I’m currently in Bratislava in Slovakia for the 2019 Polyglot Gathering, which starts tomorrow, although there was an opening ceremony this evening.

The Polyglot Gathering 2019 begins

Today I went on a tour taking in three countries – Slovakia, Hungary and Austria. I had conversations in English, French, German, Mandarin, Spanish and Irish, and spoke odd bits of Czech, Slovak, Russian, Scots, Hungarian, Portuguese, Welsh, Esperanto and Swedish.

Hainburg Castle

I probably won’t have much time for blogging with all the intensive polylgotting that’s going on. Normal service will be resumed next week.

The British Library

My trip to the British Library in London on Wednesday went well. Although I’ve been past the place many times, I haven’t been in before, so it was interesting to explore.

The first thing I saw was the Making Your Mark exhibition, which official opens today. I went to a press view for journalists, bloggers on Wednesday morning, although decided not to go to the big opening bash last night.

The exhibition is divided into several sections covering the history of writing, the development of writing tools and styles, the use of writing, and the future of writing. Highlights for me include ancient Egyptian, Sumerian, Mayan and Chinese inscriptions, texts and other artifacts, and books and manuscripts from Europe, Japanese, Thailand and other places with beautiful writing and illustrations.

Here are the photos I took:

The British Library

You have to pay to see this exhibition, but there are a number of other free exhibitions on at the moment and others coming soon. I explored the Treasures of the British Library exhibition, which was excellent. It includes beautiful and rare books from around the world; musical scores by famous composers, such as Beethoven and Chopin; letters, notebooks and other scribblings by famous authors, including Jane Austin, Charles Dickens and Charlotte Brontë; maps, illustrations and ancient religious texts.

One thing I noticed is that most of the composers, writers and scientists whose writings are on display, had very messy handwriting. The only exceptions I noticed were the Brontë sisters. Could there be a connection between almost illegible scribbles and genius?

Making Your Mark

This afternoon I’m off to London, and tomorrow morning I’m going to the opening of an exhibition about at the British Library entitled “Writing: Making Your Mark“.

Making Your Mark

They describe it as “the extraordinary story behind one of humankind’s greatest achievements: through more than 100 objects spanning 5,000 years and seven continents.”

It includes such things as notebooks from Mozart, Alexander Fleming and James Joyce, as well examples of writing, calligraphy, writing tools and typewriters from around world.

There’s a press view and guided tour of the exhibition tomorrow morning, which I’m going to, and a big opening event on Thursday evening. The exhibtion opens to public on Friday, and runs until the end of August 2019.

I haven’t been to the British Library before, so it’ll be interesting to see it, and the exhibition sounds fascinating, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Polyglot Plans

Polyglot - definition

I just registered for the Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava at the end of May / beginning of June. This will be the fifth time I’ve been to the Gathering – the second in Bratislava, and I’m looking forward to it.

I’ll be staying in the same AirBnB as last time, which is close to the Gathering venue, and not too far from the centre of Bratislava. It’s easier that way as I already know my way around the area.

I haven’t decided if I’ll give a presentation or run a workshop at the Gathering. At previous polyglot events I’ve given talks on writing systems, the origins of languages, the origins of words, Manx, and language death and revival, and helped with a Welsh language workshop. Any suggestions for what I could talk about at this and future polyglot events?

At the end of January I’m going to Edinburgh for LingoFringo, a fringe event to the main polyglot conferences and gatherings with a focus on workshops, community and networking events. I’ll be running a workshop on traditional Scottish Gaelic songs there.

So this month I’ll be brushing up my Scottish Gaelic, preparing for the workshop, and continuing to work on other languages. The languages I’m focusing on currently are Swedish, Danish, Russian, Esperanto, Cornish and Scots. This year I also plan to learn some more British Sign Language and Slovak, and maybe some German, Czech and Spanish.

I don’t plan to start any new languages this year – we’ll see how that works out.

What are your language-related plans for this year?

Lowender Peren

This weekend I’m in Newquay in Cornwall for the Lowender Peren festival of Celtic music and dance. This is the first time I’ve been to this particular festival, but I have been to pan-Celtic festivals in the Isle of Man before. There are performers and visitors here from all the Celtic lands – Cornwall, Brittany, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. I know quite a few of the people from the Isle of Man who are here, and a few from Scotland.

Lowender Peren

The name Lowender Peren means ‘Perran’s Mirth’ in Cornish. The word perran features in some Cornish places names, including Perranporth (Porthperan in Cornish), Perranzabuloe (Pyran yn Treth in Cornish) and Perranarworthal (Peran ar Wodhel in Cornish). It comes from Saint Piran (Peran in Cornish), a 5th century Cornish abbot who became the patron saint of tin miners, and is regarded as the patron saint of Cornwall.

The festival was offical opened last night with a speech in Cornish, and English, by a member of the Gorsedh Kernow, the Gorsedh of the Bards of Cornwall, possibly the Grand Bard herself. Gorsedh is ‘a meeting of bards’. She sounded fairly fluent, and I could actually understand some of the Cornish. I haven’t found anyone else here who speaks Cornish, apart from a few phrases.

Last night there was dancing to a local band, and then a trio of singers, members of the Lorho-Pasco family from Brittany, sang for us in Breton, and we improvised some dances. It was the first time I’d heard that style of Breton music. It works well for dancing, though I’m not sure if I’d want to listen to it for too long on its own.

