What I learnt at Polyglot Conference 2019

The annual Polyglot Conference was held at Kyushu Sangyo University in Fukuoka, Japan this year! I stayed in Fukuoka for 6 days and 3 full days were spent at the conference. It was the first Polyglot Conference I was able to attend and what an experience it was! One that I will treasure for my life.

Some of the speakers this year included:
Steve Kaufmann
Elisa Polese
Alex Rawlings
Rebecca Howie
Prof Alexander Arguelles
Dr Emmanuel Ternon
Sara Maria Hasbun
Judith Meyer
And myself:

All of the talks from this year will be uploaded to the Polyglot Conference YouTube channel in a few weeks or months, and I’ll be sure to post a link to them when they’re up.

For now, here’s a summary of some things I learnt and will try to use in my language studies.

1. Take charge of your language learning process

By far, my favorite talk from the conference was Professor Alexander Arguelles’ presentation called From Start to Finnish. He spoke about how he took an immersive Finnish course at a Concordia Language Village camp for two weeks and what methods he used to learn the level as fast as he could.

While other students at the camp were adapting to the language slowly, Prof Arguelles sped up his language process not only by studying diligently but by speaking to the camp guides as much as he could. It was an exclusively Finnish environment and he made sure to listen and absorb as much as he could. Every day, he’d get up at dawn and prepare conversation topics for the day, looking up vocabulary related to philosophy and religion. He had a grammar guide which he studied and was able to have a decent conversation within days of starting to learn the language.

I was impressed with by how he made use of the native Finnish speakers around him to have them teach him correct pronunciation, intonation and vocabulary. He would drive the topics and steer the conversation in directions that would be beneficial to his learning.

Some concluding remarks by Prof Arguelles

[Taken from Prof Arguelles’ presentation slides]
Just from his third day in the immersive Finnish camp, he knew he needed:
– to take charge of the learning process, not just follow the way the camp was going
– prepare conversations each day at dawn
– scope out staff with sympathetic personalities from whom he could elicit knowledge and therefore control the learning process
– not use his own methods but use the rhythm of the camp as much as possible in a continuous cycle of grammatical study, reading aloud, comprehensible listening input (lectures), one on one conversation and targeted practice (eg phonetics).

It was so inspirational to see how seriously he takes his learning and how fast he was able to reach a conversational level in Finnish. He mentioned how he can study for 12 to 13 hours on end each day and not feel tired. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that. I take my hat off for him!

You can see his Finnish journey in a series of episodes on his YouTube channel.

Speaking at the Closing Panel with Prof Arguelles in the middle

2. Passion drives progress

One of the key things that will get you to fluency in a language is passion for learning. Wherever you are, make an effort to learn something new and use the language. I met so many language learners who can barely speak English but came all the way to the conference for the sole purpose of learning and practicing what they know. If you have passion, you’ll make progress. Don’t compare yourself to others and don’t shy away from situations where you can learn something.

I was touched so see how some of my Korean friends at the conference were not afraid to speak up using broken English to ask a question after a talk. Even if it took them a long time to search for words and form a question, they tried and that’s what matters. Stepping out of your comfort zone and taking the plunge to speak a foreign language: that’s what will build your confidence, build your vocabulary and drive you to fluency!

Someone who particularly inspired me is my new friend Dean, also knowns as Pinoy Polyglot in the Making. Dean saved up for months to make it to the conference and he truly made the most of each situation! I saw him carrying around papers with Tagalog printed on it to teach people how to say things, I saw him interviewing other polyglots, and I saw him in the front row of many presentations, taking notes an actively listening! Dean is going places, and I know that because I can see his passion.

With Dean after he taught me some Tagalog

3. Personalities in polyglottery might not be what you think

Alex Rawlings gave a thought-provoking talk on the idea of different personalities with each language you speak. He mentioned how he feels freer speaking Greek and more organized and straightforward when speaking German — but then concluded that this doesn’t mean it’s the language that makes it so, but rather your own experiences with it. For example, he would generally speak Greek when on holiday at the beach, in a relaxed environment with family. German was a school subject for him, and therefore he needed to be organized and structured.

