My comprehensive Polyglot Gathering Berlin trip report – part 1

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 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.

My trip to Berlin began a few months ago. Having just recently started my blog, and been keen on joining the various communities I somehow got wind of a facebook group called “Polyglot Berlin Gathering 2014” I entered the group only to find out that it was a limited event with 200 seats, and seeing as there were over 200 people in the group already I was worried I might not make it.

I decided to just take a leap of faith. I knew, as an unemployed student that it would take some sacrifices to attend, but this event was designed for me. I might not be a seasoned Polyglot, but I had recently discovered that this is the direction I would like to take in my life. I made sure to pay the conference, hotel and food for 2 meals a day in advance spread out over a few months so it became possible.

Then came the exciting waiting game, and as I was waiting in Denmark I took a look at the guest list and I was floored by the amount of names I was already familiar with via YouTube or other language learning channels. Names like Benny Lewis, Luca Lampariello and Richard Simcott appeared seamlessly no different in the list from my very own. Then there were fellow bloggers and language learners I had had on the Podcast, as well as my co-host from the short-lived weekly polyglot show “The Language Hour” Mr Christopher Huff. Me and Chris would be rooming together and I was excited about finding out whether our online dynamics and likemindedness translated to the real life.

Let’s take a step back, as I realise I have not yet motivated my reason for going to the event in the first place. I only joined the community – so to speak, in February of this year, taking on Russian. With 2 languages spoken very well and one language not so well I was barely qualifying as a polyglot, so why would I go?

I wanted to go first and foremost to meet the people I had interacted with online. People such as Ellen Jovin, David Mansaray, Olly Richards and many more. Secondarily I went because of the many interesting talks which would enlighten my mind and provide better learning environments once I came back home. Thirdly I was struggling a bit in terms of motivation, and so by seeing hyperpolyglots in action I was hoping to get a boost of energy and motivation to work harder on my own studies. Quite early in the process I realised the important point that, languages are not difficult to learn as long as you actually put time into them. I had never attended a conference or gathering or meetup like this before, so it has to also be said that I went into this knowing absolutely not what to expect.

On the night before I spent a lot of time setting up the laptop to do online streaming, I had this crazy plan of live streaming every day after the official program in an attempt to include people who were not able to go in person. I’m sure the idea was merited, but due to probably the worst internet in the history of the world, it wasn’t happening. But I’m getting ahead of the story here. So slightly sleep-deprived I went to the bus at 7 am, which would take me to the train station. I got a sandwich from the bakery on the way and eagerly awaited the train that would take me the 1.5 hours to Copenhagen Airport, CPH or Kastrup as we Danes sometimes like to call it. I had purposefully decided to go to the airport early, as last time I went flying I actually missed my plane, had to pay a £50/€75 fee and spend something like 14 hours in the worst airport in the world, Gatwick. Reluctant to repeat this mistake I arrived in Copenhagen Airport at 9:45 with a planned departure of 12:15 giving me over 2 hours to get to the flight. The airport was incredibly busy so finding a seat to just relax was somewhat difficult. I ended up standing for what seemed like hours looking at the departure monitors for any signs of a gate – as I knew these had seats in them. I had exchanged my last 800 Danish Kroner for Euros by then which actually meant that buying something was impossible, as change would be given in DKK and I only had 50s. I could have probably had them exchanged for smaller euro notes and then bought a coffee or whatever, but again reluctant to spend off of my limited budget before I was even away I decided to skip on the overpriced lattes and other temptations.

In the gate boarding went as planned, I had been given seat A – which in my mind translates to a window seat. This excited me because on my estimated 10 flights lifetime I have not yet been in a window seat on a day flight. Sadly my excitement was short lived as I was in the very back row, which had no window on either side. Oh well, at least the middle seat had no passenger yet, so I was thinking maybe I get a trip with some extra space. That was not to be either, just as the crew was getting ready to close up they let in a panting woman, probably slightly older than me who collapsed into the seat next to me. As she told me her story about getting to the gate from the center of Copenhagen within half an hour, which is absolutely incredible, the captain notified us that due to favourable weather conditions we would be flying to Berlin in 40 minutes today, instead of the 60 minutes indicated in the flight details. The woman, a school teacher from America was visiting Europe on what can only be described as a Eurotrip and we exchanged a very pleasant conversation that made sure the trip was over in no time, at least that’s how it felt. Sadly this meant I did not get to read in my Russian beginner textbook, but none the less I touched down in Berlin Schönefeld Airport and the conference as well as Berlin was now very much within my grasp.

In the next part I will talk about my attempts and fears of using German, getting to the venue and first impressions.

Next: Part 2 – Arriving