Polyglot Conference Budapest

I just got home from the Polyglot Conference (followed by a couple of days of sightseeing in Budapest).

My overall impression was one of being extremely welcome. It was a friendly and supportive atmosphere, with no sense of competitiveness and no language snobbery. If anybody feels a little intimidated by the many highly experienced polyglots at these conferences, then those fears are unfounded and all are welcomed with open arms.

I must confess, it was quite a strange feeling to meet some of the many faces I have seen in videos, and also for many people who had seen some of my videos to greet me like a long-lost friend. It was certainly unexpected, and very pleasant.

In terms of the conference itself: three things were going on.

1: Lots of presentations spread over two days. They were on a variety of topics, so it is hard to generalise. Some were about languages and language learning, whereas others were about using languages as part of your job. I felt it was a good mix. As noted in comments above, the whole conference was videoed, and the videos will be uploaded to youtube within a month. They are certainly worth watching - although it may take a great many hours to watch them all.

2: There were frequent breaks and casual meetings where people inspected each others name tags in search of common languages. I was a little nervous about this at first, but soon found that nobody was under pressure, and again it was all done in a very friendly way.

3: Socialising in the evenings. Apparently, there were large gatherings in pubs and restaurants in the evenings, which by all reports were lots of fun. I was not, alas, able to participate in these since my wife was with me and I promised to spend the evenings on romantic walks and dinners with her. It does seem that most people attended on their own (although there were a few couple there) and I would say this is probably better in order to fully participate after-hours, unless (of course) your partner is equally obsessed with language learning.

Overall, I was hesitant to attend the conference at first, since I was not sure I was “good enough” to mingle with renowned polyglots. I was even more nervous when the organisers asked me to give a presentation. Both worries were unfounded. Nobody treated me as “lesser” than them, despite my inferior polyglot skills, and my presentation was warmly received.

I look forward to the conference next year, and am extremely motivated to work on improving my languages in preparation.

Anthony said:

“It does seem that most people attended on their own (although there were a few couple there) and I would say this is probably better in order to fully participate after-hours, unless (of course) your partner is equally obsessed with language learning.”

You make a valid point. I was there together with my partner and therefore missed some of the presentations, including yours. I heard nothing but praise about it so I hope they’ll upload it rather sooner than later. In hindsight I would have preferred to be able to participate 100% without other commitments, but please don’t tell her…

I would definetly like to go to the NYC or Montreal one, if it happens. I am by no means a polyglot, and only barely bilingual, but I’d love to meet some of my online inspirations. I’ll try to keep myself posted. It would be really cool to see it happen in Montreal, since I am a student of French.

I guess its time to start saving for a train ticket!

One thing that struck me during the conference was how hard it is to make a living off hyper polyglottery. Money should of course not be the main incentive behind everything we do in life but it would be kind of nice to be able to turn a hobby into a business because after all we tend to be best at what we like to do the most. To me it seemed that Robert was possibly the one who had managed best to earn a living from his hobby.

In the corporate world my experience is that English rules plus the local language for long term expats (unless it is some “hard”, exotic or Asian language). Language skills beyond that alone are rarely something that will help you a lot in your corporate career. And in way, it is only testimony to the fact that English has brought the world together, English is probably used way more between non-native speakers than between a native and a non native.

Having said that, I am really fed up with the countless meetings in our company where my polyglot ear is constantly insulted and bombarded by poor English, both by my German colleagues as well as my dear expat colleagues (mostly French) who just refuse to bring their German up to a working level.

@Friedemann: “…I am really fed up with the countless meetings in our company where my polyglot ear is constantly insulted and bombarded by poor English, both by my German colleagues as well as my dear expat colleagues (mostly French) who just refuse to bring their German up to a working level…”

That’s a good point. English (in the sense of lingua franca for international trade) is often not “real” English at all - but rather a kind of “basic” (putting it nicely) English.

