I met Luis Miguel at the International Polyglot conference in Novi Sad, Serbia.
His lecture was one of the most interesting (you can check the video down on this page)
Read this interview to see how the passion for languages can completely transform your life.
Who are you and where have you lived in the last 12 months
My name is Luis Miguel Rojas-Berscia. I am an Italo-Peruvian polyglot linguist, currently doing my PhD studies within the Language in Interaction Consortium at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and the Centre for Language Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen. In the last 12 months my life has been pretty much shared by the Amazon, Tierra del Fuego, the North-Peruvian desert and the Netherlands. I live in a city called Nijmegen near the German border but I spend at least some months a year in the Upper Amazon, working with an undersdescribed language called Shawi.
What languages do you speak?
This is actually one of the most difficult questions a polyglot can face. I have three mother tongues: Castilian, Tuscan (Italian), and Piedmontese, and I am fluent in English, French, Esperanto, Mandarin Chinese, Romanian, Portuguese, German, Catalan, Dutch, Southern Quechua and Shawi. I am conversational in Galician, Selk’nam, Russian and Japanese, and I have a good grammatical command of Ancient Greek and Latin, something which is very useful when dealing with classics.
Moreover, I have a decent grammatical command of languages such as Korean, Sanskrit, Frisian, Hebrew, Persian, Swabian, Paleo-Babylonian, Awaruna, Ligurian, Icelandic, Cantonese and Hakka.
Luis Miguel interviewed on TV about speaking a lot of languages (in Spanish)
Languages are just a hobby or you make money out of them?
Languages are my life. I always say learning languages is just my hobby but I happen to make money from my knowledge of some of them, for instance Mandarin Chinese, when I worked as a teacher at the Confucius Institute in Lima.
I love teaching. There is nothing better than getting my two life passions together: teaching and language learning.
Tell us something about your First Time.
I do not even remember when that actually happened…I studied in a bilingual school and picked up English since very young (3-4 year old). I do not even remember how I learnt this language. It simply happened and I am happy it was that way.
Any terrible experience? Like a language you could not learn and you gave up…
I try not to give up with any language I learn, but, come on, no one is perfect. That happened to me with Sanskrit. I am still struggling with some grammatical aspects of that language. I hope I will be good at it soon and be able to read classics in that language as with Latin and Ancient Greek.
What about an “easy” experience
I had two very easy experiences: Portuguese & Esperanto. I learnt Portuguese in less than a week talking to friends from Portugal and then from Brazil. As a native speaker of Spanish most grammar is already there, you just have to struggle a bit with false-friends and some non-existent constructions in your language. Esperanto was “a piece of cake”. Its regularity can make any language learner, either with or without background, pick it in less time than any other language. This also let me get in touch with the Esperanto community and meet lots of people who eventually became my friends and prospective language teachers. It was one of the most beautiful language learning experiences I have ever had.
Why languages and not…..
Language is an exclusive capacity, no other beings in the planet being able to convey meaning in the way we do. Languages are the tools of this capacity and they conceptualise the world according to what people want to say about their environment and living conditions. In think learning languages is the best way to get to know people a little bit beyond the screens of our national tv stations, our streets and our countries. Multiple language learning is the key for an “inclusive” way of thinking.
I would not encourage people to leave their passions for languages. Each one of us has his/her own thing. Learning languages was my passion and I decided to leave other possible paths: becoming a tennis player, an actor, or a hotel manager. I think it is not the matter of what is best, but what you actually prefer.
Luis Miguel Rojas Berscia – Pure Linguistics – from the International Polyglot Conference in Novi Sad
Do you have a mentor? Does anybody inspire you?
Yes. I had several mentors throughout my life: Mg.Pablo Carreño, my Latin teacher, Dr. José León, my Classical Greek teacher, Prof. Sorin Rîpă, my Romanian teacher, Prof. Rainer Grimm, my German teacher and Dr. Roberto Zariquiey, my BA supervisor. They all taught me many things about life and language. I will always be thankful to them. I have always been inspired by the work of Prof. dr. Cerrón-Palomino on Andean languages, Prof. dr. Mario Montalbetti on generative syntax, Prof. dr. Stephen Levinson on pragmatics, Prof. dr. Pieter Muysken, for his work on Andean languages and language diversity in South America. I am especially thankful to the last two. They are my current mentors and supervisors in my PhD track.
Do you have a secret weapon to learn languages?
The best weapons to learn languages are love, discipline and patience.
Can you share with us your language learning routine?
I actually do not believe in language learning routines. I tried some of them though. As with poetry, I think that the best moment to learn a language is when you actually have the will to do it. If you are tired and hesitant of doing it, then it’s maybe better to leave it for another occasion. Real learning only happens when we are really motivated.
Do you try to read/watch content at your level? Is it easy to find?
I always try to read and watch content at my level. I must admit it is not an easy task, especially since I have to maintain several languages and improve the ones I’m still half-way through. Nowadays, though, it is easier to find all sorts of materials online. No one can say that there are not enough learning materials for Western languages in the cloud. That issue, however, is different for Asian and American languages. I hope we linguists and language teachers start producing more content in these languages in order to cope with that lack.
Have you already used Bliu Bliu? :)
Yes, I am actually using it to learn some Serbian
Your final words: share anything you want with our passionate
Community of language lovers. If you want to learn a language, do not stress. That is the worst thing to do. Just take your language book, computer or language pal to the place you feel more comfortable in. Take a cup of tea or whichever beverage you prefer and start with the basics. Never frustrate if you make mistakes. Mistakes are actually the best part of language learning: they show how beautiful the language capacity can be and they help us learn the irregularities of some of our target languages. Just relax and enjoy what you are doing
How can people get in touch with you…
They can send me an email to: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
They can also check my blog: http://blog.pucp.edu.pe/linguistiqueando, although it is still a bit outdated.
I will be more than happy to share my experiences with other language enthusiasts and answer their questions.