Duolingo is one of the most popular online tools for learning languages, with more than 100 million users. If current trends continue, it will eventually be the most popular. And now, it can also be used for learning Esperanto.
It’s possible to teach a foreign language without taking into account the languages one’s students already know. But the language(s) a student already speaks can hinder or help learning a new language.
In the last century or so, translation exercises have fallen out of fashion. Now, however, the language teaching community is coming around to the idea that there’s a place for translation in language teaching after all.
In centuries past it was common for language courses to emphasize grammar. In fact, language textbooks themselves were often called “grammars,” and in British and American schools there was so much emphasis in the early grades on learning grammar that we still sometimes refer to elementary schools as “grammar schools.”
Probably the most time-consuming part of studying any language is developing a vocabulary, so it’s always a relief to encounter a familiar word. But not every word that looks familiar is all that close in meaning.
One evening most weeks, some Esperanto speakers here in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina get together for dinner and face-to-face conversation. The most frequent participants come from Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill … and Santa Fe.
Why should all the sex-specific words in Esperanto be masculine by default? Why do we derive the word patrino from patro and virino from viro? Why not make the base word gender neutral and employ suffixes for both male and female?
Language teaching in the traditional sense has for the most part meant classroom instruction, either as part of a broader curriculum or as a stand-alone course. In recent decades, especially in the U.S., this approach has been in decline for a variety of reasons.
Many Esperanto speakers, notably those who come from an English language background, have trouble with verbal moods. Today’s schools often ignore the subject, and it doesn’t help that the term subjunctive in English is applied to two different moods, thus making it harder than it needs to be.
Today’s teachers routinely stay in touch with their students via the web and email, providing encouragement and sending gentle reminders of homework, complete with links so all the student has to do is click.
In English we can say, I brush my hair with a brush and comb my hair with a comb, which seems simple enough. So why is it that in Esperanto we say, Mi brosas miajn harojn per broso kaj kombas miajn harojn per kombilo?
Unu el la plej bonaj ekzercoj por alkutimiĝi al la parolado de Esperanto (aŭ de iu ajn lingvo) estas daŭre priskribi tion, kion oni vidas. La plej bona maniero plenumi tian ekzercon estas gvidi iun kiu tute ne vidas.
When I was in college I let myself be talked into jumping directly into an upper level course in conversational French. Once I realized that everyone else in the class was much more fluent, I barely spoke at all for fear of making embarrassing mistakes.