I also spoke a bit of Manx with people I know from the Isle of Man, and some Scottish Gaelic with Joy Dunlop, a dancer and singer from Scotland who I know from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.


This morning there was an interesting talk about the history of Newquay. Then I went for a wander around the town. This afternoon we went for a guided walk around Newquay seeing some of the things that were mentioned in the talk.

There will be a lot more music, singing and dancing over the next few days. There was even a music session going on in the hotel where the festival is taking place when I went past not long ago.

Polyglot Conference – Day 2

The Polyglot Conference came to and end yesterday, and while it was only a few days, we managed to pack quite a lot into the time.

Yesterday I went to talks on the Pirahã language, Braille, personality-focused training in second language acquisition, and the character traits of polyglots.

I also gave my talk on the diversity of writing systems to a nearly full room. Quite a few people told me afterwards that they really enjoyed it and found it interesting. Which is encouraging.

At the end of the conference we were told where next year’s conference will be: Fukuoka (福岡市) in Japan from 18-20 October 2019. I haven’t decided whether to go yet.

I left a very wet Ljubljana this morning and flew to Manchester via Frankfurt. Apart from a bit of turbulence, everything went smoothly. I’m currently on the train from Manchester Airport to Crewe. Should be home in a few hours.

Polyglot Conference – Day 1

The Polyglot Conference officially started today. There were talks and workshops all day on all sorts of interesting topics. I went to talks on Slovenian, linguistic relavtivity, Romani, the Cathars, and audiolinguistics. They were all interesting, especially the linguistic ones.

There was plenty of time between the talks to talk to other participants, and I managed to make some recordings in quite a variety of languages for the next episode of my podcast. I hope to make more recordings tomorrow.

I had conversations in English, Welsh, French, Irish, German, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese, and tried to speak a few other languages.

They are preparing Ljubljana for the Ljubljana Marathon tomorrow, and quite a few streets are being lined with barriers. I hope I’ll be able to get to the conference venue tomorrow.

Polyglotting in Ljubljana

After arriving in Ljubljana yesterday I found a bus into the city centre, then walked to the AirBnB I’m staying in, which is more or less in the centre of the old town. It doesn’t look like much from outside – the door is covered in graffiti, and the outside of the building is rather plain, but inside the flat I’m in is very nicely decorated.


Last night I had dinner at a restaurant by the Ljubljanica, the river that flows through Ljubljana. I saw quite a few people I know from previous polyglot events going past, and met some of them afterwards in a tapas restaurant.

So far I’ve spoken a little Slovenian, quite a bit of German, French and Welsh, and odd bits of other languages.

We spent today talking about the best ways to learn languages. This was interesting and there was some useful advice that I might try.

I haven’t had a lot of time to explore the city yet. The centre is quite compact and mostly pedestranised, with lots of interesting and colourful buildings.

This evening there was a concert with songs in many languages, then I went for dinner with quite a few other polyglots.

Time flies when you’re learning Irish

The Irish language and singing courses I’ve been doing this week finished today. Tonight there is a concert with a singer from Belfast, followed by a céilí. The week seems to have gone by quickly when I look back at it, but as I was experiencing it, it seemed to last longer.

Gleann Cholm Cille

I learnt some interesting things in the Irish language class, including proverbs, idioms, bits of grammar, and a few songs. In the sean-nós class I learned some new songs, and re-learned some old ones. Our teacher also told us about the background to the songs and the people who wrote them, which was fasciniating.

As well as speaking plenty of Irish this week, I’ve also spoke some Russian, French, Breton, Welsh and Scottish Gaelic. I can understand most of the Irish I hear, though find songs in Irish more difficult to follow. I can sing them, but don’t necessarily know all the words. This is partly because songs, especially the sean-nós ones, often include obscure words and dialect variations.

Spot the sheep

Caora. Sheep. Dafad

Tomorrow I’m off to Dublin, then I’ll return to Bangor on Sunday.

Angelic voices

Yesterday morning I studied some more Swedish, Danish and Russian, did a bit of work, and went for a walk around the misty glen.

Glenn Cholm Cille

In the afternoon we saw an interesting film in Irish – Ag Lorg Annie (Searching for Annie), which was made for the BBC by Kevin Magee, who is studying Irish here this week. The film is about a painting of a local girl, Annie McGinley, that was painted in the 1920s by the American artist, Rockwell Kent, who spent quite a bit of time in this area. Kevin wanted to find out more about the painting and where the original is now. He found the painting in a private collection in New York, and other paintings by Rockwell Kent in St Petersburg.

In the evening the local chapel was packed for a concert by Anúna, an Irish choir who sing beautiful arrangements of songs in Irish, English, Latin, Spanish. They specialize in old songs, and the oldest they sang last night was written in the 9th century, and sounded angelic.


There was another concert after that in Oideas Gael featuring Sean Mac Corraidh from Belfast, his daughter, and a singer from Tory island. They sang traditional Irish songs, and told some interesting stories.

In the Irish language class we talked about verbs and other things this morning, and in the sean-nós class this afternoon we learnt four songs, three of which were already familiar to me. This evening there is a talk about Féiniúlacht agus Teanga (Identity and Language) by a lecturer in psychology from Dublin.