Montréal is a beautiful, bilingual city located in the Canadian province of Quebec. All signs, articles, etc. are written in French first and English second. With such a rich language tradition, it was the perfect place to host a festival dedicated to language learning.
At the Montréal Language Festival, language lovers from all walks of life come together for linguistic and cultural exchange. Keep reading to experience the festival through eyes of one of our very own Mangos, Melanie Moore.
Day one: prodigy and professor night.
One of the most exciting things about the festival this year was the chance to meet Bella Devyatkina, an incredible five-year-old girl who can already fluently speak eight languages. That’s more languages than her age!
The LangFest conference began Friday, August 25th with a workshop on Mandarin Chinese, a language that I have been learning through Mango for the past couple of months.
In the evening, Bella’s mother, Julia, spoke about her experience raising Bella as a polyglot. Because Julia is an English teacher, she decided to teach Bella English alongside their mother tongue of Russian. Having learned about second language acquisition in children, Julia also decided to introduce French. Her strategy was that they would have either an English session or a French session each day.
Over time, these turned into full English days or full French days. The most important thing for Julia was to make sure that Bella had fun using the language. When they had fun learning together, it didn’t feel like they were studying a language. To Bella, it felt like they were playing with something new.
After Bella’s incredible performance and Julia’s talk, the esteemed Dr. Stephen Krashen took the stage. His theory for comprehensible input was developed over the course of 40 years of research. In fact, the linguists at Mango utilized his hypothesis when creating our language courses. Each course begins with a conversation (input), which is then broken down into smaller parts. As new vocabulary is introduced, learners begin building their own sentences. Then before they know it, they're constructing new meaning in another language!
Day two: partying with polyglots.
Many more language lovers joined us on Saturday for the second day of the conference. Highlights from this day include Maureen Millward, who spoke about several different dialects of Italian. To illustrate her points, Millward shared a video from Mango Languages about Sicilian versus Italian.
Another memorable session was Lindsay Williams' (author of Lindsaydoeslanguages.com) talk about minority languages. She is currently learning Guarani, as she is traveling to Paraguay to research the Spanish spoken there. In 1992, Guarani was recognized as one of the official languages of Paraguay. During her talk, Lindsay also brought up the elephant in the room—cultural appropriation. When learning a language, especially a minority language, one should have a reason besides adding it to one's “repertoire.” As Lindsay put it, "It’s not Pokemon."
Anja Spilker, better known as Anja from Alemania, was the last to present on Saturday, and she gave an interesting talk about “Social Polyglot-ship." Originally from Germany, she now provides free English classes to low-income families in the heart of Puebla, Mexico. Learning English helps her students support their town by selling and explaining their products to foreigners who come to visit.
For example, one of Anja's students opened a shop that sells ice cream made of blue corn, or maize azul, a delicacy for which his village is famous. He wanted to learn English in order to increase the market for the shop, which was the main source of income for many of his neighbors. Anja encouraged us all to use the privilege of learning languages to make a difference in the lives of others.
Day three: final LangFest moments.
Too soon, the final day of LangFest arrived. We kicked off the morning session with an excellent Spanish workshop, which totally reignited my desire to learn the language. The teacher, Paulino, was so engaging, fun, and attentive to the levels of those in the class. Who knew listening to Shakira to learn Spanish could be so fun?
The next speaker, Lydia Machova, spoke about dabbling versus going deeper in a language, drawing on her experience as both a conference interpreter and a language enthusiast.
To wrap up the conference, there was a panel with some of the main polyglot “stars.” Alex Rawlings remarked that he was glad to see Bella Devyatkina on the panel because he would no longer be the youngest member. The panel held a Q&A session with the audience, and it was interesting to hear each panel member's unique perspective on language learning.
The conference concluded with food and fellowship in one of Montréal's beautiful parks. All in all, it was a lovely time, in a lovely city, full of lovely people.
Didn’t get a chance to stop by our booth? Have no fear, you can explore a new language for free with Mango today! Create a profile to start learning by clicking the link below.