Interview with

Mindaugas Peleckis

Name: Mindaugas Peleckis
Nationality or Ethnicity: Lithuanian
Where do you live?: Vilnius, Lithuania
Languages: Lithuanian (native), Samogitian (native), Russian, English, Ukrainian, Scottish Gaelic, Latvian, Dutch, French, Portuguese, Norwegian and Polish.
I’m learning Hebrew, Greek, Tagalog, Ainu, Finnish, Icelandic, Tibetan, Japanese, and Chinese.

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

My name is Mindaugas Peleckis, I was born on the 12th of September, 1975 in Šiauliai, Samogitia, Lithuania. I began to learn languages since my childhood: at high school, I had to learn Russian (it was obligatory back in the USSR), later I had a chance to visit the United States for couple of months where I had good times learning English. In my high school, Latin also was obligatory.

My native dialect, which some people call a separate Baltic language, is Samogitian. However, some (sub-)dialects of Samogitian are very hard even not possible to understand to Lithuanians who live further from Samogitia.

During my study years, I’ve studied in The Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark, where I have learned a bit of some of the local languages, mostly Dutch and French. I tried to learn some phrases while traveling to various countries as well (Greek, Turkish, Indonesian, Persian, Finnish, Italian, Croatian, Hungarian).

My most active phase of language learning began about 7 years ago, when I discovered the Duolingo platform, and tried about 40 languages on it. The biggest progress I made was with Scottish Gaelic.

My first profession is journalism, second one – philosophy (I’m a PhD candidate), but I work a translator right now. I’ve translated one book from English (Carl Honoré’s In Praise of Slow) so far, and also I wrote two books in English: one of them, Written in Blood, was published in Australia (Numen Books) in 2015, the other one, Meetings with Strangers, was translated into French and published in France (Camion Blanc) in 2018. I write articles in Lithuanian and English, - mainly about music and languages. One of my biggest passions in language ecology and endangered languages, about which I’m currently writing a book and interviewing various linguists and native speakers. I also have a predilection to search for origin of the words (etymologies).

2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?

Scottish Gaelic, Latvian, Hebrew, Tagalog, Greek, Ainu, Tibetan, Chinese, Finnish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Japanese.

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

Irish, Welsh, Breton, Karelian, Old Irish, Old Norse, Indonesian/Malay, Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Berber, Sami, Mongolian.

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

Lithuanian or Scottish Gaelic, it’s difficult to choose one of them, - I love my native language, but have to admit that Scottish Gaelic is very sexy too.

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

The very process of language learning is big pleasure, not just hard work. It’s great to begin to understand different cultures through their languages, and, of course, to communicate with people in various languages. I also enjoy watching movies and listening to music in different languages.

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?

It can become real, although, I’m an optimist. Seeing so many language enthusiasts, I have a big hope that most of the languages (or even all of them) will survive (or at least will be revived). In my opinion, there are no dead languages, there are only sleeping ones (we have great examples of Hebrew, Manx, Cornish etc.).

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

Even when you feel down and tired, and you want to quit language learning, don’t. Switch the languages that you are learning, take a rest from one and go to another, but don’t leave the whole thing. After a while, you will see that you are capable to understand even more than you thought about it.