I recently joined a new group on Facebook called Bangor Polyglots. As the name suggests, this is for people based in the Bangor area (that’s the one in North West Wales rather than any of the many others around the world) who speak several languages and have a strong interest in language in general. As you might also guess from the fact that the name specifies a geographical location, this is intended to be a group that has face-to-face meetings rather than just existing in cyberspace.
The group only began to meet a fortnight ago and, at the moment, they meet on Monday evenings at one of the pubs in Bangor (the Ship Launch, down near the pier). This is unfortunate for me, since on Monday evenings I have rehearsals with the Menai Bridge Band. However, I discovered after the first meeting that they go on fairly late (until around 11pm), which gives me a chance to get across after the band practice (which finishes at 9). Since the weather was fine (albeit cold) last night and I wasn’t feeling too tired, I cycled across to meet the others for the first time last night.
As it happens, there were only 3 other people there (though apparently there had also been one other person there earlier), one of whom I already know, so it wasn’t too daunting to join in the meeting.
One of those present was Simon, the organiser of the group (and the one I already knew). He is also the creator and maintainer of the Omniglot website – an online encylopedia of languages and writing systems. I first came across this fascinating website some time before Simon moved to Bangor so I was delighted when I met him a few years back and discovered that he was the man behind it. He speaks several languages to a high standard and has a particular interest in the Celtic languages. He’s also learning Russian, which I studied for a while (as a subsidiary subject) at university (far too many years ago).
The other two people there are, I gather, both students. I think Rhian is studying linguistics and Sam is studying German (with a bit of Dutch on the side). They both speak Welsh and Cornish, as well as several other languages.
Last night’s general conversation was mostly in a fairly free mix of Welsh and English. I also had a bit of a chat with Simon in French and Russian and we all threw bits of quite a few other languages into the mix too, so it definitely qualified as a meeting of polyglots. One of the notable topics of conversation was the notion of cellar doors, as propounded (though apparently not originated) by J. R. R. Tolkien. Both Rhian and I were delighted to find somebody else (i.e. each other) who was familiar with this concept and we had great fun explaining it to the others and then all coming up with our own cellar doors in various languages (if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about you may want to check out the link in the previous sentence to Simon’s blog, where he has written about cellar doors today). We also spent some time discussing compound words in German (and trying to make up some of our own, then translate them into Welsh), the Welsh translation of “passion fruit” (which none of us knew – I looked it up later and apparently it’s granadila, which is very similar to the French grenadille) and the current state of the various different proposals for a standard dialect of modern Cornish (a scene which appears to be even more fragmented than when I last seriously looked at it several years ago, when there were three main claimants for the title).
I did manage to get an answer for a question that’s been bugging me (slightly) for a couple of weeks. A friend and I were discussing corgis (the small Welsh dogs beloved of Queen Elizabeth) and we couldn’t remember the meaning of the word. It is a Welsh compound word, breaking down to cor + gi (< ci = dog) but we couldn’t remember what cor meant. We did flippantly speculate that it could be côr = choir, which would make corgis dogs that sing in choirs. 🙂 However, it turns out (as Rhian reminded me last night) that cor is a synonym or abbreviation (I’m not sure which) of corrach = dwarf, so a corgi is actually a dwarf dog (not a bad description, really).
All told, I had a very pleasant evening with my fellow polyglots. I’ll probably try and get across for the meetings (or at least the last part of them) whenever possible (which will probably be based on what the weather’s like and whether I’m feeling sufficiently energetic to cycle there and back). I hope that this will help me to polish my French and Russian (and Welsh, for that matter) and perhaps learn a bit more Cornish and a few odds and ends of other languages.