Zamenhof Day!

Posted on Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Al vi ni sendas bondezirojn niajn,
Kaj volas por vi bonegaĵojn ĉiajn.
Feliĉa estu en tiu ĉi vintra tago,
Kaj progresadu dum la Nova Jaro!"

Traduko in la Angla lingvo:
"We send to you our good wishes,
And want for you goodness of every kind.
Be happy on this winter day,
And continual progress in the New Year!"

This is the little rhyme that my Esperanto class used on our greeting cards this year. We had the Esperanto version on one side and the English translation on the reverse. We used ribbons to attach them to little treat bags that we put together for the foreign language teachers at the nearby high school, signing our club name and "Future Foreign Language Students" since our middle school feeds into that particular high school. I hope the teachers liked them. They probably didn't realize this, but these were delivered to the high school on Zamenhof Day (December 15)--the 150th Birthday of Esperanto's inventor/author.

Speaking of which, did anyone tune into Google on the 15th? If so, you were treated to this lovely Esperanto flag for the occasion:

See? Less obscure with each passing day!

I Got It

Posted on Monday, December 14, 2009

I went to one of the local high schools today to meet with a very pregnant English teacher. I substituted for her one day last week as sort of a trial run to see if I could be a good fit for her classes while she’s out on maternity leave. To make a long story short, I’ve got the job. It starts the first week of January and will run through mid-April. And when she comes back, she wants to teach three days a week, meaning that I’ll have the opportunity to continue for the other two days until the end of the school year. Did I mention that she works part time? So I’ll be teaching only in the mornings—only three classes. Two periods are identical sections of marginally motivated 11th graders who I will have for American Literature. I’m far more worried about the third class: AP Language and Composition. I’m not concerned so much about the course content, it’s just that I’ve never taught AP before, and I want to make sure I give these kids the best preparation for the Big Test as possible. They are all college-bound seniors and have a lot riding on this test. Please wish me luck!

Since I’m working in the mornings, I’ll probably even be able to continue teaching after-school Esperanto at the middle school on Wednesdays. My students there are dwindling, but it’s still the highlight of my week.

Although it will be nice to have steady employment for the coming months, the part time wage of a substitute teacher is nothing to get especially excited about. That’s really not the reason I’m accepting this position. The larger attractions are that it will give me the opportunity to actually get to know kids again (instead of just seeing them as nameless faces for random days here and there). It will allow me to meet and make some impressions on faculty, some of whom might be willing to write a recommendation for me at the end of this road. It triggers the right for me to request an official observation from the administration—a key element for job applications—and one that’s surprisingly difficult for short-term subs to arrange. And, hopefully, I’ll be able to arrange to work for a month or so as a student teacher for one of the history teachers in the afternoons—meaning that I can accomplish the “pedagogy assessment” that’s required to get my History endorsement (I’ve already passed the content test). If I can become successfully endorsed in History, other dominoes will fall: specifically my Social Studies and Mid-Level Humanities endorsements. I could be going into the summer (job hunting season) with four endorsements this year instead of the single one I had last summer. Add those endorsements to recent observations and recommendations, and I will be in a far stronger position to find a full time teaching job for next year.

I gotta go start reading.

To Future Friends

Posted on Saturday, December 12, 2009

I believe we all have a friendship style, and mine is very low key. I’ve never been the kind of person with dozens of friends buzzing around, friends for every type of occasion. I have more often found myself with just a few, good friends at any given time. Sometimes they’ve been available to me; sometimes not, so I have concurrently come to rely upon and enjoy my own company. I’m just as happy to go to a restaurant or a movie all by myself as I am with others. I’ve never understood people who endure the company of people that they later spend their time picking apart rather than just going solo. For some people, clearly, that “picking apart” is part of the fun. In fact, I could see myself falling into that unkind habit, so it’s just as well that I don’t pursue a lot of shallow friendships.

Last year, I lost a good friend and I still don’t know why. She suddenly—quite suddenly—decided to sever contact, and has never responded to any of my attempts to communicate with her since then. I’ve gone over our final, cordial email exchange dozens of times to try to discover something that could have offended her. Nothing. One minute we were making plans to get together that evening, the next she no-showed me and now no longer responds to my calls or emails. It’s a puzzle, but it’s not a tragedy. After all, the last thing I want to do is pressure someone into continuing a friendship if their heart is not in it. Still, it hurts that I don’t know what happened after all these years.

