Our History

Before the web and social media, polyglots tended to be solitary creatures studying on their own and pursuing what were often viewed as eccentric or inexplicable pursuits.

The internet changed that, by making geography irrelevant and uniting language lovers across great distances. Alongside readily available information about other countries and cultures, they now had direct access to native speakers and polyglots representing hundreds of languages.

New language sites and social media brought about the formation of a self-conscious, collaborative online community. In 2007, the first YouTube videos from polyglots began appearing online.

The second Polyglot Conference in Serbia in October 2014 was hosted by the Cultural Center of Novi Sad. That too was a huge success and led to the decision to take the Polyglot Conferences out of Europe for the first time.

In 2015, the Polyglot Conference made its first trip to the United States, landing in New York City, one of the most multilingual cities in the world, and drawing a whole new crop of American polyglots to this flourishing global community. Co-organized with local linguaphile Ellen Jovin and attracting 450 participants, the 2015 conference was the largest and most high profile event ever held in polyglot history.

In 2016, the Polyglot Conference returned to Europe and was held in the beautiful coastal city of Thessaloniki, Greece. The conference celebrated the city’s colourful multilingual heritage and present. Participants got the chance to share their love for languages with beautiful sea breezes carrying the whispers of the many different languages that have called the city home.

We returned to the continent of North America in 2017 just about, by taking the conference to Reykjavík, Iceland – the perfect place to meet between Europe and North America. The themes of the conference celebrated the languages, literatures and cultures of the North, highlight the pressures of globalisation on smaller and indigenous languages as well as exploring the multilingualism and autism.

In 2018 we took the Polyglot Conference to Slovenia’s capital. Ljubljana’s Grand Hotel Union boasts a strong tradition in hosting international conferences in the heart of the city centre. We celebrated our host country’s diversity, as well as the diversity of our participants under the umbrella of our conference theme for 2018 “Diversity in Language”.

In 2019 we took the Polyglot Conference to Fukuoka, Japan. Fukuoka has a very authentic Japanese feel to it and many interesting and exciting places to explore for participants to really experience its people and culture. We celebrated our host country’s languages and cultures, as well as the wider region too. We joined in the UN’s goal of making 2019 all about being the “International Year of Indigenous Languages”.

In 2020, the global pandemic struck, preventing us from going to Cholula, Mexico as originally planned. However, we seized this opportunity to develop our virtual conference options and turned adversity into an advantage. Introducing Polyglot Conference Global, a lasting addition to our conference lineup, which complements future physical conferences. All presentations were pre-recorded and available throughout the 10-day event, following a Netflix-style format. This format allowed participants and speakers to engage in games, quizzes, language lessons, and round-the-clock conversations with one another. The event transcended borders, becoming a truly global experience with no fixed start or end time. In 2021, we embraced this new tradition and decided to maintain it indefinitely, even after returning to in-person events in 2022.

In 2022 we took the Polyglot Conference to Cholula, Mexico finally! Cholula allowed us to really celebrate Nahuatl as we had language courses offered by our partner Zaloa Languages the week before, as well as courses in Spanish too. Our sponsors and partners had materials available in Nahuatl to really showcase the language in contexts we don’t usually get to enjoy seeing it. This helped us really celebrate as an official event under the umbrella of the “International Decade of Indigenous Languages”.

In 2023 we took the Polyglot Conference back to Budapest, Hungary! After our first ever conference in Budapest in 2013, it was wonderful to be back in such a fabulous venue to celebrate the community and languages together again. Having talks in and about indigenous, endangered and vulnerable languages allowed us to really get into “International Decade of Indigenous Languages”. We also had chance to reflect on and reinvigorate the format of the event, celebrating the original elements and combining it with what people love about TED Talk style presentations!

Join us this year and become part of the story!

Watch Talks from Previous Years:

International Day of Multilingualism 2024

The Language Event Penang 2023

Budapest 2023

Global 2023

The Language Event Edinburgh 2023

International Day of Multilingualism 2023

International Mother Language Day 2023

Cholula 2022

Global 2022

International Day of Multilingualism 2022

Global 2021

International Day of Multilingualism 2021

Global 2020

The Language Event Edinburgh 2020

Fukuoka 2019

The Language Event Melbourne 2019

Ljubljana 2018

Reykjavik 2017

Thessaloniki 2016

New York 2015

Novi Sad 2014

Budapest 2013