Novi Sad Catholic Cathedral

Yesterday morning I met up with other conference participants and after a bit of a wander around the city, we had lunch then went to the opening ceremony a reception. In the after we had a little guided tour of Novi Sad seeing some interesting buildings, including the Catholic or Orthodox Cathedrals, and the fortress. There are some rather attractive buildings here, wide, pedestrianised café-lined streets, some nice parks and generally a relaxed kind of atmosphere.

In the evening we all went to a restaurant about 4 or 5km from the city centre for dinner. I walked there with a few others, and the rest went by bus or taxi. We had a nice dinner with lots of polyglot chat, then some people started dancing, and others carried on chatting.

Novi Sad town hall

Today there were lectures and talks on a variety of topics including sound symbolism, the magic of metaphors, language coaching, and acting and humour in a foreign language.

So far I’ve had conversations in about 10 languages and spoken bits and pieces of maybe 10 others. In some cases this was only a few words (all I know), in others it was a bit more. There are even two guys here who are learning Scottish Gaelic, one of whom also speaks a bit of Manx, and another who is learning Irish.

Extreme Polyglottery

The Polyglot Gathering in Berlin last week was fantastic and I enjoyed everything about it. The organizers did an excellent job and everything went well, with only minor hitches. Many other people helped things to run smoothly, and gave talks and/or arranged discussions and language practise sessions.

The A&O Hauptbahnhof hostel/hotel where the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin took place in June 2014

The venue was a huge hostel/hotel near Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof (main station), and not far from famous places like the Reichstag (home of the German parliament) and the Brandenburg Gate. It was equipped with hotel and hostel-style rooms, a dining hall in the basement, a reception area with seating and a games section on the ground floor, and a roof-top bar on the 5th floor. The gathering itself took place mainly in function rooms on the 5th floor, with a large room for the talks and activities and two smaller rooms for discussions and talks. One of the smaller rooms also served as a tea room – Gufujo (owl room in Esperanto) – in the evenings for those looking for somewhere quieter than the bar for a chat. There were also spontaneous outbreaks of polyglottery in other parts of the venue, and outside as well.

The program for the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin in June 2014

The program included lectures, talks, discussions, games, and plenty opportunities to practise languages and to talk about language learning, language and languages – or polyglottery as I like to call it. The talks and discussions ran from 9am to 1pm, with two hours for lunch, and from 3-6pm. In most time spots there were two or three things going on at the same time, so you couldn’t go to everything. Fortunately the talks were all videoed and the videos will appear online when they have been edited, so I can watch the ones I missed, and those who weren’t there can watch all the ones that interest them. The program booklet was printed several months before the gathering, so there were some changes, and people filled in empty spots with talks on a variety of language-related topics, and other activities.

The talks I went to include ones on Proto-Indo-European, careers for polyglots, neuroscience and language learning, practising languages in virtual words, Scots and Scottish English, Welsh; and discussions on passive v active learning, and synesthesia; and introductions to Indonesian, Toki Pona and Macedonian. Some talks were quite academic, others were more informal. All were interesting.

On the first evening there was an international culinary festival with food and drink from many different countries. There were polyglot games on the subsequent two evenings, and an international culture evening with songs and poems in many different languages on the final evening. I started it off with a song in Welsh – Lisa Lân, and my Manx/English song about seagulls and chips – Spollagyn son tey / Chips for tea, and finished it with my song Everyday Adventures, which all went down well.

Here’s me singing Lisa Lân and Spollagyn son tey / Chips for tea (videoed by David J. James):

The most impressive contribution was Richard Simcott singing Let it Go from Frozen in some 20 different languages from memory:

There were some 230 participants there from all over the world ranging in age from teenagers to pensioners. All spoke at least two languages, and many spoke quite a few more – I think the average number of languages spoken there was around four or five, with a number of people who speak ten or more languages. There were plenty of students there who are studying languages, and many other subjects, as well as people who run language-related businesses, or work as translators, writers, journalists, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and many other professions. Whatever our background, we all shared a passion for languages, and were interested in finding out about other peoples, countries and cultures.

A group photo of most of the participants in the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin in June 2014

Meeting so many other polyglots and being able to talk in many different languages and about languages and language learning was wonderful. I don’t often get to do this as I only know a few other polyglots where I live, so the gathering was fantastic for me. I didn’t need to suppress or hold back any of my enthusiasm for languages, as I usually do to varying degrees when talking to people who don’t share my passion. Everyone was friendly, interesting, and had different stories to tell, and I now feel like a part of the polyglot community. Before the gathering I had watched videos and read blogs and forum posts, and even commented from time to time, so I was familiar with a number of polyglots with an online presence, but felt that I was kind of on the periphery of the community. Few people recognised me, but many were familiar with Omniglot, and were happy to meet the guy behind it.

I found the talks, discussions and other activities interesting and fun, especially the discussions on synesthesia, and on raising bi/multilingual children – I don’t have any kids, but my niece is being raised bilingually in English and Russian, and quite a few of my friends are raising their kids with two or more languages, especially English and Welsh.

I would recommend this kind of event to anybody interested in languages, and I’m looking forward to the Polyglot Conference in Novi Sad in Serbia in October.

Polyglot Gathering

I arrived in Berlin yesterday for the Polyglot Gathering, which starts today. I flew here on KLM via Amsterdam, and unfortunately my luggage stayed in Amsterdam. It should arrive today though, and I’ve coped without it so far. This is only the second time this has happened to me – the last time was when I went to Cuba via Madrid, and my luggage stayed in Madrid for a few days.

Last night I met some of the other polyglots, some of whom speak even more languages than I do. I spoke lots of Esperanto, French and English, and some German, Dutch, Mandarin, Italian, Welsh and Spanish.

