My first language is English, but I’m half Russian. Since I was born, my Dad spoke to me in Russian and we had Russian cartoons in the house as well as a few trips to meet my Russian grandparents when I was little. Many of my parents’ friends were Russian which meant I was very immersed in the language in early childhood, so I could understand it. However, I wasn’t able to speak much Russian until I was a bit older.
French was a language that I was always drawn to. I had a few French relatives such as my great aunt and my cousin, who I heard French from when I was very little. They bought me some French DVD’s and things like that, one being the cartoon “Calimero et ses amis” which I remember enjoying. For years, there was a part of me that was very interested in French. One day, age 11, when French lessons in school had just started, I began to obsessively learn the language. I labeled every item in my room with the French translation. Not a day went by when I did not watch a French movie or TV show. I grabbed a French novel from my mother’s bookshelf and read for an hour or two before bed every night trying to understand every word. Next, there were all the songs I listened to and translated and all the accent practice copying YouTube bloggers. My French teachers were absolutely shocked. I was very shy at that age, but the obsession helped me improve in the language rather quickly.
After a few years, I had finished my French GCSE early and was now in Spanish class where my love of language learning also grew. A school trip to Salamanca, Spain in 2018, really inspired me and so did my Year 10 Spanish teacher, Miss Gomez. I also began listening to Spanish and Latin American music at that age. For about a year, I constantly listened to Spanish music and watched Spanish movies, as well as rewriting conjugations again and again so that I could remember them for school tests as I always had the goal to get full marks in Spanish class.
I started speaking Russian at 15 as my Russian stepmother moved in with my Dad and I. Only then did I begin to improve my spoken Russian. It is nowhere near perfect today and my spelling and reading is not great, but at least I can manage. Nowadays, I also have more of a passion for Russian than I did when I was little.
The last language I learnt is Italian. The initial way I learnt it was by being a nanny for an Italian family when I was 17. They live in the mountains in Northern Italy. I found them on AuPairWorld.com. I really loved being in Italian culture as well as being with an Italian family, their grandparents and friends and feeling very immersed. When I got back from that trip, my love of Italian was really sparked. I approached learning Italian a bit differently as I had ITalkie which is a language learning app where you can message lots of other people and that is where I began finding Internet language partners so I spoke to lots of native Italian speakers on the Internet. After two years, I still speak to one girl that I met on ITalkie, Margaret. I also continued au-pairing in the summer for the same Italian family with three children, three times in total. Being immersed as a Babysitter in an Italian family really helped. Then, when I came to University, I made a few Italian friends and I practiced Italian with them, like for example with my friend Valentina who was an Erasmus student last year.
Mainly, I’d say I learnt five languages by having lots of fun with the process and staying passionate.
A trip to where the given language is spoken really helps and can really push you to learn and become more fluent. I would love to learn other languages which will be more difficult as they won’t follow Latin grammatical rules. I kind of cheated by learning multiple languages from the same family, but I’m currently learning German which will be quite different so wish me luck!
About The Author: Nadya is an Olea Ambassador (Team 1.0, March - Sept 2023) and an undergraduate student of BA Hons Italian & Spanish, University of Manchester.