Category Archives: travel

Multilingual mum at Langfest Montreal

As a mum, especially a mum of three it can be easy to lose yourself to forget your own uniqueness your likes and your needs, add in a child with additional needs and that becomes even more difficult. I’m feeling really fortunate that I was able to carve out some time I’m to go to Langfest Montreal. In our marriage, my husband and I try to appreciate each other’s needs including time to oneself. I realised I’m very lucky in this.

During my time away at Langfest I was able to connect to other language learners, both those who had language learning as a hobby and those who use their languages day today in both work and family situations. It was an awesome experience.

Chatting to other multilingual parents like Jonathan Huggins and Tetsu was so encouraging. Parenting is tricky. Add in trying to bring in other languages and it is even more tricky. It was lovely to chat together about out challenges and successes even with our different approaches. It was especially good as we had met before online and chatted so seeing them in the flesh was really special.



I was soooo excited to meet the blokes who created Klingon and Dothraki. Having the chance to meet Marc and David gave me a chance for some serious fangirling.

My father in law was a huge Fan of Star Trek. His son, my husband is still a huge sci fi fan and over 20 yrs together he has got me into it. Most recently with Star Trek discovery and it’s whole scenes in Klingon.
I love that conlangs have been accepted as necessary. There is rhythm in language that all humans tune into, conscious or not. because a linguist it is so irritating when a language does not make sense at all. Dothraki and Klingon make the race and story believable.


I loved the fact that during the conference being multilingual was normal.
It’s not so normal in the small town I live in. Reactions to me speaking many languages go from awe on their part (yuk) to bring mystified you would need to use more than English! It was great to be with my tribe who get me. At one meal during langfest a group of us used five languages to communicate. It was awesome.


Having lots of languages in your head at once can be tricky, sometimes the right word comes out in the wrong language. I loved Steve Kaufman’s reality that switching languages can be tricky and pulling up a language you are actually good at but don’t use day to day can take time.


I think my favourite part of the conference was the chance to play, I loved imitating the clicks and other unfamiliar sounds in Nguni languages of South Africa with David Kirisipuu. Writing and performance of multilingual poetry with Kerstin and Maria was fun and inspiring as we watched the amazing poems others had written.

I got a bit carried away with the Kahoot quiz uTalk did. Some of those attend the conference are super brainboxes. Unfortunately I did not win this chocolate or any of the UTalk subscriptions.

As a mum actually eating what I like is not so easy. We tend to eat what the kids complain least about so being able to choose what I wanted to eat was such a massive plus. I loved the visit to the Russian restaurant with dumplings and Borscht, Poutine with some other language entreprenurs at Frites Alor, even delicious spicy cheese and chicken Poutine at McDonald’s.

I stayed in the Gîte du Plateau Mont-Royal. It was basic but stylish. It was the best we could and well worth the money. The breakfast was inclusive and yummy. They were super helpful, they even let me leave my luggage there on the last day after I had checked out.



During the time at Langfest. I felt I had rediscovered who I am. Being among linguists and those who love languages helped me find that part of me again that I easily loose in my day to day life. Chatting to other parents and passing on my advice reminded me of the skills I have over the years and how much I have to pass on to others, and how much. This has really increased my self confidence. I have rediscovered me. Thanks LangFest!

Polyglot Gathering – my awards

So, you may have heard me shouting about how awesome the Polyglot Gathering was. I could give a simple, boring, chronological account but I’m thinking it may be a bit of a snooze fest so….


Welcome to the Lingotastic Polyglot Gathering Awards.

Many of the talks deserve an award so here are mine:


The award for One Who Talks the Most Common Sense goes to…

Gareth Popkins “Fluent in Three Decades”.

Forget your sparkly language “get rich quick schemes”, your languages are more sustainable if you invest for the long haul. There was a very funny section on thinking about relationships with other languages.

“Negotiate that relationship”
True love and a life long commitment?
Monogamy -till death do us part?
Serial monogamy – It’s ok to walk out.
Two – timing?
Polygamy? Don’t confuse it with promiscuity.

I may have wet myself laughing at this point… I know a great number of promiscuous polyglots!


The award for Most Random Talk goes to…

“Introduction to Klingon” by Kelvin Jackson and Philip Newton.

I was inordinately excited at having the chance to learn Klingon. I’m by no stretch of the imagination a Star Trek geek but I love the sound of Klingon, and studying another new language makes me go weak at the knees..


