The last Bratislava Polyglot Gathering took place recently. The Gathering will continue, but after 3 years in Berlin and 3 years in Bratislava, many participants wanted to visit a new place next year.
The Gathering this year was bigger than ever with almost 700 participants, yet it didn’t feel crowded. This was because the University of Economics in Bratislava had several large lecture theatres to accommodate everyone.
Just some of the aims of the Polyglot Gathering are:
- To attend lectures on many interesting language-related topics. Lectures are in English as well as in other major languages
- To attend practical workshops on lesser known languages
- Break out areas to relax, have a drink and practise your languages with other participants (everyone has a name-tag showing their languages)
- Evening entertainment including cultural activities and songs in various languages
- Mini language courses and excursions before the Gathering starts.
With the increase in participants this year, there was a bigger choice of talks on the programme too. Instead of the usual 3-4 talks running at the same time, we had 5 this year. There were also some cultural activities included this year as part of the programme such as learning songs and dances from other countries. I gave a workshop on Scottish Ceilidh dances along with Simon Ager who taught some Welsh dances. You can see a video below of the group learning the Strip The Willow Scottish Ceilidh dance.
It’s very easy to find other participants who speak the main European languages, but this year I was surprised to find that the first language I got to practise was Sicilian! We had at least two native speakers of Sicilian there this year, as well as having a workshop about the language on the first day. To understand why I like Sicilian so much, you can read my blog post & watch my video about my Sicilian challenge here.
One of my favourite speakers every year is Brian Loo Soon Hua and that’s because he studies a lot of lesser known indigenous languages of America, Asia and Australia and presents them to us. I was therefore happy to see Brian presenting again on the first day about some indigenous languages and how they’re being kept alive.
Elisa Polese taught 3 multilingual lessons and I attended the one with Russian, Greek and Hindi. This is a unique approach to teach more than one language in one lesson but I enjoyed it, although I have been learning more than one language at the same time since age 16, so I am used to working with this method. In fact, on Italki, I’ve had skype lessons in two languages in one hour if I’m using the same teacher to teach me both languages.
Workshops I attended were to learn some Teochew, a Minnan language which belongs to the same language family as Taiwanese and also Ukrainian which I enjoyed very much. I found Ukrainian easier to read than Russian and the language was very similar to Slovak. Another enjoyable session was with Caeyric about learning Hungarian, which he did along with me on a short challenge last year. Now he enjoys singing in Hungarian.
This year, there was also a challenge to learn Esperanto, Hindi (or Urdu) and I decided to learn some Urdu as I had some colleagues at work who were able to help me. I studied for a couple of hours a week for 5 weeks as I had no more time than that. I noticed a few words that were the same or very similar to Arabic but the grammar was not similar to Arabic. It was interesting to learn a different kind of language though. You can see my Urdu video here.
There are also book exchanges and some stalls selling language books. This year, I bought an Assimil book in Egyptian Arabic.
I am back in Slovakia for a short trip in September. I shall miss the good memories of Bratislava. The time at the events passes too quickly. Next year, the team is taking the event to Poland. More details will be available soon on their website.
I am helping to arrange a smaller languages event in Edinburgh in March. Keep an eye on my blog for more details coming up soon!