Well, I am proud to say I am no longer a language conference virgin! After two full days at The Language Show (12 hours in total), I got well and truly stuck in! It was incredible to go to a place where everyone shared the same passion for languages that I do. In my little town in the Midlands, it isn’t always easy to find other language nuts like me, so it made a nice change!
I thought it would be handy if I wrote about my experiences there, however so much happened i thought I would break it down into the main takeaways (or advice) that I will give myself (and share with you) for the next conference. As there definitely will be more! (Especially considering my long suffering wife survived the experience and isn’t put off for life. Yay!)
1. Prepare beforehand
It can feel a little overwhelming when you burst through the door and see a crowd of people buzzing through the endless rows of stalls and 3 or 4 different talks all happening at the same time! That’s why, like most things in like, preparation is a good place to start.
The website was a great tool in preparing for my visit. A list of all the exhibitors and a schedule for the talks that were happening. Some for learners, teachers or language professionals (translators, interpreters and linguists).
Doing all that work beforehand meant I could pick up my guide in the show, star the talks and off I went. Having to endlessly flick through the book to decide what to do would have been so much more stressful!
2. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover
That being said, it wasn’t always easy to know exactly what the talks or companies were actually about.! The descriptions gave you a rough idea of the topic of the talk, for example a talk about communicating without thinking in a second language and another about the Korean alphabet. However some of the talks were not as expected, and there was no way to know this until you were sat in the middle of the crowd listening to it.
Some of them were a lot more interesting and others were not my cup of tea at all! But, everything was worth a try.
3. The talks get BUSY
On Friday afternoon, I started walking over to Seminar Room 3 for a talk I wanted to watch about vocabulary acquisition. We were about 15 minutes early and I thought that would be plenty of time. How wrong I was! Every chair in the place was filled and people were standing, sitting down on the floor by sides and in the centre aisle. So, I lingered at the back and watched from a distance. This made it a little difficult to hear but was better when the topic didn’t take my fancy and I wanted to leave. Nothing worse than disturbing a whole talk by asking everyone to let you through! Having that flexibility is something I would definitely recommend if you aren’t 100% on it.
4. Be prepared to talk to everyone
You have to make sure you are in a chatty mood. Going from stall to stall and talking to everyone! You couldn’t always tell from a distance what they were there for, so striking up a conversation was the only way to go. I started by introducing myself and they quickly told me if they were offering something for me. Although, you never know what you might find. A couple of the apps were targeting secondary school teachers but they were interested in talking to individuals too, so always worth a try!
5. Practice your languages
The amount of opportunities to practice my languages was astounding! A little silly in hindsight considering the name of the show… The LANGUAGE show… but I wasn’t prepared for it. I could hear so many different languages from every side and I decided to get in the thick of it.
Any stand that I saw with Italian flags or signs, I went over and spoke to them IN ITALIAN. Woo! I even went over to the Italian consulate. They were there to promote Italian teachers in the UK but I had a lovely chat with a lady about their work. Not particularly useful for her, but great practice for me!
6. Saturday has more to offer a language newbie
The majority of the show is targeted at language enthusiasts, learners and teachers (like me). So, there was a distinct lack of stuff there for a language newbie (like my wife). I really think that is something they could improve on in the future to help bring other people into the fold… one of us…. one of us!
However, there were some great cultural dances and musical performance on Saturday. Something that everyone could enjoy, even if they don’t learn languages. When I lost my wife in the crowd, I always found her watching something interesting.
7. Lots of kids on a Friday
On Friday there were a lot of school kids at the show. As most of the stands were targeting secondary school teachers, this is hardly surprising . But, this did create other problems because there was nothing for them to do. Which resulted in them being noisy, running around and even kicking footballs at one point . It made the talks a lot more challenging to hear and it wasn’t particularly fair on the speakers; who had worked so hard on their presentations.
It’s not the kids fault though. If the show or exhibitors had included activities and games for all the tag alongs and bag carriers then there would have been a lot less disruption. Something to occupy them while the linguists went and did their thing. Like a creche for wives and school kids!
8. It’s a long couple of days.
After 6 hours on each day, on our feet and chatting, it is very intense. There was so much information to take in that I am still digesting it all now. So, it’s really important to get a good night’s sleep, have a good breakfast and get there early while you are still fresh faced and bushy tailed.
9. Bring some snacks
Anyone who knows me, knows that food is very important to me. So, I was absolutely devastated when I saw only ONE food stall in the whole show. It was only a small place but I always love to have a choice. So, I strongly recommend that you pick up some snacks and drinks from the local shops before you come in. It will save you a sweaty dash to the shop 10 minutes before a talk when you realise you are starving! Saturday was much more relaxing with a sandwich and drink in my bag. Believe me!
10. Have fun
And last, but by no means least, have fun! When I first walked in, I was really nervous! Like my first day at school. But then, I realised that everyone is there for the same reason and I just need to give it a go. That’s when the real fun started.
My fondest memory of the Language Show is trying my hand at the interpreting booth. I nervously walked inside, with people outside waiting eagerly with headphones. I had to watch a video in Italian (about a woman in Brussels who loves chocolate) and translate it into English. To my surprise, I did it pretty well and thoroughly enjoyed myself. They even told me I have a talent and should think about it for the future. It’s like being asked by an Italian if you are from Italy. Absolutely made my day!
So, my main piece of advice if you’re thinking of heading here next year is to try everything, have a great time and meet as many amazing people as possible.
If you love languages The Language Show is a must!
What do you guys think? Have I convinced you to add it to your calendar for 2020? Let me know in the comments below.
Until next time
P.s. Keep your eyes peeled for a very special post in the next few days. My wife will be sharing her thoughts on the Language show… in her own words! A blog first and hopefully not the last!