Loving languages in NYC: Polyglot Conference 2015

We could affix the languages we spoke to the name tag.
Not often do I get to speak five languages in 2 1/2 days, but I had the fortune of attending the Polyglot Conference last month in NYC. I dreamed that the conference would motivate and focus me on my language-learning, so I used the event itself as motivation. I challenged myself at every opportunity to find out what languages people spoke—whether at the conference itself or not—and practice and learn. I knew my friends and family would ask me what languages I spoke at the conference, and I didn’t want to disappoint.

  • On the train from JFK to the subway, I chatted in French. I also spoke several times with several attendees from France. One of them delivered her talk in French, which was nice to hear. (All the other talks were in English, which some of my friends back home found surprising.)
  • On the subway to the hostel I brushed off some dusty Portuguese with a nice older woman sitting next to me.
  • At the hostel I conversed in Spanish, once with a worker from Ecuador, and once with a guest from the Canary Islands. I heard this language spoken around me—inside and outside the conference—more than any other besides English.
  • Upon entering the conference itself, I switched from English to Ukrainian with a young man from Luhansk (Western Ukraine) via Germany. That same afternoon, I discovered the apple vendor around the corner from the conference came from Lviv (Eastern Ukraine), which led to a nice back-and-forth.
  • Soon enough, I got to meet a German-American Twitter-friend, so I got to bring out my German with her and her husband.
  • Believe it or not, I met someone learning Somali in Maine. A large contingent of Somali immigrants live in Maine, and I was overjoyed that another language-lover was learning this language.
  • I suddenly found Hebrew and Arabic coming out of my mouth a couple of times. My Modern Hebrew sounded more fluent than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise.
  • Towards the end of the conference, I met a native speaker of Mongolian. He actually offered me a live demonstration of throat-singing!

I’m so grateful to the organizers of the conference for creating a great space for practicing my languages, but also for motivating me to move outside the conference space itself to connect with people outside the conference, as well.

In my next post I will introduce you to who I met at the conference and what I learned from our conversations.

Give a shout if you were at the conference—or if you wish you had been!

20 thoughts on “Loving languages in NYC: Polyglot Conference 2015

  1. Rachel

    I wish I had been! It sounds so fun!!!! Do you know if there are any conferences in a slightly more accessible location from Australia? The only ones I’ve heard about seem to be in Europe or North America.

    I’m heading off in two weeks today for the Sgoil-Gaidhlig Naiseanta (National Gaelic School) in Melbourne, which I’m really excited about. Technically that’s only one language (Gaelic and English) over the two-ish days, but last year, most of us also spoke proficient German, so there was a lot of that going around in the classes we weren’t to speak English in.

    So… I counted ten languages you spoke over the course of the conference. Glad you had so much fun!

    (Also, bummer they didn’t have a sticker for Somali, heh?)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re right! They are all in NA/Europe. (Actually, all but one in Europe.) I’ll have to say something to the organizers.

      Because of the Euro-centricity, some folks in NA are starting to organize something via Facebook. Maybe you could find some folks Down Under who would be interested in putting on something?

      Gaelic School sounds awesome! Any language that isn’t English is always exciting.

      In some ways, I’m happy there was no Somali sticker. My talk was about learning community languages, which are often off the beaten path. I told my audience to be transgressive and write in as many languages as they felt they could.


      1. Rachel

        Delali and Richard – Scottish Gaelic or Irish? There is a bit of a difference… But it’s good to see people interested in learning “my” language! Although I do suspect that a lot of the people at the conference were Irish-learners, since there’s a strong Irish expat community in New York and Boston.
        Delali – I’ve followed your blog (really, comments on this blog are a good way to meet interesting bloggers) and I look forward to seeing you in the online Gaelic-learning community next year!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m interested in Scottish Gaelic. It’s harder to find resources for it, but for some reason it interests me more. I only realized recently that some of the music my parents played when I was younger was Scots Gaelic. There’s a Gaelic community in Nova Scotia and we lived there for some time, although I was too young then to be aware of the language.


      3. Thanks for all ..excuse me if I’m very busy some times ….when some one know your language it’s very nice to descover with him much things ….I’m very happy to meet you on the net best greetings……..Meet you soon on the net


  2. wow…I wanted to go so bad but already had prior engagements. I’m so glad you enjoyed yourself! I am a lover of languages myself, and have decided to finally go for it. Although im only on 3, i have plans for many more..I enjoy hearing about the lives of other language lovers!


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