Name: Nikoletta Molnár
Where do you live?: Germany
Languages: Hungarian (native); English, Spanish, German (C-level); Japanese, Chinese, Dutch (B-level); Russian, French (A-level); Portuguese, Italian, Romanian (passive).
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I grew up in a monolingual family in a small Hungarian village. My first foreign language was German at the age of six. I was not particularly good at it, I remember sitting Saturdays at the dining table trying to memorise vocabulary lists. I always skipped learning the articles, I have to admit, my “der, die, das” is sometimes still all over the place. The love story started at the age of fourteen, when I discovered the title songs of the Mexican telenovelas (series) in television. I thought and I still think, Spanish is the most beautiful language in the world, so I asked my dad to subscribe me to a postal language learning course. It got complicated when I went to high school, they offered English and Russian as foreign languages to learn. My parents did not want me to give up German, so I continued learning German. I did not want to give up Spanish, so I continued Spanish, too. After finishing my homework for school, I was learning languages every day for 2-3 hours and I often fell asleep with the bulky Russian dictionary on my chest. Since the age of fourteen I have never left the house without a language book in my bag. At university I wanted to learn a language from a different language family. I chose Japanese. Japanese is a very hard language, but I find the language, the culture and the people fascinating. I reached intermediate level during university and won a national speech competition and with that a short study trip to Japan. I have learned some more Romance languages: French, Portuguese, some Italian and Romanian. Romanian I had to learn for work, in half-a-year I reached a good intermediate level, but in my next jobs I did not have the chance to use it, so now it is waiting to be activated again. I did my Master’s and PhD in English, so my English improved significantly and when I was working in Japan, my Japanese got more fluent. In the Netherlands all the meetings I attended were in Dutch, but it was ok to answer business related questions in English. Now working in Germany, I speak German every day, all day, so my German improved significantly. For a long time I was planning to learn Chinese, but I was not really sure how to do it. Two years ago I started it online with a private teacher, it works really well for me. If Chinese or Japanese is more difficult? I need another 3-4 years to answer the question. I am learning intermediate level Chinese at the moment and it is the ultimate flow experience. On one hand, it is just so hard, it is almost impossible, but on the other hand, I have the confidence, I will get there. It challenges me to the core, the same time it is the best way for me to relax and disconnect.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Honestly, all of them. Maintaining languages is not easy, it is only natural that if you are not using them, your knowledge will decay. I use my C-level languages at work, with friends or practice them by reading books or watching movies, this is the easiest and most fun way. I have a list of languages I would like to keep using in my life, seven or eight of them, I would like to keep those on or get those to C-level to make sure I can maintain them on the long term.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I would like to keep learning Chinese until I reach C-level and afterwards get Japanese to C-level. I also have some serious plans with Russian. Besides this, like most polyglots, I have a list. I would like to keep learning Romance languages for fun. Maybe other Asian languages, some Korean and Vietnamese. I am seriously in love with Swedish and Farsi, maybe one day I will have time for those or maybe not. I think it is great to be passionate about learning languages, but it should not become an obsession.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
That very much depends on the person, who is speaking it and I am married to a German, so what should I say?! Honestly, in all the languages I know and in some I still don’t know, there are songs which make my heart race. If I really have to choose, Spanish and Hungarian are my choice. Spanish was the first language I really wanted to learn and the first language I reached fluency in. I have ties to Spain and some to Mexico, so Spanish is a very special language to me. On the other hand, I have to admit, for me nothing compares to the literary pleasure of reading the books of Sándor Márai in Hungarian, my native language.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
I don’t know what I would do without knowing languages. I have had the chance to meet so many great people. I have travelled to a lot of places, I have been living in four different countries and made a living using six or seven languages in a professional setting. Knowing languages does not only bring joy into my life, it is really essential for me.
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?
Languages are tools, helping us to communicate with each other, to understand each other. So it make sense to select some languages, which help us to improve communication on a global scale. On the other hand, we should not forget, culture is transmitted in a large part by language. So less languages also mean a great loss in cultural diversity. I wish, despite of different political and economic interests, we will be able to preserve linguistic and cultural diversity in the future.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Dear fellow language learner, it doesn’t matter how far you get, if you are interested in languages, then just go for it. The world-famous Hungarian polyglot, Kató Lomb said, “We should learn languages because language is the only thing worth knowing even poorly...Solely in the world of languages is the amateur of value. Well-intentioned sentences full of mistakes can still build bridges between people”. Modern technology did not entirely change the way how I personally learn languages, but it enhanced it. Most importantly it helped me to find like-minded people worldwide, who share the passion of learning languages. So if you have any questions or doubts, reach out, say hello. Welcome to the community!