The Language Show, Europe’s largest language show, has been running for over 10 years. I’ve attended the show for the first time in 2018 and below I share my notes on the event.
The three-day show is free, with exhibitors, talks, taster classes and cultural events. The talks programme offers three strands:
- Language teachers
- Language professionals
- Language lovers
This year the event was in Olympia West, not a very big venue. Having been to the likes of the BETT education show in big venues like the Excel, the Language Show felt small. However, I only attended one day and came away buzzing with information and contacts so, in that sense, it did not feel small. This is a niche event about languages, not about education at large.
It’s three days packed with exhibitors, educational seminars, language taster classes, and cultural performances. If I could have spent the three days there, I would have, but other commitments and a 2h commute each way made it unviable.
Be warned, thought, the wifi was very poor and there was only one café at the venue. The coffee on offer was filtered and the prices exorbitant as they often are at exhibition centres – I’m usually served better coffee though… I’m sure there would have been a coffee cart happy to attend for the three days of the event to keep visitors happy and caffeinated to make the most of the event, whilst they made some good business as well.
The audience spreads nicely across teachers, language learners, linguists and interpreters/translators:
I attended as a language lover, but as a parent of bilingual children and education blogger, the talks designed for teachers and other language professionals were also of interest to me.
The programme was vast and even though I had mapped out a selection of talks I wanted to attend, sadly, it didn’t go to plan as I was, fortunately, engaged in interesting conversations with exhibitors and other delegates. I took the perspective that, the information shared at the talks could be obtained in other ways and that these events are perfects occasions for one to one conversations and networking.
Highlights from talks
As it happens in these sorts of events, some talks were better than others in terms of content and delivery. And as you would expect at an event promoting language learning, the main message, in a nutshell, was learning languages is good for you as an individual and for the world because “no man is an island” (English Poet John Donne). A message I, of course, wholeheartedly agree with.
Rebecca Mitchell, affiliate lecturer, and linguists at Cambridge university gave a fast paced and engaging talk about Linguists in everyday life. Mitchell took us on a tour from the beginning of linguists to the future – communicational linguists in around half an hour. The talk was perfect for beginners – it was pitched at secondary students who may be interested in pursuing further education in the subject. I didn’t see many students on the day, but I found it very interesting.
Antonella Sorace, Professor of Developmental Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh and founding director of Bilingualism Matters was fantastic as well (from what I managed to catch). I’m a big fan of Bilingualism Matters, a network and their efforts in engaging the public with the latest research about bilingualism and language
It was reassuring to see the British Council making the case for international and intercultural encounters, also as part of the post-Brexit talk as above.
Alex Rawlings, author of How To Speak Any Language Fluently (2017) and From Amourette to Żal: Bizarre and Beautiful Words from around Europe (2018) talked about languages for a world without “Grenzen” (borders). He gave some examples of why languages can support knowledge and tolerance in society. He also provided some sad examples, like the one below, of when ignorance of each other can lead to xenophobism and hate crime.
Rawlings made a provocative proposition:
“speak, create, consume less English… demand more multilingual”.
The cohort of exhibitors included a mix of companies, educational institutions, and not-for-profit organisations. Professional bodies such as the Association of Language Learning, the Chartered Institute of Linguists and the Department of Education were, of course, present, as was the European Union with a big stand dishing out plenty of information and free materials with a focus on education and linguistics.
I loved talking to the people at the Institute of Languages and the LIDEL publishers’ Portuguese language representative among others.
Language is a diplomatic and cultural tool and as expected, Governmental bodies and foundations that promote different languages were in attendance. French, Spanish, Arabic, Japanese and Korean had good presence.
Sadly, not Portuguese, which is incomprehensible to me. Portuguese is the sixth most natively spoken language in the world and the second most spoken Romance language in the world. Now that Portugal appears to be more entrepreneurial and forward-looking I was expecting to see a decent presence from Instituto Camoes there. Very disappointing not to see any presence at all. Obviously, publishers such as the Oxford University Press and LIDEL were present, as was the European Bookshop.
Language software and service providers such as Linguascope and newly launched language learning app Lirica, and Speak Like a Native, who offers language after-school clubs were present.
Highlights from the show
A revelation to me was Educandy – a free application that enables parents and teachers to create their own resources. You may know from past blog posts that one of my bug bears has been accessing good Portuguese resources to teach Portugues to my young children from an early age. I’ve not had an opportunity to play with the app yet but from what I gather so far, it sounds like a fantastic tool. I will trial it and report back so watch this space!
I had heard about The Magician Game – a free game based assessment tool for schools – and I was very excited to be able to discuss this with Steve from the Institute of Languages.
All in all, I came away with new knowledge and contacts and am pleased to have attended the Language Show. See you there next year?