Prof. David Crystal

Prof. David Crystal is a famous linguist.

  • He has lectured at Bangor University and the University of Reading.
  • He is currently a honorary professor of linguistics at Bangor.
  • His academic interests include:

- English language learning and teaching

- clinical linguistics

- forensic linguistics

- language death

- "ludic linguistics" (Crystal's neologism for the study of language play)

- English style

- Shakespeare

- indexing

- and lexicography

  • He is the Patron of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) and has also served as an important editor for Cambridge University press.
  • He is already retired, but he still works as a writer, editor and consultant.
  • He was awarded the OBE in 1995 and became a Fellow of the British Academy in 2000.
  • He is also a Founding Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales.
  • Prof. Crystal is the author, co-author, or editor of over 100 books on a wide variety of subjects.

More about David Crystal and his books.




1. Kedy a kde ste a začali učiť prvý cudzí jazyk? Aký jazyk to bol?

When and where did you start to learn your first foreign language? What language was it? 

I began to learn Welsh as a second language during my pre-school years in Holyhead in North Wales, but my first real foreign language was French, encountered when I was 11, in secondary school. 


2. Prečo ste sa začali učiť tento cudzí jazyk? Bolo to povinné, alebo ste mali inú motiváciu?

Why did you start learning the foreign language? Was it compulsory, or did you have any other motivation?

It was part of the school curriculum, so there was no choice in the matter. It was closely followed by Latin at 12 and Classical Greek at 13. This last was an interesting situation: if you were in the top stream at school, you had to learn Greek; if you were in the second stream, you had to learn German! 


3. Čo bolo pre Vás najťažšie sa naučiť? Aký je podľa Vás najlepší spôsob naučiť sa cudzí jazyk?

What was the most difficult for you to learn? What is the best way according to you to learn a language?

I don't recall ever having real difficulty in learning a language. The critical factors are strong and genuine motivation, and plenty of opportunity to experience the language in authentic settings (whether listening, speaking, reading, or writing). 


4. Radi ste sa učili cudzí jazyk? Prečo áno? Prečo nie?

Did you like learning a foreign language? Why yes? Why not?

Foreign languages thrill me to the roots of my being. They convey fresh visions of what it means to be human, and they permit a close encounter with enticing cultures. They also make it a whole lot easier to get around! As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, 'No man should travel until he has learned the language of the country he visits. Otherwise he voluntarily makes himself a great baby - so helpless and so ridiculous.' 


5. Akými jazykmi hovoríte?  /  What languages can you speak?

Difficult to answer, as it all depends on what is meant by 'speak', and how well. My best language is French. Over the years I've been able to carry on a reasonable conversation at a domestic level in Spanish, Portuguese, and German, and could do so again given (see above) the motivation and opportunity to bring them up to speed. Thanks to my career as a linguist, I have a reading knowledge of a few others, and a working knowledge of a dozen or so other languages - but without much vocabulary (which is always the mountain to be climbed, when it comes to foreign language learning). 


6. Kedy ste začali mať pocit, že nejakým jazykom hovoríte plynulo?

When did you start having a feeling that you are able to speak a foreign language fluently?

I don't think I've ever had that feeling, if fluency is to be judged by the standards of my ability in English. Although I've felt reasonably fluent in domestic conversation in some languages, I know I would not be comfortable in, say, giving a radio interview or a lecture in the language. I've tried it, from time to time, and the results were not good! I've never had the opportunity to develop a confident stylistic range in any language other than English. 


7. Je nejaký jazyk, ktorý by ste sa ešte chceli naučiť? Prečo?

Is there any language you would like to learn? Why?

All of them. All 6000+. And especially the ones that are close to extinction. 


8. Ktorý jazyk je podľa Vás: najľahší, najťažší a najkrajší?

Which language is according to you: the easiest, the most difficult and the most beautiful?

An impossible question to answer. Ease and difficulty depend on where you start from - what language background you have. And beauty is in the eyes and ears of a person's first languages. From a child language acquisition point of view, all spoken languages are equal, as the evidence suggests that all children pass through the same stages and time periods as they acquire their mother-tongues.


9. Kedy a prečo ste sa rozhodli stať profesionálnym lingvistom? Zažili ste nejakú zábavnú / strašnú situáciu vďaka jazykom?

When and why did you decide to become a professional linguist? Have you experienced any funny / terrible story thanks to languages?

I answer these questions in full in my autobiographical memoir, Just a Phrase I'm Going Through: My Life in Language (Routledge, 2009). The book is full of stories. Linguists tend to travel a lot, and find themselves in all kinds of unusual situations, sometimes funny, sometimes serious. If you want language stories involving sex, violence, political revolutions, spies, and even threats of assassination, read my book - though I'm quite sure any linguist could tell similar stories.


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