Name: Stefano Lodola
Nationality or Ethnicity: Italian
Where do you live?: As a digital nomad, I hop around South-East and East Asia.
Advanced (C): English, Japanese
Intermediate (B): Korean, Mandarin, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Romanian, German, Turkish
Elementary (A): Greek, Cantonese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Arabic
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I was raised speaking only Italian. I studied English and French in school like my schoolmates, but it was only when I was in high school that I ventured into the Japanese language because I was an otaku.
That’s when I had the feeling of how thought-provoking it is to challenge yourself with a totally different language and culture. The other languages naturally followed because I always had fun learning.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Unlike what I’ve read in interviews to other polyglots, I don’t care about retaining all those languages. It’s more fun to learn a new one from scratch. So, I don’t “practise” if there’s no need for that.
Like for painters and composers, my life is made up of stages depending on which language I studied and spoke. When I quit one language and move on to another, I never look back.
The same happens with romance. It’s natural that, when I’m in love with one person, my past loves slip into a corner of my mind, but I won’t forget them completely.
If anything, I should pick up German again to reach a higher level. I gave up after a few months due to mild culture shocks in Germany.
I also regret a bit quitting Turkish, which I liked more than expected, but that was because at that time I was politically active in Hong Kong and decided to learn Cantonese.
Ironically, the languages I enjoy the most in conversation are those that are similar to Italian, due to cultural affinity and shared sensibility. However, since they’re also the easiest for me, I didn’t spend much time on them.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
Now that I’ve covered the most influential languages, it would be fun to tackle a remote one, dropping myself in the jungle and learning without materials or tutors.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
As an Italian, I’m biased. However, I confess that I find women speaking French particularly charming.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
First, the sense of achievement of an intellectual endeavor. Not about a goal to reach, but rather the process per se. In fact, I feel good at every new word I catch and put in practice at the next conversation.
Second, the liberating feeling of being able to express myself and understanding others.
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?
The dominant system of production (including culture) is making the world smaller and flattening down diversity. Language is no exception.
Social critique aside, I still find it reasonable that one would choose an influential language that gives better chances in life. For the same reason, I never felt compelled to learn my local dialect.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Anyone can do that and it’s never too late to start. It takes longer to master a language as an adult than in your childhood, but that shouldn’t discourage you.
Regardless of the result, you’ll enjoy the process and have experiences that you’d have missed if you had never tried.