By Emily Wild, For The Miami Student

For first-year Jake Youst, the appeal of languages is the people who speak them. This has been the case for each of the 13 languages he has taught himself.

“Whenever I learn a new language, I find people that speak it and I talk to them,” Jake says.

Jake is familiar with English, Spanish, Russian, Ukrainian, Mandarin, Japanese, Arabic, French, German, Polish, Bulgarian, Slovakian and Czech. He is fluent in many and dabbles in others.

He developed a deep appreciation for Spanish in high school, and fostered that passion during his stay in Puerto Rico the summer after his junior year.

“While in Puerto Rico, Spanish came pretty easily, especially being immersed in it all day every day,” Jake says. “I was even dreaming in Spanish.”

Jake also got the chance to practice his Russian in the villages of Alaska while on a fishing trip with his dad. He had an interesting run-in with … well, he’s not entirely sure what this man was, but he may have been a Russian spy.

“We were staying in this Russian village, and I went to a community store and asked where I could find the Russians,” Jake says. “They told me to go down to the docks and look for the men with beards. I go down to the docks, see a guy with a beard and ask him where I can find the Russians. I didn’t realize that I was wearing a U.S. military hat at the time, and he pulled a gun on me. I just told him that I spoke Russian very well, and he put the gun away.”

As for his future, Jake has specific intentions to pursue his passion.

“I want to be an ambassador to any Spanish-speaking, Russian-speaking or Ukrainian-speaking country,” he says. “My top choices right now are Puerto Rico, Ukraine or Spain. Russia would be cool, too, but that’s pretty hard. You have to be pretty intelligent to become an ambassador to Russia.”