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.