Name: Piotr Laskowski
Nationality or Ethnicity: Polish
Where do you live?: Norway
fluent in Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, English, Norwegian, Swedish.
+ passive written/understanding: Belarussian, Danish, Slovakian, Czech and some of the other South Slavic languages.
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
POLISH: I am a native Polish 😊 so not a big deal about being proficient in my mother tongue.
Well, I started with the Russian at the age of 10 and carried on for 15 years. I started first in the primary school. I lived then in a low populated area where English in primary schools was unavailable. There was either Russian or German. I fell for Russian as it meant less homework. Yeah. I know. This is how the story of the polyglot begins.
The language of the same group was relatively easy to be absorbed. Then I had been given a frequent feedback from my teachers during the years that I was quite good at it.
I continued in the middle school (age 13-15) and then at high school (age 16-19). Then
I took my maturity exam in Russian and applied for the Russian & Ukrainian Philology at one of the leading universities in Poland – UAM in Poznan. (the faculty has consistently for years been ranked top 3 in Poland). Then I graduated with the MA degree in 2012. I also took a 4-week intensive Business Russian language course at The Saint-Petersburg State University, Russia in 2009 to be able to obtain a C1 certificate confirming my skills which I did.
Ukrainian language came as a bonus and a result of studying a dual philology. That meant twice as much homework at the university but still… the language was not far from Polish and Russian. I thought I would give it a shot and I have never regretted it. I think the language itself is beautiful, but this is what I had found out later, after starting my studies. My first year at the University was hard. A lot of grammar which was not as easy as I would expect. Then I decided to take a part in an exchange program, and I moved to L’viv, Ukraine to study there for one semester. Myself I was positively surprised that a few-month stay in Ukraine could give me that much. My tutors at the university seemed to be quite impressed with the results too. That move was one of the smartest I could have taken in order to boost my spoken fluency. Those 5 months at the Ivan Franko University in L’viv has given me a lot. To sum up I became fluent after studying (intensively) for 4 years. I graduated with BA degree in 2011.
I started learning English at the age of 13 in the middle school. I took it from scratch.
I had a minimal contact with the language prior to that moment. The end of the 90s - this is when the Internet became widely available and quite affordable in Poland and this is when I got my first PC ever. I had realized then that without English I could not be any good at playing computer games. My motivation for learning was strong. 😊 Then I carried on with learning English at school for 6 more years to wrap up with the maturity exam on High School’s graduation. Then I learned as my life went on and I was absorbing from multiple media sources and by taking up summer jobs all around the Nordics until I set off for a 6-month round the world honeymoon trip in 2012. (Yes! I got married in 2012).
I have never been into lyrics while listening to music. I have always been focused on melody and sounds coming out of instruments – not the text or message of the song itself. I know it is sad, but this is so strong in my head that I often find myself unable to be focused on the lyrics throughout the whole song. Suddenly I just drop out and listen to the sound again. I have played guitar since I was 10 by the way. I believe that language is a melody that we must recreate and imitate to sound like native speakers. Musical ear has helped me massively in developing correct pronunciation. I am very grateful that I was born this way. The strange phenomenon that my wife observes when she hears me speak foreign languages (especially in English) is that I tend to kind of adapt my pronunciation towards my interlocutor - to dialect, tone, speed and melody of the person I talk to. When
I talked to a British person I sounded more like British (not perfect of course!). And vice-versa after watching an American movie I would intuitively choose an “American-like” pronunciation if taking up a random phone call during the movie… even though I realize that I would mishit several words and mix them up the British. All of that happens unintentionally. I have been wondering a lot if there are many people who have it this way.
As I mentioned I have had a few summer jobs in the Nordics during my studies.
