Igor Barca is the founder of the blog Missão Poliglota and of the School Estude Idiomas. He is a professor of English, French and Italian. Currently, he is also studying German and Japanese. His mission is to master at least 10 languages.
- What languages do you speak and at what level?
I am Brazilian. Then I speak Portuguese as a native language, but early on I got interested in languages. The first foreign language I learned was Italian. Despite having lost some eloquence from lack of practice, I consider myself fluent today as as I can fast recover the rhythm during a conversation.
On the other hand, my French is becoming more and more fluent, as I have been teaching students very often, including candidates for diplomacy. The English also goes well, according to my last exam of proficiency, which attested to the level C1. I have studied Spanish for two years and today, not so fond of the language, I have only intermediate level.
In addition to these languages, I study German and Japanese. I have been studying German for some time now, but with not enough motivation to evolve. My current mission is to learn Japanese in 90 days. I visited Japan in April and came back very excited with the language! I had studied Japanese before, but that was 10 years ago…
To sum it all: I speak Portuguese, English, French and Italian fluently, have intermediate level in Spanish (thanks to Julio Cortázar and his books, lol), I study German for some time now and I’am starting my studies of the Japanese language. To learn more about my current mission, click here.
- How do you choose the languages you learn?
The first foreign language came by chance, with a visit from an Italian family to my city. I was 9 years old at the time. Since then, I discovered I had a some easiness for languages and kept the motivation to study them.
After the Italian language, I was forced to study English by my father, but I realized it was very useful and I ended up enjoying it. I studied Spanish at school as a compulsory subject and in a self-taught way. In the same period, in high school, I attended three years of a Japanese course. I chose the Japanese because of the affinity I have with Japan and the martial arts, which I practice since childhood.
I decided to study French because I wanted to do something related to languages at the university and, unfortunately, in my town there was no option to study Italian. So, I mixed business and pleasure and began to study French – Language and Literature. It was difficult at first, because in the very first semester the students were supposed to analyze poems by Baudelaire, but I managed to achieve an excellent level studying alone.
The languages that I mentioned above are not all those I have already studied: I also started studying Russian, Sanskrit, Pali, Tibetan, Greek, Latin… The Russian out of curiosity and the other three to learn more about Buddhism, religion that I admire a lot. I studied Latin and Greek at university: Latin was mandatory and Greek elective.
I had never stopped to count before, but I have already studied 11 languages!
- When did you begin learning each language?
I believe that I had already commented a bit about this in the previous answers. So I will make just a summary this time, building a table:
|Italian||when I was 9||after the visit of an Italian family|
|English||when I was 12||forced by my family|
|Spanish||in High School||mandatory subject|
|Japanese||between 15 and 18 years old||affinity with Japan|
|French||when I was 19||university|
|Latin, Greek||when I was 20||university|
|Russian, Sanskrit, Pali e Tibetan||when I was 20||curiosity|
- How often do you use each language?
I am a language teacher, so I use the languages I teach daily: English, French and Italian. I need to prepare lessons, to study new grammar topics and to learn new expressions… I have no way out, I am always listening and reading something in any of these three languages.
I use the English language a lot when I travel to countries such as Finland or the Czech Republic, countries whose languages I do not know. It is very useful in this regard. I also like to download books and courses in English, because they are (almost) always more complete (and definitely more fulsome) than in other languages.
French and Italian, outside the work environment, are only used when I visit France, Italy or talk to friends I made there. I also enjoy reading French literature and some Italian writers.
Speaking of reading, this is the only way I use Spanish, reading texts written by Cortazar. There is a book I really love called “Historias de cronopios y Famas”. Only twice I had the opportunity to converse with native Spanish: in Belgium, where I met a Chilean friend, and in Chile itself, when I visited Santiago.
I have had occasion to use German in Germany and in Austria, but just to introduce myself, to order some food in restaurants and to buy train tickets. My use of this language is very limited.
