Not that I am such a narcissist that I would enjoy posting things other people wrote about me on my own blog, but since this is the only time ever anyone interviewed me and my first and only interview, I though maybe this situation is a little different :)
FLG: How many languages do you know and what are they?
Vladimir: When posed with this question, I always have a problem giving a good and objective answer and a one that doesn’t get boring after 20 seconds of explanation.
Unfortunately in order to be accurate, it is difficult to say how many languages one knows and what it means to actually know a language.
For someone knowing a few simple sentences or being able to conduct a simple conversation in a language means "knowing a language" and some people say that no matter how hard or how long you study, you can simply never know a foreign language well enough, since there is always space for improvement.
It is also difficult to say how well one speaks the language itself and there is no impartial way to determine that. Some people are great with language tests but fail when it comes to real life discussions, some speak with native accents but cannot read books or they commit frequent grammar errors and have limited vocabulary and expressions.
I used to joke and say, that if one can pass a university oral and written exam in a foreign language (but not from the language itself, but from history, philosophy or something similar), then he must undoubtedly know the language quite well.
If viewed upon from this perspective I think (and hope) I could do this in 6-7 languages - Slovak, Czech, English, German, Italian, Russian and Hungarian.
I feel (or felt) very comfortable using these languages to communicate, and felt almost no difference as to whether I was using my native language or the foreign one.
A lower level of fluency for me is, when I can use the given language to communicate relatively fluently, without the need to switch into a third language, read books without a dictionary but not necessarily understand 95% of the words and be able to understand a wide range of audio material from everyday speech and movies to news on the radio. I am able to use Mandarin, French and Spanish this way.
So the languages in which I feel more or less comfortable are Slovak, Czech, English, German, Italian, Russian, Hungarian, Mandarin, French and Spanish.
I can read and listen to different material in Portuguese (news, novels) well enough to be able to enjoy the information without struggling with the language, but I cannot speak it.
I have a very good passive oral and written understanding of Polish, but I can’t speak as well. Recently I have been trying to listen to Romanian audio books and I can follow 30 to 60 percent of the material.
Other languages that I have more or less tried to study are Persian, Dutch, Croatian and a very small bit of Japanese.
I am only human so I of course forget a lot if I’m not exposed to the language as is the case with Hungarian or Spanish. My writing capabilities are the weakest and I do a lot of mistakes.
To take advantage of the reasoning I mentioned earlier, I could probably
write a university masters thesis only in Slovak, Czech, English and German.
FLG: When did you start learning foreign languages?
Vladimir: I started with English when I was 8.
FLG: How did you learn foreign languages?
Vladimir: In many different ways ranging from natural immersion or reading books to a lot of audio input and dedicated studies.
FLG: What do you think is the most effective method to learn a foreign language?
Vladimir: I think there is no one "perfect" way.
Every individual is different and what works for me might not work for the next person. I found high audio and reading input combined with systematic vocabulary memorization, grammar studies and pronunciation training the best preparation for the following immersion in the country where the language is spoken.
Once in the country, I was trying to spend as much time as possible with native speakers, take notes whenever I learned a new expression and review everything in the evening.
Passion and good spirit are also extremely important. When it comes to motivation, I only study what I feel like studying at the given moment.
FLG: What do you recommend for learning a foreign language?
Vladimir: As I said, it depends on the person.
FLG: How often do you study a foreign language and how?
Vladimir: I try not to push myself and keep it fun. I try to do something every day, listen to news, audio books, read or chat with friends. If there is a trip to the foreign country in sight, I try to study more seriously.
FLG: Why did you want to learn a foreign language? And in particular these languages?
Vladimir: This is my luck, but I had the opportunity to live in different countries when I was younger, so learning was always great pleasure, since I barely noticed it.
Later I was trying to be really good at something I guess, since I really enjoyed learning and speaking foreign languages. It was always great pleasure to become a part of the society of a country I was living in and it still is.
FLG: How do you use the languages that you learned? At work or do you practice with native speakers? Or in other ways?
Vladimir: It is very difficult to at least attempt to maintain the knowledge of a language, but luckily not that difficult to regain.
I sometimes work as a freelance translator between Slovak and English. Other languages I use and practice in different ways. (chatting with friends, reading books, watching movies or television ect.)
FLG: Do have any particular experiences or interesting stories that you would like to share relating to foreign languages? Or any things that you think are important for other people to know about learning other languages?
Vladimir: Experiences are too many to mention :-) and things to know again depend from person to person.
FLG: Have you traveled in other countries and if so, how has your knowledge of so many languages helped you in everyday life or to understand other cultures?
Vladimir: I’ve lived in 9 different countries and traveled through most of Europe, but unfortunately only a small part of USA.
Language in my opinion along with literature and music is the most enjoyable and best way to understand a different culture, I did not learn the languages for the sake of learning, it always went hand in hand with affection and admiration for the country, its culture and people.
FLG: Do you have any advice for the readers about studying many languages?
Vladimir: Every person is different and everyone has different motives.
I encourage all those learners who don’t view language learning as a matter of simple item selection in a supermarket and those that do not push themselves for the sake of a higher amount of languages they know.
I encourage those who see that there is a culture with real people (which is equally important) behind the language they are about to study and maybe let the language choose them and make it an enjoyable experience.
FLG: Lastly, anything else that you would like to share with the readers?
Vladimir: I would like to thank for the opportunity to participate in this project. As I think there are a lot more accomplished polyglots than me, I only wanted to share my point of view and not give universal advice.