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20 languages? Not enough! The polyglot adding Catalan to his résumé

“I go running, I’m listening to the history of Catalonia in Catalan. Life couldn’t be better”

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02 October 2019 02:10 PM

by

Oliver Little | Barcelona

Catalan News recently had the chance to talk to a man who can put himself in the same bracket as James Bond, Albus Dumbledore and Doctor Who. 

Steve Kaufmann is a polyglot - he is able to speak multiple languages fluently, or at least to a conversational level. Unfortunately, Parseltongue and Gallifreyan are not (yet) on his list, but Catalan is about to be. Kaufmann recently visited Barcelona, Girona, and Tarragona, looking to add Catalan to his arsenal in his bid for linguistic conquest. 

Total language immersion holds the key

To say that Kaufmann lives languages is an understatement - he treats any given moment of the day as an opportunity to learn a language. 

“There’s a lot you can do to prepare on your own. Particularly if you get into a lot of different languages, I can’t spend my life travelling to different countries and going to bars. So, there’s a lot you can do. I can learn while making breakfast, I can learn while working out, I can learn while in the car.”

Feel insecure yet? Don’t blame you. But what is perhaps surprising is that Kaufmann continues to dedicate his life to languages despite admitting that through his endeavors he has discovered that language is “so redundant that it doesn’t really matter.”

The paradox of language

“In Chinese and Japanese, if you say “glass on table,” they don’t give you whether it’s one or more than one, so there’s no plural. In Russian they don’t have articles. We (English speakers) don’t need masculine and feminine, and some languages have masculine, feminine and neuter.”

Perhaps this is the beauty of it - that the small nuances that are deemed so important from language to language are in fact “not necessary.” To an English speaker, the idea of no plurals is inconceivable. Yet to a Chinese speaker or Japanese speaker, the lack of plurality is indistinguishable. Their redundancy constitutes the fascination around them.

Catalan next on the list

Kaufmann has no intention of stopping (because if you know 20 languages, why not make it 21?) - he is currently immersing himself in Catalan culture and language. He displayed an intrigue for Catalonia’s history and its international impact.

“It is historically a very significant place. If I get to a certain level in Catalan, I’ll want to read a history book about Catalonia, and if I’m lucky, there will be an audiobook and that’s fascinating. Then I go running, I’m making breakfast, I’m listening to the history of Catalonia in Catalan. Life couldn’t be better than that right?”

If you say so, Steve.

 

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  • Polyglot Steve Kaufmann during an interview with the Catalan News Agency (by Alicia Egorov)

  • Polyglot Steve Kaufmann during an interview with the Catalan News Agency (by Alicia Egorov)

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