If Friedemann’s “polyglot ear” is insulted by this, he should spare a thought for native speakers! :-0


since I have you hear, could you explain a bit more what Richard Simcott’s language moderation/eModeration business is about exaclty? If you are a company and you have disappointed customers they normally contact customer support in their country, where does Richard come in?

Friedemann, I only know what I have seen from their website. I don’t have the link right now - I’ll see if I can find it.


Their website: http://www.emoderation.com/social-media-services

It’s dressed up in nice respectable clothes, but it seems to be about censorship :frowning:

That was interesting reading. It is a bit pearls befor swine, I feel to have someone like Richard policing people online.

@ Jay (…) It’s dressed up in nice respectable clothes, but it seems to be about censorship :frowning: (…)

Richard gave an interesting presentation about his job. Censorship is not always a bad thing. It all depends on the rules it is based on. You don’t want your kids to get sexually harassed on Internet sites, do you? We all know that this happens. For adults “trolls” for example may just be a nuisance, but for kids or teenagers people talking about how they are going to cut you into pieces (and I’m sure you have read this sort of sick comments as well before, the Internet is full of them) may be more than they can handle.

I know that in the anglo-saxon world “freedom of speech” is defined quite differently than in many other countries. I don’t think that “anything goes” is a healthy or even democratic attitude. I don’t see why anybody should be entitled to hurl racial abuse at other people or incite others to commit crimes, like the Ku Klux Clan or neo-nazi organizations which are all protected under some rather obscure definition of the concept of freedom of speech (obscure to me I mean, while it seems to be perfectly natural to others).

I wish youtube and other providers were much stricter when it comes to violent and abusive content. While it apparently is ok to be a racist, sexist and a supporter of mass murderers (the amount of videos on youtube praising Hitler is sickening for example), you’ll get into trouble if money comes into play. Copyright is definitely given priority over human rights. You can call someone a n.gger, but if you show the content of some textbooks they may actually take down your video (as happened with one of Mose’s videos).

I find it quite disturbing that a society thinks it is ok to show a 4 year old with a real gun on the front page of a magazine, but if that same child were to be seen naked on a beach that picture would be considered as child pornography. That very society is so concerned about its freedom that it thinks it vital to allow racists to spew their hatred all over the Internet, while showing a naked breast might get you into trouble. There is censorship all over the place. The question is always what this censorship is based on. e-moderation does not strike me as an institution trying to curb freedom of speech but rather as a company trying to keep the Internet a safe place for children.

The kind of work Richard does is very important. The Internet is not a self-regulating system and it should not be without control. We have controls in all parts of our lives. Why then should the Internet be a place where anything goes? Each society will have to define its own rules and I wish they were based more on human rights than on the almighty shareholder value.

I really cannot comment much about right wing propaganda on the internet, I guess I’d have to seek out this type of content. The websites or forum discussions I visit do not contain that type of content. I found heavy handed moderation really off-putting especially the one Benny practises on his blog or what apparently is done on the HTLAL forum. I really prefer the way it is done here on this forum.

I think I would not be such a staunch supporter of free speech had I not lived in China for so long and experienced what censorship under an oppressive regime really means.


I think we would agree (and I think almost all civilized people would agree) that nobody should be allowed to publish child pornography, to threaten and harass people, or to incite others to acts of violence.

If all that Richard (and the people he works with) are doing is deleting the above kinds of things, then they would certainly have my full support.

But I’m not convinced that this is what eModeration are mostly doing. When they talk about protecting the reputation of brands, for example, I think it’s pretty clear that it’s not a matter of removing pornography…

As regards extreme political views which may be very offensive to many people (yet which do not incite violence) I believe that these should be allowed on any truly free forum. You or I may not like them, but it’s better to know what people are thinking and to have a robust and open debate, IMO.

