December 16, 2010

My language history

I was born in Kosice in South-east Slovakia, which at the time was Czechoslovakia. As our city is only 20 km away from the Hungarian border, a lot of people living in our city speak Hungarian to some extent and my mother, even though I was of completely Slovak origin, decided to put me into a Hungarian kindergarten to learn the language which I acquired as a secondary native one. Living in Czechoslovakia, we were constantly exposed to the Czech language as well, so by luck or chance, I grew up with three native languages (even though I didn't use Czech actively until I was a student in Prague in 2007). I continued my studies at a Slovak elementary and later a secondary grammar school. At the age of eight I went to USA and at the age of 12 to Austria, learning both German and English almost to a native level of a 15 year old American or Austrian/German kid, which are both levels that I have sadly lost now.  

While in university I went to study abroad to the University of Bologna in Italy. All the courses and tests were in Italian and all foreign students had to learn Italian to a relatively high degree of proficiency (C1) so that they could pass exams that were all in Italian. After I graduated, I decided to go to Russia and study Russian. Since my mother tongue and Russian are closely related, learning Russian for a Slovak person is considerably easier than learning Italian or French for instance and I managed to learn it relatively well in a relatively short amount of time. I do not sound native in Russian, but with a bit of practice I feel comfortable using it and expressing everything the way I want, almost as if it was English or Slovak, but with much less vocabulary to choose from. Two other languages that I speak somewhat fluently are Spanish and French. The knowledge of Italian helped me with Spanish a lot and even though I don't think I speak Spanish particularly well, I have managed to learn it to a B2 level in about 3 months during one summer in New York City. I used to learn French as a child and later picked it up when I was in university. As with Spanish, I don't think I speak it particularly well, compared to other languages I know, but I can read books, listen to radio news broadcasts and maintain a fluent conversation about almost anything I want. After Spanish I learned how to understand and read Portuguese, but I never really had a chance to practice speaking it and my knowledge of it is only passive.

After my stay in Russia, I enrolled into the department of Chinese studies at the Faculty of arts of the Charles University in Prague. I honestly have to say that I have never had to learn anything more difficult than Chinese and that maybe it is the only real foreign language I have ever learned. After 5 and a half years of studies, I finally feel comfortable in it and manage to sound native, but of course not all the time.

While living in Taiwan I have been learning a bit of Polish and Farsi, almost reaching a level in it them that I have in French, but somehow, my motivation has faded away. I really hope to be fluent in Farsi one day, because I find the sound of the language very beautiful as is the culture behind it. I have also been learning a little bit of Japanese and Romanian, but only for a few months and in a very relaxed way, so that maybe should not even be mentioned.

While in Taiwan I also picked up a little bit of Taiwanese, I could have a very rusty, basic conversation, but nothing beyond that. I also started learning Cantonese several times and in the spring of 2015 I finally was at a point where I was listening to Cantonese podcasts for a few hours every day, but my motivation unfortunately faded away, because I couldn't use the language on a daily basis.

When I returned to Europe, back in Slovakia I learned a bit of Serbian. I listened to several hours of news in Serbian each day for about 6 months, read one 500 page book in Serbian and talked to my friends in Serbian every day for about 6months. 

While in Slovakia, I also learned Latin. I read Ceasar's Gallic wars about 20 times, analyzing every sentence in detail and used a similar approach to learn Afrikaans as well. 


  1. there's so many ways you could practise! for example, i speak cantonese fluently. taiwanese is close to hokkien and i was born bred hokkien. mandarin i picked up via conversations so we could practise that, too! if you're on line messenger, add me! :D

  2. Wow you keep going to so many schools to study. How do you even afford that?

    1. Education is free in my country. For the rest I either had scholarships or worked during the summer as a waiter/bartender to save money so I could pay the studies off.

  3. Hello Vladimir,

    I am a fan of your work, since I found your videos on YouTube! Keep going and growing! I am following your adivces on languages as I had a similar destiny to yours! I speak a bit of many lanugages, but during the first lockdown I decided to finally start learning them one by one, giving each language about half a year of more (my case with Arabic, as it is way different to our Indo-European language family). What I do is that I buy some really good self-teaching books that include the alphabet, pronunciation, followed by different units with dialogues, grammar and exercise. Then I have some practise with media in that language and then I find native speakers, so I can practise. And typically the last step is to go to a country, where that language is spoken. Oh, and I start thinking in that language - that's what I find pretty helpful as well!
    Btw, I am Bulgarian myself and really like Slovakia, and I actually have friends from Kosice!

    Good luck on your future plans,

    1. Hi Hristian,

      thank's for the comment and all the best to you and your studies.