Coffee break with polyglots

Hello everyone. Today I would like to introduce you my new section where we talk about polyglots who inspire other language learners and give them motivation to move on.

My first guest is Teddy Nee (a language blogger on I was happy to meet this person and to know more about his achievements. I asked Teddy a couple of questions, let’s see what we’ve got!

Tell me a couple of words about you.

I work as an IT Engineer in Taiwan and I’m also a language blogger. My major interest is about independent language learning. Besides, my other interests are start-ups business and technology. I have Bachelor of Science in Applied Computing and Master in Business Administration. 

My hobby is reading (I’m a bookworm, lol). I can spend hours everyday for reading, and believe me or not, I don’t use smart-phone, and I always bring a book or ebook reader when I go out so I can read in my spare time.

Tell me a little bit about your mother tongue.

The majority of Indonesians are bilingual or even multilingual. Apart from knowing the official language, Indonesian, Indonesians also speak their own ethnic language. My native languages are Medan Hokkien and Indonesian. 

Hokkien is an old language, even older than Mandarin Chinese. It is originated from southern China and it was brought by the Chinese immigrants in the past to Indonesia. Because of the long history and geographical distance, the Hokkien spoken in Indonesia has evolved into a different variant. It is called Medan Hokkien because most of the speakers live in Medan city. Medan Hokkien speakers can only speak it because there is no writing system, so they use Indonesian language as the written language.

Indonesian is a major language in Southeast Asia. It is spoken not only in Indonesia, but also in Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, and among Indonesian diaspora worldwide. Indonesian language is based on Malay language and it has got influences from some European languages (like Dutch and Portuguese), Arabic, Hokkien, Sanskrit, and several regional languages.

Here are several examples of some common expressions, « Apa kabar? (How are you?), « Di mana kantor pos? (Where is the post office?), and « Sepatu saya ada di bawah meja (My shoes are under the table) ».

How many languages do you speak?

Many people have asked me this question, and it won’t be clear of what I actually can achieve in the language if I just state any numbers. Thus, I’ll answer this by describing what I already can do with all of the languages I know. 

I use two of my native languages (Medan Hokkien and Indonesian) on daily basis, and since I am living overseas in a Chinese-speaking country, English and Chinese are also the major languages that I use everyday. Spanish is the next language that I often use because apparently, there are so many Latin American students in Taipei city (the capital city of Taiwan) and I have many Latino friends. 

I teach Esperanto online, and most of the time, I use it to chat with Esperantist friends on Skype as well as read/ write in Esperanto. As for Portuguese and French, I still read and write in these languages almost everyday, and I also can make friends in Taiwan with these languages. Last but not the least, I have started to chat in Afrikaans after just reading articles in it before.

Those are all nine languages that I often use most of the time.

When first did you start learning languages?

My first self-motivated language learning began when I was very young, perhaps, in the early years of primary school. I learnt Cantonese from my maternal grandma.

What passionate you about foreign languages?

I realized that foreign language skill is really an important skill that everyone needs. We have seen many people benefited from knowing other languages. Wanting to have better opportunities is my motivation. Another reason is because I have many foreign friends in my « circle », and the more languages I know, the more foreign friends I can have. 

Knowing foreign languages can also let me search for much more information and more accurately. For instance, if you want to find the recipe to cook an authentic Indonesian dish, you could find better solution in Indonesian language than, let’s say, Chinese or Spanish.

Why have you decided to learn Esperanto? Was is difficult? 

LOL, I didn’t expect you to ask this question. Esperanto has definitely caught attentions. Before I learnt Esperanto, I have read so many opinions about how « easy » Esperanto is, how suitable it is to be an international language, or how it could be a bridge language to other European languages. These comments made me wonder, then I decided to learn Esperanto to see if the reality is really like what they have said. 

Esperanto is the easiest foreign language that I have ever learnt. Seriously. I also feel more equal when I talk with foreigners in Esperanto because we know that Esperanto is not our native language (although there are actually native Esperanto speakers) and we do mistakes, so we can learn from each other. 

Four months after learning Esperanto, I wrote a short article (about 200-300 words) for a Brazilian Esperanto magazine, and they published it one month later. This is the biggest achievement in foreign language that I have ever had in my life!

What are your goals in learning languages?

I’m quite « greedy » when it comes to languages. The more I know people from different countries, the more I want to learn their languages, simply because I think that not everyone can express themselves naturally in foreign language or want to speak foreign language. 

My dream is to know all of the official languages of the United Nations, they are English, Chinese, Spanish, French, Russian, and Arabic. However, I know that I will acquire some other languages during the process because I usually do the easier ones first, then use these as bridge languages to learn the more difficult or similar ones.

How does the knowledge of several foreign languages help you in your life?

Foreign languages have become unbreakable part of my life. I use foreign languages everyday online and offline to communicate with people from around the world, and even at work. Furthermore, I am actively encouraging (and hope to inspire) more people to learn languages, and raising awareness that language skill should be the top of all. So, I need to be the role model.

Do you have any tips or tricks for other people who learn languages?

Be persistent and disciplined. It’s not easy to go through the whole process from the beginning until the moment when you actually can use the language in communication. Just use the language everyday, it doesn’t matter if you read, write, listen or speak. You just need to use it continuously. Don’t try to memorize, let your brain learns naturally. Making mistakes is normal, so don’t worry. Once you know the language, you can use it for your entire life.

Teddy Nee, IT Engeneer, blogger



12 commentaires

    1. Hello Loving Language, thanks for your comment. I am actually following your blog, thanks for writing interesting articles all the time. Indonesia is the 2nd country in the world that has the most languages (the 1st one is Papua Nugini)

  1. I love this polyglot feature! I’m also a polyglot and am working to learn even more languages. I feel like it helps me think in different ways and communicate and connect more naturally with others.

  2. « Four months after learning Esperanto, I wrote a short article […] for a Brazilian Esperanto magazine. »

    Just reread this post and this point stood out—must have been a huge confidence booster!


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