Alex gave an interesting example — he first learnt to call a waitress as “girl!” in Russian when he was in a small provincial village. At first he thought it was rude, but realised that’s how Russians do it. He started adopting what he referred to as this ‘rude’ personality when he spoke Russian, but only realized when he was in Moscow that educated city people don’t actually talk like that. So, Russian isn’t a rude-sounding language per se, but his first experience with it was in a context that helped shape such an incorrect mindset.

This made me think – I always thought each language had an innate ‘personality’ to it – but then again, it really is the people and experiences that change your perception of a language.

4. You can create immersive language experiences without traveling to a country

I was so excited to meet Rebecca Howie this year! I’ve been following her from Irregular Endings, her online design store for language goods, for a while. I attended her presentation where she ran us through how she creates an immersive language outing day for herself.

Participants of her workshop were asked to give ideas on what you can do have a successful immersive language day: like setting up a plan of where you’ll go, what words you want to use, how you will track your progress or record yourself, how to debrief after your day and review what to learn and so forth. She has a lovely stage personality and the workshop was highly informative – one of my favorites from the conference.

With Rebecca from Irregular Endings

5. CJKV Dict is an awesome tool

Dr Emmanuel Ternon, my new friend and computer programmer-turned polyglot, is the creator of CJKV Dict, an online dictionary. It’s excellent for polyglots who are learning Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese.

As taken from his website, “Besides the ability to return search results for a specific word written in Chinese characters in all four CJKV languages, CJKV Dict automatically converts simplified Chinese characters and Japanese Shinjitai to traditional Chinese characters. This makes it possible to check whether or not the same Chinese characters are used in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and/or Vietnamese to write the same word.” You can use it online or in an app form.

CJKV Dict also has a Twitter account with a word of the week in all 4 languages.

Emmanuel and I with his book on Traditional Chinese Characters (available on Amazon)

6. Strength in numbers: mobilising the language community

Finally, something I’ll take away from the event is that there are so many of us polyglots and language learners out there and we need to use what we know to improve life around us. During the closing panel, someone asked something like “how can we use our skills to improve the world around us?”. I immediately thought that we all have wonderful talents to share but we don’t always bridge connections between people.

One of the speakers, Grigory Kazakov, talked about developing language learning materials for smaller languages. Someone asked him if he has actually made any materials, but he answered and said he’s merely a strategist and comes up with concepts and methods for teaching languages, but wouldn’t design a book, per se. I thought someone like me might be the opposite: I’m a trained designer but I might not have all the knowledge on how to create language learning materials. If a designer or educational material creator could partner with someone like Grigory, we might be seeing resources for smaller languages entering the mainstream market. One way we can do this is to bridge connections between people. If you know someone who does something and know of someone else who needs help, put them in touch!

My friend Becki, who speaks Japanese fluently, is learning Ainu now. She has a big collection of resources in Japanese, but such resources are only accessible to people who are literate in Japanese. If there is someone who wants to learn Ainu but can’t speak Japanese, that would pose a problem. How can we, as the polyglot community, connect people to make Ainu resources accessible to non-Japanese speakers? I was happy to see that two Ainu speakers approached Becki after the conference, but I’d be happier to see if something exciting comes of it!

See you in Mexico in 2020!

At the end of the event, it was announced that Polyglot Conference 2019 will happen in Cholula, Mexico! How exciting! I hope to see all of you there.

Thank you to Richard Simcott and Tim Keeley for arranging a successful event, and I can’t wait to see where we will go as a polyglot community in the future. You are all so special to me!

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Improve your Korean in 6 unique ways

You may have just finished your Korean textbook or passed your first Korean class. Now you feel accomplished but not sure where to go next. You might be bridging the gap from beginner to intermediate, or making your way from intermediate to advanced. Wherever you are in your journey, there are a few things you can incorporate into your day to improve your Korean fast. Note that most of the tips in this post might not apply to beginner learners.

