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by fiel.sahir on 

December 15, 2016
On a Culture Mission: Expolingua 2016

“It’s not about how many languages you speak, but how much you love them.” – Alex Rawlings

As citizens of earth, we’re constantly on a mission.  It is our responsibility to steward human flourishing by promoting culture through means such as music and languages. Sharing ideas and teaching are no small matter, but man, are they ever important.

Thanks to a conversation with Marta from LinguaLift I discovered a language fair and decided to go ahead and send in my proposal to speak. Considering it was 2 months away and I don’t have a huge speaking resume, I didn’t expect much. Assuming the schedule was set and just hoping for the best seemed to be the way to go. To my surprise, I soon heard back.

Expolingua had accepted. I didn’t realize how big of a deal Expolingua was, despite having seen videos of Alex Rawlings and EasyGerman at the event before. This year alone there were over 11,000 visitors and 150 exhibitors from 35 different countries. Now that’s what I call diversity.

Expolingua is impressive. There were so many stands to visit and so many people to talk to. Considering my level of involvement I didn’t have the time to stop by too many stands but I did enjoy the ones I visited. Among them was the Indonesian Embassy. I befriended the people there and ate the wonderful snacks they had, making me miss home more than I already do.

© ICWE GmbH/Sera-Zöhre Kurc

My first event was a Polyglot Q&A, held in German. And it was PACKED. I wasn’t expecting as many people to be there. Heck, I was hoping against it because of my German. Antje Berheid was the moderator with Gabriel Gelman of SprachHeld on the panel alongside me. Benny Lewis was originally supposed to be there but he had a friend’s wedding to attend unfortunately… I definitely struggled a lot in trying to answer questions, but the audience seemed to get what I meant.

Language learning really is no joke, especially when it comes to German. At the end of the talk I a guy approached me speaking Indonesian. It was amazing! Galib was a German guy of Turkish descent and he was learning Indonesian by himself at home! You can watch him speaking Indonesian in the vlog below!

For those that know me, Fiel’s world tends to be a very small world. I walked past a Spanish stand giving out jamón iberico (¡qué rico, de verdad!) and there a man holding a guitar in his arms. As guitarists do, I asked the man to play a bit for me. I’ve learned over the years not to expect much. For once I was proved to be wrong, very wrong. He was an absolutely phenomenal guitarist! A friend of mine saw a photo on Facebook, and it turns out, this man was my friend’s Flamenco guitar teacher back in the day. The man and I constantly jammed over the two days. I say jammed, but I mean getting my butt handed to me because he was actually teaching me how to play. Learning from him drew crowds as if we were street performers. There were tons of videos and photos taken that I don’t think I’ll ever get to see unfortunately.

 © ICWE GmbH/Sera-Zöhre Kurc

After meeting the man, it was now my turn on the stage. I presented the classical guitar on the Language Stage. The music spoke and strings were played in a musical way for willing listeners. Those that met with me afterwards expressed their enjoyment and interest in music. But of course, people really don’t go to a language fair to listen to a Classical Guitar concert. Nevertheless, it was well appreciated. 

Lastly came my finale on Saturday afternoon. It was packed. Like fully. I didn’t realize until Galib told me how he had to sit on the floor! I discussed the subject of the musician mindset and how that helps inform the way we learn languages. Most importantly was the practical aspect: learning to use musical notation to aid with pronunciation. A lot of us tend to forget how a word is pronounced after we’ve learned it, but we never scribble down notes in order to remind us. Musicians never have a clean score. Our books and pages are always filled with markings, especially conductors. Considering they have 80+ people to deal with and cues to mark, trying to remember everything off the top of your head is asking for trouble.

© ICWE GmbH/Sera-Zöhre Kurc

All that being said, I’m just an ordinary young adult growing in the ways of life. But I’m on a mission. Expolingua has honored me with the opportunity to represent so many things including Polyglot Indonesia albeit slightly (considering I had no stand, it’s kind of hard to do.) The Indonesian embassy did a great job and presented a speaking class, dances, and good snacks for people, but that’s just the seed planting.  

My hope is that eventually more of us from the team will be able to join and share our culture with others. People are hungry for culture! Luckily Indonesia is so full and rich of variety. Who knows, maybe you can add something new to the table at a conference near you. If you're not too proud of your presentation skills, don't worry, I put together a guide to help make the process less painful than you think. You can read it here

Like I said, don’t be afraid of rejection. The point is you tried. Keep going forward and don't look back! 

Speak Up!

Fiel Sahir, Between 3 Worlds 


About the author

Born to a Jakartan Father and a Bandung Mother, Indonesian-American Fiel Sahir is a classical guitar performer, teacher, blogger and language enthusiast hailing from New York City. He is currently pursuing his Master’s under Joaquín Clerch in Düsseldorf, Germany. Being a language lover he speaks English, Indonesian, French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. He shares his thoughts with the world at

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