Interview with

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.

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

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