In recent years, educators and learners have come to focus more and more on the importance of quality education and hands-on participation rather than simply the accumulation of information. The underlying rationale seems to be that self-directed learning promotes the natural development of self-confidence, initiative, perseverance and life satisfaction.
Unlike regular schooling, self-learning can enhance the cognitive processes of learners, such as those involved in attention, understanding and memory. In fact, many instances have proved the motivational component of self-directed learning, stating that this kind of learning is effective because it makes us more willing to learn because we are better able to do so when we can control the flow of our experience, when we frame our learning process or when we can tailor the learning to our own personal needs and requirements.
This interview is the first installment of the “Interview with a Polyglot” series which will be in 3 parts, to answer any questions related to language learning and self-teaching and explain the use of foreign languages in one’s life.
Luca, why don’t you introduce yourself shortly to Youth Time readers and briefly talk about your academic and professional backgrounds?
I am currently living in Rome and working as a language coach. I’m also as a keynote speaker at conferences and workshops about language learning. I hold a degree in Electronic Engineering. In the beginning I was heading towards a scientific career but then I decided that what I really wanted to do was work as a language coach. I felt like I needed to listen to my inner voice, which said: “Luca what you really like doing is using languages and communicate with people”
I decided to make languages an integral part of my life. I started by creating a Youtube Channel to help people learn languages.
I am sure there was something that made you start this career. Could you tell us how you first realized you had this passion for learning languages? Was there any special motivation or inspiration that happened that made you this passionate about languages?
I believe each and everyone of us is like a piano, meaning there are notes that we can touch to play beautiful music. Everyone has different notes, a tendency for something, and in my case it was languages. I was lucky to discover this. My grandmother planted the seed for the first time when I was young. She said, “Luca, would you like to learn some grammar in Latin?” and then she added “Do this because you will have a better life and understand things better” So I started to learn Latin and French.
I didn’t learn to speak the languages, but that planted the seed. At the age of 12, I was still struggling with English and French because I was learning them at school and I wasn’t learning much. Then my aunt gave me a book called “The Hardy boys” which is a book in easy English. I started learning English by myself and that was the turning point.
So to sum up, my grandmother planted the seed when I was 10, but my aunt was the one who made me decide at the age of 12 that it was the moment to start learning languages for real by myself. Then at 15 for the first time I decided to learn languages completely by myself and that’s how I found out about my method to learn languages. I am not obsessed with languages, I believe I explore the world through them. I just have a love for knowledge.
Tell us about the languages you speak fluently and the languages you have learned?
In order to reply to this question, we should first decide on a meaning for “fluency”. My definition of fluency is being able to actually hold a smooth conversation, get your point across in multiple topics and understand most of what is being said to you. Fluent doesn’t imply perfect. Many people think being fluent means speaking like a native speaker which is not the same thing. It doesn’t mean knowing all words either, which is another misconception of fluency. It’s about knowing how to use the words we already know in a network that we put in place, which allows us to express a range of ideas even if we have certain gaps.
I really like a definition of fluency I found somewhere: “fluency, isn’t the ability to know every word and grammatical pattern in a language: it is the ability to communicate your thoughts without stopping every time you run into a problem”. Based on that definition I would say that I speak 11 languages fluently and they are Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, Russian and Polish. I am still practicing my Japanese.
What about the languages you have studied but did not become fluent in?
Latin is a language that I studied. Three years ago I started learning Romanian and after 6 months it dropped down on my list of priorities and eventually I stopped learning it. I’ll go back to Romania in the future.