1. LISTEN TO PODCASTS IN KOREAN (NOT JUST ABOUT KOREAN)

If you’re over listening to podcasts and audio lessons like TTMIK and Koreanpod101, you might want to try listening to podcasts made for the Korean market. Here are my favorites that I listen to on Google Podcasts:
🎧 2018 문장의 소리 (The Voice of Text)
Description (KR): 이 방송은 한국문화예술위원회에서 운영하는 인터넷 문학 라디오 <문장의 소리> 팟캐스트 버전입니다.
Description (EN): This is the podcast version of the Internet literary radio program called “The Voice of Text”, run by the Korean Culture and Arts Council.

🎧 [KBS]라디오 다이어리 그 남자 그 여자 (That man, that woman, KBS Radio Diary)
Description (KR): 우리는 누구나 일기를 씁니다. 연필로 쓰는 그 남자, 휴대폰에 쓰는 그 여자, 그리고 마음에 쓰는 그 남자, 그 여자. 우리 일상의 일기로 영화 같은 꿈을 꾸는 시간입니다. 좋은 음악과 함께 듣고 싶다면 매일 밤 자정 KBS 2라디오 101.6Mhz를 찾아주세요.
Description (EN): We all keep diaries. There’s the man who writes in pencil, the woman who types on her phone, and then those who write in their hearts. Through our daily diaries, we have time to dream like our life is a movie. If you want to listen to good music with this, tune into KBS 2 Radio every night, on 10.6Mhz.

🎧 [MBC] 박경의 꿈꾸는 라디오 (Park Kyung’s Dreaming Radio)
Lindie’s description: This radio show is hosted by Park Kyung from the Kpop group Block B. He’s quirky and has a lovely voice for the radio. The only downside to this is that the songs are cut short, but for language learning it’s good because the radio show will mostly be him talking. He talks about various daily life topics with different guests and relates the topics to music.

🎧 [MBC] 음악의 숲 정승환입니다 (Indie Radio, Live Forest)
Singer Jung Seunghwan runs this radio show, and has a soft voice that might relax you so much that you’ll fall asleep – but if you stay awake, it’ll be good language practice because he speaks at a natural speed and talks about daily topics. He’s funny and I often find myself laughing out loud and things he says. He also reads messages from listeners and these are great to learn new vocabulary from.


You can make listening to a podcast a learning experience for yourself by trying to write down what speakers say. Some podcast apps like Google Podcasts let you slow down or speed up the pace, so don’t worry if you can’t understand natural speed at first! Then, go over the script and highlight new words. Write them down in context with their example sentences, and write down new expressions and slang you hear too. Read them out loud in different voices, paces and mental situations so you can solidify it into your memory.

To summarize: 1. Listen to the podcast once through > 2. Write down sentences you hear > Highlight a new word > Write the definition of the word > Make your own sentence using the word.

You can get your sentences checked by native speakers on websites or apps like HiNative, HelloTalk, iTalki or even Facebook groups dedicated to learning the language.

2. SPEAKING PRACTICE

You can talk to yourself when you’re walking around the house. You can also record yourself sometimes. What I like to do is shadowing dramas and podcasts and repeating what people say. I’ve found that after watching a movie in one language, my brain tends to try and think in that language after, or I’ll find myself walking around the house repeating phrases I’ve heard in the movie. Can you picture how much your accent and vocabulary will improve if you’re immersing yourself by speaking and listening practice every day? If you encounter new words, and you hear those words repeatedly, it’ll start to solidify in your memory. I’ve learnt many words without ever needing to write down what they mean, just because I expose myself to hearing the words as much as I can.

Improving speaking skills by talking to yourself is good, but it’s even better to talk to native speakers. The best way to get proper speaking practice in if you can’t find native speakers near you is to get a tutor on italki. Having a native speaker to chat to or correct your mistakes is one of the best ways you can start sounding more natural in a language and increase your vocabulary, as well as working on your listening skills. I use italki for Mandarin Chinese and Tagalog practice, and it’s boosted my confidence in speaking by leaps and bounds.

Many people write to me and say they’re afraid of getting a tutor because they don’t feel ready to speak – but you’ll never really feel ready until you throw yourself in the deep end and try. Even if you know only a few words, the tutor is there to help you – it’s their job to teach you and guide you, and they’re the last person who will judge your or laugh at you. If you’re keen to use italki, feel free to use this link to get $10 in italki credits after booking your first lesson! Note that I titled this post ways to improve Korean without needing lessons – you don’t need to go to a class or book specific lessons with someone on italki – there are many tutors and regular native speakers who are more than happy to book single sessions with you to get your speaking practice in.

