In the fictional TV series Heroes, Masi Oka plays the role of a nerd capable of stopping time. In real life, this 33-year-old actor who arrived in the United States at the age of six is a computer genius with a 180 I.Q. who speaks fluent Japanese, English and Spanish.
Why did you choose Spanish?
I had to choose a second language in high school. The options were French or Spanish. And Spanish is more similar to Japanese and more practical.
How has it helped you?
I have a lot of Hispanic friends in Los Angeles and it helped me work as a translator during the Olympic Games when they were held in Barcelona.
And what’s similar about it?
(Spanish speakers’) pronunciation is similar to that of Japanese.
What memories do you have of Spain?
The paella. How friendly the people were. They always wanted to help me with my Spanish. I’d like to go back.
What is the biggest mistake you make in Spanish?
I go very slowly and they don’t understand me.
And what are you reading now?
The last book I read in Spanish was called Spanish Level Six (laughing). I’ve also read Gabriel García Márquez in Spanish. It was required reading.
Is he your favorite author?
Of course. He also grew up knowing more than one language. But my real hero is my mother. She was the one who brought me to the U.S. to provide a better future for me.