Romero greets Expo visitors in Spanish, Arabic, English, Guarani, French and Portuguese
Dubai: Speaking in six languages has always become handy for Carlos Torres Romero, 33, a staff at the Paraguay Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.
He greets visitors and explains to them the contents of the pavilion in six languages, including Arabic, Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, and his native language, Guarani.
Romero believes language is a vehicle for and an expression of culture. “When you learn another language, you learn another culture and you have another view to look at the world,” he told Gulf News.
“And because the theme of Expo 2020 Dubai is ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, what better way to connect with people than to speak in their own language. I wanted to bring multilingual attention to the pavilion,” he added.
It is the connection that has made a good impression with the visitors. Romero, a guide at the pavilion, saying ‘Welcome to Paraguay Pavilion’ in Arabic, Spanish, English, French, Portuguese or Guarani, has made them at ease and it was also a hint that they can ask questions without any language barrier.
“Arab visitors are quite surprised to see a Latino who has never been to the Middle East before speaking good Arabic,” noted Romero, adding: “And because they are surprised, they become more curious and inquisitive and I take it as a hint to continue the conversation and explain to them all the contents of the Paraguay Pavilion.”
“But it is also a two-way process as I am always very happy talking to Emiratis and other Arab visitors because it gives me the opportunity to practice and hone my Arabic,” he continued.
With the help of books, the internet, and whatever other sources of learning he could find, Romero said he taught himself Arabic when he was only 14 years old.
He said: “The official languages in Paraguay are Spanish and Guarani. In school, we were taught English, French, Portuguese. I learnt Arabic on my own because I was really inspired by stories about the desert and camels by my Argentinian grandmother, whose father was Spanish who had Arab origins from Morocco.”
“My great grandparents were from Asturias, a region of northwest Spain. They were Muslims who converted to Christianity to be able to stay in Spain hundreds of years ago,” Romero explained.
After tracing his roots, Romero dedicated himself to learn more about the Arab culture and its language.
“In the beginning it was really hard to learn Arabic — it’s entirely different from Spanish. In Latin America, we prefer to learn English, Portuguese or French. Spanish words are spoken light in the mouth; Gaurani is mostly nasal but Arabic is mostly guttural — and this is the biggest challenge for non-native Arabic speakers,” he explained.
Romero, was born in Asuncion, the capital city of Paraguay, said: “I always loved the Arab culture. After learning more about Arabic language, eventually I studied Islam — its history, doctrines and faith. And because I learnt more about it, I converted to Islam in 2007 and took the name Khaled.”
Romero is planning to do his Hajj someday. At present, he is working for the Paraguay Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the consular affairs administrative department. He is also part of the National Refugee Commission, as an interpreter for Arabic, French and Portuguese speakers during interviews for asylum seekers.
Before coming to Dubai for the Expo, Romero said he was helping newly-converted Muslims in their Arabic classes once a week. He would go back to this work when he returned to Paraguay after the Expo.
Romero noted being a part of the Expo 2020 Dubai, has exposed him to more languages and cultures to learn. After the Expo, he said: “I will not stop learning other languages. Speaking a different language is like experiencing a whole new world. A new language can connect you with new cultures. It opens you up to new experiences and stories.”
Ever with a curious mind, he also wants to improve his knowledge of other languages, including Chinese, Russian, Turkish and Hebrew. He also wants to read and write Sanskrit, Latin, Aramaic, and Cyrillic (Russian alphabet).
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