The Guy on the Left:


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?
http://ed-troyer.love.com/

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

…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!

Good News / Bad News

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!