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Kerstin Cable is a polyglot podcaster, YouTuber, language coach and co-host of the Women in Language event. I chatted with her about language learning (duh!) and especially her love for a lesser known language and the awesome event, now in its fourth year, Women in Language.
English LingQ Podcast #16 Polyglot Podcaster Kerstin Cable
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Today, I have a special guest podcaster, language coach and language learning content provider, and also cohost of the Women in Language event.
Kirsten cable, Kirsten.
How are you?
Kerstin: Hi, I’m doing great.
How are you?
Elle: I’m good.
Um, now it’s morning here in Vancouver, but you are in the UK, what time is it with you?
Kerstin: It’s seven minutes past 5:00 PM.
Elle: Okay, excellent.
So thank you so much for joining us after your day is done.
I’m sure you’re tired, but we appreciate it.
Kerstin: It’s a bank holiday so I’ve done nothing all day because bank holidays mean holidays, you know?
Elle: Yes, of course.
It’s Easter weekend.
So you’ve had the day off.
And you’ve have some sun in the UK I think.
Kerstin: It’s it’s super, super sunny.
Yesterday it was sunny and reasonably warm and I went swimming and this… today, so it’s all outdoor swimming because our swimming pools are still closed, and today it’s, it looks really warm, but it really isn’t.
This morning, there was snow.
Elle: Whoa, like where you are there was snow?
It’s just April, April weather.
Like it’s not staying down.
It’s just a little bit of.
“Yeah, I’m here too”.
Elle: Always unpredictable, A pril.
Kerstin: I know.
Elle: Um, so Kerstin you run the fluent… the website, fluent language.co.uk, and you offer resources and run a blog and also your wonderful podcast, the Fluent Show.
So tell us about the Fluent Show.
You’ve just, I think, are you at episode 210 now?
You just surpassed 200?
Kerstin: Yes, well researched.
We hit episode 200 last year, we had a little party.
We had a little quiz.
I love a quiz.
I am just so into quizzes.
So we had a big quiz and my, my friend Megan came from, she hosts a podcast called, Oh, they, sorry.
They host a podcast called Oh No!
And they came and brought us this literature quiz.
It was amazing.
It was, it was so random and fun.
And since then, yes, I have had, I’m now in a new system where in this podcast, which is all about language, just from so many different angles
and what I don’t do is just do the kind of standard… I think it’s… it would be more of a standard kind of polyglot show if you just go “hello person who is so gifted and speaks five languages, tell us your secrets”.
I, I don’t do that as much because I find that language is in every aspect of our life and has so many different angles.
So I try to bring in as much variety as I possibly can.
So the season we’ve just finished is 10, 10 episodes is a season.
The season we’ve just finished was linguistic season.
So I had an academic who researches stylistics.
We learnt what stylistics is.
We talked about neuroscience and how there’s lightening in the brain and what that, what impact that has on how you speak in the language you choose, how you code switch.
That was incredibly interesting.
We talked about the languages of Western and central Asia.
And I had sort of, I have a cohost Lindsey who pops in every now and then.
So every season there’s two or three episodes where we just hang out, they’re much more relaxed and much less, there’s less, less and more content at the same time.
It’s just more laughs.
And we did Words of the Year 2020, and we did our tools.
That’s a staple.
We’ve done that for six years now.
So the podcast is just a lot of fun and an excuse for me to indulge my curiosity about all things to do with communication and languages.
And you just mentioned the words of the year 2020, I’m intrigued by that.
What, uh, what are some of the standout words that you guys talked about from last year?
Kerstin: Oh, Oh, Oh, a good one because we looked at words from the USA, not so many from the US because there’s just such a list.
We looked at the German words of the year, British lots of British ones, but also Australia and something that stood out in my mind.
Um, the big themes were obviously Coronavirus.
So “COVID”, um, “lockdown” word of the year.
And then in, in Australia they had, um, “iso-” sort of as a prefix, you know, like the little letters that go to the side of something, and in Australia, you can have, you can put on “iso-kilos” for example, and it’s just iso- this iso- that, and that’s something very specific to Australia.
Every year there seems to be something quite specific to Australia I really like.
Trying to remember what else there was… Black Lives Matter was the other sort of big theme.
And I think somewhere the word of the year was just “they”, so it was, it was, there was also, uh, the kind of extension in pronouns and in, uh, nonbinary.
The conversations that we’re having now.
So the language always reflects what’s on people’s minds.
And I love that so much about words of the year, it’s really, really fun.
Elle: Sounds like a really in-depth conversation.
Kerstin: It’s just a long, long list really.
