Interview with

Paul Suder

Name: Paul Suder
Nationality or Ethnicity: Polish
Where do you live?: Norway
Languages: English, Norwegian, Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, Catalan, Chinese, Swedish, Russian, German, Slovene, Greek, Polish

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

One  of my earliest foreign contacts was with the Russian language. I  remember colourful stickers with letters of the Cyrillic script and my  mom explaining them to me, but I’m not able to say how old I was then.  Russian classes were obligatory in school programme for 4 years, so they  were rather unpopular.

I  started to take private classes of English at the age of 10. Before the  era of Google, it was probably the most useful language to exchange  letters with pen-pals all over the world. I was very keen in finding  pen-pals and at least one still keeps in touch.

French  also came as a part of my school curriculum at the age of 13. I  remember I couldn’t wait starting with regular classes and during the  summer I visited a neighbour who had lived in France and could give me  an introduction.
My adventure with Italian started sometime in my early childhood. I  became fond of it because of my mother’s friend who had moved to Italy  and had a nice Italian husband. In the course of a few years, I gathered  some reading materials, over which I spent quite a long time. Later I  keenly listened to Italian music, and it turned into my favourite  language. Unfortunately I never learned it on a regular basis, nor I had  many opportunities to practice it.
I got to know about Valencian variant of Catalan came when I was 17. I  went to the UK for a summer course of English and I had a Spanish  flatmate. Five years later I met a nice Catalan man and I went to visit  him in Barcelona. At that occasion I bought and received learning  materials and I decided to intensely learn Catalan.
Japanese was my choice as a major within Oriental studies. I had had  some basic contact with Japanese at the time of secondary school thanks  to pen-pals and books I managed to get. I got a chance to study in  Japan, which significantly enhanced my skills. At the same time I was  keen to learn Korean and Chinese. Unfortunately Korean classes were  scarce at my university but I could take some in Japan, surrounded by  many Korean friends. Chinese courses were easier accessible and better  organized, so I took a few, which allowed me to pass the HSK exam.
Interestingly I enrolled in a Spanish course as well when I was in  Japan. The story is a bit similar to Korean; I had lots of Spanish  speaking friends and the language appealed to me as very useful  worldwide.
Slovene had long seemed to me as one of the most mysterious or  inaccessible Slavic languages until I managed to travel to Slovenia. I  of course furnished myself with materials and continued working on my  skills by watching TV and chatting with friends.

Norwegian  as a language became appealing to me entirely thanks to a pen-pal, who  explained me the status quo of two coexistent written standards. After I  graduated I started to think of travelling to Norway so I went through a  self-teaching course. I only managed to travel a few years later and I  decided to try to move and work in Norway. I spent almost a year on  reading the main course books for foreigners and I even got a position  as an online teacher of Norwegian that by that time had gained on  popularity due to increasing economic migration. Nowadays I’m studying  in Norway in the Norwegian language.
Working in Norway I had to deal mostly with German and Swedish tourists.  It was an eye-opening experience as German and above all Swedish are  not only more useful but also give big support to a learner of  Norwegian. I learned it the other way round, and now I wanted to make up  for it.
Last but not least comes Greek along. It’s appealing as a quite unique  language but at the same time the origin of a great many loanwords in  more popular languages. I made up my mind after having travelled to  Greece and spent last years on trying to teach myself as much as  possible.

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

Italian, German, Greek and Swedish.

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

Portuguese, Turkish, Finnish, Slovak, Arabic and Persian.

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

Italian! It sounds so sweet to my ears... I find it very charming.

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

Generally  speaking, with every language I learn I feel that another barrier  disappears. People bump into such barriers when they try or are forced  to come out from their comfort zone. Not only travelling is easier for  me, but I can easily adapt to different places and establish a good  relationship with lots of different people wherever I am.

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 or don’t want to think this can be true. Maybe in 200 years... kidding, I hope not indeed.

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

Languages  can be fun. Don’t try to force yourselves or associate learning  languages with boring classes at school. You can do it in a pleasant way  and if you’re perseverant enough, you can reap the fruit of your new  useful skills.

The International Association of Hyperpolyglots - HYPIA. (c) 2020

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