The award for Most Interactive Talk goes to…

”Learning Some Slovak Folk Songs” by Betka Dorrerova.

She has such a passion for Slovak music and life in general. She quickly recruited other attendees to teach songs, too. I was singing the songs for the rest of the week!


The award for Most Baffling Talk goes to…

“Using Deep Learning to Accelerate Grammar Acquisition” Bartosz Czekala.

If I am totally honest, I only went along as I had met Bartosz the night before, and he seemed like a fun bloke. Grammar is usually a real snooze fest for me but what on earth is Deep Learning? Confusing to start with but it did become clearer as the talk went on and it was a really interesting and informative presentation.


The talk with Best Long Term Applications For Me goes to…

“Yes, You Can Be The Person Who Talks To Anyone” by Kirsten Cable.

After all, what is the point of learning a language if you never speak it?

Brilliant applied psychology on getting over yourself, and getting out there and using your languages.


The award for Silliest Talk goes to…

“Don’t Say Quite!” and “The Joy of Phrasal Verbs” Tim Morley.

Obviously the title was not at all funny but the game show format and silly examples made for a very, very silly talk. I even learned some things, too.

The talk I connected most to was…

“Learning by Eye vs Learning by Ear: Which is better?” Idahosa Ness.

The talk totally confirmed the way I teach. Hearing and mimicking and, in time, seeing text. The way we learned our first language.

The talk which surprised me most was…

“How to learn other languages through Esperanto: Russian and French.”

Charlotte Scherping Larsson, Alexey G

I’m a novice Esperanto speaker yet I managed to follow the majority of this talk.



My award for Funniest Talk goes to…

“Being Funny in a Foreign Language” Dimitrios Polychronopoulos.
As he talked about humour in a particular language, he switched to that language, which was awesome to see. It was great how he threw the floor open for us to bring our own jokes, which was a lot of fun.


My award for Most Fun Talk goes to…

Charlotte Scheping Larrson for “Singing in Swedish (dialects edition)”.
We learned two Swedish songs including a silly song about jumping in the river if I can’t have a sausage. Prior to this I only knew 3 words of Swedish, so I was so happy to learn the songs and hear Charlotte’s family stories behind them.


The award for the talk that most tested my language skills goes to
“De skandinaviska/ skandinaviske språkende/ språkene/ sprog” with Kristoffer Broholm, Karl-Eric Wångstedt and Irena Dahl
With my German I understood about a third of the Danish and Norwegian, Swedish remains a mystery. I still only know three words! It was really fun talk, especially laughing as they tried to read in each others languages.

The award for Most Inspiring Talk goes to…

“Life in Multiple Languages” by Richard Simcott.
I loved how he shared about his day-to-day life and that of his family, and how languages are woven through it all.


The award for Most Innovative Talk goes to…

Florian Heller with his five languages talk.
The way he seamlessly switched languages and just continued the talk was awesome.


The internationally culinary event on the first evening was a brilliant way to meet new friends, experience other cultures and sample some lovely regional food and alcohol.

There were so many more amazing, inspirational people there, that there are too many to mention here. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming and I really was sad to leave.


All that remains is to thank the amazing team who organised the conference and created a space for us all to get together.


Hope to see you there next year.

By Toutatis – what a ride! At Parc Astérix

The chief!

The chief!

I don’t really have a bucket list as such, but if I had, then right at the top would have been a trip to Parc Astérix, just outside Paris. Ever since its opening back in 1989, I’ve been wanting to go. No idea why it’s taken me this long, but in any case the 27-year wait was worth it.

I think my indomitable wife, Sarah, only told half the story when she said about our Family Trip to Paris on a budget that it was really all my idea. No, the actual idea for the trip was the brainchild of our little book addict daughter (yes, the serial book reviewer you may remember from a couple of blogs). But of course when she announced she wanted to go to Paris, Dad was all for it, in order to finally meet his childhood hero Astérix.

I have to confess, I’ve read every The Mansions of The Gods “>Astérix book (in various languages), and watched every film. In fact, I’m quite excited that there seems to be a concerted effort to re-launch Astérix in the UK, with big names like Jack Whitehall, Catherine Tate and Dick & Dom providing voices for the most recent Asterix: Asterix: The Mansions Of The Gods [DVD]“>”The Mansions Of The Gods” movie. Yes, went to see it in Germany over a year ago already, but I wouldn’t want to miss the UK release for anything … but more on that in a later blog.

