I have just returned from a fantastic Polyglot Gathering held for the third time in Berlin, Germany. The Programme was jam-packed with four days of presentations, introductory language lessons and social activities.
The venue was the same as the last two years at A&O Hostel near the Hauptbahnhof. The Gathering was in several rooms on the top floor and people then had the opportunity to stay in the hostel for the duration of the Gathering or at another hotel nearby.
I missed the first day of the Gathering but I was there for the final three days. There were usually 3 talks going on at the same time in three different rooms so sometimes it was difficult to choose which one to attend! If you missed one you really wanted to see then you can view it afterwards on YouTube as all talks were recorded.
One of my main areas of interest is minority languages. I tend to go to all presentations on this subject. This year, my favourite presentations were about minority languages. The first one was about the indigenous language spoken by the Musqueam people in Canada presented by Brian Loo. This photo shows the various dialects that exist in that region. There are very few native speakers left, around a dozen or so, although there are more people learning it with support from the local university. The language has some sounds known as ‘ejectives’ which, to my untrained ear, sound a bit like clicks. To view some online lessons and listen to what the language sounds like click here.
One of my other favourite presentations was about Manx Gaelic by Simon Ager. The language died out in the Isle of Man in the 1970s when the last native speaker died. However, he did make some recordings and there are now 1800 speakers. Luckily, there is now at least one school in the Isle of Man that teaches all subjects in Manx. Looking at some of the phrases, I could see a lot of similarities with Scottish Gaelic. When I have more free time, I would like to investigate further into this language and I am only a half hour flight away from the Isle of Man.
Speaking of Celtic languages, we also had an introductory lesson in Welsh with Gareth Popkins and Simon Ager. I was able to recognise some words from my Scottish Gaelic but not too many because Welsh belongs to another branch of the Celtic languages, along with Cornish and Breton. Initially, Welsh appeared difficult because I couldn’t associate the majority of it with other languages I know well, but I thought that when I started Scottish Gaelic too. Once we started the lesson and we started practising dialogues in pairs, I started to make more sense of the words on the screen. It’s definitely a language I would like to study at some point. There are many resources for Welsh and around half a million native speakers.
Another one of my favourite talks was about African languages by Khady Ndoye. This was the first time we were able to have a talk about African languages at the Gathering. She focused on Wolof and taught us a lot of expressions and we were able to have dialogues in pairs. She also provided us with excellent resources available online if we wanted to learn more.
One of the last presentations I attended was about Luxembourgish. The language to me looked very similar to Dutch and German and it was interesting to hear that the children are taught four different languages at school!
The Gathering is a great opportunity to practise your languages. I was able to speak ALL the languages I had studied, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, French, Norwegian, German, Greek, Gaelic, Catalan and Chinese. On the last day I decided to have lunch with a group of Chinese learners. We all got together and made a video speaking a little bit of Chinese each. We are all learners at different stages and we are from 10 different countries! Perhaps we can make another video next year to show how we’ve all progressed with our Chinese studies!
If you could not attend the Gathering, you can still watch all the videos of the talks on this YouTube channel once they have been uploaded. The videos from Lindsay Does Languages provide a great snapshot of various activities at the Gathering.