It’s not always what you make of it. Sometimes it’s just bad.
For the past several months, I’d been looking forward to the National Language and Cultural Expo, which was taking place at the Direct Energy Centre (DEC) in Toronto October 2-3, 2010. Though I’d never heard of this event before, from the look of its website and the tag line “for language learners, teachers, linguists and everyone who loves languages and cultures”, how could I not go? Of course, there was always a little poke at the back of my brain with regards to its main website image (see left alien pic). A little cheesy, yes. But not cheesy enough to offset the lure of a national language expo.
I couldn’t make it on its first day, Saturday, but pulled myself out of bed Sunday morning to make the trek via subway and streetcar out to the the venue. I was interested in one particular workshop session entitled “The Future in Language – The Common European Framework” as the CEFR has come up a few times in another collaborative project. I did a quick investigation as to the speaker’s organisation–ILEA (International Languages Educators’ Association)–and though again, it didn’t ring a loud bell in my head, its website also was professional and impressive.
Once I arrived and paid my $15 entry, I walked into a small section of the DEC, divided from a neighbouring weight loss exhibition by a simple purple curtain. Through the pumping techno booming from behind that purple curtain, I made my way into the exhibitor alleys looking for the seminar room I wished to go. This wasn’t hard considering there were no other people browsing. It was a pedestrian ghost town, with only small stalls for exhibitors watching me as I walked through. For a language expo, I was shocked to see that there were no second language publisher exhibitors (well, none that I sold many different books anyway), but rather associations, the Toronto Public Library, a couple college programs and some cultural newspapers. I tried my best to saunter, but nothing appealed to me. I found my way to the speaker area (again, sectioned off with curtains) where I saw a handful of people, sitting closely to the presenter’s table. Thanks to the neighbouring exhibition, no one could hear the mic-less speaker, who sat at a desk, showing a Powerpoint presentation on a small screen behind her. And her? This wasn’t the speaker I’d come to see, though I didn’t notice until the slides seemed to be completely unrelated to the CEFR.
Feeling a little gypped, I wondered if I should leave. What was I going to do for the entire afternoon I’d planned to stay? There were no remaining speakers I wished to attend and certainly nothing to do in the interim. Was $15 worth the boredom? I looked through the programme and noticed a few colleagues were one of the exhibitors. After enduring 30 minutes of basically mute presentation, I sought out their stall.
“Great expo,” I broached facetiously. With rolling eyes, they vehemently agreed with my tone. Evidently the organisers had done the “hard sell” on them, which clearly turned out to be false advertising and their large fee for the stall fell 3000% short of paying off. Thirty minutes of mutual commiserating together, I left thankful I’d changed my mind early on about having a stall for Coursetree.