The 2019 Montreal LangFest. Traditions are meant to be broken, but were they all?

Hi guys! I haven’t been really good this month with writing blog updates, and I really wanted to write something about my language progress before this trip to Montreal, but I had little time, and then travel day had arrived, but nonetheless, I’m going to go ahead and tell this great story.

I decided to do the same thing like on my first trip to Montreal 4 years ago, and traveled by bus both ways. Yup, long trips. Going up to Canada, I went on a small bus line called Adirondack Trailways. I felt that the seats were comfortable and the WiFi worked until we were on Canadian soil. I traveled out on Thursday the 22nd, and arrived after 6 PM. Shortly after, I took the Metro to my Airbnb. After fixing myself up a little bit, I walked out and headed to the meeting place where LangFest attendees were gathering for the night, but…

For the past 2 years, we would meet at a bar on St Denis St, called Le Saint Sulpice. It almost seemed like we were going to meet there again, unless I didn’t pay attention to the place we were supposed to meet that night. After our original location was modified, we went to a terrace in a hotel in the vicinity of Place Des Arts. There was a good crowd that gathered. I got to catch up with the rest of the New York Polyglots who made the trip for LangFest, who had beat me to Montreal, as well as the rest of my language enthusiast friends who I haven’t seen in a while, be it the previous year, or a few months back at the 2019 Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava, Slovakia. Many didn’t even wait until LangFest started to practice their languages. I did feel a little tired from the bus trip, so after a few hours, I went back to get some rest and prepare for the following day, the beginning of the 2019 Montreal LangFest.

I woke up a little after 9 AM, still a little groggy, but feeling happy about the start of LangFest. My issue was only the University of Montreal. I had never gone to the place before, and it looked like a big area on the map, so getting specific instructions was vital, but I let it go to chance which was a foolish idea, and I would’ve got very lost if it wasn’t for me finding another attendee who was also looking for the venue. After a few minutes, we found it, registered, and we were told about The Language Lounge, a room where LangFest participants were able to chat, eat a bit of snacks, and find language material and even study if they chose to. After a few hours, around noon, I went to try to get food, but the cafeteria was available to us, and it closed early, being Friday. I then decided to just go the room where the opening ceremony would be held, and wait for it to start.

We broke tradition by moving the LangFest venue, from Concordia University, to University of Montreal. We were in a residential area, and to get to the restaurants, it was a little longer walk to them than when we were at Concordia. The building itself was very big, with multiple entrances, and I got lost when I went in through a different entrance. It took me a while to get used to the building and how everything worked.

As I spent a good chunk of my time in The Language Lounge, I was able to watch one talk that day, a workshop by Jade Wu, on the differences between Cantonese and Mandarin, and whether knowledge or either could transfer to learn the other. After that great workshop, it was the end of the first day. LangFest had a special event on Friday evening, where they were able to make an historic union: the creator of the Klingon language, Marc Okrand, and the creator of the Dothraki and High Valyrian languages, David Petersen. I did not assist this event on Friday evening, opting to continue practicing languages at Mundo Lingo Montreal. Others who assisted said that the event was very interesting, learning about how both of them came up and thought about the languages that would later appear on Star Trek and Game of Thrones, respectively.

Saturday was Day 2 of LangFest, and I unfortunately had a late start to the day, missing out on some of the early talks, but I had a good day of Slavic language chats, mainly Polish, in The Language Lounge, and talking about those languages, as well as helping out with Spanish and having good chats about life in Mexico. At lunch, we were a big group, but as we only had 1 hour of lunch, half of our group decided to go back to the university for the 1 PM talks, while me and 2 friends, including Jade from Friday’s talk, stayed for a fun lunch chat. I missed a talk that I wanted to go to, so I’ll have to see it later on YouTube. But I did arrive in time for the UTalk Language Games, where we played 3 language trivia games using Kahoot, a website where one can host trivia multiple choice games.

