I’ve long loved words. Language in all its glorious beauty has endlessly intrigued me. The idioms, the metaphors, the double entendres, the colloquialisms, the histories, the mysteries, the accents, the travel, the gelato . . . Sorry, I digress.
I’m about to start learning my seventh language—and I’m absolutely thrilled to share my love of languages with you! Before you make all kinds of assumptions that I’m super talented and have an incredible memory (or something else along those lines), let me quickly dispel the myths by telling you that not all of the seven languages in my brain are current or fluent—no, they’re in varying degrees of fluency at this time. And one of them—no, two of them, if you must know—are tucked away in such a remote and dusty drawer at the very back of my brain that I can barely locate them. Nevertheless, at one time in my past, they were alive and available and they served me very well. I know they’re still there, just waiting for their chance to come out and play.
So, you may wonder how I’ve managed to learn all those languages. Well, it may sound like a cliché to say it, but I will anyway: I think it was my destiny to be multilingual. You see, my quest for learning languages reflects my history, my curiosity and my quest for life itself. I’ve always been incredibly curious and I love people. I enjoy understanding how things work and how others think. And learning many of the languages came out of a necessity to express myself, to explore the world around me and to engage with others. This is how it all began: I was born at the foot of the Carpathian mountains in a picturesque town called Busteni, in Romania. My parents tell me that I spoke early (and often!), and therefore my maternal language came naturally, as it does for all babies. At around the age of four or five, my parents hired a French-speaking teacher to come give us kids private lessons at home. I mostly remember her teaching us cute little playful songs and short little fun poems that we repeated as we played and had fun together. There was no note taking (certainly not for me, as I didn’t write—but not even for my older brothers who could) and no boring sit-down rituals that included repetition or verb conjugations. Our teacher simply spoke to us in French as though we already understood her—and soon enough, we did! Then, at around age six or seven I started joining my brothers’ private German lessons. Although I was far from serious about learning German, a lot was sinking in, and when we left Romania and lived in Austria for a school term, when I was 11, my German (or Austrian, I should say) blossomed into a perfectly fluent new language for me.
The following school year we moved to California, and after struggling for a few months, I found that I was understanding and speaking English. So, by age 12 I already had four languages under my belt. It wasn’t exactly what I had set out to do, it just happened. By the time I was in university, I realised that my French wasn’t as reliable as it used to be, so I chose to complete my junior year in France, where I studied literature and became so comfortable in the language that I even read plays and composed poetry in French.
Stay tuned for my next #milestones post where I’ll fill you in on how I came to learn the next two languages.
Do you want to learn a new language, too?