11 Questions for Kerstin Hammes : Language Learning Gets Personal #6

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language-learning-gets-personal_0My entire life could not be possible if it wasn’t for other languages.

Time for the 6th installment of Language Learning Gets Personal!

In each edition, I’ll pose the same 11 questions to an experienced language learner.

We don’t discuss methods or techniques here. The questions are of a more personal nature. We want to find out what impact learning a foreign language(s) has had on the person’s life. What significant experiences, good or bad, are the result of learning a foreign language?

Today we have the charming and encouraging language teacher and blogger Kerstin Cable(*).

Kerstin-HammesKerstin really conveys her passion for language learning in her writings and she has original opinions, which are hard to come by some times. She’s also been featured in the Guardian and on several big language blogs like Fluentin3Months, and of course in our very own Ask the Experts.

She is German but if you listen to her, one thing immediately stands out: her excellent English accent, testimony of her extensive knowledge of language learning and the efforts she’s made to get to where she is now.

After reading the interview, you can visit Kerstin by going to her Fluent language blog. She’s also the author of several books and courses, and she’s just launched the Speak German Like a Native course.

Needless to say, she’s a great addition to the LGP series. So let’s get the interview started!

*You may wonder why I have used both Hammes and Cable as Kerstin’s last name. The answer is simple. Most people would know Kerstin as Hammes, but she’s just got married (congratulations!) and is now Mrs. Cable. You can see some of her wedding pictures here.


1. What languages do you speak?

Around 7 in total. I’m fluent in German, English and French, and so-so in Spanish, Italian and Luxembourgish. And right now, I’m working on learning Welsh.

2. Why did you choose to learn those language(s)?

Hmm, for each language it was a little different but I think the overarching theme is that I took any opportunity I could find to learn more languages. You can find out in detail on my Youtube Channel, where I recently posted my answers to Language Tag.

3. What sacrifices have you made to learn them?

Interesting question! I have many interests and no more hours in the day than anyone else, so perhaps choosing to study languages in Higher Education as opposed to drama or business was one of the biggest sacrifices.

4. What’s the biggest positive consequence that learning a foreign language(s) has had on your life?

I live abroad and went to university in a different country – my entire life could not be possible if it wasn’t for other languages.

5. Would you say that you have a passion for learning languages?

You know, I never really thought of myself in that way. But then I watch a show on Netflix and get excited about the way the actors pronounce a certain word. Or I catch myself reading the back of the cereal packaging because it’s in Finnish..and doesn’t Finnish look funny?

And then I excitedly ask my neighbor all about her native language, Galician. I can’t help myself, the interest just keeps coming out, so I guess it’s entirely realistic to come out and say:

YES! I’m totally passionate about languages!

6. What’s the most beautiful language in the world and why?

Smiles. Because you don’t even have to learn them and they say it all.

7. What language would you absolutely not want to learn and why not?

This is very difficult. There are many reasons that I can imagine as unappealing to me – learning to help with an arms trade, for example. But out of all the languages in the world, there is none that is not beautiful…maybe Klingon. I don’t particularly enjoy spaceships.

8. What’s the most amazing intercultural experience you’ve had because of speaking another language?

The amazing intercultural experiences I remember are usually to do with me not speaking the language, and instead communicating and learning new words and phrases as a result.

Learning “you’re welcome” and “thank you” from kiosk owners in Greece and Turkey on various business trips, and having a hilarious time getting lost in a Kazakh gypsy cab come to mind. Travel and language are massively interlinked, but language is definitely not something you need before travel.

9. What’s the most embarrassing mistake in another language you’ve ever made?

Not realizing that a friendly “Privyet!” to the taxi driver in Russia is actually very very impolite, and I should have kept it formal. He was not impressed. But altogether, my threshold for embarrassment is pretty high!

10. Do you dream in a foreign language?

People ask me this all the time! Yes, I dream in English. But I mostly dream in pictures and the people and things in my dreams don’t talk much, so I’m not even sure about this one.

11. Do you have plans to learn more languages? I.e., what are your language goals for the coming years?

I am excited about learning Welsh and want to attend a language meet-up to talk to someone in the language this year.

Beyond that, my long-term goal is to claim a comfortable level of fluency in five languages, especially to re-introduce Spanish into my language learning routine. It’s such a simple language for me with my Latin and Romance language roots that I really owe it more love and attention.

The other language learning goal is a kind of teacher and blogger goal. I want to encourage thousands of people to love language learning and language teaching.

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3 comments

  1. These interviews are not very helpful or inspiring. It is like reading a business section of a newspaper.

    HOW did she accomplish learning languages? What methods were useful? What were not?

    These questions have some meat on them. They help the reader.

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      I appreciate the feedback.

      No, there’s no how-to information in these interviews. They’re about something else.

      There’s already so much info on how to learn languages on this and other sites that I wanted to do something different.

      I agree with you that there’s no method to be learned from these interviews, but I disagree that they’re not inspiring. Almost every interviewee talks about how their life improved massively because of speaking other languages.

      And that’s the idea behind the series: to show you the incredible benefits of learning another language.

      If you have any specific idea how I can better accomplish that, then I’m always open to suggestions.

      Anyway, there’s more how to information coming soon. Just as you like it. 🙂

      Thanks
      Noel

    2. Hi Rob, thanks so much for your comment! I’m a language teacher and instructor and have even written a few books telling people about language learning, but I always maintain this: There is no single one HOW. Here’s how I learnt my languages: I went to the classes in school, paid attention, wrote many many vocab lists, made an idiot out of myself in conversations with native speakers and listened to a lot of music from my target culture. I speak any time I get the chance.

      My English sounds native-like and that’s only because I’ve learnt it for 22 years.

      My French comes to me easily – 19 years.

      My Spanish and Italian – well…I’m not as good and that’s because I didn’t stick with them in the same way. The best tip I have for you is not about the HOW, it’s about the DO IT. That’s why it’s so difficult to share a “how”.

      I really love your question and your feedback. Hope you can pop by on the blog and check out my much more detailed articles.

Comments are closed.