Name: Sonie Lasker
Nationality or Ethnicity: American
Where do you live? America
Native Language: English
Fluent Languages: Hebrew, Farsi, Dari, Tajik, Russian
Level A to B: Spanish*, Ukrainian*, Bulgarian, Arabic* (several dialects), Italian, French, Brazilian Portuguese.
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I didn’t realize my talent for language acquisition until my 40’s, though I distinctly remember the moment I discovered foreign language. I was about 10 years old and attending school with my cousin for the day. She had French class, and they were learning the word “gateau” to which I excitedly said must mean cat, like the Spanish “gato”. My cousin explained that while sounding similar, in French “gateau” means cake and that “chat” means cat.
All the synapses in my preteen brain fired at once and it felt like a full-scale party was going on in there and I knew that I wanted to learn a foreign language. Unfortunately, being dyslexic made that very difficult to achieve in a traditional setting.
The first language the I learned was Hebrew. I picked it up informally in my 20’s while living in Israel, though I speak it now at a near-native level. The next language that I learned, Farsi, was taught to me in a formal setting when I was 40 years old. That experience changed my life.
I loved every second of it. I learned Farsi in 47 weeks to Level C and then 2 years later proceeded to teach myself Dari, Tajik, MSA, Levantine, Iraqi, Egyptian, Spanish, Italian, French, and Portuguese. This goes to show that language can be learned at any age. I went back to school at age 46 to learn Russian which I also acquired to Level C in 47 weeks. I proceeded to teach myself Ukrainian and Bulgarian.
I will never stop learning languages and improving proficiency. There is something magical about that process that is simultaneously simple and eloquent.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
All of them! If I need to narrow it down, I would say the ones that I am more fluent in and conversant in. I would like to be near-native in all of my spoken languages.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
All of them! But seriously, I would like to add some ancient and rare languages to my collection.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
I find many languages to be sexy. Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Farsi, English with a beautiful accent – I don’t believe that I could pick just one.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
There are many pleasures. Every language and culture allows for different perspectives and views. Speaking multiple languages, and understanding spare languages, provides windows to the world. Sometimes there are unique ways to express feelings, concepts, and ideas in one language that are impossible in any other language. There is a degree of intimacy achieved when I can speak to someone in one of my languages and that is very special to me.
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 am afraid that the number of world languages will steadily decrease because so many languages are disappearing, but I would not try to predict how many will be left.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Learn! This is the very best way to maintain brain plasticity, develop new brain cells and increase cultural awareness. It is never too late to begin a relationship with a new language. I would like to encourage those who think that they are too old to pick up a new language family, or think that the grammar is too complicated to learn - to love their language.
Your language is like your significant other. It is best if you accept that you will never completely understand it and why it does the odd things that it does. Sometimes you just need to nod, smile, and accept your language for who it is –exceptions, cases, and all - and love it anyway.