I also think that there is often a kind of double standard in attitudes towards extreme views from the right and the left. If someone went to HTLAL (for example) and started arguing that “Hitler wasn’t such a bad guy”, the comments would be deleted and the person would probably be banned. Well, okay. But if the same person were saying that “Stalin wasn’t such a bad guy”, I suspect that it wouldn’t cause even half as much outrage…

Ok. Lets post two threads: “Hitler was not so bad” and “Stalin was not so bad” on HTLAL and see which one gets deleted first!

I was looking for a Bachelors Thesis idea…

Well, if you have an account there - feel free! :smiley:

(But I was, of course, making a point about the general attitudes out there. HTLAL is just one random example of a censorship forum.)

I think there are a lot of people who want to go on censored forums. I go to a few places online that allow certain (perfectly legal) things that I don’t think Steve or Alex, or most of the users, would ever codone.

I think there are certain online communities (and by communities, I mean the users themselves) that want the kind of moderation offered by Richard’s company. I think mmorpgs might be a good market for polyglot moderators.

I would have no trouble with someone posting the thread Hitler was not so bad, or Stalin was not so bad. It would make for a lively discussion.

On the other hand if someone started saying " all ********* (any group) are dirty, lazy, stupid, degenerates, and adding a few expletives to boot, I would delete the thread. I would also delete gratuitous insults, although criticism and even sarcasm are OK.

People need to be able to defend their views. Some views are simply stupid, and would benefit from exposure (Hitler was not so bad, for example), but some opinions are just lazy hate propoganda or foul mouthed bleating and gratuitous personal attacks. There is a lot of the latter on the internet. It seems the anonymity of the internet encourages it. I get some of the latter at my youtube channel, but unless foul language is used I usually do not delete them.

If you believe that free will does not exist (some scientsts hold that view) then Hitler would indeed just be the same as a natural desaster, but I am not sure many would subscribe to that view.

In both China and Russia there are strong movements from the left in both countries which seek to rehabilitate Stalin and Mao. Now, with Hitler that would be unthinkable. Mao caused some 40 million deaths in the Great Leap Forward alone but I think what separates Hitler from those other two monsters is his vile ideological foundation and his aggressive outward expansion. After all it was him who started WW2 which caused the death of over 60 million. Neither Stalin nor Mao did that.


I am used to people butchering my name but you really took it to new heights, especially given that your post appeared just below mine in plain sight of my name and photo. Just amazing!

I am not sure I fully understand what you said up there, my prism through which I look at life is science.

@Friedemann: “…his aggressive outward expansion…”

Yes. But consider this: if Hitler had won the war, would the outcome for Europe in the longer term (say 100 years later) be so very different from the way Europe actually will look in 2045?

It may be that Europe in 2045 will be a kind of unified “empire” under German domination - that is the way things would seem to be moving right now.

(Of course, the Anglo-Saxon part of Europe is still the fly in the ointment, so as to speak…)

Human society has always functioned, and can only function, on the basis that individuals are morally responsible for their actions. This is not true of natural phenomenon like storms. Although there were religions, and perhaps still are, that attribute personality to the forces of nature, people are usually held responsible for their actions.

@ J

“if Hitler had won the war, would the outcome for Europe in the longer term (say 100 years later) be so very different from the way Europe actually will look in 2045?”

Huh? Nazi policy was based on a sick ideology of racial purity and the aggressive persecution and extermination of minorities, undesirables and other non-members of the German “super race”. Since most “inferior races” don’t appreciate being considered inferior, it is highly likely that there would have been increasing resistance to Nazi domination, even if Germany had been able to impose itself on the countries it attacked, for a longer period of time. The Nazis would have been driven out.

On the other hand Germany today is the largest and most economically powerful country in a community of 27 members. Individual German companies and business people are active in the European community, largely to the benefit of countries where Germans invest. German Government policy has to take into consideration the voices of even the smallest member countries. I don’t see the connection with Hitler, not now and not in 30 years from now.

Your reference seems like hyperbole with little substance.