Montreal Language Festival Kicks Off At Concordia

Friday Evening Keynote Free For Students

  • Bella performing on Udivitelnye Lyudi, image taken from YouTube.

Hundreds are expected to gather from across North America for the Montreal Language Festival at Concordia this weekend.

This year’s festival includes workshops teaching Japanese, Icelandic, and Arabic, strategies for rapidly achieving language fluency, and demonstrations by an octo-lingual preschooler.

Students are invited to attend the Friday night keynote event, “Prodigy and Professor,” taking place in the Hall building Alumni Auditorium (H-110) at 6 p.m, for free.

The event will bring one tiny language-lover, Bella Devyatkina, center stage alongside the internationally-renowned linguistics professor, Stephen Krashen.

At five years old, Bella speaks an impressive eight languages—which makes her one of the world’s youngest polyglots and somewhat of a celebrity in her home country of Russia.

In 2016, at the age of four, Bella performed on the Russian television talent show, Udivitelnye Lyudi or “The Incredible People” (think America’s Got Talent) in seven languages. The performance garnered international media attention.

Image courtesy of Montreal Language Festival.

“Bella’s favourite language is Arabic, because she really loves her Arabic teacher,” said her mother Yulia Devyatkina over e-mail on Sunday.

Devyatkina says she spoke English and Russian with Bella from birth. When Bella turned one, French was added. Then at two, Mandarin. Spanish, German, and Arabic were soon to follow and, most recently, Italian.

“Each time it was a success,” says Devyatkina.

Intimidated?

Don’t be, says the polyglot and language scholar, Richard Simcott.

According to Simcott, older adults are far from out of luck when it comes to learning new languages, though he says insecurity does prevent many from trying.

“It’s a psychological thing,” he explains. “After the age of about seven, people are more perceptive to the outside world, how they are perceived, what people think of them, what they think of other people. The psychological element of life kicks in and that’s what impedes the learning.”

Simcott has studied over fifty languages and has facilitated the gathering of language lovers for the Polyglot Symposium in cities around the world including Budapest, New York City, and this year’s upcoming event in Iceland.

Montreal Language Festival co-founder Tetsu Yung says that, while the internet has made it possible for language enthusiasts to connect and practice online, an opportunity to meet fellow learners in-person was one of the motivations for coordinating the festival.

“You talk to people, you make friends, you make connections, you make a network—that’s what it’s all about, said Yung. There is a social aspect of having allies and having somebody to do this with you, supporting each other.”

Outside of panel presentations and language workshops, participants and interested community members are invited to register for free recreational outings including a hike up Mont Royal and a language-exchange picnic in Parc Lafontaine.

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