Polyglot Gathering in 2023

Walter Freiberg
6 min readSep 2, 2023

Between June 13th and June 19th of this year, I took part in the Polyglot Gathering held in Teresin, Poland. This was my first time participating in the gathering. In my previous post, I shared my experience during this whole trip to Europe. The Gathering was the kick-off for my trip. As the other article focused on speaking German and Italian in Germany, Austria, and Italy, I didn’t delve deeply into my time in Poland-although I did actually speak some German and Italian with other participants at the gathering. Here, I’ll elaborate on my learning experiences, the wonderful people I met, and what it was like being in Poland without knowing a single word of Polish 😄.

I first heard about the gathering in 2022 through a friend. Shortly after, I discovered that more people I knew had taken part in previous editions. It was impressive to learn that there were quite a number of participants who hadn’t missed a single edition of the PG. Given that the inaugural event was in 2014, I find that quite remarkable! I also met a few participants who have been regular contributors, giving talks and presentations year after year.

I flew to Poland the same day the event started. From Modlin Airport in Warsaw, it was a one-hour Uber ride to Teresin. I shared the ride with other participants who had arrived that afternoon as well, offering a fantastic opportunity to start meeting fellow language enthusiasts even before the event officially began 😊.

The Venue

In 2023, the gathering took place at the Hotel Kuźnia Napoleońska (the same location as in 2022). Various lodging options were available, with the main ones being sleeping at the hotel itself or at Dom Pielgrzyma Niepokalanów (Niepokalanów Pilgrim’s House), which was a 15-minute walk from the venue. I chose the latter and was very satisfied with the choice. It was a tranquil environment, featuring shared or individual rooms (I opted for an individual one).

Upon registering for the gathering, attendees could specify their lodging preferences and meal plans. I, like most participants, chose a ticket that included lunch and dinner at the venue (in my case, I chose the vegan menu). That was very convenient to eat in the same place where we spent most of our time, and to socialize further with other participants. We had a large dining room all for ourselves:

The Talks

The 2023 Polyglot Gathering featured a rich array of talks, workshops, and activities. Topics ranged from language-specific issues to innovative acquisition techniques and the role of technology in language learning. With multiple simultaneous sessions in various rooms, the event offered something interesting for every language enthusiast, from novices to seasoned pros.

I took part in talks and activities on the future of language learning, language coaching, typing in multiple alphabets, volunteering interpreting, and professional interpreting. These were the topics that picked my interest, although the range of subjects was even larger. Typically, the more intimate settings of smaller rooms allowed for greater interaction and involvement compared to the larger venues.

The Language Tables

Language tables were a unique feature designed to facilitate language practice and networking from day one. Participants could join tables labeled with specific languages. That created an informal but focused environment for practicing conversation. The atmosphere was inviting and inclusive, and the tables gathered both native speakers and learners.

The Beautiful Park

Kuźnia’s quiet park was a favorite meeting spot during the gathering. This peaceful outdoor area was ideal for relaxation between talks or for spontaneous musical performances and casual conversations. Attendees often took the chance to play the guitar, sing, or simply soak in the natural surroundings.

My Presentation

After seeing an Instagram story in April, I felt inspired to submit a talk proposal. A fellow language learner, who had recently presented in the online version, encouraged everyone to submit a proposal to the live version. I sent mine, and after several weeks, I received a confirmation that my proposal had been accepted 😀.

My presentation explored the interactions between hobbies and language learning. Specifically, how we can practice hobbies and activities of our interest in languages we have recently learned and want to maintain. I discussed the four projects I undertook in 2021, in Italian and German, aimed at practicing chess, cooking, pen-drawing, and singing. Because the focus was on learning through Italian and German, I decided to give the presentation in those languages.

Here are the slides and a short video. The full presentation will be available later on the Polyglot Gathering’s official YouTube channel. Stay tuned for my talk, titled ‘Hobby in lingue straniere: Spaß muss sein!’.

The People

What truly enriched the event were its attendees 😊. Many come not just for the talks or workshops but for the sheer joy of reconnecting with language buddies from around the globe. These persons are some of the most naturally curious learners I’ve encountered, driven by an irresistible urge to learn multiple languages and understand their cultures.

This gathering brought together a diverse array of people from various walks of life-scholars, educators, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, and travelers. All with an immense love for learning languages. This mix created an extraordinarily enriching and vibrant experience for everyone involved.

My Polish Skills

I have to admit, my Polish is nonexistent 😄. Despite spending five days in Teresin, I only managed to use a handful of phrases. It was a humbling experience and a stark contrast to my typical linguistic comfort zones. Up to this year, I had only been to places where I could communicate with no problem, either in English or Spanish. This was unknown territory.

Why did I learn so little Polish while being in Poland? Well… I’ve never committed to learning Polish -proof that motivation and intent are crucial in language acquisition. Even though Polish was challenging, the main reason I didn’t make much progress was my lack of intent to actively learn the language. That may change in the future! Meanwhile, I did enjoy some basic pronunciation practice with a native speaker. Here’s a snippet where I introduce myself in Polish:

Conclusion

The Polyglot Gathering 2023 in Teresin, Poland, was an incredible experience for anybody interested in learning languages and meeting like-minded people. So many growth opportunities, from engaging talks and hands-on language tables to networking spaces and fun workshops. I’m so glad I was able to join the party for the first time and-on top of that-to share a talk on a topic so dear to me as language learning and skill-building. If you get the change to take part in a future edition, I wholeheartedly recommend you to do so 😀.

Originally published at https://www.walterfreiberg.com.

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Walter Freiberg

Language coach - I learn things and I help others how to learn better — walterfreiberg.com