Alternatively, you can try apps like HiNative, HelloTalk, Wakie, Goodnight, Saito-san, Tandem or a website like MyLanguageExchange or Penpalworld to meet native speakers and practice talking to them.

3. JOURNAL IN KOREAN

I’ve been journalling in Korean for years. It’s so funny to look back at my high school diaries and see how bad my Korean was but how passionate I was to try and express things in the language!

Things you write in your journal are related to your daily life, which is exactly what your daily conversations are about with others. If you don’t know words, you can mix languages! It’s OK to just throw in a few Korean words here and there until you know enough to make a full sentence. Use as many vocabulary words you know in Korean and mix languages until you look up the words and learn them and use them. Be sure to get a native speaker to correct it though!

4. VOCAB NOTEBOOK OR WORD LISTS ON YOUR PHONE

You can use a small notepad and write words down and keep it with you when you are commuting or waiting in queues. Alternatively, make a word list on your phone or use Quizlet. I’ve recently started using Quizlet to make flashcards of new vocabulary words, having shifted away from a larger notebook. I find Quizlet more user-friendly than Anki, mainly because as a UI/UX designer, I’m very sensitive to the way things look and function. I found Anki clunky and boring to use, but I know many people who can’t live without Anki. Although I don’t use it anymore, you can see my Korean vocabulary notebook in use in this video:

5. JOIN KOREAN FORUMS; USE KOREAN SEARCH ENGINES

Some of you might be asking where to encounter new words. All you need to do is start living like you are Korean. If you’re Googling something, do it in Korean. You can start using Korean search engines like Naver or Daum.

If you’re a Kpop fan, you can try joining a fancafe, or follow some Twitter threads in Korean about your favorite artists. Hashtags on Instagram and Twitter are useful – if you learn a new word you can search its tag and join communities online related to it. Fully immerse yourself in your hobbies and interests – but try to do it in Korean!

6. PARTICIPATE IN ONLINE CHALLENGES

If you’re having a hard time staying motivated through self-study, you can always participate in online challenges and join a community of fellow language-learners who will keep you motivated. Some of these challenges include:
Add1 Challenge
Record Yourself challenges on Instagram
90 Days with Drops
LanguageJam (though for this, you’re assigned a language)

If you’re active in the language-learning community on Instagram, you’ll see lots of people doing these kinds of challenges and it’ll be easy for you to join in and learn about them.

Summary

Thanks for reading! I hope these tips are helpful for you. Remember to check out my Korean learning playlist on YouTube and to follow me on Instagram or Twitter for more language related content.

See you at Polyglot Conference 2019!

Hello, friends!

I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at this year’s Polyglot Conference in Fukuoka, Japan. The conference runs from 18 to 20 October 2019. You can buy tickets and get more information here.

I’d like to share with you the outline of my topic:

Holistic language learning through cultural immersion and culture shock: stories from a Third Culture Kid

Acquiring fluency in a language requires a holistic approach to learning: through immersing yourself in the language fully. With bringing a new language into your life so deeply, you’re sometimes met with culture shock too, in the form of adopting a new culture and linguistic identity. In this talk I’ll focus on the role that immersion and culture shock play in languages. I’ll discuss how to learn a language through the internet, pop culture, humour and stepping out out your comfort zone. With reference to how I learn Asian languages, I’ll discuss how we can create immersive spaces for ourselves to learn languages without necessarily needing to travel. You can expect to hear stories about faking it till I make it in Japanese, multilingual prank calls and accidentally going viral in Korea.

That’s it! I’ll keep the rest of the content a surprise – you’ll have to see me there or watch the YouTube recording after the conference if you can’t make it. I’m super keen to meet all my polyglot inspirations in person. I’ve been following notable polyglots like Richard Simcott for years, I’ve watched a lot of Bong Sou’s videos, and I’ve always wanted to meet MissLinguistic to name a few. Here’s the speaker list for 2019! I also know a lot of you who follow my blog will be there too! Here’s to a wonderful Polyglot Conference – the first in Asia! See you there!

