Loras Network (L.N.): Alex, we would like to thank you very much for this interview. We are also very happy that you will be presenting at our 1st Loras Network Workshop on Bilingualism and Multilingualism.
L.N. : Alex, we first saw you in a BBC video, being presented as the UK’s most multilingual student, with a total of eleven languages. Can you give us some background as to how and why you learned so many languages?
Alex Rawlings (A.R.): Languages started off as a hobby for me and quickly turned into a passion. I speak Greek from childhood and studied French and German at school, but that never felt like enough! There were so many people out there in the world that I wanted to talk to, and I didn’t want to restrict them to those I had a common language with. I picked up some language courses from my local bookshop and library and decided to have a go. Then I caught the bug – I wanted to learn more and more, picking a new one each summer and trying to find out as much about the country and culture as I could, hoping one day to visit them!
L.N. : What one tip would you give a child- language learner? How about a teenage-language learner and then an adult-language learner, as you have experienced all these stages now?
A.R. : Don’t let your limits be set by other people – set them yourself. Actually, I don’t think anyone really has limits, if you want something and you put your mind to it, you’ll always succeed. I think that advice applies to everyone!
I’m skeptical about there being an “ideal age” to learn languages. The way I’ve learnt languages has constantly changed and developed with the different ages I’m at. I used to hate flashcards and vocabulary lists when I was younger, but now I can appreciate their efficiency and I use them myself. Equally, I used to not have to spend much time on pronunciation, but now I have to concentrate on it a bit more. Not that any of these things become impossible as you get older (or younger!), it’s just that you have to change the way you go about them.
L.N. : What one tip would you give the parents of a child language learner? And then the parents of a teenage language learner?
A.R. : Encourage them! Like with everything, there’s nothing a child wants more than supportive parents who think they’re great no matter what, even if they don’t always say so! But don’t be pushy with them – nobody can develop a passion for something when their parents are just forcing them to do it. We’re all individuals with our own interests, and for some languages aren’t that exciting. Don’t despair though, it’s very likely that they’ll go back to it in later life when they realise just how valuable languages are!
L.N. :We are sure many people are wondering, as we are as well – which is going to be your next language and why?
A.R. : The problem is there are so many languages I’d like to learn! It really depends on where I am when I finish my degree. If I’m still involved with Eastern Europe I think I have to learn Polish to find out more about the region. Otherwise I like the challenge of Arabic, and Turkish has always seemed interesting. But at the same time, I’d like to get better in the languages I do have!
L.N. : Do you know all languages you have acquired both in written and spoken form? Would you ever learn a language in only one form?
A.R. : Yes of course, and no never!
L. N. : Thank you so much, Alex! We are truly looking forward to meeting you in person.
Please feel free to explore the links to the 1st International Loras Network Workshop and Alex Rawlings’ blog: