My friend saw a request for someone who speaks eight languages fluently and asked me if I'd do an AMA. I've just signed up for this, so bare with me if I am too much of a noob.

I speak seven languages fluently and one at a conversational level. The seven fluent languages are: Arabic, French, English, German, Danish, Italian and Dutch. I also know Spanish at a conversational level.

I am a female 28 years old and work as a translator for the French Government - and I currently work in the Health sector and translate the conversations between foreign medical inventors/experts/businessmen to French doctors and health admins. I have a degree in language and business communication.

Ask me anything.

So it's over.

Okay everyone, I need to go to sleep I've had a pretty long and crappy day.

Thank you so much for all the amazing questions - I've had a lot of fun.

I think I'll finish the AMA now. I apologise if I could not answer your question, It's hard to get around to responding towards nearly three thousand comments. But i have started to see a lot of the questions repeat themselves so I think I've answered most of the things I could without things going around and around in circles.

Thank you all, and good bye.

Comments: 2949 • Responses: 44  • Date: 

[deleted]528 karma

Speaks 8 languages

Still says noob

Liloki196 karma


pezzotto447 karma

How would you describe each language using only one adjective?

Liloki645 karma

Great question Pezzotto! These are the first words that pop into my head when I think of each language. Don't take any of it as gospel, this is just my initial reaction to each.

Arabic - Flowing.

French - Airy.

English - Bossy.

German - Grandfatherly

Dutch - Messy

Danish - Forgotten.

Italian - Tricky.

Spanish - Frustrating. I have troubles with pronunciation which is rare and really frustrates me.

Atario392 karma

so bare with me


English - Bossy.


Liloki145 karma


webby_mc_webberson53 karma

English - Bossy

Is your mother tongue English? I ask 'cause mine is and I agree with all the others but I've never really considered English. Does it really sound bossy?

Liloki259 karma

No my mother tongue is Arabic.

It doesn't sound bossy - but it is bossy to learn. Mostly because of just how huge the damn dictionary is. English is a beast of a language.

Vikentiy89 karma

Nah.. try Russian : )

Liloki162 karma

Too busy to really try.

zombie_zebra38 karma

Forgotten? Did you forget it or how is that to be understood?

Liloki181 karma

Forgotten as in under rated. Danish is a great language that is over looked by so many learners because of how small the country is.

babamcrib374 karma

Do you suck at math?

Liloki503 karma

Yes. I was the worst mathematics student in my year at highschool. Fun fact.

babamcrib209 karma

Interesting. Maybe your brain is wired for language.

Liloki337 karma

I certainly feel it is.

Exoneration98 karma

Do you believe these multiple intelligence theories?

Maybe being multilingual is a cop out for being bad at maths?

Liloki212 karma

Haha maybe.

In my experience, it's certainly true.

But every now and then you meet a freak of nature who is amazing at EVERYTHING and makes you hate life. As for me, I'm below abysmal at mathematics and logic and all that stuff.

Exoneration87 karma

I reckon it's partially attitude.

It takes a very intelligent person to learn 8 languages.

I'm sure if you had the some passion and interest for math/logic, you could be just as good.

Liloki133 karma

That's kind of you to say, but trust me, mathematics is my mortal enemy.

JackTLogan355 karma

You are a protocol droid, are you not?

Liloki476 karma

My mother makes that joke all the time.

"My daughter is programmed in human cyborg relations"....

It gets old, I tell ya! :P

JackTLogan243 karma

Yes or no will do. How many languages do you speak?

Liloki489 karma

I am fluent in over six million.

iAviate338 karma

Something that's always interested me about multi-linguals is your unconscious mind. My question is, you think in Arabic, but what language do you dream in?

Liloki441 karma

Wow that's a very beautiful question. I take it you're either in the arts or psychology?

I dream in Arabic. Which is incredibly interesting to me. Even when I am dreaming about my work colleagues (who are French) or my best friends (who are mostly German) they all speak in Arabic.

It's like my unconscious mind can't be bothered fixing language to faces. So it's just default Arabic for everyone.

iAviate162 karma

Nope, just an 18 year old with a curious mind. being mono-lingual myself I'm always intrigued to meet someone who speaks multiple languages and how it comes into play in their every day lives.

(sidenote: my mother scolds me in my native language, even though she KNOWS I don't speak it)

Thanks for the answer. One more for you though? I sometimes find that English is a language that cannot fully express how I feel emotionally in words. what language would you say allows you to express yourself fully whether it be on a daily basis or on a singular occurance?

Liloki152 karma

I'm able to express myself in all of my fluent languages. That's one of my definitions of fluency.

But if I am writing poetry, or writing a letter with some imagery involved - I certainly prefer to be speaking Arabic.

stringhimup45 karma

This is really intriguing. Personally I dream in a mix of Chinese, English, and Spanish. There doesn't seem to be any rhythm or pattern to it though. Since your sort of in the med field, have you ever ran across any journals documenting this?

Liloki52 karma

No, but I'd love to really do some research into the psychology and neurology behind language.

GeorgeBushWasALie119 karma

First off, thanks for joining reddit to do this AMA.
Apart from the ones you've learned, are there any other languages you find particularly appealing? If so, why?
Now for a fun question.. what language do you find the sexiest?

Liloki195 karma

No problems! I've been a fairly regular viewer of Reddit but I've never joined before.

I find Australian English very appealing. I know, I know, it's not really a language but I met an Australian soldier last night and I was mesmerised at listening to him talk to his friend. I'd love to be able to speak like him.

As far as actual languages go, probably Russian. But I'm too busy with work to really tackle it head on.

Sexiest? French. Hands down. It's the cliché answer but it's so true.

lachjaw99 karma

Ha, as an Aussie I find this a little amusing, we certainly have our own take on the language. I never really noticed it until i spent an extended amount of time overseas then returned to Australia. Also as someone who is attempting to learn French at the moment (self teaching) what advice would you have towards french in particular? Cheers

Liloki143 karma

Get the hell over here!

French people love Australians. If they don't, just remind them at how much your kinsmen fought in World War 1 and they should come around.

Go to Villers-Bretonneux. They sing the Australian national anthem every day.

HPurcell1695103 karma

Wow, that is super hot. And to make that a question, wow, that is super hot?

Something that I find strange though, about native speakers versus foreign fluent speakers is that there is always something slightly off (and here I don't just mean accents, but I think accents are incredibly interesting) - but how you formulate ideas and sentences. "I am a female 28 years old and work as a translator for the French Government" that sentence is awkwardly structured, even with commas included in the English language - but is it so in arabic? It's something that always has fascinated me, because even though it is correct use of the language, it is not common usage - a native speaker can tell!

Along the dream thing, do you ever dream in other languages? My mom was at one point fluent in spanish and malay and said that she occasionally dreamed in those languages... also, do you have different personalities for different languages? Do you find that when you are speaking in English you tend to feel harsh whereas when you speak arabic you feel loving and calm? These are just random examples of course, but I think that the billions of connections that your brain makes might be different depending on when and how you learned the language (like if you learned Italian while you were dating an Italian, so the language is subconsciously connected to love).

Sorry, it's not very coherent, but if you would be so kind to answer a few of my questions I'd be quite pleased.

Liloki152 karma

Great questions!

  • My English sentence structure has wavered. I think the 10 year old me had better English structure than I do today. I don't work with English often and really only use it to speak to people on the internet. Sentence structure differs hugely between languages.

  • No I seldom dream in any other language. Once a month I might dream in French for a few minutes, but it invariably translates back to Arabic.

  • Professionally, I mimic the personality of the person I am translating. Socially, kind of. My ex boyfriend was South African and I still believe to this day that a part of the break down of the relationship was due to language. I feel kinder and more thoughtful when I speak Arabic and French. Speaking English to someone close to me feels, to me, like an immense wall of distance that can't be climbed.

  • As for the connection my brain makes between where I was when I was learning the language and the language itself - you're definitely correct. It's not huge - but it's there. Whenever I speak Italian I think of living with my Dad beside the water in the country side. It anchors me and brings me back to a happy time.

TheLazyEngineer101 karma

Any advice for those of us that want to learn another language? I'm bilingual but am interested in picking up another language.

Liloki223 karma

One piece of advice: Think openly. Have an open mind. Learn as if you are back in pre-school.

Learning a language is so personal. Some people (like me) pick things up super fast. Some people don't.

But the ones who end up successful are the ones who have an open mind. The ones who come in and try to relate everything back to their first language nearly always fail.

sayabaik50 karma

Could you elaborate further on having an open mind?

Liloki239 karma

Think as if you are learning for the first time. A lot of people get caught because they try to relate EVERYTHING back to the language they already know.

