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!

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Anonymous
    Jun 06, 2009 @ 16:21:28

    Way to go! I am so excited about your Esperanto adventure. Come back with some "good" resources for learning E on your own. Local library has ZIP/nada. Maybe you could put together a simple beginners guide – with audio please. Enjoy…. d

    Reply

  2. Margaret
    Jun 06, 2009 @ 19:00:51

    I am interested in Esperanto because of its goal to make language accessible and more logical–so that people can communicate with each other! I can't wait to hear about your conference; I'm jealous about San Diego because that's a great location. Good luck with the club!!

    Reply

  3. Danger Panda
    Jun 07, 2009 @ 18:14:07

    d–I'll be with you on that shortly. There's some good (and free!) stuff out there to get you started.Margaret, thanks for the encouraging words! They are especially meaningful coming from you as a French/German/Spanish teacher. The German teacher at my daughter's school is being phased out. She gets to teach German II on up next year until those kids have made there way through graduation, but no more new German students at the high school. It's nuts. And scary too!

    Reply

  4. Paula
    Oct 25, 2009 @ 21:24:46

    I love the fact that Esperanto is not associated with any specific culture or people. It can be anyone's second language and not the language of "that country." I can correspond and communicate with anyone on the entire globe, and not in just X country. It will never be a situation where you are the "foreigner" in "their" country. Esperanto is like a "lingustic handshake" – When two people shake hands, they both reach out halfway. Similarly, when two people speak Esperanto, they have both made the effort to learn a relatively easy, neutral language, instead of one person making the huge effort to learn the other person’s difficult native language, and the native speaker making no effort at all except to correct the non-native speaker’s errors.It does, by the way, have its own culture of friendship, equality of rights, and tolerance towards all peoples and cultures. Esperanto is better than Latin anyway, because at least lots of people SPEAK Esperanto, and no one actively uses Latin except in a church mass.

    Reply

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