English English ptBR (ptBR) ptBR (ptBR)
View this site in another languageEnglish
Log in

Let’s talk with proycon…

by Expugnator, Sou

Babel Babble: Thank you for joining us in this first BB interview , proycon. Well… let us start with the first question every UniLanger makes: Which languages do you speak?

proycon: Ok :)) Dutch is my native language, and I speak English fluently… often better than Dutch.

Babel Babble: I know you don’t speak only these languages…

proycon: Yes, moreover, I speak Spanish, French, German and Esperanto, sufficiently to communicate about most things, and make myself understood. And I speak Portuguese on a lower level, and Italian on an even lower level, but more than basic. I also know basics of Russian and even less basics about Chinese. I was getting to that.

Babel Babble: So, do you consider yourself as a language freak?

proycon: Yes! Absolutely :) All languages fascinate me and if I could, I’d learn them all. But of course there’s never enough time for that.

Babel Babble: And how was your life as a language freak before UniLang? What did you do for learning languages, talking to foreigners before it?

proycon: Well… when I really became occupied with learning real languages, I founded Languages Made Clear and started to gather resources and soon thereafter UniLang was founded. As a kid, my language-freakiness was more focused on creating languages myself instead of learning real foreign languages. Nowadays I am only occupied with learning "real" foreign languages.

Babel Babble: Hmm… now you’ve mentioned the foundation of UniLang, we have a question everybody may be wondering about: How did ‘everything’ start?

proycon: It all started when I one day found Abavagada’s site online and I also found the IRC channel ‘languages’ on Undernet, where I then met Abavagada and Silvah :) And I was of course very interested in Aba’s project since it was very similar to LMC. I thought we might cooperate. Silvah came with the community idea. And upon that we founded UniLang but it must be in the beginning of 2001, I think.

Babel Babble: Then it was in the end of 2000?

proycon: Can be, yes :))

Babel Babble: Do you remember the time you founded UniLang?

proycon: I only know I started LMC in the beginning of 2000, May — I suppose. I think UniLang was founded somewhere in September, a few months after LMC started, but exact dates I don’t have.

Babel Babble: And how is it to be a part of a virtual community? How does it affect your way of viewing the world (and also your daily life? ;)

proycon: Being part of such a community is great! It makes the world smaller and enables you to discuss things going on in the world with people from all places. And of course, it’s our main goal, it enables you to learn languages easier.

Babel Babble: Now could you tell us how it affects your daily life?

proycon: Well.. I’m occupied with UniLang quite a lot in daily life. There isn’t a day that goes by without thinking about it :)

Babel Babble: Hehe… same with me :)

proycon: It’s a great thing to put your time in :) Also, it’s nice to see that the community isn’t only virtual — we’ve had a meeting in Köln for example, and I met with Sklodowska before that.

Babel Babble: And how do you view the appeareance of virtual communities in which concern the specific internet phenomena? Do you think it’s a global trend that other virtual communities, not related to languages, may appear?

proycon: There are certainly more virtual communities, at several levels. A chat can also be called a virtual community, but UniLang is much bigger and more complex. I don’t know of anything like UniLang that exists, in any other field, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Babel Babble: So, you think UniLang is the first to appear in this format?

proycon: I do hope it becomes a trend to establish such communities, as long as they remain totally non-commercial. Well… I don’t know if UniLang is the first. There are of course a lot of other communities on other levels and with other structures — but regarding languages — I’d say we are the first big free online community.

Babel Babble: Now coming back to the language-learning subject: which kind of materials do you usually have in hands or have access to, for learning languages?

proycon: I see the Internet as one of the most important media concerning this. Since you can convey text, image and sound, so, I prefer to use the Internet, but of course I also have a lot of language books.

Babel Babble: How do you find books?

proycon: Every time I’m in a 2nd-hand bookstore, I leave with a language book :) I just can’t resist buying such books. And they are of course also a great aid in learning languages. It’s also nice to be able not to use the monitor at times…

Babel Babble: Is it easy or cheap to buy language books, even for less-common languages, where you live, in your town?

proycon: I’d say, it’s relatively easy in the Netherlands, yes. Since we’re a small country, in Europe, surrounded by a lot of other languages. I have a favorite second-hand bookstore in my town that has a fair amount of language books and I’m always one of the first to notice the new books there. I go there once a week on average to check if there are new books.

