Interview with

Sonie Lasker

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.

*conversant

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.

The International Association of Hyperpolyglots - HYPIA. (c) 2020

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