Name: Una Softic
Nationality or Ethnicity: Slovenian
Where do you live? Japan
Languages: English, German, Slovenian, Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, Macedonian *, Italian *, Japanese *, Sanskrit**, Old Greek**, and Hittite**
What’s your story? How did you get into all these languages?
I guess we could say that I’m cheating on a language test a little bit, as I grew up speaking my mother tongue (Serbo-Croatian) that split into separate independent languages due to the politics of the region. I always loved literature and dreamed of becoming a writer; therefore I firstly decided to master the languages of my area, studying South Slavic Languages and Literatures. I studied Indo-European Linguistics in parallel, as I enjoy finding answers to dubious theories by scientific research. Reconstructing the puzzles of ancient Indo-European languages brought me a lot of love and pain. And as for living languages, my father has encouraged me to start learning German at a young age, which became very convenient when I moved to Munich for 2 years. I used to be able to converse in Italian well, as I have family there (my sister also used to live in Milan), but strangely, I started to mix it with Japanese, which I am currently learning.
Which language do you wish you could spend more time practicing?
As I live in Tokyo, learning Japanese is a priority at the moment. I didn’t know a single Japanese word before I moved here and therefore needed quite some time to get familiar with the sound and plain syntax of the language. I picked up basic Japanese through daily conversations, but now that I decided to stay here in a longer term, I know that it would have been much smarter if I followed a structured language-learning program.
What are some languages you’d like to learn in the future?
I've just started learning sign language (ASL). I'm fascinated by its expressiveness and hope to be able to engage in a competent discourse soon. But I’m more concerned with quality than quantity, and I think that there’s much room for improvement of currently familiar languages.
So let’s be honest, what’s the sexiest language?
Language bloopers can be felicitously sexy! And not only in French…
What’s the greatest pleasure you get from speaking so many languages?
There are many untranslatable expressions that cannot be fully understood until you genuinely feel them. Knowing a language to an extent that allows you feeling its untranslatable nuances is invaluable.
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 don’t think that’s very likely to happen. Even if we systematically narrowed human communication down to 1 lingua franca, people would still seek freedom and exclusivity of expression, and create their own argots and languages.
What is your message to young (and not so young) people out there who are interested in studying multiple languages?
Whenever you start something, it’s good to have a goal in mind. When you can identify what you would like to achieve, finding the right path to it becomes easier.