The Japanese language is being reactivated now and I believe that it will be useful on my next trip to Japan! The Japanese people do not speak English very well …
I stopped studying the other languages, but I still get happy when I see words such as καλησπέρα (Greek), Москва (Russian), ओं मणिपद्मे हूं (Sanskrit), ཨོཾ་མ་ཎི་པ་དྨེ་ཧཱུྃ (Tibetan) and can recognize and understand them!
- Which materials and methods do you use?
I really like the collection intitled teach yourself, I believe it is the best material for studying languages: there are dialogues that make you progress in your speaking skills and useful grammatical explanations to better structure the language. But of course everyone has their own opinion and each method has its own characteristics. I wrote an article about methods and books to study languages, which I split into two parts: Part 1 – Part 2 .
Besides this collection and still talking about methods, I like using Assimil to learn more dialogues. But I am not content to see the language only artificially. So when I am still developing an understanding of the language, I like to use quotes and poems, which are shorter and more objective texts. When I already have the basics, I try to start reading literature in that language.
To memorize different alphabets, repetition helps me a lot. I fill several pages with the alphabet I am studying. Today, for instance, I have filled two pages with the Japanese alphabet (hiragana and katakana). This also helps me to memorize vocabulary: writing down new words in a notebook which I refer constantly. Repetition should be a great ally of those who study languages.
- As a language teacher, what is the greatest difficult you see in your students?
It is difficult to name something specific, but if I had to name the greatest difficulty, I would say it is implementing a routine of language study. Our lives are getting faster and with so many responsibilities it is difficult to give the adequate importance to the study of languages. Students believe they will learn just attending the course, which is not true; It is necessary to engage outside of the classroom, but it turns out they do not know how to study, and this is a big problem.
Another difficulty, also widespread, is to accept memorization and repetition as study techniques. Contemporary pedagogy does not encourage those very effective strategies. In fact, the problem is that many students misrepresent what pedagogy defends and when I say as a teacher that there is no other way to learn verb conjugation unless memorizing, I always hear the same speech of at least one student “Teacher, I’m not here to memorize, I’m here to learn.” But what they do not know is that the same words they used to scold me are rooted in their memories. It is necessary to reframe these two scary words – memorization and repetition.
- What has motivated you to create the site Missão Poliglota?
I have several missions in my life. The language-related are: 1. Helping the most people to master at least one foreign language; and 2. Being fluent in 10 languages. I did not realize any of them yet, but to get closer and closer, I decided to create a blog with free quality articles and videos. This blog is called Missão Poliglota.
My intention is to create a community of interested in discussing study strategies and exchanging learning tips. Still I intend to create a forum and an online multilingual club with weekly hangouts to practice languages. Besides, I also want to offer free courses to cover the largest possible number of students and pay ones, because I need to survive after all, lol.
I hope you can achieve my goals with the blog. I’m just starting, but I already can see some interested people in the articles and in the information I have to share.
- Share any thoughts/tips you’d like with the readers.
Start studying now! It may seem like an obvious tip, but it is not. This initial impulse is highly needed: you need to start, forget the excuses and face the challenge. Nothing more than that. Once you are already studying, you need to analyze what is working and what is not. From there, you begin to get organized and to know yourself better, making greater choices of materials and study strategies.
Another important tip is to face memorization and repetition differently. Repetition does not necessarily have to be the famous “parrot repeating” method but it can come with practice: after reading a certain word or structure several times, your brain begins to internalize it, to memorize it. Exactly that!
All we know is filed in our memory, some pieces of information in more superficial levels and other pieces on deeper levels. The problem is that to get at deeper levels, you need to go through the superficial levels. And nobody wants to do so, because it requires some effort.
The third and final tip is even simpler: enjoy the walk! Have a good time! You should have fun while learning to be able to maintain a long-term motivation. Then, set small goals, celebrate when you reach them and enjoy your triumphs! =]
Article translated by the interviewed Igor Barca.