Name: Phillip Munoz
Nationality or Ethnicity: Colombian-American
Where do you live?: Auckland, New Zealand
Languages: English(native), Spanish(native), French, Turkish, German, Brazilian Portuguese,
Swedish, Dutch, Polish, Modern Greek*
1. What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I was fortunate to have grown up bilingual with Spanish at home and English at school. So from a young age, I was asking a LOT of questions. I would spend hours at the bookstore glued to the foreign language section. My story really began when I begged my mother as an 8-year-old to allow me to take Turkish language classes at my new school. In the process, I fell in love with the culture and was immediately brought in as one of their own. From then on, I was hooked and decided to take on French next, filling notebooks of verb drills and keeping a journal in French. I was thrilled by the language-learning process and quickly realized how similar some of it was to Spanish. The curiosity led me on a journey of relearning Spanish, considering that up to that point, my exposure had been limited to conversations at home. Being a first-generation latin immigrant, rediscovering Spanish and seeing its beauty and richness for the first time helped me embrace my own heritage growing up. From then on, as a teenager, I explored quite an array of languages. I had an online tutor who helped me learn Dutch, I listened to music in
Portuguese, I watched all my TV and movies with Swedish subtitles, I taped flashcards all over my house in French, all while continuing to speak Spanish at home and Turkish and English at school. After high school, I won a scholarship to live in Germany with a host family, where I learned German to proficiency. Since then, the challenge has become finding time to tackle new languages whilst keeping it all from getting rusty!
2. Which language(s) do you wish you could spend more time practising?
Modern Greek - my current obsession
3. What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I’d love to learn something completely out of my comfort zone, such as Japanese or Korean and also expand my knowledge of Turkic languages, branching out into Uzbek and Azerbaijani.
4. So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
I’m gonna say Brazilian Portuguese for this one. The cadence and tone of the language really add that extra oomph.
5. What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
Given that throughout the language-learning process you do also learn about the background, history, and culture(s) of the language, you feel like you are more of a global citizen when you are able to forge a connection with people hailing from many different cultures. I do get a kick out of seeing someone’s face light up with surprise when switching to his or her native language! You can really get to know someone better in this way, since oftentimes one’s culture comes through one’s language.
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 believe this is the unfortunate truth. Providing opportunities for youth to explore the world and understand the benefits of safeguarding our cultures and calling on governments around the world to protect and foster their regional languages to secure their future will be key in resolving this issue. Working towards this goal over these next few decades definitely requires a bolstering of NGOs and cultural institutions.
7. What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Do it! Don’t be afraid of tackling seemingly difficult concepts, expose yourself to as much as possible. You will find that the more you struggle and become frustrated, the less likely you will be willing to understand. You should confront it with a positive mind and take your time with it. Train your mind to do the work for you by practicing active listening and having the courage to make mistakes, which in turn will help you correct yourself ! Admittedly this and asking the internet a LOT of questions have helped me on my journey.