Alex Rawlings explains how he became fluent in ...
Alex Rawlings, a 20-year-old student at Oxford University, has won a search to identify the most multilingual student in the U.K.
Publisher Harper Collins bestowed the title on Rawlings as part of a nationwide search they launched last June in promotion of their new language and learning courses, according to the company's website.
Rawlings showcased his fluency or near-fluency in 11 languages including English, Greek, German, Spanish, Russian, Dutch, Afrikaans, French, Hebrew, Catalan and Italian.
Rawlings said his mother, who is half Greek, spoke to him in English, Greek and some French when he was growing up. He is currently studying German and Russian at college and taught himself other languages like Dutch because he was determined to talk to people on his travels or simply because he thought the language was interesting or beautiful.
"When I was younger I always wanted to speak different languages," Rawlings said "We often visited my mum's family in Greece. My dad worked in Japan for four years. I was alway frustrated I couldn't talk to other kids in those countries because of the language."
Rawlings said he's met many friends through his fluency in multiple languages and that picking up new languages gets easier over time.
Rawlings plans to perfect his Russian while studying abroad in the small city of Yaroslavl, and said the next language he plans to learn is Arabic. But he says no matter how many languages he learns, he'll always have a soft spot for one.
"My favorite language is Greek because I've spoken it since childhood. It has sentimental value for me and I have a strong emotional connection with Greece," he said.
The U.K. has seen growing anxiety in recent years surrounding multilingualism in the wake a government policy that made learning foreign languages optional for public school students age 14 or older.
A recent study indicated that just 38 percent of 14-year-old public school students were learning a second language and 1.9 percent were studying a third, according to the Guardian.
In comparison, 99 percent of 14-year-olds at private schools learned at least one foreign language, and all had the ability to take classes in French and German.
But people who speak as many languages as Rawlings are rare. Ray Gillon, a British man who speaks 18 languages, he learned most of the languages outside of a formal setting, either "by accident" or as a hobby.
"Etymology is a sport for me. I enjoy looking up the origin of words and seeing which particular invasion was responsible for bringing that word into our vocabulary. I am immersed in it for my work and it will continue to intrigue me for every day of my life," & "I can't explain it - if I could, I would bottle and sell it."