About the Polyglot Conference

As I promised I’m back from my vacation and I will speak today of the wonderful experience that was being part of the Polyglot Conference, held in Budapest, on 18-19 May 2013.

The conference was conceived and staged by Richard Simcott and Luca Lampariello, both known polyglots with the help of the Hungarian Veronika Tóth. As I arrived in Budapest three days before the conference, I had the opportunity to meet some polyglots at a dinner organized by the participants of the Conference.

When I met the participants the first thing that struck me was the great amount of people who speak 8,9,10 languages or even more! That is to say, going to the conference was at the beginning like a painful slap in the face. How could I believe that I knew something, when there was so many amazing many people that I did not know about? I felt stupid and it was great because it made me realize that I should devote myself more to my languages and that I should keep contact with other polyglots.


My badge

My badge

The Conference was scheduled to start at 09h00 on the 18th. The first thing to do was sign up. Each participant got the badge with its name and wrote on it the languages they speak.

Talks – First Day

The first two people to hit the stage were the organizers Richard and Luca who gave thanks and soon after the talks began.

Setting up local language groups: Melting Pot by Veronika Tóth

Veronika began the Conference telling how she created a language club in Budapest (Budapest Melting Pot) who brings expatriates with local people interested in learn English, she also gave tips on how to create one and told us about the various activities done by the group at their monthly meeting.

Ladino: learning endangered languages with music & media by Susanna Zaraysky

Susanna is already known by the students of languages, because of her book ‘Language is Music’, her most recent project is a documentary called ‘Saved by Language’ that tells the story of a Jew who saved his life in the Second World War thanks to his knowledge of Ladino.

Ladino is the language spoken by Jews who lived in the Iberian Peninsula and are now disperse around the world. The language is very similar to Spanish, but has its own characteristics and several variations due to the dispersion of the Judeo-Spanish population.

The Power of Words (in whatever language) by Carole Westerkamp

Carole is an instructor of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) and a secondary school teacher of English and German. She gave a very interesting talk about how the way we express ourselves affects our behaviors and perspectives and how we can use language to achieve our goals.

Computational linguistics: origins, goals, applications, problems by Judith Meyer

Judith is an extraordinary hyperpolyglot (at her badge I counted she speaks 13 languages at different levels) and is obviously totally passionate about languages. She talked about how the field of computational linguistics works, the difficulties that computational systems still have to “understand” human language and what we can expect for the future (good news: human translators will be still needed).

NGO E@I – Esperanto by Zsófia Pataki and Esperanto as a language phenomenon and its features by Eva Fitzelová

After lunch we had two lectures on Esperanto, the first was given by Zsófia who teaches Esperanto and an enthusiastic disseminator of the language, she talked about the NGO Education@Internet that promotes language learning via internet.

The second speaker was Eve, an architect by trade and according to herself never had any talent for learning languages. Despite her difficulties, she learned Esperanto and fell in love with the language. Therefore, she enthusiastically encouraged the learning of Esperanto, explained all its advantages and showed us that even those who apparently have not talent for learning languages can learn Esperanto.

The wider picture: learning ‘small’ languages by Alex Rawlings

Alex Rawlings is an English student who won in 2012 a contest of most multilingual student from the UK. He talked about the reasons to learn an unusual or less common language and showed his great motivation to learn Yiddish. He also talked about the reasons to learn the language of a country where everyone speaks English, as in the case of the Dutch.

Language blogging/vlogging: how to go viral by Benny Lewis

The controversial blogger of Fluent in 3 Months, Benny Lewis was the last speaker of the day. His talk was how to become viral and he gave several tips on how to improve your blog or YouTube channel, promoting yourself and collaborate with other bloggers.

Talks – Second day


Interpreting and translation by Robert Bigler

The first lecture started with the translator and interpreter Robert Bigler, who already has worked for private companies, international organizations and governments. He talked about the difference between translation and interpreting and told several funny and touching stories about the work of a translator / interpreter.

Conflict Management: a Great Career for Polyglots by Ryan Boothe

Ryan Boothe is a conflict management consultant and speaks four languages. In his speech, he talked about the steps to solve conflicts and why this would be a good profession for polyglots. What is the relationship between a conflict management coach and a Polyglot? When a polyglot learns a new language, he also acquires new perspectives on the world and puts himself more easily in other people’s shoes. Something essential for someone who would like to mediate conflicts as a profession.

Language learning newbies by Anthony Lauder

Anthony Lauder is a student of languages, but does not consider himself a polyglot, but instead a polyNot. Anthony had an incredible number of slides, more than 200 for sure and was a brilliant speaker. With his scientific and mathematical approach he explained the difference between multilingual and poliNots, how to learn 10 languages and vocabulary necessary to understand a language. Probably the most applauded speaker of the day, the talk was hilarious and super informative. A Must See!

Hungarian language overview by Attila Mártonfi

After lunch, we had the only lecture not presented in English about Hungarian language with the researcher Attila Mártonfi, author of the biggest Hungarian orthographic handbook. The lecture had simultaneous interpretation, which demonstrated perfectly what Robert Bigler was talking about earlier. Besides talking about the Hungarian language, Attila deconstructed the myth that the Hungarian is a difficult language to learn.

Learning from home, without travel by Svetlana Gracheva

Language business consultant and a certified English teacher, Svetlana speaks 4 languages and learned them all in her country Russia. In her talk she tolds us how she learned these four languages and gave tips on how to do the same. Her secret is to find people who have the same interests as her.

Language Learning as a sport – confessions of an ironman by Bálint Körösi

Bálint Körösi owns the most famous blog on language learning of Hungary and talked about the similarities between an ironman and a student of languages. Bálint Körösi showed how both processes require certain techniques, “little pushes”, cooperation and a good dose of motivation. And said something that is sure to become well-known, at least for the language lovers… Paraphrasing: “Learning languages is like sex: practice alone is good, but in two is much better.”

The last two lectures were given by the organizers of the event: Richard Simcott and Luca Lampariello. Unfortunately, I didn’t had the opportunity to see their talks, since I had to go to the airport to catch my flight. I am anxiously waiting the videos of the conference being placed on You Tube.

In short …

Being around people so passionate about the same thing I’m and who are willing to listen, tolerate mistakes and encourage to practice in a language that I feel unskilled was a unique experience, definitely scary, but inspiring and motivating for sure . I just got back to Brazil and I feel like I could learn any language in any occasion.

This experience also made me realize that I should leave the shyness behind me and SPEAK more.
Thank you Richard and Luca, you saved my language learning and made me remember why I love learning.

My plans for the next decade, at least:

• German
• Italian
• Japanese
• Russian
• Thai
• Chinese