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Polyglot Geeks Unite: Lessons from the Language Show

chinese language pandaLast weekend in London meant that anyone could once again take part in a sample foreign language class, learn about multilingual vacancies or new publishing for foreign language. This was the second Language Show for me – and I was super happy to attend again!

1. Marketing foreign languages: maturity or austerity?

One thing about this year’s show cannot be denied. The 2012 edition was bigger and a lot of last year’s exhibitors didn’t show up this time. In English as a Foreign Language, this was felt quite strongly, but most other branches and areas were shrunk as well.
This could be a reflection of a hard year for education and multilingualism in the UK. But maybe it’s a sign that the market is actually reaching maturity – and that the people who are seen on the Language Show are there with an agenda and a clear goal.

2. Most popular foreign languages are a self-fulfilling prophecy

The big players in British language learning have all been well represented. French, Spanish, Chinese, German – you could pick and choose, and the stands were pretty impressive.
But what about those undiscovered languages? What about something that would really make a difference? Those were, for the most part, missing.
It’s important because of one simple mechanism, which may end up pushing the less-promoted languages into the margins. In a market economy, big money and government support means a lot for language learning. But some other movement and force is needed behind the “long tail” languages, if they are to remain viable.

3. Follow up and connect for more language learning chances

This year I had the luxury of not having to work at an exhibitors’ stand. This meant I could walk around, ask questions, sign up for competitions and mailing lists, and connect more.
Which, for a polyglot, is a key skill and can lead to finding new languages to learn – or new ways to learn the ones you’re focusing on.
My final suggestion, then: don’t worry about hard times and being “marketed at.” Go and visit every language show in your area. And make the most of it – true guerrilla language learner style!

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