Vassili Karathanasis speaks 10 languages. He actually speaks them. Fluently. If you’ve ever learned a language you know how hard it is to memorize words (and not forget them in a week), to understand the grammar and use it correctly, and to be brave enough to start to speak. Now Vassili shares with BWG what it takes to learn a new language.
Interview with Vassili Karathanasis
Where are you from and what do you do?
I consider myself a person from this planet. I don’t feel that I belong to just one country even though I have a Greek passport. I have travelled all around the world and I work mostly in entertainment as a host and actor.
What countries did you live in?
I lived in Spain where I worked as a radio host and in Japan where I acted in movies and hosted a show about Japanese culture called “Cool Japan”. Currently I live in Los Angeles and I’m working on a musical. I came here in 2017 on holiday and by ‘coincidence’ I met an agent who offered me a contract straight away. I really didn’t expect that. It was a really nice surprise.
So, you speak Greek, Spanish, Japanese and English? What are the other 6 languages and which one was the hardest to learn?
I also speak French, Dutch, German, Italian, Catalan, Russian and Japanese. The hardest was Japanese which has three different writing systems – Hiragana, Katakana and Kanjis. To be able to read you need to learn at least 2000 Kanjis (symbols). Right now I am learning Farsi, a beautiful language. I am quite surprised by how fast I am picking it up. I suppose that after having learned Japanese, other languages are easier to learn.
What do you need to be able to learn this many languages? A special talent or simply hard work?
First of all you need passion. You need to be consistent and find people who speak the language you’re working on. Straight away, start to learn how to introduce yourself in the new language, this will build up your confidence. You have to study every day for at least 1 hour, and in your free time put on music or documentaries and movies in the new language. For example, when I was washing the dishes or in my car I would listen to Spanish music. Believe me, your subconscious is always at work. If you have the opportunity to travel to the country of the language you are learning, you will definitely improve very fast.
…and travel to a country where you can actually practice what you learned at home….
Yes, but you have to travel with the right mindset. Be curious about the culture and the food! Mix with the people of the country you’re visiting. Watch the locals – watch how they express themselves and study their body language. Every country I’ve been to I’ve discovered a new version of myself. Accomplished travel is when you come back changed.
Apart from the nice feeling that you know more than before, why would you recommend studying languages?
When you speak different languages it makes you see life differently. You have more empathy for people because you understand that there are different ways of thinking. Your brain also makes new connections, so when you have a problem it’s easier to solve.
Every language I learned changed my life and helped me see the world from different perspectives. Japanese especially changed me a lot. In Japanese, they don’t use negation, so everything is gentler. I actually incorporated this into all the other languages. So instead of saying “I don’t want to go”, I say “I would like to go, but this time I am very busy, hopefully next time”. Another example is when someone offers you a coffee, don’t say “no”, just say “for now I am good”. It makes your aura more positive and attractive.