Name: Paulo César Sepúlveda Zuluaga
Nationality or Ethnicity: Colombian
Where do you live?: Colombia
Languages: Spanish (Native), English, French, Italian, Portuguese and German.
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages? I My relationship with languages started rather late in my life because I live in a strongly monolingual country, and foreign-language-speaker communities are not easy to find for a regular person. I started to study French when I was a 23-year-old university student. But with that course, I discovered that I didn’t like to study in groups because not only were some activities irrelevant and annoying for me, but also the other students didn’t have the same motivation and willingness to do the work, so the course was very slow-paced, and I got easily bored. Then I studied German for a year, and then stopped because I found a job with nothing to do with languages.
When I was 30, I started English because I wanted to apply to some scholarships for a master in Europe and I needed to be certified at least B2, so I decided to study by myself and after 4 years of tug-of-war, repeatedly stopping and restarting, I could present the TOEFL exam and could apply to those masters. Four years later I was admitted to one master in France and in French, and that’s when I finally could live the polyglot experience, because I had three Brazilian classmates, and others not speaking French, but English. So, for two years, I could speak four languages on a daily basis and I could improve all of them, being certified C1 in French and Portuguese.
When I came back to my country, I started a new position as a French and English teacher. Months later, I decided Italian of its closeness to French and Spanish and got certified C1. Finally, when I was 42, I got my fourth C1 certification (That time, in English).
When I was 44, I lost my job due to the pandemic outbreak. So I started to offer my services as a personalized teacher. I found students in five of my languages (not in German yet) and tailored a method for each student according to their goals. That let me have not only a very wide perspective about language learning, but also many inspirational experiences to share.
This year, I retook my German study, got my first students in German and some months later I recorded my polyglot video to be a HYPIA member. I still live in a rather monolingual city, so the way I practice my languages is through both teaching and consuming original content in them. My goal is to have my German certified in 2023, and then continue with other languages.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising? German, but I haven’t studied nor worked in this language, sadly.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future? Russian (I have already started, but it’s in standby), Mandarin, and two indigenous languages in Colombia : Wayuunaiki and Embera (I have lived in the zones where it is spoken and I would have the opportunity to practice with natives. I would apply everything I learned about the process)
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language? Portuguese. My brain changes when I speak it. I simple feel full of joy doing so.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages? Consuming original content and realize that some pun, joke or play or words is untranslatable. You don’t even notice it, but you are improving your language while you enjoy your hobby. For example, I watch cycling races only in Italian, and I watched the FIFA World cup games in German and in Italian.
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? Unfortunately, yes. In my country, indigenous people are forced to speak Spanish in order to be part of the economy, have a job, study… So in some families, parents prefer to teach Spanish to their children instead of protect their indigenous language.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages? Try to see the process as a long-term one. Big results won’t appear in one or two years, not even in months so be patient and consistent, and enjoy the journey because the motivation is just there and the magic (the real magic) only comes from C1 level onward.