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 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.
We returned to the continent of North America in 2017 just about, by taking the conference to Reykjavík, Iceland – the perfect place to meet between Europe and North America. The themes of the conference celebrated 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.
In 2018 we took 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 celebrated 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”.
In 2019 we took the Polyglot Conference to Fukuoka, Japan. Fukuoka has a very authentic Japanese feel to it and many interesting and exciting places to explore for participants to really experience its people and culture. We celebrated our host country’s languages and cultures, as well as the wider region too. We joined in the UN’s goal of making 2019 all about being the “International Year of Indigenous Languages”.
In 2020 the global pandemic hit and we were unable to go to Cholula, Mexico as planned. Instead we used this chance to develop our virtual conference options and decided to make sweet lemonade out of the lemons we were given. We created Polyglot Conference Global, which is not a part of the conference that will endure for years to come to complement any future physical conferences. All presentations were pre-recorded and available throughout the 10-day event in a Netflix-style fashion. THis left participants and speakers alike free to enjoy the games, quizzes, language lessons and chats with each other around the clock. The event became truly global as there was no start or end time. In 2021 we will continue this new tradition and await news on physical venue options as the global situation changes.
Join us this year and become part of the story!