My comprehensive Polyglot Gathering Berlin trip report – part 5

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 5 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.

Previous Parts: 

Part 1 – Departing

Part 2 – Arriving

Part 3 – Touristing

Part 4 – The Day Before

Part 5 – The event begins (you are here)

I woke up having slept very little, but nonetheless excited about getting to the first real day of the conference. I moved down to the basement to find the breakfast buffet and when I arrived I was greeted with a VERY typical German version of it. It honestly wasn’t bad, except perhaps the coffee – but I’ll get back to that in a minute. There was a selection of rolls with cheese/meats to put on it and also cereal, fruit and your average selection of drinks such as apple/orange juice and carbonated water – a big favorite of mine. I sat down randomly and got to know, through complete chance the very talented Viktor Berrjod. As he is from Norway, and the person to my left was Swedish we had an impromptu Scandinavian speaking session. We would all speak in our native languages and the conversation would actually carry pretty well. I understood everything Viktor said, but sadly not everything the swede, whose name I have sadly forgot right now, said.

By then Chris Huff had joined the breakfast and we went together to join the opening ceremonies of the event. We took a couple of seats in the middle of the room and left two vacant in the row. Suddenly there was a stir in the room, and I turned around to see none other than Benny Lewis, the Irish Polyglot and his girlfriend entering the room. Looking just as they do in their youtube videos and blog posts. Benny has been a massive inspiration for me and he is probably my biggest idol. You can only imagine my excitement when Benny and Lauren joined our row and greeted us warmly. The smile and handshake Benny gave me was like to a lost friend you had not seen in ages, in spite of only having scarcely communicated with him over email and twitter. That only further increased my respect for him and I nervously stuttered back some form of greeting, luckily I was saved as the official presentation was beginning, but what a way to start the event!

The presentation was a mostly practical one, explaining how everything worked and things participants should know. After the practical introduction they showed the movie: “Conlangs” which was actually remarkably well made. Going into the event I wasn’t really into conlangs, and to a degree I’m still not interested in the conning of them, but I’m more open to actually learning the big ones now – especially Esperanto. Good introduction to the whole thing and now we were let loose to the first round of talks. There were actually 3 interesting talks: Linguism and Justice in the EU, Introduction to Cantonese and Discussion: Passive phase or not? I could have gone to either of them, but since room 1 would definitely be recorded and I wasn’t really in the mood for too much of a discussion I decided to go see my friend Olly, who was on the podcast as well!, do his introduction to Cantonese. I’m sure that I will be learning chinese within the next 2 years, so it was a good opportunity to hear some more about it. Additionally I would be taking notes for my own presentation, which I hadn’t quite finished yet. But then again, it wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon.

Olly’s presentation was alright, maybe have slight more emphasis on examples and practical language instead of statistics and history, but overall I was entertained and definitely not discouraged from learning Cantonese. The next two choices were between Jan Van der Aas: How Learning Chinese Can Be Fun and Proto-indo-european. The latter seemed some kind of linguistic presentation of language roots. Riding the wave from Cantonese I decided to go to Jans presentation. It has to be said that Jan did very little to talk about making learning Chinese fun, but I did enjoy and benefitted from his presentation. He had one particular slide that showed the difference between a good student and a good learner and what that meant for his Chinese studies. I later heard a lot of people complain about this talk, but to be honest I thought it was fine. He included a lot of stories from his personal life and although it was a shorter talk I feel like the contents were well worth it.

Time for lunch and as I enjoyed our prison-style lunch I started meeting more people, and some of the stories and achievements some of these people had really staggered me. Since I was done with lunch rather early I went for the lobby to see what was going on. I found a group of polyglots that included Benny Lewis and I sat down, eager to listen to people who knew so much more than me. It wasn’t until long though, when Benny’s attention shifted to me and we had a good long talk, where I discovered that he is exactly like he is portrayed on line. Friendly, helpful, supportive not to mention funny. I also got to sit down and chat to Lauren, Benny’s girlfriend. But that is the last time I will use that designator as I consider her more than that, she is now a contributor on fluentin3months and I learned she has an MA in Rhetorics! I really wanted to pick her brain on the whole experience because I knew how Benny felt, to a large degree, but Lauren’s new venture into Esperanto and the polyglot community was fairly unprecedented. After such interesting and insightful conversations I looked at the clock and realized I had missed not one, but two talks. Sadly, or depending how you look at it, this would not be the last time at this event that I sacrificed talks in favour of networking.

In the next part I will talk about the last talk of day one, what happened after and the International Culinary Event.

Next: Part 6