Name: Paul Malevitz
Nationality or Ethnicity: Eastern-European Jewish
Where do you live? Miami Beach, Florida
Languages: English, Spanish, Yiddish, French, Hebrew, German, Russian
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
My parents were native Yiddish speakers and that was the first language in which I became fluent and literate. In high school I studied Spanish for two years and French for two years. I saw that I was easily picking up both languages, so after graduating, I enrolled at Los Angeles City College during the day and the University of Judaism in the evening. At Los Angeles City College I studied French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian and Hebrew. I was inducted into the foreign language honor society of LACC, Alpha Mu Gamma, with German, Russian and Hebrew. At California State University, Los Angeles, where I enrolled after City College, I received two Bachelor of Arts’ Degrees: one in French and the other in Spanish. After graduating college and beginning working, I studied one year of Mandarin Chinese at East Los Angeles College, one of Portuguese, one year of Polish plus numerous upper-division German and French courses at the University of Wisconsin at Madison’s distant learning program. In my college career I also had two quarters of Arabic.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
I would like to become more proficient in Arabic and Chinese. With knowledge of Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Spanish and English, you have a large percentage of humanity with whom you can be in personal contact.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
The Dutch language, I understand, is half-way between English and German so it shouldn’t pose too great a problem to learn. I’d like to learn the Scandinavian languages.I understand that Danish, Swedish and Norwegian are somewhat mutually understandable. Knowing Russian and some Polish, I think that other Slavic languages shouldn’t pose too great a problem either.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
I suppose that if I had had a girlfriend from a foreign country, then her language would have been the sexiest.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
I like surprising people who speak a language I know by speaking to them in their native language. As a teacher of English as a Second Language, I feel it is important to speak the native language of my students to help them with the similarities and differences of English with their own language. I am also pleased that as a teacher I can privately counsel the students in their own language should they have a problem or question.
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?
I don’t think there will only be few languages, but possibly fewer than there are now.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
GO FOR IT!