Name: Paris Downing
Nationality: American (USA)
Where do you live: New Jersey
Languages: English (C2), Spanish (C1), French (C1), Italian (B2), ASL (B1), Portuguese (B1), German (B1), Latin (B1), Chinese (B1), Norwegian (A2), Swedish (A2), Esperanto (A2)
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I always knew I wanted to study languages, it was just a matter of how. I had some really amazing teachers along the way, and once they showed me how to study one language, I was able to study so many more in my own free time. Languages really are my passion, and one of the most important parts of my life.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
So many! The answer to that question changes every month, and usually I try to tackle it in pairs. This month is Latin and Chinese. Last month was Dutch and Indonesian. The month before that was Norwegian and Hindi.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I would absolutely love to learn Silbo Gomero. It’s a Spanish whistling language spoken on the second largest Canary Island. Unfortunately, since it isn’t a written language and very few people speak it anymore, there aren’t a lot of resources for it.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
I’m going to have to be a plain Jane and go with French. I love the way it flows, I love the way it sounds, and it was the very first language I learned successfully, so it has a very special place in my heart.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
Honestly, the main reason I study languages is just for the sake of studying them. I will admit that it’s very useful to have other languages in my back pocket to make friends and impress people. I love seeing that smile of joy on people’s faces when they can’t believe an American (stereotypically monolingual) has taken the time to learn their native language.
6. Some people say the world is really just going to have a few languages left in 100 years. Do you think this is really true?
I unfortunately wouldn’t be surprised, but I don’t think languages will ever die out entirely. There will always be people like me who learn them just for fun, and every day the internet has more and more material to use for learning languages. There is the conlanging community, which puts out new languages every day. There are people who are looking to get in contact with their roots, and want to learn a language to understand their ancestors better. There are even miracle languages like Hebrew, Latin, & Esperanto, which have survived all historical odds and continue to be spoken today. Things will turn out ok.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
You have to find a method that works for you. I’m someone who thrives off of grammar, but I know that’s not the case for most people. Maybe you are a translator type, someone who translates their favorite songs so that the vocabulary stays in their heads for much longer. Maybe you are a conversationalist, and writing will just slow you down. There is no right way to learn a language, and the only wrong way is not trying at all.