Elle: Um, now since, ever since I found out that you are a person who, I don’t know if it’s a language you are actively studying right now, but you are someone who has studied the Welsh language, um, as someone from Wales who, um, knows people…
I know people who speak Wells for sure, but it is, it’s a very lesser known language.
They’re around 3 million people in Wales.
And I think around 20% of those people living in Wales speak Welsh.
I know that number, that percentage is increasing, uh, over the years, which is great.
Um, but so that’s around 20% of 3 million.
That’s not a lot of people.
And, um, yeah, I know you’re studying Welsh and I just spoke with Luca Lampariello actually and he said, He is, uh, one of his languages of the year that he’s studying as Hungarian and his, when he told his uncle that he was learning Hungarian, his uncle was like, why?
Why would you waste your time learning a language like Hungarian?
No one speaks Hungarian.
Well for Welsh, it’s even fewer people.
So I guess my question is to you, why Welsh?
And, and also have you had any, um, have you experienced like a negative attitude towards your interest in Welsh?
Any pushback, like anyone asking you, why would you do that?
Kerstin: I get a lot of “why?”
And, um, the answer that I have now learned is, I don’t know whether you’re going to understand me is “pam ddim?”
Kerstin: “Pam ddim?”
Is Welsh for why not.
And that is really… it’s there to be learned.
And I cannot express to you how much, how fun I find Welsh.
I don’t know why.
It’s just, it’s like my Bae.
I love it.
I love it.
It’s so much fun.
I really enjoy, um, “siarad Cymraeg” (speaking Welsh) , uh, “dysgu Cymraeg” (learning Welsh) , I just love it.
It’s so much fun and I am still actively learning.
Cause I’m super slow.
So I’ve been learning for five and a half years and I’m a level B2 now, so I can have my conversations, but to be honest, I’ve been having conversations of some description for years.
Cause that’s just how I do it, um, basically shout my five words at people and then call it a conversation.
I just… there are okay, there are, there are, there are specific whys is that I could point to, um, mostly to do with the fact that I live in the UK and I live in the UK as an immigrant, if you want to see it that way.
When I started learning, well,
I have to go one more step back, I guess, because I am from Germany and I am from quite near, um, from like almost a border region.
So maybe 50, if you drive 45 minutes from where I’m from, you’re in Luxembourg.
So I grew up near Luxembourg and France is really close and Belgium’s really close.
And there’s always been kind of languages,
like you can get, you can get easily get a Luxembourgish radio station, which is a language that is significant for our region.
It influences our dialect really heavily.
And the world at large, maybe doesn’t care about Luxembourgish, but I don’t think I ever really assigned value in that way of like, well, what do English speakers think is important that they never do any language learning anyway, like what did they know?
And I already knew, uh, Spanish and French and you know, I’ve done some Italian and I’ve done some Russian and blah.
So I’ve kind of done all the ones that you have to check off, German is my native language.
So I’ve got that one for free, which means I sort of was a little bit free maybe to, to play.
And once I started learning Welsh… it started when we went on holiday in Wales and you don’t run into necessarily, unless you go to specific areas, you don’t just run into people who happen to speak Welsh, but we were on the, in the car.
We had this podcast and the podcast was sort of teaching us the basics, “bore da” good morning, “prynhawn da” good afternoon, dah, dah, dah.
And I’m like, well this is fun to say.
These are all fun to say.
And, uh, all the signage is bilingual in Wales and there was just this part of me where the more I learned, well, the more I kind of started getting into it, the more I felt like, I describe it, like in a video game, you know, where you’re on the hidden level, that’s how I started to feel.
And then I went for the first time to the Eisteddfod which is the Welsh sort of cultural festival thing where everybody’s camping and yeah, it’s odd.
And I’m like on the mice camping right on the camping thing.
Um, and I woke up in the morning and my tent and around me there’s these children running around and people chatting and they’re all chatting and Welsh and I thought.
It’s real, like it’s alive.
It’s actually here.
And I felt like that amazing feeling.
You know, when you’re going on holiday or you’re traveling and you’re in a foreign country, I felt that, but in the UK, and I’m a big believer in, we don’t need to travel halfway around the world to find adventure.
And that gave me the kind of linguistic adventure.
So I feel like Welsh has given me so much, so much.
It’s ridiculous to ask why.
It’s absolutely… I don’t understand why people resist it because it is flippin’ it awesome.
It’s a bizarre, maybe I shouldn’t say bizarre.
It is bizarre.
I mean, there’s the pronunciation and the spellings in Welsh are something to behold, like, um, but yeah, I love that “linguistic adventure”.
That’s that’s a great, that’s a great term.
