What’s a polyglot anyway? That’s the question most of my (monolingual) friends asked me when I tried to explain to them why I was heading to Berlin for an extended weekend. I was one of 357 participants from more than 40 countries who converged onto the German capital from 5th to 8th May 2016 for the third annual Polyglot gathering. In case you wonder, Polyglot simply means “many languages”, and it’s difficult to estimate just how many languages were spoken during the four days of the event, several dozen at least, including the likes of Esperanto, Toki Pona and even Latin!
It was a very early start for me on the Thursday, getting up at 2:30 to catch a 6am flight. Thankfully I only had hand luggage so this saved some time, although regrettably it limited the amount of books I could bring back! The early start was worth it though – just being around people who share the same enthusiasm for languages is an experience difficult to put into words. And my own journey paled in comparison when I realised a couple of people had come all the way from the USA for the event.
We were absolutely spoilt for choice with the seminars on offer. Some were introductions to languages such as Greek (the modern rather than the ancient version), Indonesian, Turkish and Welsh. Polyglots are always looking for the next language to learn. Other seminars covered different aspects of life as a polyglot, as well as the process of language learning. A lot of the seminars were in English, but some were delivered in Italian, French, Esperanto and one even completely in Latin by Roberto Salazar!
In fact, as I’ve been devoting some time on reviving my “dormant” Latin recently, I was really pleased about the seminars on “Does it Make Sense to Speak a Dead Language” and “Rudimenta Latini Sermonis – Spoken Latin 101”. I must have been doing something right, as I could follow the Latin seminar – in Latin – without problems.
The seminar I got most from was – strangely enough –in a language I don’t really speak: “Storytelling in Language Learning”, delivered entirely in Italian by the amazing Antonio Libertino. I was pleased that my knowledge of Latin, French and Spanish somehow combined to help me follow what was going on. This seminar fitted really well with what we do in Lingotastic, so I was determined to get the most out of it, never mind the language used.
The biggest surprise of the weekend was just how popular Esperanto is as a language in the polyglot community. We all wore name badges with little stickers of flags identifying which languages we speak, and at what level (see picture). And almost everyone was speaking Esperanto at some level. The lovely Charlotte Scherping even delivered a whole talk on “Comparing the 3 easiest languages” entirely in Esperanto, having only learnt the language for a little over 4 months.
What was also encouraging was the mix of aspiring polyglots with “only” three languages on their badge, and those who clearly needed a larger badge to fit all of theirs on!
It was great to chat in person to many of the people whose blogs and podcasts I follow. It was a good place to network. I was particularly pleased to meet Jimmy Mello and to come away with his book Jimmy Mello. We sung with him in our Muppets Christmas Carol video, put together by Lindsay
It was incredible to have so many experts in one place. I took lots of notes and will be learning from the seminars for a while yet.
Language legend Lindsay has produced five amazing videos so you can watch the highlights of the Polyglot Gathering in the comfort of your own home (or wherever you are at this moment)