Name: Olga El-Hagoug
Nationality or Ethnicity: Dutch national, born in Soviet Union
Where do you live?: The Hague, the city of Peace and Justice
Languages: English, French, Russian, Dutch, Spanish, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, German* and Arabic*
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I was born in the Soviet Union under an oppressive totalitarian regime. My parents always wanted to secure their lives and freedom and to immigrate. They were speaking Russian, but in light of their intentions they pushed me towards learning both English and French when I was four. As soon as the Soviet Union collapsed, my family immigrated to France, where I grew up in an international (mostly English-speaking) environment. My parents always encouraged me to read a book in the original language and not in translation, so I read English and American authors in English, French authors in French and Russian in Russian. It gave a very good base for future language learning.
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
I wish I could practice French more often. Although I consider it one of my mother tongues, I have not spoken it in a while. I hope to do something about it this year.
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I would love to become totally fluent in Arabic and to learn Japanese. Exotic, non-European languages have always attracted me.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Well, I’d say the sexiest language is the one you use to talk to your love. If you are in love, even the worst sounding language will sound the sexiest when your partner is saying the words of love.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
Being able to communicate to the world is priceless. Besides, I have made a job out of my linguistic abilities and I find great pleasure in what I do. Confucius once said: “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. I must confess that I followed his advice. I work as a sworn translator for the Dutch government and a freelance language teacher.
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 hope not, because each language carries an indigenous culture of the ethnos and it would be such a pity to lose this truly irreplaceable cultural heritage.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Each language has a system, a logic behind it. The key is to understand this logic. I often use Lego-blocks while teaching to explain grammar to students. Different shapes and colors help my students to understand, for instance, how the words function in a sentence. Try to find your own way to learn the language. Also do not expect to see the results immediately, after several lessons. Do not get discouraged. Language learning is a process. Enjoy it!