Hey again! I’ve gotten to the weekend portion of the 2019 Polyglot Gathering blog series. There are still 2 epic days left in the event, and here’s how Saturday went.
I woke up to another bright day in Bratislava, and this time, deciding to skip the first early talks, I felt a little more at ease to get ready and go the Economics University. I didn’t believe that more people would be arriving to Bratislava, especially since there were only 2 days left, but a few friends who lived nearby and were busy for most of the week were finally able to be present for the conference, and at different points of the day, caught up with them or met them in person.
I did attend a presentation during the 2nd slot at the 11 AM time, and that was a Spanish presentation given by Maria Spantidi, on 7 + 1 reasons to learn Euskera, the Basque language. It was a very fun and educational presentation, also showing how learning the language changed her life in a number of ways.
When I stop and think about a language that changed my life, it was Greek. I may usually study it on and off, and I may not be the best at it yet, but it has introduced me to great, wonderful people, a nice culture, great food, and a gorgeous country to visit, a great choice for language travelers looking to practice their Greek. After that, I felt that I was able to learn languages by myself, and although I continue to work on my own personal system of learning, self-learning Greek was something I didn’t think I would ever do, and later on I see other things that I’m able to achieve on my own.
At the last time slot before lunch, a veteran speaker of the Polyglot Gathering, and someone who always draws a crowd, Tim Keeley spoke on “Multiple Languages in One Brain – Examining The Executive Function.” It was a very interesting talk, and sadly, it was cut short because at 12:50, all 654 of us were told to go outside to take our blessed Group Photo. There were many more of us this year than last year, and trying to fit everybody was more difficult, and we needed a second picture to try to get everyone. I managed to get a space in the center, a few rows in, with the other New York Polyglots, and a special guest, our new friend Wouter, who fit into the group pretty well. We all needed sunglasses for the photo, as a fierce sun was shining down on all of us during the photo. Then it was time for lunch, and there is where I got to meet another one of my online friends, and then my other friends met the person as well, and practiced German.
I wanted to give it another go at the No-English Zone, and I did, going between Spanish, my friends going for German, and then, when I reunited with a friend of mine, we went with Slovak. After that, is when I finally started getting into a groove with Slovak. The last few days, even as I tried to put myself to practice the language, Slovak didn’t feel like it was the first language I needed to speak when I talked with locals, but after that conversation, the words hung around my head, and funny enough, it was going to be helpful later on.
Interesting events happened during the 3 PM time slot. Two speakers for the same time slot were not present at the Gathering. Ellen De Visser had a presentation on how to make a living out of languages, and Cháira Züger had a workshop in Portuguese on how to maintain fluency in more than 5 languages. Since neither were present, I decided to attend the original presentation that I had wanted to see: Don’t Be Offended: Insults, Curses, and Swears, by Aleksandar Medjedovic. It was a really hilarious talk, and he dived into these words in the languages that he knew or had been exposed to, German, Turkish, and Serbian, to name a few languages. There was a warning in the description in our program booklets that anyone who could be offended by the content should not attend the talk, and although a few people did walk out of the room during the talk, because of the 2 absent speakers during the same time slot, many, many people filled the room for the talk that was not filmed, at the request of the speaker (to whoever didn’t go, you missed out) When the first draft of the program came out in April, I saw this presentation, and marked it as one that I wanted to see. After some program edits, his talk was moved to the same time slot as Ellen, who I also wanted to see. The conflict in time slot presentations happened to me earlier as well, as during the 11 AM time slot, I also wanted to see Marta Melnyk’s presentation on “All About You in Ukrainian”, and Gareth Popkins had an interesting presentation on “Four Fluency Principles”, but eventually opted for the talk on the Basque language. At least these talks were filmed and will be online, but there is a different feel when one is able to see them live, but being that they were at the same time, I was only able to choose one to see. After this block, it was time for the Polyglot Gathering Language Challenge, this year, the languages being Hindi and Esperanto. I hung out in the Gufuyo area to continue on with my workshop, and running into more fellow speakers for what was about to happen next…
It was Saturday evening, and at this point in the Gathering, it was the time to unite all of the speakers, and get them to a special area of the canteen, where we had a special Speakers Dinner. A few of my friends were there and we sat together and chatted. This was my first time at the Speakers Dinner, so I didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t ask anyone about it prior to the moment, so I went, saw some beer and food, and started drinking and eating. Jiti Dias and Peter Baláz, Gathering organizers, gave us a heartfelt thank you for agreeing to give presentations at the Gathering this year. I did feel weird attending only because I haven’t given my talk yet up to that point, but a fellow speaker reassured me about it. I was able to meet more speakers there, and had a great time, and shared some laughs with Chuck Smith. It was all just pre-gaming (when one drinks before attending a big party or festivity where one is expected to drink) before I walked back to attend the Polyglots Got Talent performance event that night.
Performers were asked to register through social media or email before the Gathering, and I thought about performing, but I declined, feeling that if many people were going to sing, I didn’t have any king of performance in mind, especially if it wasn’t singing, and before the Gathering, I mainly worried about the Multilingual Karaoke Night. After watching the cool performances by everyone, I did not regret not performing, and I had a great time watching everyone. There were prizes given away to the best performances, decided by a panel of judges that included Dias. There were many singers, a performance in Sign Language, a comedy act, and a performance on piano, to name a few.
The night came. It was Saturday night. It was either to a boat, where Gathering attendees were welcomed, and some went the night before, the outdoor plaza, a great place where we were the night before, or the latest new discovery in Bratislava, Gozo Bar. Me and some other polyglots tried out the plaza first, and had a fun time, and started taking photos. Once the bar closed, we kept getting invites to Gozo Bar, and we eventually gave in, being that it was Saturday night, and sleeping early was not an option for partying polyglots like ourselves, even though I had to present the next day, I opted to join in on Gozo Bar.
It was a small bar walking up a few meters north in the Old Town. Many, many polyglots were already in attendance, and our group were the last ones joining in. Apart from the small interior, there was a nice outdoor space, were we just decided to hang out, take more photos, drink more alcohol, and started practicing our distinct Slavic languages. We mainly jumped into Slovak, Serbian, and some Polish and Russian, and then we met a Bulgarian attendee who wondered why me and a few others would bother learning the language, and then wondered how we knew so much about the country, and it got as far as knowing the existence of a small city in Bulgaria called Razgrad, where the champions of their football league, Ludogorets Razgrad, came from. If I remembered correctly, it was 3:30 AM when I gave up and went back to the hotel. I was tired, and done, but happy as a had a great day with so many people. There was just one day left, but it was my most important day, because it was going to be my turn to share what I had for everyone at the Polyglot Gathering.