I like that.
Um, well, thank you.
I feel like you’re a bit of a, a bit of a champion for Welsh.
Um, thank you from the Welsh people, thank you.
Kerstin: Very undeservedly.
Don’t don’t make, make no mistake in my Welshclass every Thursday evening I get told all the time, Oh, I’ve got, I’m teaching four German and people, and there is a Syrian refugee who’s learning Welsh.
And that, you know, because the community is so small, everybody just seems to be like “here is a non-Welsh person learning Welsh.
Look at them!
I love it.
I think it’s a lot of fun.
I think I’m having so much fun with Welsh.
I’m so grateful to the language and its teachers.
So you, as I mentioned at the beginning of the episode, you co-host the Women in Language event with Lindsay Williams and Shannon Kennedy.
Kerstin: That’s right.
Elle: Uh, tell me about the event.
How, how long has it been running for now?
Is it you’ve had two?
Kerstin: No, we just finished our fourth
Elle: Oh four.
Bad research there.
And so, um, tell us a bit about why you started the event and, um, yeah then how was the most recent one?
Cause it just happened last month, right?
Kerstin: Uh, yes, it happened in March.
Um, it was a little confusing because in 2020 we had, we moved from our usual slot, which was in, which is in March and we kind of moved it to September.
So that year just seemed to confuse everybody.
But women, Women in Language is an online language conference, a four day event.
We have about 30-ish speakers, 34, I believe this year.
And we ha… we host sessions all live all hosted by one of us, three organizers.
We host panel discussions.
We have got a very lively live chat running all the way through, and it’s a real buzzing event.
The idea behind Women in Language was to champion, we, we say champion, celebrate and amplify the voices of women in language.
And just, we can widen that out to less of heard voices in the sense that, you know, we’re totally open.
We’ve had nonbinary speakers, transgender speakers.
That’s that’s no deal.
The idea though really was from noticing, and obviously when you’re a woman in the polygot space, you notice more, right?
The things where you see the lack and we felt there was just a little bit of an imbalance in terms of media attention, for sure, general sort of the idea of what a polyglot, “like that, that image seemed to just be a load of guys.
Um, and then not meant the kind of here is an expert panel of people who are multi-lingual, and lots of …”that, all skewed man.
And I’m a strong believer in, this isn’t really about like what I, you know, like, I’m not saying I’m making, women in language exists and now the world is perfect.
I’m a strong believer in when I’ve got something that really gets me riled up and I get a bit ranty and I might’ve had a bit, might’ve had a rant or two about whatever, I’m such a graceful person.
That you’ve got to do something about it.
And I felt, not just me, it was sort of Lindsey, Shannon and I we didn’t sit down together and say, Oh, we are really unhappy.
Am I allowed to say pissed off?
We are really unhappy, you know, we didn’t sit down and say, Oh, something needs to change.
Instead we kind of, I had my rant and then that was it.
And then months later, Lindsay, Lindsay sort of brought up, Oh, I’m looking at International Women’s Day, which is the 8th of March.
And I thought maybe we could do some kind of an event thing.
Maybe I wanted to organize something.
Do you want to, do you want to, you know, do you want to help?
Do you want to do something together?
And I was like, Oh, that sounds amazing.
I just got really excited about it.
We brought Shannon in and then when we started looking at well, who could we have?
Who could we work with?
Really quickly realized we don’t have a one day event.
We’ve got like a festival here and we called it Women in Language to kind of set that flag down.
Um, but it isn’t an event about women.
It isn’t an event where we discuss women topics, whatever those are, and it isn’t an event that excludes men at all.
So now that we’ve just had a fourth one, you were asking about, um, something we’re very proud of is in the four years we’ve had over a hundred speakers.
So we bring, we don’t have a lot of repeat speakers.
We focus on bringing in new speakers every time, new voices.
We have improved in terms of diversity.
I would say our first one was like, people we know turns out they look like you, but it was, you know, we’ve certainly improved on that and I’m really proud of that.
And, um, it’s a really welcoming space, but the other thing from just sort of anecdotally looking for the names of registrants, we’ve had more guys this year.
Like, and every year just kind of get this movement going.
So people realize, okay, even if there’s just even if, even if there’s just a lot of women on stage, doesn’t matter, it’s still a really cool event.
And I personally don’t really see that many expert panels where it’s just women.
So I’m just so proud and delighted to be putting all that together and being a part of kind of putting it out in the world.
It is so much fun.
Um, and it’s only $29.
So we get a lot of participation and we try to open it up as widely as we can.
And yeah, it’s sort of become a movement and an event that has a name in the space, which I don’t know, I don’t know if we planned that, but here we are.
