The International Association
Name: Nataša Palačković
Nationality or Ethnicity: Bosnian
Where do you live?: Bosnia-Herzegovina
Languages: Serbian (native), English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Italian, Czech, Russian, Greek, Albanian (A2)
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I was born and raised in Bosnia and I am definitely not coming from a family of polyglots. My parents spoke only our native language and although my mother had some knowledge of German, I wasn’t directly exposed to foreign languages during early childhood. The lack of foreign languages in my family might have been the reason why I was so fascinated by every foreign word I heard on TV. The first language I started to learn was English because it was a compulsory subject in school and almost at the same time, I got interested into Spanish. Learning one language at school and another one on my own made me realise that I prefer having my own rhythm when learning. With time, I was getting interested into other languages too, but I got to practice them with native speakers only after I moved to Czech Republic at the age of 19.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Definitely Albanian. That was the last language I started to learn and even though I took a course, the lack of practice together with limited online learning resources is a big problem for me.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I have been mostly “eurocentric” when it comes to learning languages. So my next polyglot step would be opening my mind towards Asia, precisely towards Mandarin Chinese. Life led me there repeatedly during the last few years which made me realise how ignorant I have been when it comes to its languages. I see it as quite a big challenge actually.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
If I have to be diplomatic, then I would say that every language can be sexy if your crush is the one speaking it. But let’s be honest – some languages are just sexier than others. My pick for the sexiest one would definitely be Spanish. Considering the fact that it appears on every single “Sexiest language ever” list, I am not the only one who think so. But I have to admit that pop culture, where being Latino is considered the sexiest thing ever, has a huge influence over the way people see Spanish.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
People’s shocked faces when they realise that I speak their native language. Even though we live in a globalized world where most of us are able to communicate in English, I still believe that speaking someone’s native language brings you much closer to both different people and their cultures. Not to mention that, as a polyglot, you have access to wide range of foreign movies and books and it feels very different to watch a movie and read a book in the original 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?
It is unfortunately true that many languages are dying out and it is hard to do something about that if there are no young people who want to learn them. I don’t believe that it is going to happen so soon though. So I will try to stay positive on this topic because a world with only few languages left sounds like a very sad and boring place to live in.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Do it, start as soon as you can and use all resources that you can find. And please: don’t be shy to speak with native speakers. It is completely fine to make mistakes, to have thick accent and to embarrass yourself sometimes. It is actually the only way to learn new things.