First, I worked in Iceland for 2 summer seasons (2006 and 2007). Then in Norway in 2008. Then in Denmark in 2009… to come back to Norway for summer seasons 2010, 2011 and 2012. In the meantime, my wife and I had made our minds that we would move to Norway and settle down for good after graduation. I have always loved this country for what it is. Norway is beautiful and such are its inhabitants. I have always felt me home and never experienced being an unwelcome guest. My adventure with the language started when taking a dozen of private classes from another student back in 2008. Then I listened to some on-line radio stations in Norwegian occasionally when I lived in Poland. I would pick up more and more as summer seasons were passing by. Then I got my first (ever) permanent office job in Oslo in 2013. This is when I moved to Norway for good. I got sponsored a language course by my employer and this is how I stood up on my own feet and started communicating in Norwegian after just 3 months since my arrival. Then I have been using it daily for the last 8 years. I passed the Bergenstest with C1 score in November 2020 to proceed with my citizenship application.
This is the funny one because I have never made any effort to learn Swedish language. The fact is that I have been working with the Swedes and for the Swedish clients since 2014 while doing my work as a freight forwarder. Within the last 6 years I have worked for supplier companies of the Swedish brands such as IKEA, BILTEMA, VOLVO or SCANIA. Currently I manage 20 Swedish drivers daily. On the top of that I love Swedish crime series that I have watched a lot of on Netflix. I tend to imitate the pronunciation in my head when I watch. The thing with Swedish people is that they understand Norwegian so usually we communicate like this – each in the language we are most comfortable with. However, sometimes I push myself and talk with them in Swedish only even though I am not fluent yet, but I am quite sure it will happen soon. It is a matter of time. I’ve had a daily contact with the living language in addition to all sorts of on-line media, podcast or radio that are at our fingertips. I consider my Swedish to be communicative, but It is going to take one year or so to make it sound good.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
I am eager to take my Swedish to proficient level obviously. However, all the languages require a lot of time and effort to be maintained and to remain on their heights. I feel bad about my Ukrainian that has been used sporadically over the recent years and I have lost the flow in speaking. A few months in Lviv would certainly remove all rust and would make it shine again.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I was able to communicate in Spanish when traveling in the Latin America for 3 months in 2012. I regret that I let it rot down after such a fine take off. Not to mention the reach of the language. One of the most beautiful and usable languages that are out there. I am frustrated that I must use translation tool to correspond with my friends in Mexico.
I promise, I’ll do better!
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Ha ha 😊 I get hot when see a female TV presenter on the BBC. I also love Castellano (Latin Spanish). And If I was a woman I would definitely go for Italian. Decisamente!
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
It helps in doing business and It makes you unstoppable while travelling. It gives me a huge satisfaction knowing that I can reach 23% of the Planet Earth’s population (1,85 billion people out of 7,8 billion) with the language kit that I have managed to develop. Think of an on-line marketing and advertising possibilities that are hiding right there in my head. Speaking of which I have recently developed an idea and a business plan for starting up my own digital marketing agency to leverage my multilingualism and take an advantage of it when advertising for my prospective clients world-wide.
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?
That is an interesting argument. I have never given it a thought before as I have not done any research on this matter so It would be tricky to give an answer. But If I had to choose, I would not believe that this was likely to happen. Taking into consideration that there are over 6000 spoken languages on our planet (and they have been here for hundreds if not thousands of years, haven’t they?) why would they disappear suddenly? No, languages are not dinosaurs. They do not disappear just like that. 😊
The trend that is much more likely to develop is that the demand for written human translation services will be on its decrease in the coming years as the Artificial Intelligence will soon make translation tools more accurate and intuitive to live up to a human level. That is my guess.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Learn languages! For 50 years ago speaking the second language caused an eyebrow rising WOW effect and head bowing in respect to those skills. Now 2 languages are standard for a well-educated person. In a few years (era of our children maybe?) 3 languages are going the be the new standard. Do not let yourself to be left behind. Let the others watch your back. Speaking multiple languages creates an ocean of possibilities both in private and professional life.
AND IT IS FUN TO LEARN! NOT ALWAYS EASY BUT DEFINITELY WORTH IT 😊
Feel free to send me an invitation on LinkedIn or drop a message. I am very curious what your language adventure has been.