NEWS
09.08.2021
ALEXANDER ARGÜELLES, polyglot

"I have always been fond of languages as far back as I can remember. As a child, I have often travelled with my family, and my father, a self-taught polyglot, spoke to anyone he met conveniently, easily shifting from one language to another. It made a huge impression on me on multiple occasions, but at the same time I was shy in his presence.

I can not say that studying languages was easy for me. At the age of 11, I was learning French very slowly at school and almost neglected the language studying at all. But when I took on German language at the university, the situation changed - I loved the German writers whose works I read in translation, and wanted to know them in the original. Since then, this has become my main motivation: when the meaning of the speech of someone else starts to appear, you experience a revelation. After learning German, I was not going to stop. Soon, I took on French, Latin, Greek and Sanskrit. At my 20-odd, I already made decision that I would spend the rest of my life trying to study as many languages as possible.

I am often asked what is the secret, and is it true that some people just have a gift for learning new words and phrases? I will not reinvent the wheel: my entire secret is the infinite time spent on reading, studying grammar, as well as my own technique, which I call "calquing": walking fast, I listen to an unfamiliar language in my headphones and repeat it aloud. Until I got a family and children, I worked for 16 hours a day. I copied the texts in Irish, Persian, Hindi, Turkish, Swahili. Gradually, my internal image of all these beautiful languages became clearer.

The work is difficult, but it pays off over and above. I was studying Spanish, and there was a moment when the living language, which I often heard as a child, started to open itself for me unexpectedly, as if I had taken wax out of my ears. This is the moment I am looking for; it became a kind of addiction. The same happened to me in Sweden: when I heard how they speak Swedish, it seemed like a combination of elements that I already knew. In three weeks I could somehow participate in the conversations on a rather complex level.

Today I can read in forty languages and I can speak most of them fluently. Over the course of my life I studied a lot more. Exotic languages are often a more difficult task. I worked as a professor in Korea for eight years, and it took me almost a decade to achieve the level of the native speaker in Korean.

When I speak a foreign language, I almost transform, I become a different, more talkative person. If tomorrow I am kidnapped and thrown out in an unknown place, there probably will be only a couple of remote areas on the planet where I could not easily talk to people.

I become more and more interested in dead and endangered languages. I studied Esperanto, and I understand the advantages of a single universal language, but it would be so boring.

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