The next few days are packed with talks, language lessons and other language-related activities, and lots of polyglottery. A few people I’ve met so far are even familiar with Omniglot, which is great as I rarely meet people who know the site.

Which language next?

As today is the 1st October it’s time to change my focus to a different language on my Multilngual Musings blog – but which one? During the past three months I’ve focused on Irish, Scottish Gaelic and Manx – a different one each month – and have found the exercise of writing something and recording it every day very useful for my proficiency in them. While my knowledge of each of these languages has improved, there is still plenty more to learn.

As for the next language to focus on – I could continue the Celtic theme and choose Welsh or Breton, or go for one of the other languages I want to brush up, such as German, Chinese, Japanese, Esperanto, French or Spanish. I feel confident writing in Welsh, and fairly confident in French, but the it would be a struggle with the others, which is one reason why I’m doing this as I need the practice.

Have you undertaken any language-related project like this? If so, how successful have they been?


I came across the word doxastic (/dɒkˈsæstɪk/) today in Being Wrong – Adventures in the Margin of Error by Katryn Schulz. It means “pertaining to beliefs” and appears in the expression used in philosophy, ‘First Person Constraint on Doxastic Explanation’, or as Schulz terms it ”Cuz It’s True Constraint’. It means that we have only a limited number of ways to explain why we believe what we do.

We often believe things to be self-evidently true without necessarily being explain why or to provide reasons. For example, you might be convinced that your method or system for learning languages works and anybody who doesn’t agree just needs to be convinced of this. You might have invested a lot of time and money to develop and promote your system, so it’s in your interest to believe that the system works. You might not be consciously aware of this, but such things are often obvious in methods and systems developed by others.

Doxastic comes from the Greek δοξαστικ-ός (forming opinion, conjectural), from δοξαστής (conjecturer), from δοξάζ-ειν (to conjecture) [source].

The dox part, from the Greek δόξα (opinion, glory), also appears in such words as paradox – para comes from the Greek παρά (by the side of, beside, past, beyond), so it means ‘beyond belief’, and orthodox – ortho comes from the Greek ὀρθο- (straight, right), so it means ‘right belief’.

Dox is also internet slang for personal details (name, address, etc) that are visible online.

Government Opposition to Esperanto

Esperanto plaque

Today we have a guest post by Alexis Bonari

Although Esperanto arguably has the potential to serve as a unifying linguistic force, not every government has been convinced that such unification would be a good idea. Here are a few historical examples, by country, of oppression faced by Esperanto speakers:


  • From 1895-1905, the Tsar of Russia outlawed all material printed in Esperanto.
  • In the year 1938, the leaders of Soviet Russia ordered that all registered Esperanto speakers be shot or deported to Siberia. Although the language was legalized again in 1956, there was still strong government opposition to its use. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that Esperanto was once again fully accepted by the Russian government.


  • In a 1922 speech and in Mein Kampf, Hitler stated that Esperanto was “a tool of Jewish world domination”.

Middle East

  • Iranian Mullahs initially encouraged Esperanto. Unfortunately, followers of the Baha’i religion began to show interest in incorporating the language into their teachings. In 1981, the Mullahs declared Esperanto a threat to the Islamic faith.

During the past decade, increased global access to the Internet has served to discourage overt government intervention in language use. Esperanto is thriving on online forums. Now that most of the bans have been lifted, many Esperanto enthusiasts hope to avoid further government intervention. It would seem that the language flourishes best where the least government regulation is present.

Alexis Bonari is a freelance writer and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at onlinedegrees.org, researching areas of online universities. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.


Degrammaticalization, a word I stumbled across on this blog today, is the process through which grammatical affixes become independent words.

A good example is ish, which started off as a suffix on words like longish, shortish, etc. Then became an enclitic – an affix that can be detached from the words it would normally be attached to, and stuck on to other words – and finally started to be used on its own. More examples of degrammaticalization include esque, ism, pro, con, anti, ette.

In Esperanto, quite a few affixes can be used as independent words. The suffix -ig, for example, indicates the cause or bringing about of action or state, e.g. blankigi, to whiten, from blanka, white. When used on its own as the verb igi, it means ‘to cause’. This appears to be a kind of deliberate, planned degrammaticalization.

Can you think of any other examples of degrammaticalization in English or other languages?

Free the bound morphemes!

Esperanto in Ukraine

According to a report I came across today, the Ukrainian Department of Education has recommended that Esperanto be taught in all schools in Ukraine. It is currently taught as an optional subject in some schools, but the Minister of Education believes that “Esperanto can help to make Ukraine the centre of Europe”.

A Ukrainian teacher of Esperanto interviewed for the report claims that you can learn Esperanto in just 7 days if you know no other foreign languages, or 3-5 days if you know a couple of European languages.

If you know Esperanto, how long did it take you to learn it?

Laŭ raporto, kiun mi trovis hodiaŭ, la Edukado Fako de Ukrainio estas rekomendinta, ke Esperanto instruiĝis en ĉiuj lernejoj en Ukrainio. Nuntempe ĝi estas instruiĝis nedevige en kelkaj lernejoj, sed la Edukada Ministro kredas, ke “Esperanto povas helpi fari Ukrainion la centron de Eŭropo”.

Ukrainia Esperanto-instruisto intervjuita por la raporto pretendas, ke vi povas lerni Esperanton dum nur 7 tagoj, se vi ne konas aliajn fremdlingvjon, aŭ 3-5 tagoj, se vi konas kelkajn Eŭropajn lingvojn.

Si vi konas Esperanton, kiom daŭris vian studojn?