Name: Viktor Palatnyk
Nationality or Ethnicity: Ukrainian
Where do you live?: USA
Languages: Russian (native), Ukrainian, English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Italian (fluent), German (conversant)
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
Frankly, I have never imagined myself becoming a polyglot and it is something that I probably wouldn't believe if someone told me that years ago. Moreover, I taught English for a month. It would seem unbelievable to me from the past. Long story short, I grew up speaking Russian, although I originally come from Ukraine where I grew up and learned my first 3 languages. As a citizen of Ukraine, I obviously speak Ukrainian and consider myself native like in this language. I have no accent in this language and understand everything as if it was Russian, however, I can't think of it as my first language, mainly because I don't swear in it. I was born and raised in Odessa. Gorgeous city founded by the Russian empress Ekaterina II. English was a big struggle when I began to study it at school in 2nd grade. To be honest, learning English just by following our education system is horrible, boring and quite a chore. I disliked English classes… until a certain moment. Exactly. So what changed? Why would a teenager suddenly fall in love with it? The answer is simple; when I was around 14 years old, I began to attend English lessons in groups by enrolling into private courses. By the way, this type of schooling is very popular in my country of origin, where you have a better chance of learning a language just because it's fun and you usually go there simply because you want to. If you can afford it.
I became conversant within 6-8 months and kept improving and diving deeper into English. My grades at school went up significantly. Teachers were curious and as a result kept asking me things like: “Do you practice a lot at home? Every time you come into class your English is better and better” . My answer was always no, now I know that due to that passion that burned in me, I learned English really quickly and efficiently.
About 5 years ago, I moved to the US. Where I met my first love. Do you think this is getting personal? Not quite. My first linguistic love, we`re talking about. Spanish. To my surprise, Spanish turned out to be an extremely important language in the states. I had no clue that sings here are written in Spanish and not only in English. Other than that, you meet Spanish speaking immigrants everywhere and a knowledge of this language can boost your career as well as your personal life. About 6 months after my arrival I initiated my learning process. During that period, I felt an enormous passion and desire to speak Spanish just like natives do. I simply wanted to be a part of any conversation at any time. Due to my consistent work, it had become a reality. I didn't make a ton of money on it, but seeing people's faces when they heard me speaking fluent Spanish is a huge reward itself. It actually got me a job I currently have and influenced all aspects of my life once and forever. I had no particular way of learning it, like I do now when I learn a new language. I simply watched a lot of different videos and tried to speak everyday with everyone.
Ever since I became somewhat fluent in Spanish and kept improving it, I knew the day when I would take Italian seriously will come. Was I learning it inconsistently? Not quite, not at all. I was listening to Italian rap from time to time. June 2019, I was having a lot of negative thoughts and questions that wouldn't go away so I dedicated my time to Italian. Thanks to someone who I longer talk to, I learned another language. I experienced passion and a variety of different emotions and conclusions once again because I kept improving my skills week after week. It almost felt like Italian consumed me entirely.
Korean, oh my dear Korean, late 2019, I got a job in Asian restaurant with Korean staff. I took it seriously, no really, seriously but didn't plan it well. Korean alphabet isn't that hard either. Long story short, I listened to this language every day for at least an hour, began to use simple sentences with Koreans and could understand a bit, eventually I just lost my interest and got demotivated by certain occurrences at work.
Brazilian Portuguese was my next language in which I became fluent. I used to watch a lot of Netflix and so I ran into a series called “3%” and watched 2 seasons that were available then. It drew my attention tremendously… I mean who could be indifferent after hearing the melody from Rio de Janeiro. (Most actors had an accent from Rio de Janeiro).In spite of that, I didn't intend to learn it until March of last year.
German has been my dream language for over 8 years and right now, I am conversational in it after 9 months of learning it. Is there any other reason for me to learn it and strive to achieve a level way above average in this language? Most certainly, I need and want to learn languages that don't have much to do with Latin based languages. By the way, Rammstein is my favorite band.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practicing?
It is a tricky question. Perhaps all of them. Ukrainian and sometimes Spanish. I think I should be dedicating more time to my mother tongue too.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
Another tricky question?!Ok, ok, French, possibly Japanese, Polish since it's widely spoken in America by Polish immigrants. I want to look into some other languages such as Dutch, Greek and Mandarin to decide if I want to do anything with them. Polyglots tend to have “feelings” for a language regardless of its features. I call it feeling because I live my languages through emotions.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Italian and Spanish for most, Russian to Americans/English speakers, Roman languages appear sexy to Eastern European people. I will stick to Spanish. Half of the time it depends on who is speaking.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
Not sure… you know, I feel proud of not giving up, empowered by having knowledge to correct others and to guide them in the world of international communication and just to open my mouth and be confused with real Italian.
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 don`t believe it since a lot of people don't have access to essential education and therefore cannot write properly in their own language. Certain regions and communities have preserved their local languages for many years.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Imagine that every person is a tower. The taller the tower the better, right? Tower grows as you develop. Being capable of speaking multiple languages elevates you above all other towers, often allowing you to see farther. Just do it regardless of your motives.