Babel Babble: How and how much do you think the UniLang members and other persons you meet through the Internet help you in learning the languages you want to?

proycon: The primary way in which they help is by chatting with me in foreign languages. Practising is always the best way to learn a language, so I love to practise on our chat. The people then correct the mistakes I make, and I learn from that. Also, having e-mail penpals is a good way to learn, but I’m too chaotic and usually answer too late, so I prefer the chat :)

Babel Babble: And you do learn a lot… I can say for Portuguese ;)

proycon: Thanks :)) I try to learn as much as I can. I love learning… I always love to expand any knowledge in my head.

Babel Babble: Now, a polemic question: Do you think it’s possible to learn a language mostly by the Internet?

proycon: YES, I do :) Since the Internet can convey text, sound and image, and since the Internet can break the rules of commerce a bit, it can offer materials for free, which is what we are trying to do with UniLang. I dislike all commercial language-teaching sites on the Internet and I believe a community like ours is far more efficient and a lot cheaper, and more personal too.

Babel Babble: You said personal… so, you seem to have many friends at UniLang. Could you tell us about this?

proycon: Yes, I consider many people at UniLang my friends. I talk to them a lot, and not only about languages. It can vary — from less-serious topics to very serious psychological talks.

Babel Babble: …and metaphysical, as well…

proycon: And of course, I’ve met several people in real life, that’s also a nice experience indeed.

It’s funny how you get to meet somebody in real, with whom you’ve talked so much on the chat. And of course Köln was the most interesting experience on that part.

We had a meeting in Köln (‘Cologne’ in English) on April 19th 2003. There were nine UniLangers there… the first big UniLang meeting. There are already more meetings planned for the future: one in Asia, and one in Buenos Aires. And there certainly will be a European one again, because the first one was a great success.

Babel Babble: Now tell us a bit of your experiences with the languages you’re learning.

proycon: Well, it’s not an easy process to learn a language especially not if you’re as chaotic and undisciplined as I am :) First you crawl: you try to learn about the grammar and its basic words; at that stage, you can’t really use the language yet. Then you start walking — learning more words and declensions and conjugations. You can then use the language more or less. And then at the end, you fly :), and can use the language more or less fluently.
After a long road of learning lots of words, I found that practising is the key!

Babel Babble: We want you to tell us nice experiences you had with languages you’ve learnt, but what you said was also ok… was both things

proycon: Well… it’s always nice to be on holidays and be able to make yourself understood without having to fall back to English. That’s, of course, most rewarding. The process of learning itself isn’t a very exciting one for outsiders, but when I find people on the streets who speak a language I like, then I always tend to keep close to them and follow them :), so I can pick up what they say and practise. Unfortunately, I’m too shy to start talking to them directly, it might look a bit awkward :). And I don’t know if I can manage in that particular language. I once did manage to help to Spanish tourists at a train station. They were waiting on the wrong platform, and they didn’t understand the message in Dutch, so I tried to help them in Spanish :). That was the first time I spoke Spanish ever.

Babel Babble: :)

proycon: Well, the first time I spoke it to somebody… I speak plenty of it to myself :). That was quite a nice experience.

Babel Babble: We would like you to give an advice for those who still don’t know why they should learn a foreign language:

proycon: Well, it has to be a calling too. You have to like it… If you don’t like or don’t want to do it, then don’t do it. Because you will only get annoyed with yourself then. But for those who want, it’s a great way to learn more about the world. You can see things from other perspectives. The perspectives of another culture and it’s simply fun! Also, a new world of literature will open for you :))

Babel Babble: Okay, proycon, thanks for talking to us.

proycon: Oh :) That was it already! :) and I didn’t even finish my water :P

If you want to learn more about proycon, visit his homepage:


Prepared by E}{pugnator and Sou

▲ up

Originally published in Babel Babble