Name: Raul Camarena III
Nationality or Ethnicity: American
Where do you live?: United States of America
Languages: English, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Korean
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I was born and raised speaking two languages as a kid, Spanish and English. I quickly realized that speaking to people in their native language opened them up. As Nelson mandela said “"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." I quickly realized this when my latino friends would joke around and become much more comfortable when we spoke in Spanish. This helped spark a sense of curiosity to the idea of learning multiple languages from a young age. My first language to learn outside my native languages was French in high school.
I was required to study a foreign language to go to university in high school. I decided to challenge myself with French. Although I started French in high school, I had no passion for the language. I wanted to learn French for the wrong reasons, I thought I would look cool speaking it. I took three years of French, which I quickly forgot entering university due to lack of motivation. After three years, my language learning journey came to a halt, I thought learning languages wasn't for me. During my first year of college, I had decided tomajor in political science and entrepreneurship. I was heavily involved in many organizations. My most important one was being a senator in the student government. I had to represent people of all colors,walks of life, and languages. Being a senator opened my eyes. I decided that if I were to one day enterpolitics, understanding how people think might be a great asset. I decided to pack my bags and study abroad in the farthest place I could think of, Hong Kong, China.
In Hong Kong, I made many friends, especially people from mainland China, so I slowly started picking up words (keep in mind that I had no passion for learning languages at this point. I was only interested in other cultures as a result of wanting to enter politicsone day.). After a year in Hong Kong, my views on life had dramatically changed, I felt like a completely different person. Living in Hong Kong really opened my eyes, many of the stereotypes I had coming intoAsia were destroyed. I had realized I gained another perspective on looking at things. I decided on a radical idea, to enter a Kung Fu school in mainland China. They had a program in which I could study Mandarin Chinese part-time, so I decided why not?
This was the first time I wanted to study a language on my own for the right reasons.. I was interested in Chinese culture and knew that China could be a powerhouse. I was in this Kungfu school learning Chinese for a month or so. Another spark was born after a month of studying the language, which led me to a crazy idea. I decided I would learn every language in the world. I gave up after a week. I saw that learning a language was easier said than done. I decided I would at least
study languages in places I was interested in. Since I had already started French in high school, and French was an essential diplomatic language, and I wanted to go to Europe, I decided to continue with it.
I studied abroad again for an entire year, this time in Paris, France. There, I became good friends with a Korean and Japanese guy. I was friends with them, but I saw them always laughing and joking around in their native language, which gave me a sense of curiosityto learn it. I decided if I wanted to be true friends with someone from a different culture, learning their language would show that I truly value them. I returned to the USA in my last year of university.I got crazy with languages again(I might be crazy lol). While maintaining Mandarin Chinese and French, I started learning Japanese, Korean, Italian and Portuguese. After graduating from university in May 2020, I decided to study full-time languages on italki. I have a genuine passion now for learning languages. I now reflect on my devastating experience of learning French in high school and am really glad I didn't give up. One day, I hope to use my language skills in trying to create a better world.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Last year, I went on a trip to Cairo, Egypt and fell in love with the culture and its people. I had started learning Arabic before the trip, but soon delayed it as the other languages I had been learning took a huge amount of time. In the future I would love to continuelearning Egyptian Arabic again!
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I would like to speak all the United Nations official languages, so Arabic and Russian are left. I would also like to learn Hebrew, Latin and German.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Spanish for sure! haven't you heard their sensual music?
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
Being able to communicate with people from all over the world, it's such a beautiful thing when you're able to converse with someone in their native language.
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 think this is true, with bigger languages like English and Spanish many indeigenous languages are at risk of dying. Many people choose to not use or learn themfor daily speech due to unusability, which results in its steady decrease in use.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
I would say that we only live once, the worst feeling in life is regret. learning a language can be free and fun! YouTube has tons of free content of any languageof interest. Learning languages isn't as difficult as it sounds, anyone can do it if one is interested in it.