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Success at school and a sense of duty


How I came to be multilingual
Christian de Duve Scientist
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Well, I should say that... I actually spoke better English at that time than I do now because... the people I stayed with in England were really rather strict about pronunciation and so on and so on, I really learned what, in those days, was the King's English, would now be the Queen's English, I assume. But since then I've spent many years in the United States and my... my beautiful English has become corrupted so that I now speak a sort of mixture of English, American and French. Anyway, back to the story. So that's where I grew up and I went to school in Antwerp, it was a Jesuit school. And, at that time, the teaching was still done in both languages; it is only in 1932 that teaching in Belgium has become unilingual. So, at that time I still... half of the teaching was in French and the other half in Flemish, and so I learned French in French, Flemish in Flemish, Latin in French, Greek in Flemish, mathematics in French, history and geography in Flemish and so on, so I ended up being, being essentially bilingual, plus English and German which made me quadrilingual by the time I left school.

Belgian biochemist Christian de Duve (1917-2013) was best known for his work on understanding and categorising subcellular organelles. He won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1974 for his joint discovery of lysosomes, the subcellular organelles that digest macromolecules and deal with ingested bacteria.

Listeners: Peter Newmark

Peter Newmark has recently retired as Editorial Director of BioMed Central Ltd, the Open Access journal publisher. He obtained a D. Phil. from Oxford University and was originally a research biochemist at St Bartholomew's Hospital Medical School in London, but left research to become Biology Editor and then Deputy Editor of the journal Nature. He then became Managing Director of Current Biology Ltd, where he started a series of Current Opinion journals, and was founding Editor of the journal Current Biology. Subsequently he was Editorial Director for Elsevier Science London, before joining BioMed Central Ltd.

Tags: Antwerp, Belgium

Duration: 1 minute, 44 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008