Before the web and social media, polyglots tended to be solitary creatures studying on their own and pursuing what were often viewed as eccentric or inexplicable pursuits.
The internet changed that, by making geography irrelevant and uniting language lovers across great distances. Alongside readily available information about other countries and cultures, they now had direct access to native speakers and polyglots representing hundreds of languages.
New language sites and social media brought about the formation of a self-conscious, collaborative online community. In 2007, the first YouTube videos from polyglots began appearing online.
The first offline meeting took place at the Polyglot Conference in May 2013 in Budapest, Hungary, where language enthusiasts from around the world came together to meet. Many who had been active in the online language community were now together and able to share stories, discuss methods, practice language skills, exchange ideas and generally put faces to familiar names. Common reactions were excitement, joy and a surge of renewed motivation.
Meeting offline opened up the language-learning community to a new, wider audience for the first time. From that first event, the language-learning community of YouTubers, bloggers, teachers, translators, interpreters, writers and entrepreneurs has continued to grow and flourish. Each year more people who love language come together at our international events to raise the quality of their learning experience and—by extension—the profile of polyglottery worldwide.
The second Polyglot Conference in Serbia in October 2014 was hosted by the Cultural Center of Novi Sad. That too was a huge success and led to the decision to take the Polyglot Conferences out of Europe for the first time.
In 2015, the Polyglot Conference made its first trip to the United States, landing in New York City, one of the most multilingual cities in the world, and drawing a whole new crop of American polyglots to this flourishing global community. Co-organized with local linguaphile Ellen Jovin and attracting 450 participants, the 2015 conference was the largest and most high profile event ever held in polyglot history.
In 2016, the Polyglot Conference returned to Europe and was held in the beautiful coastal city of Thessaloniki, Greece. The conference celebrated the city’s colourful multilingual heritage and present. Participants got the chance to share their love for languages with beautiful sea breezes carrying the whispers of the many different languages that have called the city home.
Last year’s Polyglot Conference took place in Reykjavík, Iceland – the perfect place to meet between Europe and North America. The themes of the conference celebrate the languages, literatures and cultures of the North, highlight the pressures of globalisation on smaller and indigenous languages as well as exploring the multilingualism and autism.
This year we are taking the Polyglot Conference to Slovenia’s capital. Ljubljana’s Grand Hotel Union boasts a strong tradition in hosting international conferences in the heart of the city centre. We will celebrate our host country’s diversity, as well as the diversity of our participants under the umbrella of our conference theme for 2018 “Diversity in Language”.