Welcome to my Berlin trip report. I decided to write a very comprehensive trip report, in an attempt to try and recreate my own participation in the event. This way my hope is that people who were unable to attend can at least get a feel for just how incredible the event was. This is part 9 of a multi part story and you can expect a new chapter every other day.
PS. I apologize for not having more pictures, I usually don’t take many photos when I’m travelling around.
Part 9 – Final official day
The final day of the conference opened with me oversleeping and thus missing the Esperanto basics lecture by Chuck I’d really like to attend. If there’s something this gathering has given me it is a desire to learn Esperanto. Sadly for such long, mentally draining days getting a good breakfast is vital. Additionally since the coffee in the hostel is below average I also had to go to the kiosk down the road for my morning energy. One back in the foyer I was extremely happy to meet Robert Bigler properly, previously I had only been around him and he always fascinated me and came across as very interesting. Funny side fact, Robert is actually the FIRST guest I had written down in my excel sheet of people to interview on the podcast, but due to various reasons I never got around to inviting him on. I had to correct that and seized the opportunity to ask him for an interview in THE ACTUAL FLUENCY STUDIO. We sat down for a good 30-45 minutes and I really learned a lot about how he approaches languages, the finer points of translation and interpretation and much more – I shan’t spoil it all for you, but the interview should be coming out very soon.
The interview with Robert sadly meant I couldn’t go to Judith’s about methods and goal setting, but as I knew it was in room 1 – I also knew it would be recorded. Reading through my previous trip reports I do miss a lot of talks, which is unfortunate, but on the other hand most of them will be viewable later and the networking I have done at Berlin is definitely not possible to do at a later time. I came back to the room just at the tail end of Brian Kwong’s Language Challenge Talk, and although I missed the meat of the talk I was still able to introduce myself to him formally after and gave him an open invitation to come onto the show to talk about the next add1 challenge. Sadly I was booked up most of the day so I couldn’t do it on the spot. I also recorded an episode with Mr Claudio Spadini, who you might remember from day 1. When I was out in the town with him I wasn’t aware that he was behind online language learning software: Bliu Bliu which I had BRIEFLY tested a few months back, but after having forgot the name (that’s one criticism!) I didn’t return to it. It was actually fascinating I also met Steve from Readlang.com, so the software guys definitely also made an appearance. In the episode with Claudio we talk about Bliu Bliu and also his language learning past and present. At the moment I have a special bond with him because we are both learning Russian, with vastly different styles. I do word list and read my grammar book and he seems to be focusing on speaking from day 1 – which is awesome and it fits his personality.
Anyway back to Wednesday. The pressure was definitely on to get those final bits of networking in, before soon the event would be over and the chance would be lost. Two particular instances of networking I was very happy to finally make was sitting down with Olly (AFP 11) and just talking about blogging and related matters. Turns out we are quite like minded and after 3 days of trying to talk to him more than 30 seconds it was nice to confirm that he is just as nice in person as he is in real life. The same I can say about David Mansaray, who was the very first guest on The Actual Fluency Podcast. He is incredibly genuine and nice and again after having missed him the first few days, even resorting to facebook messages saying: Where are you? I finally had a chance to talk to him a bit more in depth on this final day. We talked about a variety of subjects, but mostly focusing on the future of our shows and I congratulated him for the big success he was enjoying with his Language is Culture podcast – which you might be interested to know was one of the inspirations for the AF podcast.
During the event Chris Huff had introduced me to a Brazilian Girl called Fernanda, who I found very lovely, and during a casual conversation she told me she was presenting on Brazilian indigenous groups, and I have to be honest and say it’s not a topic I had heard of before, nor is it probably one I would have gone to had she not explained what she was going to talk about. I ended up going and Fernanda created a nice little cozy group of chairs in a circle and then informally introduced the concept. It was quite interesting to hear just how many groups there existed in Brazil. The rest of the day was spent interviewing somebody who Levent, my coffee friend, had dubbed the modern day mezzofanti, Andrew Williams. I had talked briefly to Andrew during meals and he only had exciting stories and inputs to share. What is remarkable about his story is that his father told him to learn one language a year, and now many, many years later he is still following that same piece of advice. I think this particular interview will be a YouTube special, so look out for it on the Actual Fluency Youtube Channel. One final “huge” interview I was able to conduct is Richard Simcott. Richard has been one of the biggest inspirations for me getting into languages and just to be able to talk to him was incredible. We had a lovely chat and after, upon hearing I was a student of English with no part time job, he invited me to send a resume to the company he was working for. An incredible gesture, that just shows you how genuine and caring Richard is in real life. I was really impressed and also relieved that he lived up to my impression of him from YouTube and other places, maybe even outdid it! The interview with Richard will mark the 20th episode of the Actual Fluency Podcast, as a special celebratory episode 🙂
Since it was the last day I went to the rooftop bar, again, and once again was in Scandinavian mode. I was seated between Victor Berrjod, Carol Turner and a pack of austrians who apparently knew Swedish. Carol was born in the UK, but moved to Sweden at the age of 7 and now lives in The Czech Republic. She was acting as our Swede, who tried to speak to me in Danish whilst I was trying to speak to her in Swedish. We were both rubbish at it, but I’m glad I met her none the less. Victor had to be interpreter again, which is pretty funny. After about 15 minutes of Swedish Dani Maizner suddenly wanted us to speak Russian, and I threw out a few sentences I knew. In the party was also David James, who after a few sentences of Russian as well as talking to some younger people in Polish, decided it was time to call it a night. Being the last night I decided I couldn’t go to bed early, so I wandered between the lobby and random rooms until I simply couldn’t stay awake anymore. 5 days of little to no sleep, plus full day schedules of intense mental activity and meeting strangers had all but killed me. I’m usually not one to go to bed early, but this time I had no choice.
Tomorrow is the final part of my Berlin Trip report and I will wrap up my feelings about the event and talk about my trip home.