formations, sentence structures and with a great contrast between the  spoken (daily) and written (academic, official) form. Armenian in itself  is a for me, the more you dig into it, the more you find how little you  know it, sort of like Socrates’ “I only know that I know nothing”  slogan…

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

I  would like to finish what I had started earlier, Farsi and Arabic.  Finding a grammar manual for these languages that adapts to your logic  of learning is hard, plus, Arabic has so many dialects that learning one  is not enough in order to understand the dialects spoken in more than  20 countries. After these two, Hungarian, Georgian and Albanian are  other languages that interest me for their uniqueness, so maybe I will  go on to those afterword.

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

First  of all, one must define the term “sexiest”. Does it mean a language  that sounds more fluid due to an excel of vowels such as Italian(at the  end of the majority of their words), or a language with plenty of  literature and expressions stemming from the romantic period of the 19th  century, i.e. French? I think every language has a romantic value of  its own.

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

​TBy  far the most interesting has been learning so many cultural expressions  from speaking with natives of those languages.Finding out which region  of the country is “the best”, which cities in a particular country  “don’t get along”, jokes about particular regions or cities, who is the  “hardest working” in a given country.They are not to be taken seriously  of course, because many are based on stereotypes but it’s just  interesting, as it shows how similar we humans are regardless of our  ethnic community or geographic distance from each other. Communicating  with so many people has helped me understand that people are the same  everywhere, ethnicity, religion and/or social background make no  difference whatsoever in determining “how a person is”, everyone  everywhere has generally the same worries and wants the same thing in  life.

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?

100  years is a very short period for this to happen. Languages do die out  due to many factors (forced assimilation, migrations, etc.), and some  will die out before that. Nonetheless, almost all current languages will  undergo changes of some sort, which is just part of the nature of  languages: some will lose words, some will gain new loanwords  (particularly technological terms), others will conjugate in a different  way, others will spawn a few more dialects. So, in 100 years a lot can  happen, but I don’t believe that only a few languages will be left.An  interesting thing to watch though is how fast languages are modified in  the globalised context. Currently, almost all cultures or  ethno-linguistic communities are being slowly integrated in a  trans-national culture-community, some quicker than others. This may  have a boomerang effect in some communities, where the national language  is given even more importance in the face of its downfall, and a  foreign language is discarded. Everything can happen.

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

Many  have said this, but I must say it too: every language has its own logic  (sentence structure, word order, verb conjugation, etc.), submerge  yourself in a given language to understand that logic if you want to  master that language. Use time wisely, organise yourself to learn as  much as you can beforehand. Languages are very practical tools, once you  learn one you can use it for the rest of your life in any place, be it  for work, travelling, academic purposes or everyday life. Take advantage  of languages that are similar, i.e. from the same language branch,  sometimes you can learn a few languages with little effort just by  knowing a similar one.

The International Association of Hyperpolyglots - HYPIA. (c) 2020

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