"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: http://esperanto-usa.org/

2) Go to this website: http://www.kurso.com.br/bazo/index.php?en 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!

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

Margaret Says:

I wonder how I would do at learning it with my French/Spanish/German background. I'm feeling curious...

Danger Panda Says:

Margaret, you would have such an advantage that you would be automatically disqualified from participating in Olympic Esperanto events (okay, you know what I mean). And one of the great things about Esperanto is that you can indulge your curiosity without making an investment in materials, at least not until you're sure you really want to pursue it. Go for it!

Anonymous Says:

You be the best! Great resources! Thanks, am looking forward to your reports on your E adventure in San Diego. d

esperantolobby@hotmail.co.uk Says:

I see that Barack Obama wants everyone to learn a foreign language, but which one should it be?

The British learn French, the Australians study Japanese, and the Americans prefer Spanish. Yet this leaves Mandarin Chinese. Hindi and Arabic out of the equation.

I agree it's time to move forward and teach a common neutral non-national language, in all countries, in all schools, worldwide?

An interesting video can be seen at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670.

A glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at http://www.lernu.net

Paula Says:

I'm one of the tutors for the free Esperanto course you mentioned. To sign up for the email version, go here:


Forget about snail mail! :)

It's totally free and easy, and you can go as quickly or slowly as you like. It's fun.

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