Name: Sejal Mistry
Nationality or Ethnicity: U.S.A of Indian origin
Where do you live?: Singapore
Languages: English, Gujarati, Hindi, Italian, Spanish, French.
What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
Every language I learned is a story of love - whether it is Gujarati, my true mother tongue; English of Shakespeare’s Othello and the Bawlmorian (Baltimore) dialect of my hometown; Hindi for its sing-songy beauty; Italian through my devotion to opera; Spanish embedded into my soul through telenovelas and Colombian music; and French because I simply fell in love and married a Parisian.There are other languages I came upon in life that I am still learning– Korean – first as an English tutor to Korean graduate students at my American university and then ten years later living and working in Seoul and giving birth to two daughters who love seaweed soup and kimchi.
Which language do you wish you could spend more time practicing?
Spanish because I really miss speaking it. I don’t know if I miss the language so much or the fun I have speaking with South Americans.
What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
Farsi via Urdu. I studied a few months of Farsi because it is the language of poets. My dream is one day to visit Iran. I think it would be more natural to pick up Urdu, another gorgeous language, on my path to Farsi.
So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
To laugh with and learn from everyone.The nerdy side in me loves linguistic comparisons and finding surprising connections that ease the path to proficiency and give testimony to a language’s history and evolution.
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?
It is true that many traditional languages will disappear, but we will expand our concept of languages – it could be computer programming languages, texting language, emoticon rebus-like language. Language is simply a tool to communicate efficiently and as our means of communication through technology evolve, so shall our languages.
What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
You can use books and classes as your foundation, but confidence and courage are key. You will make mistakes, embarrass yourself, speak haltingly, get teased, but the surprised smile that you get from the other side for a few broken sentences is a tremendous reward.