In the mean time, feel free to check out my videos on YouTube, Tweet me, or ask me anything on my Tumblr.

Women In Language 2019 is coming!

Women In Language is a three-day, online seminar featuring some of the most influential women in the online language-learning community. From 7 to 10 March, more than 30 female speakers will be sharing their thoughts on language learning and culture. If you haven’t already, make sure to register here for Women In Language! There will also be raffles and exciting events where you can interact with speakers during their calls. And it’s all digital, so you don’t even need to leave your couch.

Speakers will be presenting on the following topics, as stated on the Women In Language website.

  • Learning Languages – talks for learners of any level who want to learn effectively with winning strategies and masterful methods
  • Living and Working with Languages – tips and shared experiences about international/intercultural love, cultural differences, running a language-based business, volunteering, language jobs and stories of how languages can change your life
  • Travel with Languages – stories from the road, travel tips, retreats, and introductions to other countries and their languages
  • Language Discoveries – NEW FOR THIS YEAR! Minority or unusual languages, little-known communities and quirky learning techniques that usually don’t get center stage

I have the honor of speaking alongside some of my favorite polyglots, like Ophelia Vert, Abigail Lang, Language Bae and more! My talk is titled Identity Crisis: The ups and downs of living, working and dating in a foreign language.

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Register for Women In Language here! 

Tickets are $29, meaning its only $1 per speaker – you can attend all the talks on all the days if you register! Proceeds also go to Wikitongues – a nonprofit that I was a co-founder for a few years ago.

Some FAQs:

I’m a man/gender non-binary/I don’t identify as a woman. Can I still attend?

Absolutely. This is an event designed to showcase some of the many women doing many amazing things in the world of languages. That means that although the speakers are all female, the audience is definitely not. In fact, we encourage you to attend regardless of your gender. It’s important everyone sees how much awesome stuff is being done by women in language.

What if I’m busy between 7th and 10th Mach and can’t attend all the talks?

No problem! You will have lifetime access to all the talks after the event so can catch up as and when suits you. Also, you will have free access to the Women In Language Facebook Group that will be a place you can ask questions to Kerstin, Shannon, Lindsay, and even some of the speakers at the event. So you won’t be left behind!

I hope to see you there!

Credit to Women In Language 2019 for the images

How I set up my planner for 2019

With 2019 around the corner, it’s time to sort out our lives for a fresh start. Have you been consistent in using a bullet journal or planner this year? I used 3 planners this year – each book is for 4 months. It was a great feeling to finish one and start afresh in another one! For this new year, I’m going a lot more minimal and simple with my planner.

Here are things I have in my planner:

  1. Goals for the year
    1. Categorized into faith, interpersonal, personal, health, languages and work
  2. Mood tracker for the year
    1. An arrow pointing up for a good day, straight line for an average day, and down arrow for a bad day
  3. Language log for each month
    1. I’ve selected a few languages to focus on. Each language is indicated by a color dot, and next to it I’ll indicate with a symbol whether that day was passive or active studying. I haven’t made this a year view because on one day I can learn more than one language, so it makes sense to do it monthly because there’s more space on the page.
  4. Habit tracker for each month
    1. Using symbols to indicate to myself what the habits are 🙂
  5. Monthly overview
    1. A simple calendar, with 15 days on the left of a line and 16 days on the right of a line.
  6. Weekly spreads
  7. Bible verses for each month
  8. Gratitude log for each month
  9. YouTube subscriber graph

Here’s a video of my journal-making process!

I’m using color very minimally – color for meaning.
Pink is used for things like the days of the week (next to the dates in black), or a small crown on 100,000 subscribers on YouTube, heh. Each language also has a color, as mentioned above.

DSCN6532

What I like about having your own planner that you create is the fluidity and openness to change. If I am not happy with my weekly spread one week, I have total freedom to change it the next week! Here’s my weekly spread for the first week of January. Usually, I like to have a full page a day, but we’ll see how this goes!

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If you’re a journaler or blogger who’s interested in bujos, please let me know in the comments so we can connect!

Happy new year in advance!

Love, Lindie