Name: Wiktoria Ozierów
Nationality or Ethnicity: Polish
Where do you live?: Kraków, Poland
Languages: Polish, English, Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I started learning English in kindergarten when I was 5 years old. For many years it was my favorite subject in school and I enjoyed learning it, especially by watching a lot of American movies and TV shows. In my first year of high school I studied English very intensively and obtained the First Certificate in English (FCE), confirming my knowledge of the language at the C1 level.
Then I decided to focus on Spanish, in which, despite 4 years of studying it at school, I was a complete beginner. I was fortunate enough to attend various courses with teachers from Costa Rica, Mexico and Spain. These courses were very entertaining and taught me a lot about Spain and Latin America. I also received a lot of help from my lovely high school teacher, who gave me a lot of extra study materials and read all my essays. After two years, I managed to get the Diploma de Español como Lengua Extranjera (DELE B2).
By attending a Spanish course, I was able to take a course in another language for free for 5 weeks. I picked Italian because I had traveled to Italy multiple times and I love Italian culture, art, nature, cuisine and people. Once I started learning this beautiful language, I couldn't stop. I’d love to go on an exchange year to Rome (to study in Italian), so I currently spend every spare moment perfecting my Italian.
I’ve always wanted to speak French, because I thought it was a very beautiful, romantic and unique language. After graduating from high school, I enrolled in an intensive online course. That summer, I went to France for the first time. I started speaking French right away, literally after my first French class ever, and the positive reactions of the French people encouraged me even more to keep learning it. Then I chose French as a foreign language to study at my university, and took an intensive course again the following summer which was also an amazing experience.
One day, surfing the internet, I came across Portugal's song for Eurovision 2020 which is called "Medo De Sentir". When I heard it, I was speechless. I immediately decided to learn this wonderful language (but eventually chose the Brazilian version). This time, however, I learned it more naturally, by watching videos, listening to podcasts and reading. It wasn't until I was at B2 level that I signed up for classes with a Portuguese speaker.
In addition to these languages, I learned the basics of several others. For example, for a while I wanted to learn some non-European languages of communities whose history and culture I found fascinating. Unfortunately, I currently don't remember anything from Swahili (Kiswahili) or Māori (Te Reo Māori) anymore. This year I also started to learn German, Czech and Swedish, since I traveled a lot around Europe, but I’m still an absolute beginner.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practicing?
If I had time, I would study more German and Swedish.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
Slovenian, Ukrainian, Farsi, Dutch, Romanian, Catalan, Hungarian, Croatian, Korean, Hindi (and relearn Swahili and Māori!)
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
I'm biased because I love the Romance languages. For me, there’s a tie between Portuguese and French - but if I had to pick, I think I‘d choose European Portuguese!
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
I love visiting countries where I speak the local language. When I travel, I always imagine that I have lived in certain places forever. And when I talk to the locals, I often get a positive reaction and sometimes even manage to make a deeper connection with them. This makes me very happy. These days you can accomplish the same thing with the internet. In addition, I really enjoy reading books that haven't been translated into Polish or English - it’s a unique experience that gives me some insight into the culture of the country.
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?
While I fear that some languages might indeed disappear, I believe that the efforts of language enthusiasts will encourage others to pursue the common goal of preventing language extinction and reviving extinct languages.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Nothing is impossible and if you dream about something and believe in it, you can achieve it. The key is to fall in love with the process of getting there. Setting goals will help you stay motivated, but make sure you are learning languages in a way that is enjoyable for you, because it will take a lot of time. But most importantly, remember that this experience will enable you to meet amazing people, gain another perspective on the world, boost your confidence… and it will truly change your life!