How a McGill student mastered 19 languages
CTV Montreal staff, CTV Montreal
Published Saturday, July 13, 2019 11:25PM EDT
Many Montrealers pride themselves on being bilingual. They’ve got nothing on Georges Awaad.
Awaad, a linguistics student at McGill University, doesn’t stop at just “bonjour/hi.” Instead, he has spent his life thus far mastering 19 languages.
He said his love of language began during a multilingual elementary school debate.
“For me, it was a time I got to hear so many different sounds and accents from all over the world,” he said. “That was super interesting to me because I really wanted to crack the codes and understand what they were saying.”
So far, he has learned to speak and read German, Korean, Arabic, Mandarin, Armenian, Portuguese, Cantonese, Romanian, Dutch, Russian, English, Spanish, Esperanto, Swedish, French, Georgian, Hebrew, Italian and Japanese.
“When you see writing in different languages, it’s the mystery that comes with that,” he said. “You want to know what it means, you can understand their culture better, their points of view better and make friends more easily and in a much deeper connection that way.”
Awwad’s professor, Jessica Coon, said his ability with languages has opened up opportunities.
“I got him involved in a research project that we have on Chuj, which is a Mayan language from Guatemala but also spoken by a small community of speakers here in Montreal,” she said. “He’s been working on this language for the past few months and he’s already impressively capable at beginning to speak it.”
Awaad said he isn’t done yet – but with between 6,000 and 7,000 known languages out there, he has his work cut out for him.
“He has such joy around language learning and such enthusiasm,” said Coon. “It’s such a desire to talk to lots and lots of people.”
With reporting from Cindy Sherwin