I want to make true language learning accessible to everybody, that realisation I made in Bratislava. Sabi and I went to the conference, where people who speak 5+ languages meet. These people are called Polyglots.
Language learning is more than memorising words. Of course learning words is something everyone has to go through, and so is understanding grammatical structures. But language learning is actually about getting closer to a culture. And because of that it may be the ultimate travelling experience. My most interesting holidays were those where I could converse with a different culture, be it the music culture at a summer festival, the Catalan culture in Barcelona, or a stranger you sit for two hours in a car with when hitchhiking.
Speaking a language is a feeling of empowerment. At the gathering in Bratislava, there were around 700 lovable nerds like us who just happen to speak 5-8 languages (some also only two, and others around 25. These people put the work in, and now have the reward of being able to communicate authentically in foreign languages. Reactions to our app were largely positive, ranging from “It works with audio? That’s great for Nepalese, cause there’s very little written material, “ to “Can it export to the Anki App?” or even “No, we don’t like apps when learning”. But the main response was, “Do you have Android too?”. (Luckily, Nermeen from Cairo is working hard on it, while Jake has finished his work on the iOS app and is now working in a summer job). In general, our approach really fit into the scene, and the lectures and talks were super exciting for us at the Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava. Of the 20% who owned an iPhone, most who tried it out loved it :).
This weekend, using my languages again threw me back into all kinds of adventurous memories. I spoke in Spanish for 10 minutes, and immediately I got the feelings back of the neighbourhood of Raval, with it’s mixed population and somewhat run-down curvy streets. “Estaba la zona roja, todavía es un poco how do you say raw again?”, I said. (Rugo and Barrio Chino are the correct expressions, I looked it up).
Then I spoke Dutch with a super kind guy studying in Manchester, who just happens to speak perfect Dutch, because he loves Belgium and Nijmegen (and prefers the Dutch accent to the Flemish one, by the way). And then a few sentences of Bahasa Indonesia (I forgot how much I still know). Some Hebrew too, but after my standards phrases I got stuck. Funny thing, languages..
The main takeaway was that through the people there, it became clear how much fun and how important languages are. But also how normal and friendly all these polyglots are, and how speaking several languages is an enrichment that can be accessible to everyone.
We will continue in another blogpost about how the conference content was in the context of our app. Since many superstars of language learning were there, we would like to go into the content a bit more. For example, there are wonderful lectures slides from Tim Dean Keeley, an absolutely Rock’n’roll Intercultural Communication Professor at a Japanese University.
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