Want to learn a language or dust off old skills? Wondering how to convert linguistic skills into a well-paid job? Then the Language Show Live (19-21 October) could be the event for you – and it's free. Now in its 24th year, the three-day event attracts 10,000 visitors including learners, teachers, translators, linguists, jobseekers and language professionals.
There are free onsite language taster classes: half an hour to pick up the basics in 20 different languages, from the usual European suspects to Arabic, Chinese, Swedish, Hindi, Russian and British Sign Language. Classes are free but can't be booked in advance so it's worth working out exactly which sessions you'd like to attend and getting your tickets early when you arrive. There are also intensive classes, for beginners and intermediate learners, which cost £25 if booked in advance (£30 on the day). The three-hour classes – from Arabic to Spanish – are run by professional teachers and sell out fast.
An acquaintance with another language isn't just about conversing with people – it's an opportunity to gain an insight into other cultures. The Language Show helps to bring some of these to life, from the sung poetry of the Basque Country to spectacular Japanese Taiko drumming.
There's also lots to inspire teachers, and with languages set to become part of the primary curriculum from 2014, this is a good opportunity to seek out new ideas and innovative resources.
"There's something for all teachers, from primary level to adult learning," says event manager Anita Gorny. "They can learn about the latest resources, new technologies and pick up tips they can go on to use the next day."
Helen Myers, assistant head of Ashcombe School in Surrey, a specialist languages college offering French, German, Spanish and Chinese, is a regular visitor and speaker. "It is a very inspiring place to be," she says. "There's a real buzz." As a teacher, it's not just the seminars and educational resources she finds useful. "I find it really helpful to know what kind of skills recruiters are looking for so I can equip my students with them," says Myers.
With the recession at home biting, there's certainly increased interest in how to make language skills pay. This is where the Careers Zone is worth a visit. This year's show includes a CV Clinic where experienced recruitment consultants will help polish your CV (bring a paper copy) so you make it to the shortlist of your dream job. There's also a wide range of seminars about finding a job and opportunities to network with potential employers. If you're interested in teaching English abroad, then head for the TEFL Fair. There are seminars on all aspects of teaching overseas, from getting started and finding a job to classroom management tips.
The best place to start your new adventure in languages? Visit the website (below) to learn more about the timetables and register for your free place. Children under 16 are welcome and don't need to register for a ticket. The show runs from Friday 19 October to Sunday 21 October at Olympia in west London – the nearest Tube station is Kensington Olympia (weekends only) or Barons Court and High Street Kensington (a 10-minute walk away).