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Interview with

Wallace Armani

Name: Wallace Armani
Nationality or Ethnicity: Brazilian/Italian
Where do you live?: In Brazil.
Languages: Portuguese (mother tongue), English, Italian, Russian, Lithuanian, Croatian, Macedonian, Esperanto, Dutch, Spanish, French, German, Papiamento, and Latvian.

1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?

My name is Wallace Armani and I was born in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on July 23, 1977. My first contacts with foreign languages occurred in my childhood, when I used to go to the cinemas with my parents and my brother and watched subtitled films. Before I learned to read, my mother used to read the subtitles for me. In addition, I used to listen and memorize song lyrics in English, mainly from bands and singers like The Beatles, Queen, John Lennon and Freddy Mercury. I also used to listen to tons of songs in Italian and French. My family by father’s side is of Italian origin and since very early, I had contact with operas and popular songs from that country. At 7, I wanted to learn violin, but that would only happen years later. At the age of 10, I expressed an interest in learning Russian, but my father told me that I should learn English and then dedicate myself to any other language.


When I was 14, observing my brother's private English lessons, I discovered that his teacher knew other languages and asked him to teach me Greek. Initially, he refused, but with some insistence on my part, he decided to teach me what he knew about it. I studied classical Greek for several years, both with the teacher and on my own. At 15, I started to study music and at 16, violin. During this period of my life, I divided my time between learning Greek, playing the violin and drawing, which was a hobby I had since childhood. At 17, I started to learn English, through RPG books (Role-Playing Game). At the age of 18, I decided to enter the universe of music professionally and abandoned drawing. In 1996, I studied a semester of instrumental German at the university. Between 1995 and 1997, I actively participated as one of the creators of the first group of polyglots in Belo Horizonte. In 1997, together with a friend of that group, I learned to read and write the Russian alphabet and I studied modern Greek, by my own. In 1998, I went to Brasilia, capital of Brazil, to try to get a job at the Greek Embassy, but unfortunately, I didn't get the job and returned to my hometown.


In 2000, I gathered a group of friends at my home and together, we studied German for a few months. In 2002, I started to attend some meetings and parties of the local Italian community and that was the kick off to learn to speak Italian. In 2004, I wrote my first opera, entitled Il Diavolo Tentato, in Italian. In 2006, I started to learn classical Egyptian with a friend in exchange for teaching him

classical Greek. In 2007, I started to study 10 languages at the same time, with a dedication of at least 4 hours of daily study. The languages were: English, Italian, Classical Greek, Classical Egyptian, German, Spanish, French, Latin, Mayan (Yucatec) and Bahasa Indonesia. In 2008, I went to Italy for the first time, to participate in the First Conference of Young Italians in the World, in Rome. In 2009, I was invited to conduct a symphony orchestra in Moscow. Unfortunately, the trip did not happen, but I decided to learn the language that was my childhood dream. That year, I used to study for 3 to 4 hours every day and due to the difficulty I felt in that language, I interrupted my systematic study of the 10 languages for dedicating myself entirely to the Russian language.


In 2010, I started teaching English for a government program in my state. That year, I put my music career aside. In 2011, I started to give private lessons in Italian and to translate both English and Italian. In 2012, I returned to the same university where I had learned instrumental German and took Mandarin classes for one year, between 2012 and 2013. In 2013, I went to Italy for the second time, to participate in the Cultural Exchange in Trentino, organized by the Autonomous Province of Trento. There, I learned a little bit of Ladin. During that trip, I went to Austria and stayed there for a few days. In 2014, I taught English at a local school and for one semester, I took German classes. In 2015, I decided to take Russian conversation classes and found a Lithuanian teacher who lived in my city. For a semester, I practiced conversation with her and asked her to teach me Lithuanian. I started taking lessons in that language on October 5 of that year and all the explanations were done in Russian. In the first year of study, we used Russian as a lingua franca and from the second year on, we were already fully conversing in Lithuanian. In 2017, with 1 year and 9 months of Lithuanian, I went to Lithuania and stayed there for almost 2 months, doing a language immersion. I spoke to the natives only in Lithuanian. During this trip, I got to know Latvia and Russia, where I practiced the Russian language a lot. During the year, I resumed my studies in French and Spanish. At the end of 2017, I sought an opportunity as a crew member on a cruise, but at the end of the process, I decided to resume my formal studies and in 2018, I attended to the university. On December 27, 2017, I started to learn Esperanto and a few months later, I started taking lessons in that language. Even in 2018, I started studying Papiamento, Macedonian and

Dutch. In October 2019, I went to Europe for the fourth time, together with my father, we visited 12 cities, in 6 different countries, in a total of 25 days. We passed through Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and Croatia. On 12 November 2019, I started to study Croatian.


In 2020, I started my master's degree in political sociology and became an Italian citizen. In 2021, I started my Latvian studies. In October of this year, I am going to return to Croatia and in May 2022, I will go to Aruba, in the Caribbean. This trip to Aruba was supposed to happen in May 2021, but due to the pandemic, I managed to reschedule for next year. I currently have contact with 13 foreign languages, which are: English, Italian, Russian, Lithuanian, Croatian, Macedonian, Esperanto, Dutch, Spanish, French, German, Papiamento and Latvian. Although I have studied other languages in the past, my focus is on living Indo-European languages.


2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?

Russian, Lithuanian, Croatian, Macedonian, Esperanto, Dutch, Spanish, French, German, Papiamento, and Latvian.


3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?

Belarusian, Bulgarian, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian, Polish, and Ukrainian.


4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?

LITHUANIAN.


5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?

Being able to get to know different cultures, read books, make friends, and feel part of various social groups.


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?

There are about 7000 languages today and among them, many are in the process of extinction. Despite this, I believe that the expansion of the internet has contributed to linguistic records being made and researchers from around the world, in various research centres and universities, have systematized the study of languages spoken by minority groups. These elements combined, in my opinion, are favourable for the maintenance and diffusion of the most varied languages and allow them to remain alive. On the other hand, I understand that there is a wide use of English and with that, this language has become hegemonic in almost all relations established in a post-globalization world, thus conveying the discourse that learning English is necessary and that only it is enough for us to expand our global communication. Among all these things, I still carry an optimistic view, even knowing that languages are being extinct, and that English has won the dispute for linguistic hegemony, we can use it as a means of knowing, researching, learning, and spreading languages that are on the brink of extinction or have few speakers. To conclude, I understand that the imaginative effort to try to glimpse what the world will be like 100 years from now is something close to science fiction. Throughout this period, everything I have said can be maintained or changed completely.


7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?

Regardless of which generational background you find yourself in, don't wait to master a language to start learning another. Create study routines and if possible, plan your studies for the short, medium, and long term. Learn languages for professional reasons, as a hobby, to travel, to read books in the original, because you fell in love with someone from another country or simply because you like to learn languages. Don't worry that not everyone wants to become a polyglot or perhaps a hyperpolyglot. If that's what you really want, do it passionately and don't be afraid to learn new things.