For example, if your native language is English and you're learning French - try to avoid learning French "through" English. Don't just learn how to apply French to English - learn French and try to organise your mind to learn in a pure mind frame - a mind frame that has no prior habits.

It's very difficult to explain - but mastering it is a huge part of success. At least it is for me.

BeneathTheWaves99 karma

Are there any words in any of these languages you have trouble translating, because there isn't a word in the language - there was an interesting thread about words that aren't in English, but I'm curious about how to applies from say French to German.

Liloki390 karma

Oh yes.

People think translation is about matching one word to is direct partner.

It's not at all.

Not only do many languages not share a partner for each word - some DO share partners but the partner means something slightly different.

French to German isn't so bad - but Arabic to English couldn't be possibly worse. It's a shit fight. Mind the curse word.

I sympathise with a lot of Islamic people who get frustrated when English speaking atheists offer their view on the Qu'ran. The languages don't mesh together at all.

It gets very different when the sole core of the languages are different. Many languages don't have a gender neutral word. Little things like that turn people away from the translation field because under pressure you really have to be a quick thinker - and a good improviser.

Translation is about translating meaning. Translating the words leaves a "google translator" effect.

Reading google translator is like seeing an alien try to ask a girl out for a date. You kind of know what he is trying to do, but everything is so out of place and awkward you don't really know what to say.

And don't even get me started on connotation. Words like darkness, hope, home, etc have strong connotations to them in English which can skew meaning.

There is one Saudi Arabian client who speaks like a fucking poet. He is the worst person to translate for because he is so metaphorical. Sometimes I just give up and talk for him.

But don't tell my boss.

hole-in-the-wall83 karma

Can you give us an example of something your unintelligible client will say, and how you might try to cover for him? Sounds like a bad/good sitcom.

Liloki148 karma

He speaks almost biblically. I was working with him yesterday, and he was being jocular and sarcastically describing how happy he was when he found out one of our doctors ordered more of his medicine.

If I were to translate what he said word for word, it would have sounded completely bizarre. He talks in metaphors and uses expressions only people from his community would understand.

Half of the time I just paraphrase him. I get tired of trying to convert his regional metaphors and abstract imagery to another language.

bobthewraith84 karma

Which language was the hardest to learn? Have ever you thought of learning non-alphabet based languages like Chinese or Japanese?

Liloki114 karma

Not really. I lack any real interest in Asia sadly - so I don't have much interest in learning Chinese or Japanese.

It would be hell trying to learn the language of a land you don't want to visit or engage with.

coldshuts114 karma

I heard mandarin is gonna be the business language in a couple of years or decades (see Firefly).

Liloki206 karma

Yeah, it looks that way. I still think English is THE language though.

[deleted]67 karma

Do you think someone who can speak English, Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin should be counted as someone who can speak 5 languages or only 2?

Liloki186 karma

Haha, claim them!

I have a friend who says he can speak three languages. Australian English, English, and American English.

nevon64 karma

You say that you think in Arabic. That sounds a bit odd to me, as a bilingual person. For me, my inner monologue is in whatever language I've most recently been exposed to. Is it the same for you, only that Arabic is your "default" language, or do you always think in Arabic?

Liloki54 karma

I can't think of a time where I haven't always been recently exposed to Arabic. I have always lived in Islamic communities and my family play a huge role in my life.

As far as I'm aware, I always think in Arabic. I haven't ever been away from it long enough to really test it.

nevon32 karma

Right now, you're being exposed to English, as you're both reading and writing it. Are you thinking in Arabic even now? If so, that's an interesting difference. I wonder what causes it.

Liloki61 karma

Yes, I am thinking in Arabic even as I type this.

I'd love to find out. I've never really swooped down and really tried to find out the neurology behind it.

radarbeamer61 karma

What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?

Liloki101 karma


Legionaairre73 karma

We got a problem now, lady.

Liloki76 karma

Sorry Sir.

coldshuts48 karma

Les Français de France ont de la difficulté à comprendre le joual Québécois. Est-ce que tu le maitrise bien?

Liloki123 karma

I struggle with Canadians too. I have no experience with French Canadians other than one mutual friend. He's a dick!

Atario254 karma

Scott? Yeah, that guy's a dick.

Liloki226 karma

Oh don't get me started. Fuckin' Scott.

KnavishSprite39 karma

Impressive! So, what language do you think in?

