Through a life that has taken her to many countries, Madame Ximena has never stopped her pursuit to develop and share her linguistic skills and knowledge.
Story by Kathleen Pokrud
Photos courtesy of Madame Ximena Rios Hamann
Language is intrinsic to the expression of culture. As a dedicated and highly motivated teacher of Spanish and French languages, with over 30 years of teaching experience, Madame Ximena Rios regards herself as an “Applied linguist.” Elite+ Magazine recently had the opportunity to meet Madame Ximena Rios Hamann, spouse of HE Fernando J. A. Quiros Campos, Ambassador of Peru to the Kingdom of Thailand, and talk about her professional life as a linguist.
Since 1991, as the spouse of a career diplomat, Madame Ximena has followed her husband to various overseas postings. Juggling the life of a working mother of three children, she also continued to pursue her professional career. In 1999, she earned her postgraduate degree in Applied Linguistics, with emphasis in Language Acquisition from Universidad Simon Bolivar in Venezuela. In 2017, the couple moved to Thailand when Ambassador Fernando officially took up the ambassadorship to the kingdom.
When Madame Ximena was asked about her love for languages, she candidly recalled, “I was fortunate to live abroad in the United States and in El Salvador at a very young age due to my father’s overseas career, and I attended bilingual schools throughout my life, where I learned English and French, apart from Spanish. As I grew up, I fell in love with the French language and the literature, so I decided to become a French teacher, but Spanish has remained my true passion.
“I was very fortunate growing up, as my parents loved to read, and I inherited this passion and began reading books at a very early age. I was then able to instill this love for literature in my children, and I am sure they will continue this family tradition.”
In addition to being trilingual (Spanish, English and French), Madame Ximena also studied Latin and her latest pursuit is the Thai language.
As a talented and energetic teacher, she continuously looks to provide a creative and stimulating classroom environment for her students. “I believe that learning a language should be fun. The use of games or playful activities in a classroom guaranties a successful learning process, regardless of the age of the student,” Madame Ximena explained. Since her arrival to Thailand, she has conducted workshops attended by the students of the Department of Spanish of both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels enrolled at the Faculty of Arts, Chulalongkorn University. “In 2018, I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the Symposiums of Teaching Spanish as a foreign language hosted by Chulalongkorn University. I also participated in the 2020 version of this Symposium”.
Madame Ximena shared that the Spanish language is spreading its wings in other parts of Thailand. In 2017, both Ambassador Fernando and Madame Ximena were invited to participate as speakers at two conferences held at Khon Kaen University about Peru and Spanish, its origins and teaching Spanish as a foreign language. “During our visit to Khon Kaen, we were so impressed with the level of Spanish fluency and the students’ enthusiasm about the language. Words cannot comprehend how gratifying I felt that my native language is so welcomed here in Thailand.”
Since 1992, Madame Ximena has contributed as a Spanish editor until now for different publications and institutions such as IADB Reports (2008 -) and the World Bank, Washington, DC (2010-11), UNDP Onu-Habitat (2015-17).
“I am a fierce warrior in defending my language,” Madame Ximena openly declared, “Both my husband and I have spent our diplomatic years in sharing our rich Peruvian art and culture with our host countries.” During their posting to the United States, with the large number of Peruvians living there, the couple worked hard to keep up with their traditional festivities. In Thailand, the embassy has promoted Peruvian art and culture through various activities such as art exhibitions, movies, music, dance and gastronomical events.
For the past two years, Ambassador Fernando and Madame Ximena participated in the Celebration of Thai Silk Exhibition organized by the Thai Tourist Assistance Foundation in honor of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit, the Queen Mother, by bringing leading Peruvian fashion designers to showcase the rich Peruvian heritage. Madame Ximena commented, “I feel that the Peruvian and Thai cultures are very similar, almost like brother and sister. Both countries use colorful experience to display our art with emphasis on love for nature.”
Spanish is the official language of Peru, spoken widely as the mother tongue by more than 86% of the population. “Quechua” language is spoken by around 13% of Peruvians, followed by “Aymara”, spoken by more than 1%. These are also official languages of Peru, in the areas where they are spoken. There are 45 more indigenous languages in Peru from the Amazon area. “As a linguist, I am pleased to see the Peruvian government through the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education working hard to preserve these languages that are a unique part of our multi-linguistic culture,” Madame Ximena remarked.
When asked Madame Ximena how she felt about the Thai language as a novice student, Madame Ximena remarked, “I am so excited to learn Thai as it is completely a new territory for me. The tonal pronunciation is quite challenging. I enjoy learning about the origin of Thai words and its grammar. I also enjoy writing with the Thai alphabet as it feels like drawing.” In 1997, Madame Ximena created a Peruvian comic character “Naniz” that appeared in a wide variety of stationery and hand-painted wooden products sold to shops in Lima.
As our interview drew to a close, Madame Ximena ended by saying, “Speaking more than one language is such an important tool to unite people within a country or between countries. I am always amazed by the human capacity to keep learning new languages or learning about languages. It is an endless source of knowledge, culture and communication.”
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