Elle: Here it is.
And so then next year’s event is a safe bet?
It’s going to happen next year?
I know it’s early days.
You just had the fourth one, but…
Kerstin: Well, you know, if you’ve ever organized an event, you probably know that there’s moments where you think I’m never doing that again in my life ever.
There’s a good chance.
And we would be in the Women, International Women’s Day sort of time slot.
So that’s the first, usually the first weekend in March, roughly.
It’s, it’s too special really.
It’s it’s a special time.
People really love it.
Um, I wanna ask you, a lot of our listeners, viewers are learning English.
And, um, I’m sure other languages too.
And I always like to ask anyone I get on who has mastered, so to speak, languages outside of the native language, um, if they have any advice.
And from you, I would love to know, I noticed that reading through your website and listening to you that, kind of, inclusivity is a big,
big thing for you.
Um, and the message on your website is, you know, anyone can learn a language, doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, you can do it.
It’s really positive.
I love that.
Do you have any advice for anyone listening, who, um, might be thinking, you know, wondering if they actually can, if they, they’ve never learned a language outside of their mother tongue.
They’re wondering, can I actually do this?
I don’t know?
Do you have any advice?
Kerstin: So for those people, my advice would be to not spend too much time in wondering if you can do it and to just try.
Try try try.
And when you, because if you’re spending a lot of time wondering, can I do this?
Can I do this?
Then when something goes a little bit wrong or you make a mistake, then you’re already asking the question and then it’s really easy to go
“Ah, there’s the evidence.
I’m going back to bed”, don’t do that.
Don’t do that.
Instead, try to just find something that makes you really want to do it because there’s many things in life that you and everybody, you’re doing it.
Doesn’t matter if you can do it or not, right?
You’re just doing it because it’s fun.
You know, if you, I don’t know, go to the cinema, you don’t, you don’t go like, Oh, I don’t know.
Am I too stupid?
I don’t know what I understand this.
Like most of us, we have at least one thing in our life that we just do because it’s awesome.
And you would do it even if you weren’t sure that, you know, you could go all the way.
Like, you know, how many people play, play football slash soccer and they’re never going to be a professional player.
It’s not about that.
And if you treat languages like that, if you treat English like that… like find something really cool and just kind of follow that and stop asking, can I do this?
Because then a year down the line, you’ll be like, Oh yeah.
It turns out I can.
And that’s a nice feeling.
Um, so what’s in store for you for the rest of 202?1 of course it’s a weird time, but things are still happening, the world is still ticking over.
What’s in store?
Kerstin: Well, the, there is, uh, at least one more podcast season coming and I’m hoping for, I’ve got plans for the next three.
So that’s good.
No, let’s do the next one first, which is, uh, it’s going to be a season about teaching.
So I’ve got a few interesting teachers.
We’re kind of talking more about teaching and something I really like, which is talking business because I’m a one-person business, which means you spend a lot of time thinking about all this kind of stuff.
And there i so much mindset and psychology.
I feel like we have a parallel with languages and I really like that space that the coaching, I guess, motivating space and the exploring how to overcome your inner hurdles and, you know, really sharing strategies and sharings.
What’s worked for me in the last nine years of doing this.
So I’m really looking forward to that.
That’s the podcast on a personal level, I’m hoping to go home and see my family.
And this, this is weird, Elle.
You know what I miss almost as much, possibly some days more than my mum?
Elle: I hope your mum’s not listneing to this!
Kerstin: Well I can, I can talk to my mom on the phone, right?
But I can’t talk to the vineyards.
And I am from the Moselle Valley, which is all vineyards.
And I have found, like, I really miss just looking at the vineyards and just seeing that’s like my, my feeling of home is when I’m in a vineyeard.
Elle: And enjoying the products of the vineyard, I’m sure.
Kerstin: I mean I’ve got some in the fridge.
I grew up in a wine-making family and yeah, vineyards, I think are really important to us.
So I felt, I never know, I never knew before the pandemic stopped me going for so long that I missed the landscape of my home.
And I really just want to, you know, just go home to, to see home.
Um, and that’s something I’m hoping that this year we’re gonna, gonna go back and going to, you know, I don’t care about traveling the world that can wait another year, but I really just want to go and see some vineyards.
So there is that, um, and I’m hoping to relaunch my online course for teachers in line with the teaching seasons.
So, but working on a few corporate business projects too.
Busy, busy it sounds like.
I really hope you get to go home and enjoy the vineyards and best of luck with everything you have planned for 2021.
And thank you so much for joining us, Kristin.
Kerstin: You’re very, very welcome.