This year, I lost another good friend. In this case though, it was my choice. This person has been a huge part of my family’s life in recent years, but, recently, I came to my attention that she holds a very low opinion of my husband. I certainly don’t require my friends to also be my husband’s friends, but I also don’t feel like I can invest time in a friendship with someone who believes, after observing one unfortunate incident, that the man I’ve lived with and who has loved and supported me for more than 20 years is a Bad Person (I’m not sure if she believes him to be evil, but it might go that far). Even if that weren’t a deal breaker (which it is), she also allowed her opinion to make its way, albeit indirectly, to my son. And that, I’m afraid, is simply unforgivable (not that she feels any regret about that happening anyway). My son and my husband have a complicated relationship as it is, and I don’t need to bring any adults into the mix who are going to disrupt the work we’ve done to establish a peaceful family. No.

So, anyway, it’s getting a bit lonely around here. Luckily, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some new people and try some new things. In fact, I think it’s getting easier to meet potential friends now that kids are getting older and people seem to have a bit more time. We shall see.


Posted on Sunday, November 29, 2009

First we had two police officers ambushed in downtown Seattle on October 31--one killed. Now, four officers, doing nothing more than drinking coffee and meeting at the start of their shift.

What is going on here?

See link.

A Christmas Carol

Posted on Friday, November 13, 2009

Is there even such a thing as a “spoiler” for a movie like A Christmas Carol? Is there anyone alive on the planet who doesn’t know the basic plot of the story? Well, if you believe yourself to be such a person, crawl back under your cozy rock now and retreat to the comforting arms of your fellow Flat Earth Society members. I have no patience with you. In fact, don’t stop reading. Here: in a nutshell, Scrooge is visited by four ghosts, all of whom are experts at the art of less-than-subtle emotional manipulation, and he Changes His Ways. He pulls a 180. He gets better. God bless us, everyone! Now, go cry bitter, deluded tears because I wrecked it for you. Wah, wah, wah.
Anyway, what I wanted to get around to saying is that, I saw the new Disney version of the Dicken’s classic in the theatre with my kids this week. We all basically agreed that this is not Uncle Scrooge McDuck stuff. No, no. This movie is remarkably faithful to the original novel. Much of the dialog is pulled directly from the dusty, Victorian pages. Now, there is a class of people who reject movies that aren’t 100% faithful to the books they are based on. Those people will be delighted with this movie. Then there are those of us who understand that a movie is not, and probably should not, be simply an animated walk-through of the original text. Movies are, after all, an entirely different medium, with different strengths and weaknesses than a written work. We believe that if you want an experience that is indistinguishable from the book, then go re-read the book. And those people, too, I think, will be delighted with this movie. It’s wondrously animated, skillfully voiced, and lots of fun. Even my 12-year-old boy, whose current level of literary appreciation includes only poetry that begins, “Here I sit, broken hearted…” gave it two thumbs up. You get the idea.
The only annoying thing (to him, at least) was the constant inclusion of scenes and gestures meant to take advantage of the 3D effect. Mind you, I don’t do 3D. I’m old and grumpy and 3D gives me a headache. So we watch the old-fashioned 2D version (at least we do when I’m paying). This is probably why I’m so clueless about elements of the movie that serve the special effects rather than the plot. So, if you are a fan of 3D, you might prefer that version.
Or, you might prefer to stay at home and not think about Christmas related activities until, oh I don’t know, December maybe? Yeah. I hear ya

Doktoro Benson. Mi Amas Lin.