How many of them did you learn from childhood, and how many did you choose to study?

Are you one of those people who just absorbs languages easily?

Liloki101 karma

I "think in" Arabic - my native language. Whilst I learnt both French and Arabic as I was brought up, my family conversed in Arabic as did the community I lived in.

I learnt Arabic, French, English and Italian all through necessity. If I didn't learn them I would have had to have become a master at body language. My siblings all know those four languages fluently as well. My parents both had jobs that required a lot of moving around - so I lived in Algeria, France and Italy as a child.

I learnt the others through study and travel.

And yes, without trying to make myself sound amazing, I do absorb language very easily. I'm not especially intelligent in most areas - but anything related to language and grammar I retain almost instantly and seldom forget.

I can get the very basics of a language down within a few days. It's a gift, I guess!

DingDongSeven36 karma

Being fluent in Danish, how well do you understand Norwegian and Swedish?

Liloki47 karma

I've never been to either Norway or Sweden - but I have a Swedish friend who has taught me a few bits and pieces and I've been very comfortable.

LionFUUU32 karma

Impressive. How do you manage not to mix them up? :)

Liloki74 karma

Haha a lot of people ask this.

I've never had that trouble. My mind separates them completely. It's like gears in a car.

However my sister does have a bit of trouble now and then - she's a "mixer".

jenn_ocide32 karma


Liloki44 karma

I doubt "Because it flows better" is actually the reason why they have a strange gender set up. But I don't know anything about Polish, so I'm only guessing here - but that sounds like a strange reason.

Yes, Arabic in particular is tricky with gender. And of course everyone knows a lot of languages like German put gender to inanimate objects. English is very structured in the way it deals with gender, you can't expect other languages to be as easy.

In response to programs like Rosetta Stone, I'm cynical. I've never had much to do with them but I think there is no substitute for getting out there and mingling with the language in a personal way.

You don't necessarily have to leave your country to do so. Everything is so multi cultural these days - you'll find all sorts of nationalities in most cities around the world.

InfiniteV28 karma

Were the last few languages easier to learn then the first few?

Liloki62 karma

I found Danish and Dutch to be the easiest to learn. Already knowing English and German (two Germanic languages) was a HUGE help. They're all very similar.

Likewise is true for Italian and Spanish.

But overall I do believe most people learn language a lot easier as a child. You have less bad habits then. Some people, by the time they reach adulthood, can simply never truly grasp a foreign language.

rsoatz25 karma

marry me

Liloki134 karma


Amaturus18 karma

Wie ist es mit den Dialekten, zum Biischpiil d'Sprach us de Schwiiz?

Liloki24 karma

I've had little professional experience with dialects. Dialect translation is usually done by native speakers of that particular dialect.

wowplayer4ever18 karma

What are the top 5 languages hardest to learn in your opinion and why?

Liloki51 karma

I can't say - but my little experience with Russian has been fairly tough. I imagine Chinese to be tricky too.

None of the language I know are exceptionally tough. Out of the ones I do know, I've found the romance languages (Italian and Spanish) to be tricky to refine but easy to get the basics and Germanic languages to be the opposite.

officefan6716 karma

How do you maintain the languages you don't practice on a daily basis?

Liloki32 karma

Once they are fluent they stick around. At least for me they do.

The only thing that degrades if I don't speak a language often enough is general sentence structure.

johnsmcjohn15 karma

Why did you learn so many languages? Was it like a hobby or something like climbing Mt. Everest where you do it simply for the challenge of it?

Liloki32 karma

A mix between sheer necessity due to a lot of travel and a burning passion.

lvndr13 karma

Do you have any experience with any tonal languages? Do they come as easily as non-tonal languages for you?

Liloki23 karma

Yeah, a little. I was raised in Africa (Algeria) so a few of the tribes spoke in tonal languages.

They come just as easy but I've never really learnt any to a sufficient standard. I know a few tribal Algerian languages that are very tonal.

I've also been to Vietnam which has a tonal language. Found it very easy to learn.

femaleoninternets11 karma

What, do you think, is the best way to learn a language fluently? I studied in Japan for 10 months and learnt more in 3 months than I did 3 years in School. Is this how you learnt the languages? By being in the country of origin?

Liloki21 karma

Yes. I don't believe it's possible to become fluent without being immersed in its culture. You get to a certain point through classes, and you kind of plateau out.