“Let me think about it,” was the response from my Toledo friends when I nudged them to come along to Madrid with me on Sunday for a Polyglot Meet-up. As if I couldn’t see their eyes glaze over with the red **NERD-ALERT** warning lights flashing behind…

So I went on my own.

I’d never been to such an event before. Social gatherings – hrrumpfh. But I quite fancied this one, not least because I would finally get to meet Alex Rawlings in person. I came across this personable polyglot a couple of years ago, when the BBC featured him in this video showing off his language skills. I started following his blog and we exchanged a handful of messages. Then, a few weeks ago, I was delighted to read that he was organising a meeting for language enthusiasts in Madrid.

Atocha Station, Madrid

Beautiful Atocha Train Station, Madrid, taken Sunday night

I’d had no trouble finding the venue, although the restaurant seems kinda deserted when I walk in. I eventually find a member of staff fiddling with a table cloth.

Excuse me, I’m here for the polyglot meeting.

The polywhat…? What is that?!

I decide to take a different approach.

Some people have booked a room for an event here this afternoon. Has anyone arrived yet?

Well… there’s some people downstairs…

He points me in the direction.

I recognise Alex straight away. Unexpectedly, he also recognises me as “Lady Of The Cakes”. I’m not quite sure how or why… it’s been almost a couple of years since we exchanged those two or three messages on the blogs. He’s been hopping from country to country and must have met thousands of new people. I guess having a superhuman memory and being a polyglot go hand-in-hand. That would also explain why I’m not one.

The organisers have prepared tables with language flags and ice breaker games. But there is no ice to be broken: People arrive and they immediately start chatting to the next-best complete stranger. I notice that most arrive unaccompanied… evidently, I wasn’t the only one cruelly abandoned by their so-called friends…

Me, Johanna (one of the organisers), Mr Circus and Alex Rawlings

Me, Johanna (one of the organisers), Bar (aka Mr Circus) and Alex Rawlings

Pretty much everyone seems to speak Spanish and English, the rest is potluck. I meet a Spaniard who has the best German accent I have ever heard. (From a Spaniard.) I chat to a young Israeli student, switching between English, Spanish and Portuguese. I ask him what he’s studying. Circus studies, he tells me. I blink. I confirm that I understood correctly. It’s like someone telling you they’re an accountant and you’re stuck for a response, but for the exact opposite reason. My brain is whirring with questions. Turns out his specialism is juggling, not lion taming.

My worst fear – that someone accosts me in French (this is my kryptonite right now!) – does not materialise. Instead, I get myself caught up in a maelstrom of Hebrew, until the speaker realises from my deer-in-the-headlights-stare that I’m not getting any of this. I point them towards Mr Circus.

Three hours go by in a flash. I only manage to nab a fraction of the people who I would have liked to interrogate have a chat with. I fix a lunch date for Tuesday with a lovely couple visiting from Vermont who had already been planning to come to Toledo.

On my way back to Atocha station, I’m thinking… I wouldn’t mind doing this again… and it didn’t even involve cake! I must be coming down with something…

And one more...

And one more…

Post Script: It has just transpired that the next Polyglot Meetup Madrid event will be held on 17 January 2016. Just in case anyone wants to “think about it”… ahem.

[Find Alex Rawlings’s language blog here: www.rawlangs.com]

62 thoughts on “Polywhat…?

  1. bevchen

    It sounds like a mixture between fun and terrifying (the going alone part = terrifying. I always make Jan come to meetup events with me so I’m not the idiot sitting there with nobody to talk to).


    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Actually, I think going on my todd paid off… otherwise I may have clung to my friend’s side, cramping both of our styles. And then, you always worry whether the other person is having a good time or not – that can be very distracting.


    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I can be very memorable. But that’s rarely played in my favour.

      Actually, I was thinking just how blissful it was to go to a social gathering where nobody rabbits on about their wedding, some home improvement project or how well junior is performing at school.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. TheLastWord

    It sounds like real fun…. I mean, sure, I’d love to attend one of these whatamacallits. But then everyone agrees I’m some kind of weird nerd. I speak English and 2 Indian languages? Does that mean I’m polyglot too?

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Pecora Nera

        No… Mrs Sensible likes cats, I tolerate them. Apart from Mishmash who is the coolest daftest cat there is.

        PS. A person who is fluent in :-
        Three or more languages is a Polyglot
        Two languages is bilingual
        One language is an Englishman. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Kim G

    It sounds like an interesting group. I think people who study other languages and travel are a heckuva lot more interesting that people who simply happen to know someone who’s to be married.

    And if you go again, send my regards to “Mr. Circus.” Anyone who’s that cute and can juggle too must be worth schlepping to Madrid to meet.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where, once long ago, we knew how to juggle.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Kim G

        That seems to be a growing problem…not sure what to do about it, especially as I don’t really feel old enough to be anyone’s parent. Hmmmm…..


  4. freebutfun

    Yep, I had to look up the polywhatglot. .. but interesting that you enjoyed a social gathering with no cakes involved so much, not the post I expected here 🙂 you are full of pleasant surprises! Glad you had a good time!


    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      There was no food… wait, I think a couple of people ordered something and it looked pretty good. Then the kitchen closed! I guess the event was more about getting stuff to come out of your mouth rather than stuffing food into it. A weird concept, I know. Took a bit of getting used to…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Anonymous

    Oh wow! Thanks for posting! I am living now in Madrid and was wondering where polyglots were meeting up. 😀
    See you in January!


  6. Lächerlicher

    3 hours flu by and no eating? Are you shure you dont eat a Wohle mushrome cake and tripped the hole jiggeli jiggeli thing?


      1. Lächerlicher

        In acht dog treff ma uns scho am Flughafen, dann grieagst glei an döner, dast woast jetzt bist in deitschland


  7. Mikel Maine

    Love the title/subtitle of your blog. Love it.

    This looks like a lot of fun!! What did you talk about? Was it a room full of linguist aspergians (this is a good thing), did you strictly talk about languages or did other conversations happen naturally?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Hi there! Well, languages served as the starting point to every conversation, certainly, but then it naturally drifted onto other topics… and back to languages again, LOL. I had a great time, anyway. Also last Sunday, when we had our second meeting. Around 100 people came!

      Liked by 1 person


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