Posted on Saturday, October 24, 2009

Yes, I love Dr. Benson. William Sol Benson. He’s my favorite early American Esperantist. He was a New Jersey osteopath at the beginning of the last century. He was born in Kiev and moved to the United States as a teenager, having learned Esperanto in Russia in the second year of its existence. He loved Esperanto. He loved it so much that he was inspired to create a textbook, using pictures exclusively to teach the new language. The only problem? He was a doctor, a busy man, who may or may not have had any artistic ability. Most of us, in such a situation, would have shelved our esoteric goals and instead concentrated on more mundane career demands. But not Dr. Benson! He found a way. He enlisted the help of a local prison inmate, a man with both artistic ability and unlimited time on his hands. With the help of this uncredited inmate, Dr. Benson published his “Universala Bildmetodo” in 1932. It includes hundreds of drawings, such as the one pictured above, that teach various aspects of the language. And it’s clear that Dr. Benson, in addition to commissioning these drawings, posed for several of them. Yes, that’s him in today’s drawing. And notice how every drawing is just a little bit different. Today, with computer assisted drawing programs, an artist would surely reproduce the same basic drawing ten times and simply manipulate the fingers to represent the given numbers. In the late 1920’s, our inmate friend had little choice but to actually draw each panel from scratch. Perhaps not the most efficient method, but one that produced, in my opinion, profoundly charming results!

And if anyone noticed a certain Ed Troyer vibe in the cut of that mustache, well, yes, you get bonus points.

First Esperanto Worksheet

Posted on Saturday, October 17, 2009

Yes, I started teaching Esperanto at my son's school about a month ago, and, Dude, it's freakin awesome! I've got about 12 students (including my initially reluctant son), and they seem to be adsorbing this language like a sponge. I created a review sheet for them this weekend (which I will distribute on Wednesday) and they've already learned a word list that goes on for almost three pages. And they are actually talking about meeting on Friday afternoons in addition to our usual Wednesday meetings (their idea, not mine). I seriously couldn't be happier.

Tick, Tick, Tick

Posted on Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oh, dear God, where have I been?! Time does have a way of marching on, doesn't it? Well, for one thing I did a guest post here. Check out the October 11 entry. That will go a piece toward explaining one of the projects that is draining my time. You can also check out the associated website that my daughter and I are working on at I'm doing the research and writing; she's doing the web design and programming. We've actually done far more work than what is currently displayed on the site. My daughter, age 15, has tentatively decided that she would like to pursue web design as a career. She intends to use our site as part of a portfolio of her work. As a consequence, she has envisioned so many possible bells & whistles for the site that she has bogged herself down in detail and now finds it difficult to decide where/how to begin. Not an uncommon problem around here, I'm afraid!

The Guy on the Left:

Posted on Thursday, June 11, 2009

A puffy Nicholas Cage? Nooooo. This, my friends, is none other than our favorite law enforcement talking head and PIO of all time, geography, and political persuasions--this is (drum roll, please): ED TROYER.

Yes, he's been absent from these imaginary pages all these many months, but not absent from my heart. My affection for him will endure as long as the portrait tattoo of him that I had (painfully) embroidered into a very private part of my anatomy. No, you can't see it. You wish.

And speaking of Ed, look at the website I ran across recently. You don't even need to click over to see the actual site, just appreciate the poetic turn of phrase featured in the URL. Did I register it? No, I did not, but doesn't it certainly look as if I could have? Doesn't it?

"Esperanto-land is a realm of aging socialists and hippies, nudist vegetarians, pot-smoking anarchists, folk musicians and backpackers, and...

Posted on Monday, June 08, 2009

...other sweet-natured dreamers determined to resist the global hegemony of English."

The quote above is from a review of the recently published In The Land of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent. Yes. Well. There you go.

There is a bit of a dual nature to Esperanto. There is the strictly linguistic side, and there are plenty of people who admire it just because it introduces or teaches elements of language acquisition while at the same time simplifying them. This is the side I'm emphasizing in trying to establish it as a club in the local middle school. And then there's the quixotic, idealistic side so often characterised by descriptions such as we see above. Whether or not such stereotypes are deserved is a topic for another day. All I can say is that I've been called worse.

