The Polyglot Conference will stop off Thessaloniki, Greece, on October 29-30 and Assimil supports this jamboree. Once again, Richard Simcott and Alex Rawlings will bring together a growing community of polyglots coming from all over the world. Richard explains in this interview why The Polyglot Conference 2016 will be truly unique.
Assimil: Before talking about the next Conference, let’s go backwards. What is your appreciation of New York’s PC 2015?
Richard Simcott: New York was a gamer changer for us. Ellen Jovin was an excellent partner locally and together we attracted a number of companies and big names in the language learning industry. We had a top notch venue on Manhattan that provided us with a very professional finish to the event. We also attracted a record number of participants to the event, totally over 450 sign-ups! New York saw some big hitters in the language community on stage to talk also. We heard from household names like David J. Peterson (creator of the Dothraki language from Game of Thrones). This success in the USA has given us a great basis on which to build future conferences and move forward with a strong and confident event to continue to attract top quality speakers, sponsors and partners.
A: Why this choice of Thessaloniki for this year’s Conference?
R.S.: Every year we need a hook for the Polyglot Conference. We need something that ties the place to languages and gives us something to celebrate. Thessaloniki is a great city in Greece with a lovely venue and coastline for us to enjoy, but it also has a greatly diverse linguistic past. Ladino was a commonly spoken language in the city after the Jewish expulsion from Spain. There are also a number of other languages spoken in the city by various minorities. This year we would like to celebrate them all. But most of all, the word « polyglot » is Greek in origin and we are looking to take the « polyglot » back to its roots and marvel in the Greek language itself.
A: Tell me about the endless problem of the language of the talks. What is planned for this year edition?
R.S.: We aim to include people as much as we can in our talks, so quite often we do see major languages represented, particularly English. Naturally we do like to include other languages in the programme where possible. This year we will hear Ladino, French and German and I hope to hear some Greek and a smattering of other languages on the stage too.
The great thing about the conference is that participants get to wear the languages they speak on their badges, so around the venue and outside we can speak all the languages we have ever studied!
A: What kind of new ingredients can we expect in Thessaloniki?
R.S.: This year we are pleased to offer a taste of Greece with an opening ceremony at the venue itself on Friday 28th October, where we’ll have Greek music also to welcome people to Thessaloniki. We’re bringing more stands for people to look at during the time at the conference and an opportunity to find language gems that are usually out of reach or unknown back in our home towns. The venue also offers us some unique selling points this year. It’s not often that you can offer a sea view and option of walking in from the centre along the coastline. We are also very happy to have an italki lounge for people to chill out and practise their language skills together.
A: All the talks are not confirmed yet, but what can you say of the program so far?
R.S.: We are very close to having everything confirmed publicly. Alex and I have been working hard to go through the many proposals we have received. We are very excited about what we have lined up for you all in Thessaloniki this year. It promises to be a really interesting, engaging and thought-provoking event.
A: My last question will be a more personal one about Brexit. What do you think of UK’s decision to leave EU?
R.S.: I was disappointed that the UK decided to leave the European Union. Personally it will not stop me from feeling part of Europe. After all I live in The Balkans and I speak many of the languages of the continent. I am happy to have grown up as a European citizen and this vote cannot take that away from me.