My comprehensive Polyglot Gathering Berlin trip report – part 6
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 6 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 6 – The first day ends
In my last report I had talked about some of the talks of the first day and how I accidentally missed a few talks, sorry speakers! After I had been seated in the lobby for a good while talking to people, I realised that I HAD to go to the next talk by Mr. Eryk Walczak, who was a PhD student at UCL, one of the best universities in the world. He was to give a talk about neurolinguistics, in an attempt to give a brief overview of how the scientific part of linguistics aimed to map brain changes when exposed to languages and language learning. Sadly, with only one hour and facing a room of vastly varying knowledge about neurolinguistics Eryk had to define a lot and so did eventually not get to present much more than: it’s complicated, which we teased him a bit with later on. Either way it was fascinating to hear some of the changes that happens in the brain, or they presume is happening, because as Eryk said one of the biggest problems was that they could never be sure if the brain changed because the owner learned languages, or the owner found it natural to learn languages because he had a different brain. The evidence seems to point in favour of the former, but it truly is – complicated.
Time to get some prison-food, and if you are in any way affiliated with the hostel or hosting the event, please forgive my use of this term. It is meant affectionately. After a few more hilarious encounters at the dinner table it was time for the international culinary festival. Basically every participant was asked to bring something edible or drinkable to showcase something typical to their native country. Personally I had a really hard time thinking what to bring. Denmark is not particularly well known for it’s cuisine, perhaps beers as Tuborg and Carlsberg are still being exported globally – but it was a sizable inconvenience to bring beers that I am sure everyone had tried before anyway. Not to mention that my carry-on luggage was pretty full already from bringing recording equipment to record interviews later in the week. I had all but given up on the whole idea, until I in the Copenhagen Airport came across a tin of butter cookies, which I would consider fairly Danish. It even had pictures of touristy locations on top. I brought my tin and headed to fifth floor and whilst on my way I ran into Mr David James who seemed to be lugging around bags and bags of something and suddenly I was afraid I had misread the invitation, but I think in the end David was simply just eager to showcase a selection of local products. He was also driving so could afford the space.
I arrived at the culinary festival and sampled a variety of good things, I tried a Russian drink that tasted like liquid bread – it was not bad, honestly. The highlight of the evening however, came in the form of the Scotland table. Edd, the Scotsman – I think his name was, had brought two cakes but most memorably an Edradour whisky cake. Now I must admit I am not a particular Edradour fan, but Scotch is among my favorite drinks and so to taste a very rich cake with that twist of Scotch was remarkably good. I also sampled a few sweets and the very popular herbal energy drink from Germany: Club Mate, which apparently, Judith told me, has the slogan: You will get used to it. This confused me slightly because I found it quite refreshing and with 20 or so mg caffeine it was not far away from Redbull’s 32.
After I had done my rounds I looked at the time and realised that it was happy hour in the rooftop bar. Normally I am not one to seek out these offers too much, but it had genuinely been a long day and buying a pint of beer for €2 is the cheapest I have ever heard of. In addition there was always great conversation going on in the bar as I had great conversations with Fasulye, Niels Iversen and many more in there. It was a relaxing place with cheap alcohol, but sadly the slowest bar staff in the history of bars. I guess it had something to do with the fact that they were not allowed to get tips. Why work faster if you get paid the same every hour, right? Anyway, pint in hand I returned to the culinary festival to see if there was any whisky cake left, sadly it had been disposed of by unknown hungry polyglots and so I went to the Austrian table where Dani and Astrid had some cake left. On the way I noticed that Dani pointed me out to somebody I had only briefly met, during registration so I was unsure what was going on. I shook his hand and he told me to wait one second as he had something to show me on his phone, fearing the worst I held my breath but was incredibly happy when he opened up his podcasting app to show me that he was a regular listener. Prior to this only one other had commented on my podcast, so it was a very nice and fuzzy feeling. Beyond that Miro, as his name was, was also an incredibly talented polyglot and a nice friendly person to boot. So we ended up talking for about 15 minutes in a mixture of English and German. I am always happy when people show me support online, but nothing beats this kind of support. I invited Miro to give feedback on the show as well, and he thoughtfully said that he would send me an email when the event was over instead of going into details right there.
The end of the day was fairly uneventful. Based on our experiences last night I had decided not to leave the hotel in search of a bar or club, with the rooftop bar closing at midnight. By then I should ideally be going towards my room if I am to have any chance of catching breakfast and the first talks in the morning. In the rooftop bar I randomly met Eryk from the neuroscience presentation earlier and he eagerly answered my questions about academics and we talked about some of the neuroscientific topics he had introduced earlier. Here he also explained that it was a hard presentation to make because the audience was so unknown. This meant for instance that he had to spend time defining a lot of things that was considered common knowledge in academic or even just linguistic circles. It was incredibly exciting and although I am not one to consider myself an academic it is interesting when people research and share their results.
In the next report I will talk about day 2 of the conference and what I experienced there.