The International Association
Pedro Martin Mompo
Name: Pedro Martín Mompó
Nationality or Ethnicity: Spanish / French
Where do you live?: Vienna (Austria)
Languages: Spanish, French, German, English, Valencian/Catalan, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese; some Japanese, Russian and Polish.
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I was born in Valencia (Spain) from a half-Spanish half-French family, and I had my whole primary and secondary education at the French School (Lycée Français) in Valencia. This makes me native speaker of both French and Spanish, as well as fluent in Valencian/Catalan, the language spoken in my region, that I learnt at first watching cartoons on our local television. I have also studied English since I was a child, first at home, then at school and now in my everyday life. I had contact soon with Asian languages too, like Mandarin Chinese from an early age (my mother has always been enthusiastic about this country) and later on Japanese as I was very curious about the Japanese culture as well.
German was offered at my high school, so I took advantage of the opportunity. This was of great significance for me, as I have always been passionate about Germany and, during my first trip to that country for a language course, I made great friends from Poland and Russia. This awoke my interest into these Slavic languages, so I learnt the basics before visiting them in their home countries. Then I had the chance to improve my Russian as it was offered on my master studies.
During my university years, I took part in the Erasmus international student exchange program and spent one academic year in Germany. Years later, I moved to Vienna (Austria), where I finally became proficient in this language. In the meantime, I also took Portuguese lessons as my sister lives in Brazil and I was ashamed not to be able to speak properly with her family during my frequent visits. Then I started again with Chinese lessons at the Confucius Institute in Vienna, and I took the decision to leave my comfort zone and move to Beijing to focus on studying the Chinese language and culture, which I have always found fascinating.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
I am currently learning Mandarin Chinese full-time, as I believe this is the best way to improve relatively fast. Living in China is also very helpful to practise with locals and understand cultural nuances otherwise difficult to come across. Compared to all other languages I have been in contact with, Chinese represents a real challenge to me, and I dream of being proficient in this language one day. I particularly enjoy learning Chinese characters, and discovering step-by-step the different logic and world vision the Chinese culture has to offer.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I am particularly interested in Slavic languages and would love to get back to them as soon as I reach an advanced level in Chinese, so I guess Russian would be my next target.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Russian, I love the way it sounds.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
For me the greatest pleasure is the freedom I feel when I travel to different countries and can communicate smoothly with the local people as a global citizen. This allows me to get an insight about different customs and cultures, understand the way different people think and see the world, and socialize with different cultures in a manner it would be impossible if there was a language barrier.
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?
Although some endangered languages might disappear soon, I don’t think the scenario will be so dramatic. To my mind, in 100 years there would be indeed a few widely-spoken languages in the world, but these would coexist with a great variety of minority languages that would be preserved through the effort of the different governments and institutions.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
First of all, I would say interest is the first step, so well done! Studying multiple languages has so many advantages: it allows you to communicate with different people, enrich your culture and discover different perspectives; from a more pragmatic point of view, it is also helpful to find a new or better job, and even to keep your brain fit. Of course, this comes at a cost, as language learning requires time and effort.
Being interested in studying multiple languages probably means you enjoy doing it, so you would meet the first big requirement: motivation. So, choose languages you are drawn to, for instance thanks to their related culture, or that will allow you to speak with relatives or friends fluent in a particular language. The second paramount element is perseverance: develop your own method and try to study every day. There are so many different approaches, from most traditional to computer software and smartphone apps, it’s very important you enjoy during the learning process and notice your progress. The third one would be practice. Travelling to a country with native-speakers is an excellent way to practise all day long, but in the internet era there are many other ways, such as meeting native speakers in your community, watching series or movies, reading, listening to music in that language, etc. So, there is no excuse: start today, be perseverant, and you will see the effort pays off in no time.