Simple and honest story of how I mastered 6 language
I thought I was like everyone else until my second grade when some people came to our elementary school to do some tests.
In fact, these tests were just a part of a bigger study for early detection of dyslexia.
At 8 years of age, I correctly read the most words in our generation.
Obviously, I didn’t have dyslexia. 😉
Quite contrary, nowadays, looking back that was a solid proof of hyperlexia!
My language learning started spontaneously with reading and perfectioning of my native language.
At the age of 6 I read a simplified version of Greek mythology. Couldn’t have enough of it in fact.
Still have the book, and know it by heart.
At the age of 11 I read all the books of Sidney Sheldon and Steven King that I could put my hands on. I found many in my aunt and uncles’ library, for some time they were not aware of the true reason why I started to visit their home increasingly often.
The first one I read was If tomorrow comes.
Then we, as a family moved to Italy, and in a pretty short time span both my fraternal twin sister and I learned Italian to the point no one could understand we were not native, we attended regular schools and followed the national program, no cutting slack.
We thought it was normal. In the today’s world children in this situation would probably be ‘managed’ with at least some compassion, but this made our learning curve quite steep.
Picture from that period of our lives can be found here.
In my teens I started reading even more but I also became an avid music fan.
I had and still have a very particular taste in music, a little frantic and very intuitive, I love what I love regardless of trends and once it enters my repertoire I stick by it.
Music, more precisely Jon Bon Jovi, was my most influential English teacher.
I translated (with help from all kinds of sources) all the lyrics I could find and the foundations for my English were set.
In high school, around the age of 15 I was introduced to the world of Mexican telenovelas by my mom, I organized my first improvised Spanish dictionary at the back of mathematics notebook and reinstated dialogues from the episodes we just watched with my sister before going to sleep. (Now thinking back there was a really colorful life before mobile phones).
Funnily, our mother found us a language school close to our home to take a course in beginner Spanish not being aware we are already conversational.
I loved learning Spanish so much I majored in Spanish literature at the University of Zagreb.
Following my propensity to stage Televisa’s telenovelas I performed in an amateur acting group presenting dramatic pieces in Spanish organized by our University and lead by our Spanish language lecturer from Extremadura, Paloma Ponce Gonzalez.
I still know all my texts and relish these memories.
Similarly with English, I officially started learning Portuguese at my 2nd year of University but I was already conversant because I was an avid fan first of Brasilian music.
It started with Bossa Nova and then it became a full blown addiction in 2003 when I discovered Caetano Veloso after I accidentally attended one of his legendary concert in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo, an experience which resulted in me not listening to anything else for at least the following two years.
And lastly Turkish…
I learned this language through blood, sweat and tears.
The syntaxis was a nightmare, the vocabulary not coherent with anything I’ve ever heard in any of my other languages and the intents to practice with native speakers a constant failure.
But I didn’t give up, I endured because I learned it for love, to be able to make Turkey my home.
It was, actually the first time that I actually needed to learn a language, ant that was not spontaneous or easy.
I used, cover-to-cover 30 notebooks, incessantly writing down verbal forms, and translations.
I downloaded apps, listened to videos, bought all the language resources available for Turkish for foreigners and continuously studied, analysed and repeated.
Forgot, repeated, forgot again, asked my husband for the meaning of some words dozens of times only to forget it again on the same day, reaching deep despair, never giving up.
To reach a conversational level in Turkish was for me – by far the most demanding endeavor related to language learning.
However, once this threshold was broken, for me upgrading the supra-structure was just a matter of time.
For those who are not aware Turkish grammar is beautifully logical and mathematically precise. It has a very few exceptions and a beautiful creative note to its structure. Turkish agglutinative endings remind me of a massive playground full of Lego pieces that all fit in with each other and the combinations are just a matter of personal preference.
I feel humbled in front of this language which certainly does not get the justice in terms of studying it in Europe because it is a glorious example of language economy and simplicity. I keep being fascinated with how great it is to be able to convey your message with words that are so simple and short and yet so precise and multifaceted.
Finally, there is another very important factor which formed me both as a polyglot and as a person.
This is Latin.
I deeply believe and am therefore a strong advocate of studying Latin and Greek.
In Croatia we have a strong tradition of teaching children Latin in school from early ages.
I do agree it may come across as masochistic but it is the master key not only for learning languages but also for widening the perspective of the human brain.
The study of Latin opens up new neural pathways and creates brain synapses which last for a lifetime.
It’s a code of understanding not just mere language structures and grammar but also life itself.
Any effort put into studying Latin pays out in multiple unexpected ways and it should never be disregarded or underestimated. It is still alpha et omega of cultural expansion at any given area of civilization.