A PolyNot’s Review Of The First Ever Polyglot Conference

Polyglot Conference Attendees. Photo Credit: Ray Yap

Back when I was really struggling with my German, a Google search about how to learn a foreign language brought me into contact with the Polyglot community on You Tube.  Their videos and blog posts gave me a much needed boost in motivation to continue on with my German instead of throwing in the towel.  When I heard that they were holding their first ever conference in Budapest, Hungary, I signed up to attend and then I had many reservations about going.  Who was I, a PolyNot who spoke conversational German (just barely) and tourist-level French, to be going to a conference full of people who spoke at least 5 foreign languages? I really had no business being there, but I wanted to hear some of my favourite You Tube Polyglots speak and was hoping it would give me a much needed boost in motivation after I burnt myself out completely studying for my B1 Zertifikat Deutsch back in February.  However, I honestly expected that no one would speak to me there and I would feel really embarrassed about my lack of skill in learning foreign languages.

My experience at the conference was nothing like how I feared it would be.  No one at the conference made me feel bad about the fact I only speak one foreign language, in fact, it was the exact opposite.  Most people gave me lots of encouragement to keep on going with my German & French and to start learning the languages that I had been thinking about learning. They only really cared that I loved learning languages, not that I was really crap at actually learning them.

The speeches I heard over the weekend were so inspiring and motivating that I wish I could bottle up all the emotions I experienced listening to them and share them with everyone I know. The speeches will be going up on You Tube in the coming weeks, so I will be sharing my favourite ones here on my blog. I don’t want to spoil any of the speeches about talking in-depth about them beforehand so this review is light on the conference content, but know they were amazing and I can’t wait until they are up on You Tube so I can watch them all again.

Coming away from the conference I am once again motivated to get back into improving my German and to keep on learning French.  I’ve also decided (maybe stupidly) to add some other languages into the mix.  The first one is Esperanto – the reason behind this is it is a fairly easy language to learn.  Apparently 150 hours of learning Esperanto will put you at the same level as 2000 hours of learning German.  Also, it gives you a really good head start in learning the grammatical structure of other foreign languages.  I spoke to a couple of German speaking Esperanto speakers & they all agreed that learning Esperanto would help me tackle German grammar.  Next, after listening to a very moving speech on Endangered Languages by Susanna Zaraysky  I decided to try my hand at learning Scottish Gaelic to get in touch with my heritage and culture – and also because the language sounds just awesome.  Lastly, I’m going to tackle Arabic.  This language has been on my ‘I want to learn this’ list for quite some time but I was scared of the Arabic script for starters.  However, after buying Learn to Read Arabic from its author Judith Meyer who makes the overwhelming seem quite manageable I’m determined to give it a try.  Of course, I won’t be learning all these languages at once, but rather I will be adding them in slowly over the remainder of the year.  German will still take centre stage.

The next polyglot conference will be taking place in Montreal & NYC in October 2014 and I am going to make every effort to be there.  Also, I want to get my French up to a decent level by this time so I can immerse myself in the French culture in Montreal.  If you love learning languages, no matter how many or how few you can speak, I recommend trying to make it there as well.  The Polyglot community is so welcoming, friendly and full of some of the most interesting people you will ever meet, that I encourage all language enthusiasts to become a part of it, even if you are a PolyNot like me.

* Thanks to Anthony Lauder who coined the term PolyNot to describe language learners like himself (and me) who are not language learning experts like polyglots are.  I just love this term.

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9 thoughts on “A PolyNot’s Review Of The First Ever Polyglot Conference

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  3. What? 150 of Esperanto…??? I this this totally depends where you’re coming from. If you’re Spanish or Italian… maybe but for someone with a Germanic or Slavic language background, I doubt this is possible. Not so much for the grammar but for the vocabulary. Why would learning 1000 basic Esperanto words take so little time compared to learning the same amount in German… that only makes sense if the the Esperanto words are really similar to your own language (Roman languages) It is a flashy claim though. I haven’t tried it so I can’t tell but I am most skeptical :)

    • You might be right in terms of learning vocab, if the words are similar to your own language or any other foreign language you might have studied, then of course learning them will be easier. However, I think Esperanto’s claim is not just counting vocab, but the grammar and the ability to have conversations as well.
      I find German grammar highly complex, therefore it takes me quite a long time to learn it, but in Esperanto, I have read that the grammar is quite basic and therefore it is easier to learn and use.
      I guess I will see how true this claim is as I progress through learning Esperanto.

    • The difference is that Esperanto is almost agglutinative in how many words you can create based on a single word root, and the rules of creating new words don’t have any exceptions, so that you don’t need to learn nearly as many words as you would for other languages. 500 Esperanto word roots are equivalent to a vocabulary of 5000 words in German.

  4. Well, years ago I heard that Esperanto shoud be easy to a Portuguese native speaker. But the info that 150h could provide already some self confident realy catched my attention back to this thought. Maybe as you, is time to put back some languages on schedule.

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  6. Reblogged this on Language Thief and commented:
    This is absolutely amazing! I will definitely try to be at the next one! I can’t believe such a group exists! I would love to bounce my ideas and thoughts off of others with the same passion as me! Great work by the way trying to learn Arabic…I just started too…I know what you mean. :) Keep up the determination and see you in 2014!


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