Back to Parc Astérix. When I first heard about it, I had only just started secondary school. Now with children of my own, there were many more reasons for going. Kids love theme parks, and for a polyglot family like ours, Parc Astérix was certainly a more genuinely French experience than the (according to feedback from other parents) overhyped and overpriced Disneyland Paris. We spent remarkably little time queuing, even the most popular rides (including Discobélix, a brand new ride which had only just opened) had a maximum of 15 minutes waiting time! Prices in general didn’t seem excessive, compared to what we’re used to from other theme parks, and getting there with the shuttle bus from CDG Airport was nice and easy.


The biggest surprise, and one of my favourite attractions, was the sea lion & dolphin show. Absolutely amazing! As far as the rides are concerned, I was really impressed that there seemed to be plenty of options for different age groups: From high speed rollercoasters for the older thrillseekers, like Oziris, to family friendly rides and attraction for the “Young Gauls”, there is plenty to choose from. Finally, the spectacular live action show “Romains – Gaulois: Le Match” was a fitting and entertaining conclusion to our day at Parc Astérix

I think I’ll have to find a new excuse to ensure I won’t have to wait for our next visit as long as I had to for the first one!

Family trip to Paris on a budget.

wp-1465678138152.jpgAs a family of five travelling is an expensive business. We had a brilliant time in Paris on a budget. We’ll share with you our secrets so you can do the same. We think travelling is great way to encourage learning languages and we learned and used a of French on that trip Language learning a Paris

As a family of five travelling is an expensive business. We often opt to drive when travelling in Europe but I did not relish driving in Paris so we found a good deal for Eurostar. The week we travelled there were petrol blockades and airtraffic controllers strikes so we were very pleased to have chosen Eurostar! Before we even booked we checked out money saving expert so we booked a long way in advance.
As our girls are still fairly small, toilet trips can be numerous and so expensive. Before we went away we downloaded the find free toilets in Paris app to have on Google Play or iTunes. There were self cleaning toilets by the Eifel tower and in many public places.There are 400 free self-cleaning sanisettes throughout Paris. We had a long queue at the one at the Eiffel Tower as many none French readers pressed the emergency door release to try shut the door which meant the toilet went through a cleaning cycle so we all had to wait again!

Champs Elysees

As there are many sights on Paris we decided to book in an open top bus tour l’open tour Very touristy I know. When we began to price it up we realised it only cost a few euros extra for another day. The first day we took the main route and stopped of at a few spots. The following day we took a different route to see a few more of the many sights. It was a wet few days so the open top tour was not ideal for the weather! The view from the top was brilliant though so worth getting a bit wet and cold at times.

The other days, we used the Metro to get around and a carnet of 10 tickets worked well for us (with five in our family that was only a there and back.) Buy at any Metro station for €14.10, saving €3.90 on buying individually.

Eating out is quite expensive for five so an apartment with a kitchen was high on our priorities list. Buying food in local shops is a real authentic experience and great for everyone to use their French skills. We had a few supermarkets and bakeries near the apartment which was brilliant. We were so pleased to be able to buy nice bread for breakfast and to make a picnic for each day so saving money and hassle of finding food when out for the day.2 CV bed

We were really excited to find Le Loft apartment in near Saint Denis stadium. It was really easy access into the centre and a fun quirky apartment with a kitchen. Yes, that is a 2CV bed, our girls loved it! Check out the website for a look at the eye popping fun decor. It’s location is close to Gare du Nord so great for access to Parc Asterix and Disneyland . The other quirky fun family apartments owned by the same guy are Paris Champion Paris Circus

Finally meeting Asterix

Finally meeting Asterix

I think the REAL reason we went to Paris is because Maik, my hubby had wanted to visit Parc Asterix for the last twenty five years! We booked tickets a long way in advance and took the bus from CDG airport as this was the best price and running regularly. Tickets are easy to buy at the airport. We wished we’d have gone for the flexible option with booking parc tickets as the SNCF were striking that day and the trains were rammed! Parc Asterix was lot of fun (I’m not really a fan of theme parks, so high praise indeed from me). It felt like good value for money as there was a really fun dolphin show, a multisensory, multilevel, multimedia competition between the Romans and the Gauls as well as all the rides with short queues.

I hope these tips inspire you to visit Paris with your family (and improve your French). Do you have any top tips on traveling to Paris with your family? Let us know in the comments below.