Many tongues mixing at Concordia's polyglot symposium
Hundreds of language lovers gathered at Concordia this weekend as the university hosted the North American Polyglot Symposium.
While mastering a language can be tough, it helps to start young. Ronnie Yung is four-years-old and already speaks five languages. His father Tetsu speaks the same amount and said it’s all about exposing him to a variety of tongues at home.
“I speak Mandarin with him at home, my wife is Japanese and she’ll speak Japanese with him,” he said. “Our helper speaks Spanish with him all the time at the daycare, it’s French.”
Tetsu Yung is one of the speakers at the symposium, which featured workshops and presentations. Organizers touted Montreal’s credibility as a host, pointing to the city’s bilingualism and multiculturalism as a natural environment.
“There’s 83 languages spoken at Dawson College but that’s just a representation of Montreal,” said organizer Joey Perugino.
Attendees said it’s easier than ever to become multilingual as social media and the Internet have made access to learning materials and native speakers easier than ever. In turn, learning those new languages makes it easier to connect with people internationally.
“It gives you that ability to talk to people in their native language that you can’t get from having to translate or having this wall in between,” said Hannah Engber, who speaks seven languages. “It really breaks down barriers.”
Among those in attendance was a man nicknamed the Godfather of Languages. Steve Kaufmann speaks 16 different tongues and said it’s never too late to learn more.
“I’m 70 and in the last 10 years, I’ve learned seven languages,” he said. “I think I’m a better language learner in my 60s than I was when I was monolingual, living in Montreal back when I was 16 or 17.”