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Impressions from the first annual North American Polyglot Symposium.

View from Mont RoyalLast weekend, we attended the first annual North American Polyglot Symposium (NAPS) in the beautiful, bilingual city of Montreal, Quebec. Montreal is a combination of Europe and the Americas with a unique culture all its own. This French-speaking city in the heart of the bilingual country of Canada was the perfect place to hold a convention for language lovers. In fact, a local news station stopped by to write a story about this polyglot event.

The Polyglot Symposium is similar to the Berlin Gathering, in that they both emerged after the Polyglot Conference. The Polyglot Conference is an international event that is held in various cities throughout the world each year. The first Polyglot Conference was held in Budapest and afterwards, it was announced that they would like to host an event in North America the following year. Europeans were disappointed that they would not be able to attend such a great event in the following year, so they gathered together (no pun intended) to create the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin, Germany. Similarly, when the Polyglot Conference was held in NYC last year, it was announced that this event would be held in Greece the following year. A few North Americans got together and started to plan the first annual Polyglot Symposium, which would be an event held exclusively in North America, just as the Gathering is held exclusively in Berlin. This inaugural north american event was to be held in Montreal, Quebec — a location that lent itself splendidly to language-learning due to its unique language history and mulitculturalism. 

When we first arrived in Montreal, I mentioned how cool it was to see French everywhere you went. For example, all of the shops, advertisements, etc. were in French. Occasionally they would have English written in small print, but overall, French was spoken in all corners of the city. We were charmed by the unique accent of Canadian French spoken. Most of the storekeepers spoke fluent French and English, so it was be a great way to practice French-language skills without fear of ordering the wrong drink, for instance. When I mentioned this to one of the organizers, who had lived in Montreal for over 15 years, she said that Montrealers feel that the city is becoming too English! French is indeed spoken in much of the city, but you could hear English (and other languages) spoken in many parts of the city as well.

polyglot_symp_regist.jpg(Caption: At registration bright and early on Saturday morning, we set everyone up with their very own Mango goodie bag. We saw some of the attendees using the notebook and pen to jot down some notes from the talks.)

Mango Languages became involved in the event shortly after NAPS was officially announced and we were thrilled to be a part of this inaugural event. The programming was superb, the attendees’ enthusiasm for languages was infectious, and getting to explore the city in the evenings was a treat. The programming included Steve Kaufmann, a prolific Canadian polyglot who has learned over 16 languages, who gave a talk entitled “Do polyglots need to speak?”, Simon Ager, the creator of Omniglot.com brought up several theories on the “Origins of Language,” and of course, the infamous Benny Lewis, creator of the successful blog and book, Fluent in 3 Months. Lewis spoke about 21st century language learning and how one can merge language hacking and academic methods. Other notable speakers included Tetsu Yung, who spoke on “Pampers to Polyglot: Raising Multilingual Children” — he’s currently teaching his son five languages! Olly Richards, explored the “Science of Successful Blogging” and shared how he has found success in the blogosphere. Lindsay Dow spoke in a similar vein about “Using Social Media and Video for Language Learning.” Khady Ndoye spoke about the influence of Arabic on African languages and Susana Zaraysky spoke about language activism and how to enliven and promote languages in politics and the media.

polyglot_symp_intro.jpg(Caption: Joey Perugino and Tetsu Yung take us through the schedule for the weekend.)

Mango’s own linguist, Lilia Mouma, gave two talks. The first was about the origin and history of the Greek language and an introduction to Greek culture, which also gave suggestions on films and other mediums to explore in order to improve one’s skills in the language. The other was an introduction to the Greek language for beginners, where Lilia went over the Greek alphabet as well as useful phrases that most polyglots would need (i.e. “I speak x language”). Mango Languages was also a part of a Q&A panel about language apps, along with Games for Languages. The attendees had many questions about both our applications and our many features. The talks, workshops, and panels were all enjoyable and both Lilia and I felt even more motivated to continue learning our languages!

In addition to the talks and programming offered at the symposium, there were also several optional evening events, including a walking tour of the city, a group hike up to Mont Royal, and a language exchange dinner. On the last night of the symposium, we had a closing picnic where we were able to practice our languages with one another and say our final (but hopefully not our last) goodbyes. It was held in LaFontaine park and was one of the many highlights from the weekend. We were charmed by the unique accent of the French spoken in the city and were delighted to explore this city that cares so much about its language.

polyglot_symp_lilia.png(Caption: Lilia gives the attendees an introduction to the Greek alphabet and language.)

Did you attend the Polyglot Symposium last weekend? If so, did you get a chance to practice all of your languages?

If you didn’t get a chance to attend, why not use this time to advance your language skills? Click below to see if you have access to all 70 languages —including French Canadian — for free through your library.

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Melanie Moore
Written by Melanie Moore

Melanie speaks German, Lithuanian, and Japanese and has dabbled in several others. She is an aspiring polyglot and enjoys sharing her passions for language learning and music with anyone she meets.

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