Linguahackers Review: An Online Polyglot Conference

October 13-25 this year saw the debut of a new, online-only conference for language learners and aspiring polyglots which featured presentations from some of the world's finest language learners and industry specialist, and me!

About Linguahackers

Linguahackers is organised chiefly by Oleg Akintsev, Ruslan Kokorin, Jan van der Aa and Lucas Bighetti. The aim was to create an online polyglot conference experience, wherein participants from all over the world would be able to take part in.

I was first introduced to the idea back in June, at the Polyglot Gathering, where I was asked to be part of the event as a speaker and promoter.

I liked the idea, because I feel like there are some heavy restrictions on the physical events that mean it's impossible for a lot of language fans to participate.

Things like:

  • Physical distance – It's hard to get between continents, for example.
  • Venue Restrictions – sometimes the event just can't hold more people, like at the previous Polyglot Gatherings in Berlin.
  • Cost – Flights, accommodation, food and drink all add up.
  • Getting time off – Most people have jobs and can't just go travelling whenever they feel like it.

All of this made me very excited to see what the organisers could come up with. As the event came closer and closer I was happy to see that they had managed to get some huge names on board, to lend credibility and most importantly knowledge to the whole venture.

Cost of taking part in Linguahackers

The conference was absolutely free to participate in live. If you want the replay of a presentation you can grab them for around $12, while the entire catalogue of talks can be accessed for just $47.

I personally think this is a great model, as you build a lot of buzz and excitement for the live segments – but at the same time allow people to enjoy the presentations even if they weren't able to be present live.

The paid element also allows you to support your favourite content creators, as they will get a share of the purchase price. For example I will get half of the $47 if you decide to grab all the presentations via my link in this post.

Contributors to the conference will also receive a revenue share if anyone purchases their talk directly.

Presentations at the 2017 Linguahackers Conference

In total there were over 25 presentations at this inaugural Linguahackers online language learning conference.

Here you can see a complete list. Forgive me my brazen egomania by listing myself first, but as this is my website I figured I might as well get it over with.

  • Kris Broholm: You don't need to be Mezzofanti to enjoy learning languages
  • Steve Kaufmann – How to prepare for speaking with native speakers
  • Tim Keeley – A Short Introduction to 10 Asian Languages
  • Richard Simcott – Raising a child with more than one language: Reasons and benefits
  • Stuart Jay Raj – I didn't learn languages just to teach and interpret – Setting a Value on Your Tongue
  • Benny Lewis – Professional Language Learner: How to Earn from your Passion
  • Lucas Bighetti – How to get the most out of your online language classes
  • Jan van der Aa – Rapid Language Learning: The First 21 Hours
  • Lydia Machova – Goldlist method: How to learn vocabulary WITHOUT memorizing anything
  • Richard Delong – Language acquisition for rebels: the Frictionless Mastery method
  • Conor Clyne – Life hacks on language learning and local traveling
  • Kerstin Cable – The Unexpected Secret to Success in Language Learning
  • Angelo DeLeo – Language Exchange: How to Master a Language
  • Elisa Polese – Learning and teaching two to ten languages in one course
  • Gabriel Gelman – Warum beherrsche ich meine Fremdsprache auch nach Jahren noch nicht?
  • Vladimir Skultety – A story of a 20 language life
  • Tetsu Yung – Pampers to Polyglot: Creating the perfect environment for raising multilingual children
  • Idahose Ness – How to Learn a Language Faster by Learning it Backwards
  • Chris Parker – How to become fluent in Chinese – what I’ve learned after 10 years of speaking Mandarin.
  • Dimitry Gurbatov – Storytelling method: learn English, Spanish or both.
  • Robert Bigler – How to turn your passion for languages into a successful career.
  • Cesco Reale – Tandem: consigli per scambi linguistici
  • Shannon Kennedy – Alternative Time & Energy Management Strategies for Language Learners
  • Victoria Shirobokova – ¿Qué significa hablar con fluidez y cómo lograrlo?

You can access the replays from all the presentations here for $47.

What went well

I was very impressed with how well the whole thing was organised, considering it was the first time the event was held. The technical setup worked quite well, and there was a lot of opportunities for interaction between the viewers and the presenter.

During my talk there were over 500 viewers online (not necessarily active) and it was a great experience to interact live, and answer questions as I was delivering my presentation. It actually felt like a conference!

I also think the business model is quite good. Free to attend, but you have to pay to get all the recordings after. That's only fair and helps compensate the organisers for their work, as well as the contributors.

It also helps smaller content producers or product owners to get exposure that would be otherwise difficult to get at physical conferences.

What didn't go so well

Overall a very well-organised event, but as with all new events there were a few small hiccups.

  • Technical consistency: Some presenters had poor camera/audio setups, which was a little painful to watch. I know the organisers tested everyone's setups before the event so I blame the individual presenters on this. If you're presenting get a proper webcam! It makes all the difference.
  • Marketing before the event: I felt like the marketing ahead of the event was a little bit weak, considering the many top names involved. I think next time this could be improved – maybe some kind of pre-event buzz campaign.

These are tiny nuisances though. Overall it was a great event.

Can I just say I'm a bit tired of anything with the word hacker or hacks in it?

The future of Linguahackers

Another advantage of a purely online conference is that it requires a lot less planning and organising than the real-life counterparts.

Because of this the organisers of Linguahackers hope to do it a few times a year, which I'm very excited about. I think in the future, we'll come to appreciate these online-only events as glue or bridge-builders between the physical events that are taking place.

So watch for announcements for the next edition, going live Janaury-February 2018!

I was grateful to be invited and if they invite me again I will be back.

  • Very nice and thorough review Kris!

  • dandiprat says:

    While I can’t wait to finally visit an event in person, there are many advantages to an event like this. Another advantage is that it’s not only easier to attend, I imagine it’s also easier to be a presenter. I enjoyed the presentations including Kris’ and can’t wait for the next one. I also can’t imagine the amount of strain all that interpreting into Russian must involve. Just doing a little gives me a headache. Also thanks to the organizers, I’m sure they put in a lot of work to figure it all the technical details and get the guests ready.

    • Kris Broholm says:

      It was definitely easier for me to present here from the comfort of my own home 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kris. One of the things I noticed in Facebook discussions about the event is that there were not a lot of women presenters. It looks like a 20% representation from women presenters. So the organisers next time will want to balance it out more.

    • Kris Broholm says:

      Meh I’ll never understand this type of complaints. Seems like a classic feminist myth, where if men outnumber women in any setting there must have been some foul play, or discriminating taken place.

      My conclusion is that many amazing women spoke at the event, and they did not share any feelings of sexism, discrimination or any other negative behaviour that would actively discourage female presenters from coming on board or being sought out.

      This makes me confident that the distribution is simply a function of the overall population of the community, and possibly with the calendars of the popular female content creators. We can’t know how many turned down the offer to appear.

      My feeling is that people probably have dull lives and want to stir up a bit of controversy, where nothing really exists. If these people, who complain about the lack of women, want to nominate or suggest candidates for the next conference based on merit and achievement then I’m all for it. But suggesting that the composition must remain equal and have presenters with little merit or achievement just because they’re female is nonsensical in my opinion.

      As an aside I also doubt the organisers of any event would actively discourage women from presenting, not only because of the negative press, but also because they are typically fewer in the language learning circles so their presentations are more exciting in general. Restricting women would then only lead to trouble for the conference, so I can only conclude that it’s just coincidental.

  • Andy R says:

    IMO, the third “small hiccup” was the difficulty for the presenters in keeping up with the questions in the quickly-moving chat box. There was a separate questions area in the top right corner, but not many viewers or presenters noticed it, and so it was largely ignored. However, the conference organizers have gotten plenty of feedback like this, so they’ll no doubt resolve or partly resolve these problems the next time.

  • sprachlust says:

    Hi Kris. Thanks for the great review. I totally agree in that the marketing was not really there. If I hear about things like this, I’m the first person to sign up, but it was only through Lydia Machova’s email newsletter that I even found out about this. At amny rate, I did get the recordings so I’m going to go through them. Just a note. Idahosa’s name is spelled with an ‘a’ at the end, not an ‘e’ 🙂

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