Today, we address d, who made the probable mistake of asking how one can get started if interested in learning some Esperanto. Assuming that none of us are suburban Washington middle school students with access to my so-far hypothetical club, here is what I recommend:

1) Go to the Esperanto-USA website and sign up for their free correspondence course. It includes ten lessons. The organization will connect you with a teacher who will correct your work and provide helpful input. I didn't realize it until today, but there is also an electronic version if you prefer to use email rather than old-school correspondence (d, Lesson 1 is already on its way to you). This is the address:

2) Go to this website: and download their free 12-lesson Esperanto Course onto your computer. Do lessons 1-4 at your own pace. If you are enjoying it and want to go further, I'd recommend going online and purchasing an actual text book at this point. I'm using Esperanto, A Complete Course for Beginners by Creswell and Hartley, but there are several others. These are largely available on Amazon and other new and used book selling sites. Whatever you do, do NOT attempt lessons 5 & 6 of the computer course without some sort of supplementary material. In my opinion, those lessons are very difficult to learn without some additional explanation. The same is true for several subsequent lessons of the course. The real advantage is that the early lessons give you an opportunity to click on the written Esperanto text and hear the words and phrases pronounced by trained Esperanto speakers--an excellent feature!

3) If you have the time and inclination, go online and try to find materials put out in the 1920's and 1930's by the Benson School of Esperanto (of Newark, New Jersey). These are highly illustrated and some of the most charming language textbooks I have ever seen in any language. Unfortunately, they are a bit on the tiny side; the one I just bought is just 4 x 5.5 inches, so prepare to polish up your reading glasses. My plan is to use this book with the kids by scanning the individual pages and enlarging them into worksheets. The Benson books are out of print, but you can still find them here and there. They can be a bit more expensive than other options, but, considering the tiny market for used and collectible Esperanto materials, they remain pretty affordable.

And there you have it--more than you ever wanted to know about beginning the study of Esperanto!

Good News / Bad News

Posted on Saturday, June 06, 2009

So I'm getting geared up to go off on my three week-long Esperanto adventure. I really can't wait. We just came off of a stretch of four sunny days here, enough for plenty of the locals to start baby-whining about how hot it is, whah, wha, wha. People! Don't even start with me! I've been waiting for this weather for about ten months now. Just let me lie here in my sweaty sheets with a smile on my face, enjoying the warmth and the rush of all that extra vitamin D. But no. They had to go and curse the weather. And now it's gone.

But San Diego should make up for it. And how.

I subbed at my daughter's high school a couple weeks ago and found myself having a quick lunch in a classroom shared by the Latin teacher. If you come to this part of the country, you're more likely to spot Sasquatch than a bona fide Latin teacher, but there he was at his desk, eating a sandwich as if he didn't realize that he qualifies for inclusion on the endangered species list (and perhaps a special parking permit because of that status; I would hope so anyway). He says he believes that there are currently just four remaining Latin teachers in the State of Washington (he's the only one in our school district). Wow.

We had a spirited conversation about the teaching of foreign languages in public schools and the value of Latin in particular. And, of course, Esperanto. I was especially interested in hearing his views on Esperanto's value (or potential value) as a step in the language learning process. Interestingly, he had little positive to say about it, but not on the grounds I would have thought. His biggest objection to Esperanto was that, because it isn't attached to a particular country or people, he beleives it to have no culture of its own. If I understood his stance correctly, he felt that learning about the people who use the language is as important as learning the grammatical elements of that language.

I respect that opinion. I don't necessarily agree with it (as it relates to Esperanto), but I respect it.

But from the Latin teacher? Latin?

People object to the teaching of Latin because it's often described as a dead language, no longer used by any thriving population or culture. In short, it's too old. And they object to Esperanto mostly because it's too new. My opinion is that Latin and Esperanto represent different sides of the same coin. Since I couldn't get his outright support, I can only hope that I left this teacher with some additional food for thought on the subject.

On the other hand, I also sent off an email to the ASB Clubs coordinator at the local middle school (my son will be attending there come September) and volunteered to be the advisor for an Esperanto club if they would be interested in having one. I pointed out to her that, because Esperanto uses common word roots and teaches other language skills that transfer beautifully to the study of other foreign languages once students reach high school (and since the middle schools here offer NO foreign language classes), it might fill a gap while at the same time being fun for students. Was she jazzed about the idea? Beyond my wildest expectations! She's working on the paperwork now, but it looks like I may have a few Esperanto students come this fall. What a hoot!

Lars & the Real Girl: Spoiler Alert!

Posted on Thursday, May 14, 2009

I'm on a movie kick lately--a cheap movie kick. I bought Leonard Maltin's 2009 Movie Guide (which I believe Hope bought and annotated every year, bless her) and it includes a list of 50 Movies You May Have Missed (overlooked movies, in other words). I don't know if I've shared this factoid with you, but there is nothing that gives me more satisfaction than putting check marks to the items on a list. Back in the O'dark Ages, Hope and I worked our way through Alfred Hitchcock's movies on the strength of this motivation. Today, I'm getting Leonard's picks through the library and making my slow way through.

