For polyglots and language learners I’m sure this question comes up a lot. I usually stress over this question a lot. This is very difficult because I love traveling. I always want to study the language of the country I’m traveling to. I don’t always want to go to a Spanish speaking country. The whole world is just as interesting. For example, I studied French for six months before I went to Belgium and France. It helped to know a few words and be more comfortable hearing the language. When I returned home, I came to the question again. Do I want to continue with French? Or do I want to travel and study another language, like travel to Italy and learn Italian. It can be overwhelming. Youtube has helped me figure this out.
Portuguese will be my next language. Here are a few reasons I came up with. I will be doing Brazilian jiu jitsu for as long as I can. I probably will be traveling to Brazil whenever the world comes back to normal. I will like to have conversation and meet people. I will most likely meet Brazilians and Portuguese travelers in my adventures. I want to return to Portugal and explore. The music and the food are something that I want experience as well. I can continue to make reasons for learning this language. Finally, I made a separate list of all the languages that I have dabbled in over the years. I had more reasons than any of the other languages. More than Korean, French, Italian, German.
One aspect of my language goals is that I want fluency in my target language. I want to have a high level of proficiency in that. Which is a huge goal. It is too daunting. I have been learning Spanish for 5 years, and I still get lost when native speakers speak. I have decided to let go of this goal. I just want to get proficient enough to enjoy my time in the target language’s country. It could be A2 or B1. It doesn’t have to be at an academic level.
I will give Portuguese a solid 12 months. I will do a lot of input. Which will be listening, studying grammar and vocabulary. I think by the beginning of March I will get and italki tutor. I don’t want to rush my speaking. I can also choose between Portugal and Brazil. I have no idea what travel restrictions will come in 2021.
I went to Paris, France as my last leg of this European trip. I spent 5 days there. I decided I would go to see Paris back in September of 2019. The last time I went to France was around 2006. I had such a bad experience with France that time. This time I tried to go with an open mind. I also used six months to learn some of the basics of the language. I am in no way conversational. I went to see a friend who I really enjoy talking to.
So the last time I was in France I had such a bad experience. There were several factors that contributed to my bad experience. First, it was my first time traveling to Europe, I mostly touristy things, like the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. Secondly, I didn’t speak the language, not even a little bit. Parisians are known for not being very nice to tourists. Let’s flip the perspective and see it in their eyes. If someone comes to your city and speaks another language, that’s not the official language of the country, how would react to them? I think the reaction is pretty universal.
Instead of going to see usual things I went to see the locations I wanted to see. I enjoy Rodin’s sculptures, so I went to his Museum. I really enjoyed the Tecahnical Museum in Prague, so I thought the Musee des Artes et Metiers would be cool. I enjoyed the models and architecture of old buildings. The movies I enjoy in Paris that I know of are Amelie, obviously, Before Sunrise, and Inglorious Basterds. I went to the bookstore in Before Sunset and I went to Brasserie in Inglorious Basterds.
I think that’s what makes me enjoy traveling more as I’m older. I cater traveling more to my interests and feelings. I try to see things and subjects that I have a general interest in. I keep returning to Europe because I find it’s history amazing. I also don’t try to rush so much activities in my day. I just try to enjoy myself and go into a book shop, and relax. If the weather was better I would be outside drawing all day. Here are a few of my sketches from Paris.
This time I learned enough to get by and see what I wanted to. I learned how to order food, coffee, and my check. I felt good that I achieved these small steps. I felt that I was received way better by the restaurants when I spoke french. The first time I went to Spain, ordering food and interacting with the language on a daily basis was the first step as well.
I think Paris is a great city to hang out in and take your time in. There are so many cafes and places to see. I did get to see my friend, if only for one night. There was a strike so traveling was difficult the entire time in Paris. She couldn’t hang out the second day. But through coincidence or serendipity I met a very Australian lawyer in Montmartre. I remember her henna tattoo from breakfast at the hostel. She was sitting at the same table I was sitting at. No one at the table was conversing except the Peruana and Espanola, which I was eavesdropping on the conversation. Fast forward to the afternoon and She was having a cafe and a smoke outside in front of the Sacre Coeur. We had really deep conversation about her countries history and politics. Later that night we met again at the hostel and had another conversation on life and 2019 over some beer and bar food.
I spent a week in Valencia. I enrolled in the Intensive and conversation classes at Taronja this week. I never been to an immersion language school. I met people from all over the world. I will most likely come back.
My week in Valencia consisted of class Monday through Friday. The class schedule alternated from the afternoon and mornings. Every day I had conversation class as well. That class consisted of speaking on topics extemporaneously. ( Spoken or done without preparation. I’m trying to use this new word I learned in public speaking class.) The entire experience was great. It felt like I had 5 hour long italki lessons that didn’t stop. For the most part I enjoyed every bit of it. I think my level is at stage where I can live without too much effort. Could I work efficiently in this language equally to my mother tongue? No. Hopefully some day. I enjoyed the consistent curriculum at the school as well. The class I jumped in was covering imperfect, indefindo preterito, imperatives-positves/negatives, preterito perfecto and pluscuamperfecto. I have heard, read, and spoken these tenses before. It was a review but I needed it. There is so much nuance to using these grammar tenses than the English past tense.
I felt bad for some of the students who had to digest the language faster. For the most part my classmates did very well. I think the advantage I had was my time in the language because I have been learning it so long, 5 years. This year as well I started to use italki consistently. The trick with italki is…. you can’t stop using it. Maybe when you get competent enough and achieve your goal. If you the time, money and freedom I would have done this course a long time ago. I didn’t have all those resources. I also have a philosophy that one can learn a foreign language on your own. That is another blog post.
