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Interview with

Ryan Boothe

Name: Ryan Boothe
Nationality or Ethnicity: American

Where do you live?: United States of America
Languages: English, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Italian, French*, Afrikaans*, Hungarian*


Member since:


1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?

It  was not until I became a missionary in Southern Chile that I really  started to get into languages. I had seen how people treated immigrants  in my own country when they did not learn English - or didn't learn it  well. I didn't want to be treated that way. I tried my hardest to blend  in, learn the customs, learn the language, become Chilean. I spoke  almost no English for a year. When I had been in Chile for almost two  years I decided it was time for another language. I bought a short  course (in Spanish) on learning Italian. After returning home to the  USA, I was at the store, buying eggs, and felt bad because I could only  understand a little of what some women were saying in Spanish. I soon  realized that they were speaking Portuguese. That got me taking  Portuguese classes. When I discovered people like Luca Lampariello and  Richard Simcott I decided I wanted to continue learning more languages. I am currently conducting a study on the kinds of work multilingual people do.

2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?

All  of my languages except Spanish and English, which I already use in my  daily life. I have had many opportunities to use Portuguese in my  professional life but would like to use it even more often.

3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?

That’s  like asking an alcoholic what kinds of liquor he’d like drink one day!  Chinese and Arabic are two that I would love to learn. Russian and the  Scandinavian languages have been calling my name for quite some time.  Dutch would be fun, since it’s so close to Afrikaans. A Bantu language  (like Xhosa or Zulu) would also be great. I like the idea of studying  Persian too.

4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?

It  has more to do with who is speaking it than the language itself. I used  to think German was a very ugly language. I remember being in high  school and asking a girl why she would study such an ugly language. She  replied by saying something in German. I didn’t know German at the time  so I didn’t understand what she said but it was absolutely beautiful.

5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?

Connecting  with people. Something magical happens when you can speak someone’s  language. Empathy becomes so much easier. I also get a sense of  accomplishment. Even though it gets easier the more you do it, learning a  new language still takes effort.

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?

Yes,  relatively speaking. Right now there are around 6,000 languages spoken  throughout the world. One estimate is that, in 100 years, there will  only be around 600. Many of the languages that will die off are the ones  spoken by a few hundred people on islands and in small, remote  villages. I know there are linguists dedicated to preserving those  languages in audio and written form. I hope they do because when those  languages die we will lose a small piece of our collective human  heritage.

7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?

Do  it! The benefits of knowing multiple languages are fabulous! Language  learning requires humility and persistence. Humility because you will  sound silly and not be able to express yourself freely in the beginning.  Persistence because language learning takes a while. You can enjoy the  journey as you go along, but solid fluency takes a year or two. Don’t  get down on yourself if, after a few months of consistent practice,  there are still lots of things you cannot say. Praise yourself for what  you do know how to say and continue learning. It’s worth it!

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