Sofia Calogirou Mata
Name: Sofía Calogirou Mata
Nationality or Ethnicity: Greek and Spanish
Where do you live?: The Hague (The Netherlands)
Languages: Spanish, Greek, English, Dutch, French, German, Russian* & Swahili*
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
Born in the Netherlands, raised by a Spanish mother and a Greek father and having gone to a British school my whole life, the Dutch, Spanish, Greek and English languages were
of paramount importance during my childhood. Being a polyglot already at such a young age drove my passion for language-learning, which led me to learn fluent French and
German while still in secondary school. In my penultimate year of secondary school, I started learning Russian when my dad moved to Russia, because, while visiting him, I
became fascinated by the culture. That is actually what I love most about languagelearning: every time you learn a new language, you learn de facto a new culture. On that
note, I started learning Swahili to better understand my partner’s home country, Tanzania, and his culture.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Certainly Russian and Swahili, because of my keenness to improve them and because they are unfortunately the least present in my day-to-day life out of all my languages.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I have always loved the Arabic language, but in general I avoid learning multiple new languages at once, especially if they are similar. Swahili has been greatly influenced by Arabic, so I will hold-off on learning Arabic till I feel quite confident or nearly fluent in Swahili. Nonetheless, I’m definitely very excited both to learn the Arabic language and to explore the plethora of cultures associated to it.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
I think specific accents are more attractive than languages themselves and, since there are infinite accents in every language (especially when it comes to languages like French or Spanish that are spoken in so many different countries!), it’s impossible for me to pinpoint one.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
As 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’. Speaking to someone in
their native language simply leads to a level of nderstanding and empathy that makes every minute spent struggling with verb conjugations and cases worth it.
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?
Languages are instrumental to identities. As a society, we are constantly working towards letting people express their unique identities. Reducing the number of languages on
Earth would be restricting people’s identities and that would simply go against our principles as a society.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Languages can be difficult -there’s no point denying it. That shouldn’t stop anybodyfrom trying though! People sometimes tell me that I am ‘gifted’ with languages and,
while I can understand what they mean, the reality is that it all comes down to dedication and commitment. Lucky for everyone out there, dedication and commitment aren’t
qualities that people are simply born with and if you put your mind to it, all of you can learn whichever language you want.