[lg policy] Esperanto, a common language in Europe ? (fwd)

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Tue Jun 2 21:20:01 UTC 2009

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 27 May 2009 12:06:51 -0400
From: Harold Schiffman <hfsclpp at gmail.com>
Reply-To: Language Policy List <lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu>
To: lp <lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu>
Subject: [lg policy] Esperanto, a common language in Europe ?

Esperanto, a common language in Europe ?
Posted by Challenge for Europe on 26/05/09

Europe’s challenge in creating a cultural and political community: languages

Political and intercultural dialogue in Europe is faced with a
linguistic barrier: only a minority of Europeans has a sufficiently
extensive knowledge of a foreign language to engage in a complex
debate (level C1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for
Languages). Language learning is therefore legitimately considered a
priority for the Union: every European should be able to speak a
language of international communication and a second European language
of his choice, besides his native (Maalouf report). The goal is very
ambitious, considering the average time needed to reach level C1:
devoting several hours a week to the language, it will take around ten
years (the investment required varies however according to the
proximity of the learner’s native language and the target language: it
will be smaller between Dutch and English than between Spanish and
English). It is therefore essential to prepare young people to learn
foreign languages from primary school.

One of the key factors in language learning is the learner’s
motivation. Learning a foreign language is much easier when three
factors coincide: (1) one should be confronted with people who do not
speak one’s language; (2) such people should be worth getting to know,
because they convey an interesting message for the learner and; (3)
language learning should be rewarding: progress should be rapid and

Learning natural languages: reproducing social inequality

Preparation for learning foreign languages is nowadays the
responsibility of schoolteachers in primary schools. Teachers are
under pressure coming from two different sources: social pressure from
the parents, aware of the importance of mastering at least one foreign
language; and pressure from their hierarchy and ministerial
programmes. Teachers often do not have sufficient knowledge of a
foreign language to face these new needs. Trying to catch up under
significant time pressure, they can only reach a mediocre result,
dissatisfying for their pupils as well as for themselves. The
teachers’ mediocre knowledge of foreign languages is due to the fact
that effective language learning is a long and difficult process.

The children of more affluent families are therefore sent to the UK or
Ireland for immersion language programmes. This strong demand makes
the formula of free exchanges practically inaccessible, since the
supply is much lower. In fact, English-language students are much less
encouraged to learn foreign languages. As a consequence, this
situation forces families to pay for language programmes abroad which
creates a real market for them. The - sometimes exorbitant -costs of
courses, combined with travel costs, make access to such programmes
particularly difficult for the less wealthy. The concentration of
demand for language programmes in Anglophone countries (UK, Ireland)
becomes a factor of social inequality regarding the access to language

Esperanto: the right and effective method to prepare and motivate to
language learning

Esperanto, in the context of cross-border primary school classes,
presents a unique way of teaching languages.  Due to its completely
logical structure, to its compliance with the natural way to learn a
language, and to the fact that it employs some morphological roots
among the most widespread in European languages, it can be learnt
quickly by Europeans - 5-8 times quicker than any other ‘natural’
language. Thus, the level allowing a first meaningful dialogue (B1)
can be reached within about one year. The speed at which concrete
results can be attained is a considerable source of gratification for
primary school pupils participating in cross-border class
partnerships; it also allows teachers to be quickly and effectively

The mobilisation of an international network of primary schools also
contributes to raising students’ motivation to learn. Through direct
experimentation, pupils will understand that foreign languages give
access to people it would otherwise be impossible to interact with.

As Esperanto is not a national or regional language, the class
partnership network will be balanced. It would be the opposite of the
current situation, where the language of international communication
is one natively spoken in two EU member states (UK and Ireland). That
is why these two countries attract today an impressive majority of
partnership requests.

Communications tools based on the internet (instant messaging, e-mail,
blogging or VoIP technologies as used by Skype) are quick, effective
and cheap, and independent from distance. They are therefore open and
accessible for all social and economic groups. They activate both
written and oral expression, and can be used to practise all forms of
linguistic expression.


We propose to organise a European primary school partnership network
employing electronic communications tools on the internet (instant
messaging, e-mail, blogging or VoIP technologies as used by Skype) for
which the common language should be Esperanto. Such exchanges prepare
and encourage foreign language learning and stimulate discovery of
other lives and cultures. Pupils who have experienced such exchanges
in primary school are better prepared to learn foreign languages and
to engage in intercultural dialogue. Having been exposed to a simple
learning method, they will have a greater desire to learn thanks to
the positive and gratifying experience. They will also have made the
direct acquaintance of other Europeans, thereby developing a greater
desire to live together.


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