Lauren looks back at the challenge

Posted on 27. Jun, 2014 by in Uncategorized


About a month ago, I interviewed Lauren about her experience learning Esperanto in the Six Week Challenge. Now that the challenge is over, I’d like to revisit Lauren to see how things went.

How has everything been studying Esperanto over the past weeks?

To be honest, I wish I would have studied more so that I could’ve used the opportunity at the Polyglot Gathering to practice more in-depth conversations, but I think everyone always wishes that they’d studied more. Other than that, it went great. To me, in the past six weeks, I not only learned Esperanto, but also how to learn a language. I really do feel like I know what I’m doing to start off my next language project. Though I reckon the next one will be much harder, I have a slight advantage now in that I’ll have a really good strategy going into it.

What have been some of the highs and lows?

I think every time I started a new aspect of the language was a low, because each step feels impossible at first. Another low was right before my first Skype conversation. I was extremely nervous. It turned out that I had no reason to be nervous, and it was great, but at the time I was really hoping for a sudden power outage so I could escape it. As for the highs: At the polyglot conference, there were so many unexpected moments when I was thrown into speaking Esperanto and I surprised myself with what I could discuss. One night I had a conversation about auras and synesthesia in Esperanto! Also people kept complimenting my accent and asking if I was “really” a monoglot, which felt good. :)


It was also very nice meeting you at the recent Polyglot Gathering in Berlin! [Full disclosure: I was on the main organizing team of this conference.] What was your general impression attending the Gathering and what was it like speaking Esperanto with so many people there?

I loved it! To be honest it was a bit exhausting to socialize in another language for 5 days straight, but I had so much fun. There are a lot of people I can’t wait to see again at other events. And there were several really, really impressive polyglots there. I especially liked the polyglot games and watching everyone strut their stuff a little bit and get competitive with it.

I remember you being a bit nervous about giving a 1-5 min lecture in Esperanto at the Gathering. How did that go and would you recommend it to others?

I am one of those people who gets incredibly nervous talking at a group of people in general – even in English. The fact that I was speaking in Esperanto for the speech wasn’t the hard part. I just don’t like giving speeches. For me personally, I prefer to suddenly have to speak the language without knowing that it’s coming. Like leaving our dorm room and turning a corner and running into an Esperantist and having a chat. Those were the moments I enjoyed the most. But preparing to give a speech did help me learn a few new words that I didn’t know beforehand (like community).

With Benny Lewis and Chris Huffington (Toki Pona lecturer)

With Benny Lewis and Chris Huffington (Toki Pona lecturer)*

Now that the challenge is over, what are your future plans for Esperanto?

I am going to read books in Esperanto! I got that as a gift from an Esperantist at the conference, as well as a book called “La Krimo de Katrina.” I’m definitely going to keep improving my Esperanto, and I hope the next time we chat in person my level will be even higher :)

Has this experience inspired you to learn more languages?

Definitely, definitely, definitely. I am starting a new language in about a week, and we’ll announce it on the blog then and ask readers to join us with their own summer projects.

Thanks for the interview and I look forward to seeing you at another language event in the near future!

Dankon! Ĝis revido!

Photo used with permission of Chris Huffington

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Polyglot Gathering: much Esperanto spoken

Posted on 23. Jun, 2014 by in Events

On June 15-18, polyglots (people who speak multiple languages) came to Berlin to enjoy a rich program with like-minded individuals at the Polyglot Gathering (at which Transparent Language was also a sponsor). In fact, whenever I had to explain our event to outsiders, I usually just said, “Our participants speak an average of six languages.” So, when it comes to language-learning, that makes me average there! How does this relate to this blog about Esperanto though? Well, out of the 230 participants, 54 indicated during registration that they understand Esperanto and it really did feel like no matter where you went, you kept hearing Esperanto somewhere or another!

30 langs

So, having said all that, I’d like to share my own personal experience as one of the three head organizers. Judith Meyer was the head organizer, Martin was in charge of participant administration and I did whatever was left over, which was mostly setting up tech for lectures and helping our amazing volunteers find their place at the gathering. Amusingly enough, the Polyglot Gathering was modelled after Esperanto youth conferences in Europe, so it already felt very familiar to me.

