Name: Paul Suder
Nationality or Ethnicity: Polish-Norwegian
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.