Tonight it was "Lars and the Real Girl." I found myself crying at the funeral scene for the doll. If that's not the height of sappiness, I don't know what is. But it struck me as belonging to a category of movies where a town is featured, not as a setting really, but as a character. "Our Town" would be the seminal example of this category probably. Can you name any other movies that would appear on such a list? Because I'm liking my list these days.

Happy Mothers' Day

Posted on Sunday, May 10, 2009

Yes, I realize probably no one will be reading this, but I've decided to post it up here anyway. I have news. I've qualified for a scholarship to attend an Esperanto immersion program in San Diego this summer. My course fees are all waived--I only have to pay my room/board. Get this--I'll be gone for three weeks. I've NEVER been separated from my kids for more than three or four nights at a stretch, so this is a bit scary, especially for my son (who has a sometimes troubled relationship with my husband). Nevertheless, I can't help but think that the circumstances that are allowing me to do something this quixotic and fun may never converge again. Either one has the money for this sort of quest, but no time--or has the time and no money. Since I'm hoping to be more consistently employed next year, this might be my only shot.

And if I go through another sun-less Seattle summer, life won't be worth living.

Now, anyone have any advice on surviving a 30+ hour trip on Amtrak?

Right Now in my House...

Posted on Monday, February 16, 2009

...I have:

4 cats
3 kids
2 carpet layers
1 dog with diarrhea

The next time I buy carpet, remind me to check the school calendar so that the little heathens will at least be occupied elsewhere. The cats are fairly happy to be closed up in my bedroom for the day. And the dog? Clearly her present condition is some sort of karmic retribution for some unspeakable act that I can't even remember performing. I swear to god, if she lives through her digestive distress I may have to kill her anyway. All the way dead.

What sort of God gives you brand new carpet and a 75-pound dog who can't control her bowels--on exactly the same day?

I don't think I told you guys yet, but the State of Washington sent me a shiny new teaching certificate. For the past month I've been substituting for my local school district. This, coupled with my work-at-home paralegal position, means that I've been working nearly full time for the past month. I don't know how some of you do it, seriously. I'm spent. But at least I can afford a couple of rooms' worth of new carpet (and maybe even some doggy Peptobismol...).

Another Argument in Favor of Esperanto???

Posted on Saturday, January 31, 2009

Really, you would expect this sort of thing in America, but in England? Oh, my.

Mia kateto estas tre bela!

Posted on Monday, January 19, 2009

I think I mentioned that my neighbor Judith and I rescued a feral cat and her litter of kittens from a local park this summer. I currently have two of these kittens as permanent members of our household. We found other homes for all of the other kittens with one exception. We kept trying to find a home for Murray, but Judith decided to make her November birthday the deadline. If Murray hadn't found a "forever home" by then, Judith would offer him a permanent position in her own home. As it turned out, at the end of that month Judith contacted all the local businesses that had put up signs on Murray's behalf. He was no longer available for adoption. He was Judith's cat now and forever.

That left the mom cat: Nori. Although we had hoped that she would adjust to an indoor life, such was not to be. And that's the problem with feral cats, at least adult feral cats. If they were never socialized in their kitten days, what's to become of them? Realistically, there are only two choices. One is to trap them and humanely euthanize them. The other is to trap them, sterilize them, inoculate them against common cat diseases, and release them back into their original territory. This second option does nothing to protect them from predators or the elements, but it does give them the opportunity to live our their lives in what they consider "normal" conditions without contributing further to the on-going feral cat problem.

Although Nori had established relationships with select human beings, she didn't adjust to being kept indoors. We were hopeful at first. She let us pet her (almost unheard of for feral cats) and would even purr in response! But once we started sending her kittens away to their own homes, she lost all faith in us. She continues to live in Judith's home, but is clearly unhappy being there.

