The Benefits of ‘Polyglotting’

In Russian Lapland's Saami lands

Polyglots start young. This is probably one of the main ingredients to their success.

Like many children born in Transylvanian families, I began my polyglot life learning Romanian and Hungarian. I have recordings that show my mastery of these two languages at the age of two. At three, English followed, as I began studying it with my father. Four years later, my interest turned to French. Italian came next; I learned it while watching cartoons on Italian channels. Telenovelas were also part of my linguistic journey (the case of many Romanians) when my attention turned to Spanish. As I matured, I became aware of my likes and dislikes. I also realised that I could choose – and I did. I chose Japanese.

Of course, one cannot master all the languages in the portfolio at the same level and there are – like in all relationships – ups and downs, times when one loves a language more than the others, when the adoration and fascination for the vocabulary and grammar of another language go beyond the regular, earthly boundaries, or when one is sick and tired of listening to a language being spoken or of uttering even a few words in that language!

The French Quarter of Puducherry, India

When your first profession takes you far and yet very close to where you started, the joy you feel inside has (almost) no equal. Travelling and travel writing can be an extension or another dimension of a translator. And that’s where languages step in. Experiencing a culture when you speak the language of the locals is a different story from having to rely on the translations and explanations of others. I will never forget speaking about history in Hungarian with the curator of the museum of the Battle of Mohács... starting to speak French out of nowhere on so many occasions... being able to communicate with Argentineans in their native language and build some solid friendships that have stood the test of time... (always) asking for directions and information on the wonderful food (I’m a vegetarian) when in Italy ...the big smile on my face the first time when I interacted with native Japanese speakers in the Japanese centre where I was studying.

Whereto? In Ferrara, Italy

So many good memories and times! They go beyond sitting at a desk or in an interpreting booth. A polyglot never stops; after all, there are so many languages in the world! /what a tempting thought!/ We might even claim that polyglots and travellers share this ultimate view: the tougher the challenge, the sweeter the journey.