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Can you say that in Arabic … or Esperanto?

Concordia hosts the first North American Polyglot Symposium, July 23 to 24
June 29, 2016
By J. Latimer

One keynote speaker is fluent in 10 languages. Another presenter knows 15 international tongues. Most people in attendance are proficient in English, French and Spanish — “the starter languages.”

Welcome to the first North American Polyglot Symposium (NAP)! Language lovers from all over the continent will congregate at Concordia on July 23 and 24, gabbing away, attending lectures and participating in workshops by 21 guests.

“There is an international polyglot conference but this is the first one for North America,” says alumnus Joey Perugino (BComm, 99) the symposium project lead for Montreal’s inaugural edition of NAP.

Perugino, who studied international business, is a former member of AIESEC Concordia, a student group dedicated to facilitating internships abroad for students to develop their leadership potential.

AIESEC was founded after World War II as a way of bridging cultural divides through professional training in foreign countries. Concordia’s group is one of 30 Canadian chapters.

“The symposium couldn’t have happened without our partnership with AIESEC Concordia. They’ve been instrumental in securing a venue for us, doing the digital marketing, finding volunteers and providing a trainee,” Perugino says.

Keen collaborators

The students in AIESEC are more than happy to help.

“We’re a very diverse group of 50 members, so we’re a good fit with the polyglot symposium, and it’s a great opportunity for us to work with alumni like Joey and Hady Zaky,” says third-year sociology and human rights student Stephani Moukhaiber, AIESEC Concordia's vice-president of Marketing and Communications.

Hospitality Concordia helped Moukhaiber’s team book rooms on the third and sixth floors of the John Molson School of Business building (MB) and made sure they had everything they needed to host the symposium.

NAPS, unpacked

The symposium’s three keynote speakers are Benny Lewis, a humorous Irish polyglot, popular linguist Steve Kaufmann and acclaimed Canadian author Jean-Benoît Nadeau.

“We booked a great cast of characters — well-known professionals in their field,” says Perugino, who also invited Zaky (BA, 99) a former executive member of AIESEC Concordia, and current chair of its Board of Advisors.

“I’m going to talk about how knowing languages can help break down barriers and enrich your career,” says Zaky, who was born in Egypt, where he went to French Catholic school before learning Arabic and English.

Both Zaky and Perugino work in the banking industry and credit AIESEC Concordia for exposing them to the benefits of language learning.

“I use my languages at work every day,” says Perugino. “Concordia helped me get tuned into the international world of business. Montreal and Concordia are natural matches for our symposium.”

So, why not sign up for a workshop in Gaelic or Esperanto? Consult NAP’s schedule for the list of daytime events. Social activities are also being planned for the evenings.

The North American Polyglot Symposium
runs from Saturday, July 23 at 8 a.m. to Sunday, July 24 at 5 p.m. in Concordia’s John Molson School of Business Building (MB), Sir George Williams Campus.

Passes are $99 for the entire weekend and $55 for one day. Individual tickets for specific events are also available. Student discounts apply. Check prices and register here.


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