In the meantime, I spent all autumn volunteering at a local farm that has been turned into a historical site. We hosted first grade and sixth grade students there from September through December. My main station was the chicken coop. We told the 6-year-olds that, had they lived on the farm 100 years ago, they might have been in charge of taking care of the chickens. We gave them a flavor of what that might have been like. They fed the chickens. They collected eggs. They learned how to candle them. And all that time, I kept half an eye on the original 1897 barn across the pasture. What a shame, I thought, that there were no animals housed there now. And what a fine opportunity, I thought, for a barn cat.

At the end of the season, one of the museum staff mentioned (with great revulsion) that she had seen a rat run under the chicken coop. I decided the time was right. I went home and wrote up Nori's resume and sent it on to the museum. I don't think the director had ever seen a feline resume. This is what I wrote:

"My neighbor and I rescued this cat along with her 7 (!) kittens from Isaac Evans park this summer. The mom cat had a bit of a "fan club" who had been providing her with extra food for months, so, although feral, she had established some relationships with select humans. In fact, it was one of these people who picked her up for us and put her in a crate after we had live-trapped the kittens (she wasn't going to fall for our trap herself).The same person told us that mom cat had been born in the park the previous summer.

* Nori is only about 18 months old and in excellent health

* She is now spayed, so would not be contributing any kittens

* She will not be attracting the attentions of mischievous or destructive tom cats

* She has all her shots, so should not contract or spread any serious diseases

* Although she had been receiving some food at the park, we know she is an excellent hunter

* She is very savvy about avoiding predators, having kept herself and her kittens safe and healthy during their free-roaming days (all the kittens survived and now have permanent homes)

* She would make herself scarce when visitors come to the farm, but would probably establish a relationship with [caretaker] Stan (or whoever filled her food &water dishes regularly).

* And, she's a very attractive black cat with white markings (she didn't have a fan club for nothing!)

(Veterinary records are, of course, available)

"My neighbor continues to foster Nori in her home, but, even after several months, Nori is clearly unhappy with what she thinks is unnatural confinement. I think that life as a barn cat would be a perfect situation for Nori, providing her a bit more safety and security than she had in her feral days, while giving her the opportunity to roam and hunt in the manner she would clearly prefer. Mostly though, I think she would be an excellent match for the farm's requirements should you guys decide to go with a barn cat.

"Sorry about the length of this, Boss. I just wanted to put her resume in writing so that you would know of Nori's interest should the job come open.

"Thanks for considering her,

Kristy "

Guess what? She got the job! We get to take her to the farm next week. Please wish us luck in helping Nori make the transition to her new life.

More Esperanto

Posted on Monday, January 12, 2009

Wow, the Esperantists found that post really quickly, and I appreciate their input and supportive comments. So, being on a roll, I think I will give another brief sermon from my Esperanto soapbox.

Let me tell you a little story. When I was in junior high school, I took a year of Spanish. Although I didn't take any foreign language courses in high school, I decided to pursue a bachelor of arts degree in college. Essentially, it was the same thing as a bachelor of science degree, only with an additional two-year foreign language requirement. Having a shallow familiarity with Spanish (based on my hazy junior high memories), I decided to take first and second year Spanish in college.

Flash forward (mumble-number-mumble) years. We now find Kristy employed by the King County Library System, one of the largest circulating libraries in the country. Many of our patrons were non-native, non-English speakers. For the first time in my life, I found those two years of college level Spanish being put to occasional good use. Even after two years of study, I hadn't learned all the verb tenses that exist in Spanish, so I wasn't entirely comfortable risking making a fool of myself in another person's native language. Nevertheless, more often than not, I took that risk and was largely able to communicate, as awkward as those conversations often were. And I felt very proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and doing what I could to help those patrons use our services.

Then, a few minutes later, another recent immigrant would step up to my desk. Although I didn't speak Russian, I recognized it as the language that this person was using. And I couldn't help her. I'd have to get a translator on the phone from our central branch or resort to an online program such as Babblefish in order to attempt to communicate. This encounter didn't leave me feeling nearly as warm and fuzzy.

Then, within the hour, another patron would step up and attempt to communicate in yet another language--one that I might or might not have even been able to recognize.

The diversity of our local population was further reflected in the foreign language collections at each library branch. In mine, we had books and movies in more than a dozen languages. Spanish, yes. Russian. Hindi. Tagalog. Chinese and Vietnamese. A few French titles. Swahili and more. And people, those titles circulated. There was a far greater demand than I would have ever imagined before working in this setting.