That tradition did stay, following up on last year’s UTalk event, the Language Olympiad, and it was fun. Now this year, we were not split up into groups for a final round, unlike last year, each of the 3 rounds, about 100 of us competed against one another. I was only able to chart into the Top 10 in the Warmup round, which was created to test out the inconsistent WiFi in the university, which we were logged off every now and then, and were forced to log back in to get the WiFi network again. After the Warmup round, I did not do as good as last year, but I’ll try harder next year.

After the Dothraki workshop, which was after the UTalk game, it was time for the annual LangFest Dinner. This year, it was Italian themed, so Italian food and desserts were on the menu. I went back to the Airbnb to change a bit, and went to the tennis center around the Parc station in Montreal, and we had our own space on the 3rd level of the tennis arena, where we had a great view of the empty stadium, as well as the sunset. We were treated with wine as well, and boy, did I take advantage of that! We were also treated to a small show by the sister-in-law of one of the organizers, and each table went up to get a variety of food. I had a fun table with popular big names, ehh well, friends of mine and their friends.

Around 9:30, my friend Daniel asked us if we were interested in going to a karaoke bar and pass the rest of the night there. A few of us were interested, and after 10 PM, we proceeded to travel to the bar in Montreal’s Chinatown. I’ve never been to Chinatown in my 4 years of traveling to Montreal, so I agreed and went as well. When someone in our group posted the bar location in the LangFest Telegram group, a bigger second group joined us. The karaoke bar was therefore loaded with 2 rooms of polyglots singing songs in various languages. Their songlist was limited, however, and there were no French songs available, in an area where French was widely spoken. A bit of madness ensued, as polyglots constantly switched between rooms and sang the others’ songs. It was a total blast! People mentioned this as something they want to do next year, and it could become a tradition. I hope our next karaoke bar has French songs. Hehe.

As I got home very late, I had little rest and woke up a bit late, and after getting help from my Airbnb host by being offered coffee, I went to the university for Day 3 and the final day of LangFest. I was only able to arrive for the last set of talks around 11 AM, missing a workshop that I wanted to see one hour earlier. Paul DuCett gave a talk on whether elitism exists in schools of language learners, and what can be done to try to eliminate it and encourage language learning in schools. It was an informative talk, and other participants enjoyed his style of speaking. It was then time for lunch.

The Language Lounge had pizza and garlic bread to offer, so I skipped going out this time, and then went outside to a nearby park for a special outdoor activity hosted by Anna Takahashi, Nella Buffmire and Anja Spilker. First was a meditation workshop, finding energy from your surroundings, hosted by Anna. Anja gave us some exercises while including language learning, based on her Burn and Learn program. The words we learned were in Nahuatl and Spanish. Nella concluded with a mindful exercise on thinking about strengths and weaknesses, and forming a community by sharing these. My tiredness and grogginess went away, and felt better. After some photos and chats outside, I went back into the university to chat again in The Language Lounge while the Klingon workshop was going on. And then the closing ceremony came. Our last time getting everyone united in the same room. We received the impacting news that Joey Perugino was going to step down as LangFest organizer, leaving the job to Tetsu Yung and Nicolas Viau. It ended up being a very fun event, and we’re always welcoming new people, but sadly, one may not get the chance to speak with everyone, as social media goes to show all the people that posted about LangFest but I may have not met, practiced a language, or had a conversation with.

The weather in Montreal was amazing the entire time I was there, and for our annual picnic, it was no different. There was not a cloud in the sky on Sunday evening, so we moved to a new park, Parc Jeanne-Mance, instead of Parc Lafontaine, which I had grown fond of. I found a restaurant that made poutine nearby, and got my second batch of it for the week. After that, I was having more conversations, and this time, with people who I haven’t spoken with for the entire conference. It was a great time, until darkness filled the park, and then me and a few other polyglots decided to wrap up the weekend at Mundo Lingo in downtown Montreal.

This was a fun weekend at my second language conference of the year. Most traditions were broken, but not all of them, and a new one may form in the coming years at LangFest. One tradition that did live on was: me forgetting to finish my poutine and some misfortune would occur with my poutine. As I left the park with some polyglots, while on the streets of Blvd Saint Laurent, I remembered my poutine and how it could have been a late dinner, but I left the rest of it at the park. Will I ever win???

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