I will most likely come back to the school because I had so much fun. I had fun during the class, with the social activities after class, and the city of Valencia. The last time I was here I only saw the arts and science museum. I didn’t even go in the city center. This time my apartment was right across the street from Mercat Central. I will probably come back May of 2020 or winter of 2020 and spend the whole month in Valencia. The class sizes at the school were smaller and very intimate. I was able to ask all the questions I wanted, at times we had friendly debates.
I met some cool people as well. All the professors were very friendly. I felt they were generally interested in me. Even though I was just passing through the school a week. As a traveler, you can get incredibly jaded from meeting new people. There were times I felt it. The professors really cared about teaching and helping their students. As an aspiring teacher I saw that quality. I met and had some interesting conversations with the becarios(interns) at the school. Stefano, the head becario, spoke 5 languages and hailed from Switzerland. There were also a handful of Italians which made the vibe quite warm and fun. (I don’t know why I feel Italians do that). Andrea,(Italian male name), who was in my class this week, always came in late. Although that was a stereotype characteristic, he always brought something to the table when we were learning. Guy, Australian, was in my class as well, he has living in Valencia for some months now and has about 10 more. Though we are not compatriots, we both speak English as our mother tongue. In that sense I felt bonded more with him than the other students. I wonder if that is the way how most people feel when they speak to people from other countries, the common mother tongue.
I’m going to try to blog when I leave a location.
Sidenote: Urgh.. I got my grades for the Fall Semester. All A’s except a C in Introductory Algebra. I went to the stages of grief fairly quickly. Denial. I don’t believe I got a C. I went to every class, asked questions, and I did fairly well on most tests. Anger. I thought my professor took a shine to me as well. I’m never going to be nice to teachers. Bargaining. Maybe I can email her and ask how she tallied the score up. Depression. I’m so stupid. (sigh) Acceptance. C’est la vie. I guess I just have to double down on my weaknesses. So I can crush college algebra next semester.
A summary of Bratislava. I arrived on a Monday and I left on a Monday. I stayed in a Botel. I attended my first Polyglot Gathering. I also helped the event as a volunteer. I went on a tour of Devin Castle and a wine tour. I added a few more friends to my Facebook network. It was incredible new experience.
I took a bus from Vienna Erdberg to Brastislava Einsteinova. The worst part was if I just stayed bus till the end of the line I would have been closer to my hotel. Since I got off a bus stop before the end I had to walk an extra 30 minutes to my accommodation. Lesson learned for Bratislava. It wasn’t a big deal, it could have been avoided if I possibly knew German or Slovak. The growing pains of traveling, its almost impossible to not a make a mistake, cultural or logistics during travel.
I stayed in a Botel, not quite a hotel, not quite a boat on the Danube River. It was the more economical choice when it came to lodging options for the Polyglot Gathering. It’s location was the selling point. It was about a 10 minute walk to the bus stop and it was a 10 minute walk from the city center. It was very convenient for the conference. Many other attendees or polyglots were also staying there. My roommate was from Lithuania, he spoke many languages. We mainly conversed in English and Spanish, the only languages I can converse in. Having a roommate made the experience better and put my whole anxiety at ease.
My first Polyglot Gathering in Bratislava, Slovakia. I felt very intimidated because I only spoke two languages, and one of them wasn’t at a high level. There were people there that spoke 4-5 languages fluently, then there were Rockstars in the community like Richard Simcott who can speak as many as 20 languages. I felt at awe when I was walking around and seeing all these people I watched on Youtube. By the second day I realized that these people are just human beings, like me. I started talking more as I got over the intimidation factor.
I helped as a volunteer since I got there a few days before the event started. As I wrote before I was apprehensive of my language skills so I decided to volunteer to help get over my anxiety. By being a volunteer you see more behind scenes and how things operate from a stage left point of view. It’s something I learned in the Navy, by being behind the so called magician’s curtain we can see that some things aren’t that special or magical. I met other people that spoke only three languages, a few didn’t even speak English, they were from Slovakia. I even saw Esperanto exist on a working level with the volunteers. I enjoyed volunteering and had more one on one time with the other staff. I was glad that I was able to help such wonderful event.
I took some tours that the organizers of the Gathering had set up. The first day was non-stop talks in the morning and afternoon, it felt like school. My tour of Devin Castle was in the afternoon of the second day, it was a good break from the talks. It was good to meet and talk with the other people from the Gathering in another setting. I didn’t want to go to Slovakia and not see some historical monuments. Another was a wine and old town tour. On the afternoon of the third day we walked around the old town and heard the history of Bratislava. Which ended in drinking wine in a cellar near the center. I enjoyed the tours more for the socializing with the other attendees than hearing the history, though it was interesting. I was engaged with a lot of interesting conversations about languages and where people are from.
I ended up connecting with more people in the end. I was able to open up more by the end of the conference. I think the tours were a good icebreaker to meet other people, especially when wine is involved. I practiced as much of my Spanish as possible, usually when I practice Spanish it’s with native speakers. I hope meet all the people I talked to at future events.
If you are a language learner or if you are wondering about attending one of these events? I recommend it and I plan on going to the next one. Whether you only speak one or 13 languages, everyone is welcome. As long as you have an openness to learn and speak. Where else would you meet people who are as passionate about learning languages, travel, food, and cultures. I’m glad I was able to stop by in Bratislava for this conference. I’m incredibly fortunate to attend all the events I wanted to do this year.
Langfest- Montreal, Canada.- August 25-27, 2017
Polyglot Conference, Reykjavik, Iceland.- October 27-29, 2017
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin