Enis is passionate about languages. This passion enabled him to fit in quickly when he moved to France at the age of 23.
If he is to be believed, speaking four languages fluently is a piece of cake. Don’t be fooled by his smooth talk however – he started learning languages at a young age in Tunis and it took time, though he had help: listening to his parents and watching TV.
Hi Enis! Let’s start with the basics: what is your mother tongue?
I actually have two mother tongues: French and Arabic. When I was younger, I lived with my family in Tunis (Tunisia). My mother is French and my father Tunisian, and I spoke both languages fluently at school and at home. Thanks to TV, my siblings and I were immersed in French culture. We would watch French TV series, the French news and even movies dubbed in French at the cinema. It was easy enough to maintain a good level of French just by watching films and television.
Did you also learn to speak another foreign language in your childhood?
Yes, we had access to an Italian TV channel at home and that’s how I learned to speak Italian when I was little. At the age of 5, I understood Italian and knew a lot about the country’s culture. Eventually, my whole family started learning the language.
Did you learn other languages during your school years?
Until I was 6 years old, all my classes were taught in Arabic. Then we switched to French. When I was 13, in secondary school, we started taking English lessons. It was a whole new language for me, as I only knew a few words here and there thanks to video games. As a matter of fact, I found that learning English wasn’t that difficult (compared to French). Later on in high school, I was able to develop my Italian further thanks to an extra language course I took.
During that period in Tunisia, my generation took part in a rather strange pedagogical program. In maths, the problems were written in Arabic and the answers in French – I never fully understood why that was, but it didn’t last.
At the time, did you think multilingualism would help you in your future career?
Not really. To be completely honest, I just loved learning new languages. When I moved to France after finishing my optician studies at the age of 23, I was very proud to be able to speak 4 languages… but that was before I met people who could speak 6, even 7 languages – that really put me back into my place!
I worked as an optician for some time and later on I was hired in a hotel; I really was under the impression that my polyglot profile made a difference, as contact with clients was much easier.
What are the next steps in your language learning process?
Last year, I challenged myself to learn Japanese by myself. Instead, I ended up learning Spanish thanks to Hotel Borbollón (by Gymglish)… but I will recommit to my Japanese for 2020 with even more motivation! I love Japanese cinema and culture; I find that Japanese is a fascinating language to learn, albeit very difficult, not because of the complex grammar rules but rather the different levels of politeness. The whole language changes depending on who you’re talking to.
At this rate, you’ll soon be speaking 6 languages. Will you ever stop this madness?
I don’t know. Living in a multicultural home unconsciously helped me pick up languages. When you’re used to hearing a variety of languages at home, you become more open to learning. At the end of the day, my love for languages is what helped me fit in in Paris, find my place, a job and make new friends.
If, like Enis, you too want to learn all the foreign languages, click here!