March 29, 2018

Interview for gaudeo.sk


We all know what the word polyglot means. Do you consider yourself to be a polyglot? When did you find out that you have a talent for languages? What is your motivation when it comes to language learning? Is language learning something that fulfills you?

A polyglot is a person who speaks several languages, so technically a polyglot is already someone who speaks two. In reality, since there are a lot of opinions on how many languages and at what level a person has to speak in order to be considered a polyglot, it’s more complicated. I think that the lower limit is six languages at a C1 level.

For me personally, the word polyglot was always also associated with praise and to this day I have a problem to talk about myself like that. 

When it comes to when I realized I had a talent for languages, again, it’s a complicated question, because to talk like this about yourself is not easy, but I think I discovered it very early. Probably when I was about 6 or 7 years old. My motivation is most probably interest in foreign languages and foreign cultures in general.

How long does it take you to learn a new language? Lets say an easier one. How do you choose which language you are going to learn next?

I don’t know about others, but I learned Italian from scratch to C1 in three and a half months and Russian in about three months, but when it comes to these languages the term ‘to learn from scratch’ doesn’t apply too much. These languages have a lot in common with Slovak or English, both of which I knew before I started learning Russian or Italian. 

I usually don’t pick or choose the languages I would like to learn. I just somehow get into a situation where the language starts being interesting and if it also is of practical use to me, I’ll start learning it. 


How do you maintain the languages you know? How many languages do you use one a daily basis? Do you treat them equally or are some of them more important to you than others? Do you know them equally well? 

In general, I used to maintain the languages I knew by listening to foreign language news and by simultaneously interpreting the news into Slovak, or through regular conversations with my foreign friends. Now I mostly only watch foreign language youtube videos and schedule an occasional chat online. Daily, I mostly use English, Slovak and Mandarin Chinese, less often Russian and Italian. 

I certainly don’t know the languages I studied equally well. I speak English and Slovak roughly equally well and Mandarin Chinese, German, Italian, Czech, Russian and Hungarian at a C1 level or higher. The level of the rest of the languages I know is then much lower. 

‘The many languages you know the many times you are a person’. Do you agree with this saying? What is your take on it? Is it true or is it more of an urban myth?

I agree with the saying to a certain extent but I don’t believe my personality changes with every language I speak. The language influences one’s personality a little bit but the core character of a person stays the same in my opinion. I believe that if someone knows a language really well, their personality does not change and the language influences it only marginally.

Are you an early bird or do you stay up late at night? At what part of the day are you most productive? 

I try to go to bed very early, at about 9:30 pm and get up at about 5:30 am - 6:00 am. I am most productive when the internet is not working at any time of the day:)

What do you do professionally? Do you travel a lot? Is there a European country where you cannot use the local language to communicate?

I work as an interpreter of English, Mandarin Chinese and Slovak and I teach these and a few other languages as well. Sometimes I travel more, sometimes less. Last year, I lived in Slovakia for 6 months and for the rest of the year I was in France, Germany and Taiwan. 

This year was a bit slower. There are many countries in Europe where I cannot communicate in the local language: Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, all Nordic countries, Greece, Albania, Slovenia, Malta, Cyprus etc. 

How do you choose the language you learn? Are you planning to learn any new languages? Have you learned all the languages you wanted to learn?

As I said, I don’t really choose the languages I want to learn, it just somehow happens. I started learning a bit of Latin, because I’ve been reading a lot about history in general, mainly about the Roman Empire. I started reading the book Commentaries on the Gallic War by Gaius Iulius Caesar and I thought it would be really interesting to read what exactly he wrote in his own language.

A few years ago, I stopped learning languages completely and thought I wouldn’t learn any new ones, but Latin for instance is really very interesting so, maybe as they say, on a timeline long enough, everything is temporary. 

Who is your personal role model? Do you have more than one? What are the qualities that make him/her a role model to you?

I don’t think I have one specific person that I would look up to. There are people in different fields who inspire me, usually people who are much much better in something I do. For instance Joshua Fields Millburn, Salman Khan, Lazar Angelov, John McLaughlin, Casey Neistat, Elon Musk or some friends or professors of mine. 

What are your hobbies? Which values are most important to you?

I think I have many interests, but unfortunately I can’t keep up with them the way I would like to. I love to meet new interesting people, learn new things and do sports. I don’t know whether it can count as a hobby, but I love to be nostalgic - I love to go to places that I haven’t visited in a long time.

When it comes to values, health is probably the most important thing in my life, followed by the balance between the body and mind, freedom of thought, relationships with people who are close to me and financial freedom. 

Would you recommend learning foreign languages to everyone, mainly younger people? What about older ones? Is it true that people should learn at least English?

I believe so. I think English is, even though with local limitations, a global tool of communication and a language in which most information is stored (articles about science, history or simple solutions on what to do when your iPhone doesn’t connect to the local wifi hotspot). In the world today, a person can learn almost anything and very quickly, but he or she needs to speak English.

It is true, that computer translation engines such as Google translate are advancing very quickly, but I feel like today, one can still learn to speak English well quicker than computer translation will be at a level where learning a foreign language will not be necessary.

I would also wholeheartedly recommend learning foreign languages to those of higher age. I feel like it’s a kind of mental gymnastics, one will preserve a sharper mind and stay younger longer.

What is your life motto? Would you change something in your life or is everything as it should be?

I would change a lot if I could, but I’m very satisfied with a lot of things as well. I don’t have a life motto but I like http://minimalmaxims.com/ for instance (page needs to be reloaded for a new quote to appear). 



4 comments:

  1. Muszę uważać na Twoje posty, bo zamiast kończyć pisać doktorat mam coraz większą ochotę na uczenie się słowackiego :D. Publikowane przez Ciebie tłumaczenia słowackich tekstów bardzo to ułatwiają i tym samym utrudniają pisanie doktoratu :). Pozdrawiam serdecznie! Ania

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  2. Hi, Vladimir!

    What exactly did you mean when you said that English has some "local limitations"? I didn't really get it.

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    1. Hi Elijah,

      there are areas in the world where languages other than English are the lingua franca: Mandarin in China, Russian in the post-USSR region, French and Swahili in some parts of Africa, Modern Standard Arabic in the Arab-speaking world etc.

      This means Mandarin, Russian, French, MSA or Swahili will get you much further than English in these places.

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