The same year that I was working at the library, my daughter entered middle school for the first time. I was all the more committed to the idea of language study after my experiences at the library. True, there was no way that any one person could learn all the languages spoken regularly in our local community, but any small bit we could do to foster an understanding of other cultures is clearly even more essential for kids growing up today. I remembered Spanish, German, and French as being the only choices when I entered middle school. I wondered what sort of additional languages might be available to my daughter.

What I soon found out was that she had zero choices. Zip. NO foreign languages were even offered at the middle school level. In the heart of King County, alive with so many different languages, our children are losing their best opportunity of ever becoming fluent in another language by being denied the opportunity to study one when their brains are young and malleable enough to eventually achieve such a goal.

Today, my daughter is in high school. It's a bit late as far as I'm concerned, but she's finally being offered foreign language electives. Her choices? Spanish, French, German. And Japanese--the same choices I had all those years ago with the single addition of Japanese. While this is a start, thinking back to my experiences both at the library and as a sometimes-tutor of ELL students, I realize that no one ever approached me with an attempt to speak French. Or German. Or Japanese. Spanish, yes. But otherwise, people from these countries either aren't here or had access to enough English education before their arrival that communication is not an issue for them.

What I observe is that here in America (or at least in King County), there is a HUGE disconnect in languages we deem worthy of study by our children (mostly those spoken by white Europeans), and those that surround us everyday (those spoken by nearly everybody else). Is this racist? Or merely a reflection of the frustration I myself felt in never being able to learn such a stew of complicated and sometimes obscure languages? I hope that it's the latter. But then the question becomes, what can we do to address this issue of multiple languages being employed in the same setting? How will we ever learn to communicate when it is impossible for any one person to learn them all? Do we stomp our feet and stubbornly insist that "If you plan to come to America, you'd better damn well learn the English language!" (as difficult and irrational as English can be)? How's that working out so far? Consider southern California before you answer.

This is exactly the reason why an easily learned, mutual second language (such as Esperanto) is so desirable. Yet I can understand why so many people haven't thought about it in these terms. I grew up in Oregon, where the only foreign language we ever heard in the streets was Spanish. If you wanted to communicate with people of other cultures in your neighborhood, you studied Spanish; problem solved. Now, however, both here in Washington and on my visits home to Oregon, there are people among us from dozens of other countries. And if it's happening here, it's happening across the country as a whole. So, is Esperanto a quaint novelty that will never catch on? Or is it a possible solution whose time may have finally come?

Tiu Jaro, Mi Lernos Esperanton

Posted on Sunday, January 11, 2009

That's right, baby. This year I have resolved to learn Esperanto. Why, you ask. Why? Trust me, there are more reasons than you have time to read. The first, however, was that we had a dinner table discussion last month about obscure languages. My husband posited that he would rather learn Klingon than Esperanto because at least he could use Klingon to impress people at Star Trek conventions (although not to pick up chicks, I reminded him, as speaking Klingon in public is the next best thing to the joining the priesthood to ensure a lifetime of celibacy). While he considered that, my daughter wanted to know all about Esperanto. I couldn't tell her much, other than that it is an artificial language created in the late 1800's with the Utopian goal of being the official second language of everyone on Earth (so that we could all finally communicate on an equal footing). I also knew that it was created for ease of learning, with literally no irregular forms or arbitrary exceptions to grammatical rules. My daughter, currently enrolled in first year Japanese, recognized these attributes as being highly desirable (or "freaking cool" in the parlance of her peers). After dinner, she and I researched Esperanto quite a bit further and decided it was too freaking awesome to not at least attempt to learn. Dude. Why not? Seriously.

In other news (there's been news?), I placed an order today for Adobe Dreamweaver. And, if you recognize that as the premiere web design software on the market today, you'll know what that portends. Yes, I will be building my own website again in the near future. But here's the tragedy: My old domain name (XXXX has been co-opted by a domain squatter and is no longer available. That means I'm going to have to come up with something new. And, as you may have noticed, I'm a bit Amish when it comes to embracing change. It's a good thing the software won't be arriving for a week or so because I'm going to need some time to think about this.