BY: SINEAD MULHERN
Matthew Youlden, a language sponge from Manchester England can speak so many languages with a perfect accent that the man has been coined the “language chameleon”.
This sociolinguist who studied translation and interpretation speaks nine languages and understands over a dozen. He’s one of the lucky people who can claim to be a polyglot— a person who fluently speaks six or more languages.
This Englishman, who credits his knowledge of languages for allowing him to see the world from multiple perspectives, can speak Irish, German, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Hebrew, Italian and French as well as, obviously, English. And he adjusts to each language so naturally that when he talks, native speakers assume the language he speaks must be his first (hence the nickname language chameleon).
Currently he’s working on his knowledge of Afrikaans, Dutch, Ukrainian, Galician, Serbian and Croatian. He says that even if languages are closely related, they will still give him a fresh new point of view.
This friendly-faced guy says he learned French in university when he was immersed in his studies as an interpreter. He went to Montreal to study the language more closely. Spanish was his first though followed by French and then Catalan. Originally, Youlden actually wanted to learn Portuguese upon booking a plane ticket with his brother for vacation in Portugal. But Portuguese wouldn’t become his first conquered language after all. His mother suggested Spanish instead. Her reasoning was logical enough: more people in the world speak Spanish and therefore, it would have more uses when travelling.
Thinking his mother had made a reasonable argument, he took on Spanish travelling to Barcelona where he lived for an entire year.
As for Portuguese, that came eventually. As a matter of fact, he can also speak Brazilian Portuguese, a version he admits to not liking at the beginning. Now he’s a master.