Technically speaking

From the technical side, the first major issue was that an important button on our loudspeaker in the main room broke in the middle of the first day. There’s a button that you should push down for microphone, but not have pushed in for line in. The button just wasn’t holding, so Gavan Fantom had to rig an interesting mesh of tape and cardboard to keep the button down: an amusing solution.

As far as laptops and projectors went, I didn’t notice the general tendency of Windows laptops today to start using non-VGA video connectors. Many laptops today have HDMI or mini-HDMI connectors, but both projectors we had were relatively old, so next time I’ll be sure to have HDMI and mini-HDMI to VGA adapters on hand to make sure everything runs smoothly.


It was quite a shock to start writing back and forth with 30 potential volunteers for the Polyglot Gathering. Our volunteers were amazing! Some helped prepare the conference bags or film the gathering. Others helped with cleanup, lending equipment, and another drove us around the city. I want to thank all our volunteers for helping us make this an unforgettable experience for all our participants.


I want to give a special shout out to Georg Jähnig who took it on himself to organize the filming of the entire conference, and what an undertaking that was! We had cameras running in two rooms, and the setup for the big room was not simple, including separate recording for video and audio, which later needs to be merged together. While everything ran quite smoothly, I think next time I’d like to raise the participation price, so that we can have film students professionally film the event. That would also help to alleviate some of the burden on our volunteer team to help us focus better on other aspects of the event.

Looking back

Polyglot Gathering Feedback

Having taken time to recover from the event, I can now look back with pride at how smoothly it all went. The notes we got from participants on our feedback flipchart still warms my heart every time I read it, even though I can’t read many of the obscure languages that appear there, ha! In a few weeks, we’ll meet up to decide if and when we’d like to organize it again. If you’d like to attend a similar, but more-academically oriented event, on Oct 10-12, the Polyglot Conference will take place in Novi Sad, Serbia, but sign up soon, because registration closes on July 7!

A German experiences NASK

Posted on 26. May, 2014 by in Interview, Uncategorized

Lena helps film at NASK

Lena helps film at NASK

Last week, I interviewed Fábio Montiero about his participation in NASK and the awesome video he made about it. This week, I’m here with Lena, a German who attended the intermediate course at NASK last year! In case you missed last week’s interview, NASK is the Nordamerika Somera Kursaro where people interested in learning Esperanto get together to improve their Esperanto at an American university!

Why did you attend NASK? Were you living in America at the time or did you fly over from Germany specifically for this course?

I actually went to the US for about three months and decided to spend some vacation time there as well. So, I figured it would be nice to finally learn enough Esperanto to communicate. Therefore, I looked up programs that were near me and found NASK in Raleigh, NC. Since I have never really spoken Esperanto before, I started with the post-beginners course, but during the first day I realized that this was too easy and switched to the intermediate course.

What was it like learning there? How did it compare to your usual university courses?

It was awesome. We had 3 hours of class every morning after breakfast. And I really liked going to class, since we always had interesting topics, and Derek, our instructor, always had very good ideas. For me, grammar is not very easy, but Derek’s explanations were really good.

I think there is a big difference between NASK and regular University courses. NASK is total immersion. We tried to speak only Esperanto, which worked surprisingly well. The Esperanto community is also very motivating. Esperanto speakers have a certain and unique mindset, which creates a wonderful learning environment. I think this makes all the difference to other courses.

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What was the most interesting experience you had there?

The participants and the feeling of belonging and acceptance. I never found such a big, heterogeneous group of people which are that interesting and interested. This was the most wonderful experience and I was really sad to go back to my normal life.

What would you tell people who are considering going to NASK this summer?

NASK participants in North Carolina

NASK participants in North Carolina

Try to speak only Esperanto; it is the best way to practice! And get the English-Esperanto-English Dictionary (2010 Edition) by John Wells.

Here you can find more information about NASK this year, which will be taking place in British Columbia on June 29-July 8!