I’m delighted to introduce you my inspirational linguist friend Darren who is not bad at really simple foreign phrases. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did.
Could you tell us a little about your language learning journey?
My language learning journey began at about 7 years old when my teacher at the time came back from holiday and decided to teach the class some Italian phrases. I found I was able to remember them after just reading them a couple of times and I thought it was very exotic. The big trigger was from the most unlikely of places, though: the Heinz Invaders Fan Club. Heinz released a range of spaceship-shaped pasta dishes in the early 1980s and started a fan club, which my parents let me join. I waited a few weeks for the promised goodies, only to be told that the club wouldn’t run due to lack of interest. However, Heinz did send me an Invaders pack, which contained, among other things, an Invaders secret language decoder. And that was it. I was hooked on the idea that I could read a language that no one else could, and I started looking for more secret codes everywhere I could. Unfortunately, this was in the days before the Internet, so I was limited to what I could find when the library van came around.
Real languages didn’t enter my life until I started secondary school. I started learning German at 11, then added French at 13. I found German easy but struggled with French so I never really enjoyed it. I passed both my GCSE exams and then didn’t think about languages until around 2005, when a friend asked me to help her study Latin terms for her nursing exam. I was able to break each term down so that she could link it to something in her life and remember it all easily and I again felt the rush of having this “secret knowledge” again. Luckily for me, there were a lot of Polish girls at work who couldn’t speak English, so I started helping them in exchange for them helping me learn Polish. In no time I was using basic phrases and even managed to get myself a Polish girlfriend (now my wife) though she personally didn’t have any desire to teach me Polish. I decided to take lessons and enrolled at Bristol University for a year. After the first term, I was able to help the more confused students and found that this basic form of teaching really agreed with me. After finishing Polish (the course was sadly discontinued at the end of that year), I trained to be an EFL teacher. Once I’d completed my courses, I started teaching at Bristol Language School. I only taught for a single term as we had two very small children at home and I didn’t want to miss anything, but it made me realise what I eventually wanted to do. After that I started learning foreign phrases as many languages as I could get hold of: Spanish, Italian, Romanian, Russian, Hungarian, Greek…
2016 was the best year for me so far. I copy edited the 2nd edition of “Endangered Alphabets” by Tim Brookes, completed the Esperanto course on Duolingo, and discovered the Utalk Challenge – completing all 12 of my chosen languages. Let’s see what the rest of 2017 brings…
How does your family join your language learning journey?
My wife Aneta is fluent in four languages; English, Russian, German, and Polish, so we sometimes mess around, changing languages mid-sentence or testing each other on random words. Our oldest son, Robert, is autistic and has always been amazing with languages – he could read and write the English alphabet before he started nursery, could write basic Russian words, and could say “Hello”, count, and say handfuls of words in Spanish, Polish, Swahili and more. Sadly, he lost interest at around 4 and now will only speak in English. Alex, our youngest, speaks English and some Polish. He also loves to practise languages with me.
I see you teach languages. Could you tell us a little more about that?
I give free exchange lessons: English for any other language, and I also run Esperanto and Italian study groups once a week. It enables me to keep myself surrounded in languages.
Where can we find out more about your classes / teaching?
I prefer face-to-face lessons as it allows me to form a bond with my students/language partners that you don’t really get through Skype or other platforms, so I tend to only see people in Bath/Bristol. I can be contacted through email or Facebook for anyone that is interested in language exchange sessions, or those who need help with learning another language.
I’m sure our readers are really social, where can we connect with you on twitter, FB, Insta etc?
Nasza-Klasa: Darren Cameron