Potrait: Cecilia — a multilingual story between Italy and Argentina

For Babbel Portraits, Cecilia talks about her mastery over Italian and other hosts of languages.
Cecilia zwischen den Kulturen

Presenting the latest chapter of our Babbel user portraits — a snapshot of users’ lives and experiences learning a new language. If you want to share your own story, let us know in the comments section below. Today we introduce you to Cecilia from Buenos Aires, Argentina, a woman with a great passion for languages. At the age of 35, Cecilia has already learned nine languages in addition to her mother tongue of Spanish. Among the languages she has mastered is Italian, a language she feels very comfortable speaking (and also the language in which this interview was conducted). Here she explains why.


Including my mother tongue, German is the ninth language I’ve learned. In addition to Spanish and German, I’ve learned Italian, English, French, Portuguese, Arabic, Croatian, Japanese, and Mandarin. Since I hardly ever use these languages, I’ve unfortunately forgotten some of them — but I still speak Italian, English, French and Mandarin fluently.

I can speak Italian because my parents and grandparents are Italian; three of my grandparents emigrated from Italy in their youth to escape the war (in fact, my maternal grandfather left at only 13, when Italy was still a monarchy). On the other hand, my maternal grandmother was born in Buenos Aires to Italian parents.

My parents never spoke Italian with me — only Spanish. I always had a connection to Italy though, thanks to my paternal grandparents. Because of my grandfather’s job, my grandparents were lucky to make frequent trips to Italy, and they always brought me back a little something: Whether it was chocolates or cassette tapes, it was always a little piece of Italy that connected me to my roots. I still remember how I used to follow the famous Music Festival of Sanremo, and the Italian children’s music festival Lo Zecchino d’Oro.

But I would say that there were three gifts from my parents which shaped me the most: an airplane, a world map, and a geography book — not exactly typical presents for a little girl. I believe it was these gifts that awakened my curiosity and passion for travel. I had a lot of fun looking at the world map with my sister, searching for capital cities: in the beginning, my “geography” was made up only of Argentina and Italy.

I was two years old when I first visited Italy, but I don’t remember this trip. At 19, I started studying in the Italian part of Switzerland, and during this time I often visited my cousins in Calabria in southern Italy. In Switzerland I studied Communications and learned French, because it was important to master a second official Swiss language. I would like to have learned German, but the level of the other students was so high that I was afraid of not being able to keep up. Ultimately, however, it was a good decision: after a couple of years, I actually found a job in (French-speaking) Geneva.

After I learned Japanese, I started learning Mandarin Chinese in Taiwan. After learning for a year in Taipei, I decided to apply to a graduate program in Journalism at the Chinese Culture University. I was accepted, and now I can speak and write fluently in Mandarin. The master’s program was actually in English, but I quickly realized that you’re often left out if you don’t speak the local language, and although the population is quite educated, English is not very common. Now I work in the Press Department at a software company and I have a lot of contact to tech bloggers in Latin America, Spain and Italy. In my spare time, I write product reviews; however, I prefer to write about language learning apps!

I’ve been in Taiwan now for five years, and while it’s a beautiful island, I would like to one day return to Europe — I would love to live in Germany. So far I’ve had many problems with the German language because I find traditional teaching styles rather boring. Another problem is that I have very little time; in addition  to work, I also play many different sports. That’s why I thought that Babbel would be the perfect solution — I can use it on the subway without having  to carry around so many books!
I like to combine different learning methods; along with my Babbel course, I also take a class with a teacher on Saturday, which takes place in Mandarin. Since Babbel’s courses are sorted thematically, I can look for a similar topic on Babbel after class to expand my vocabulary.

When I learn a new language, I try to completely immerse myself in a new world. I love to listen to music in the language that I would like to learn; at the moment, I’m completely in love with the German singer Andreas Bourani, who sings the song “Auf uns.” The only problem, said the German friend who sent it to me, is that it might be difficult to like the song Germany used to celebrate the victory over Argentina in the 2014 World Cup!