Propaedeutic value of Esperanto

Propaedeutic value of Esperanto

The propaedeutic value of Esperanto is the benefit that using Esperanto as an introduction to foreign language study has on the teaching of subsequent foreign languages. Several studies, such as that of Helmar Frank at the University of Paderborn and the San Marino International Academy of Sciences, have concluded that one year of Esperanto in school, which produces an ability equivalent to what the average pupil reaches with European national languages after six to seven years of study, improves the ability of the pupil to learn a target language when compared to pupils who spent the entire time learning the target language. In other words, studying Esperanto for one year and then, say, French for three results in greater proficiency in French than studying French for four years. This effect was first described by Antoni Grabowski in 1908.

"Springboard… to Languages" [] summarizes the propaedeutic case for Esperanto with these words::"Many schools used to teach children the recorder, not to produce a nation of recorder players, but as a preparation for learning other instruments. [We teach] Esperanto, not to produce a nation of Esperanto-speakers, but as a preparation for learning other languages."

Language teaching introductory effect

A simplified general learning experiment gives an analogy to the way studying Esperanto first may cut learning time later on with another language.

* Children are instructed to observe a figure made up of a series of signs.
* To memorise these signs and their respective order in the whole, a child typically needs at least two minutes, but a particular preparatory instruction lasting not more than 5 or 6 seconds can facilitate learning to such a degree that anyone can learn this series of signs, in the correct order, in about 10 seconds.
* The particular preparatory instruction consists in the following information: all signs are symmetrical, so it is only necessary to look at the right half in order to learn the entire figure.

In about 10 seconds, almost 100 seconds of learning time have been gained.

At the Institute of Pedagogic Cybernetics at the University of Paderborn in Germany, a similar method was also studied and confirmed for learning foreign languages.

The preparatory teaching conducted by this Institute prepares students to become aware of the essential characteristics of languages, using the international language Esperanto as a model, a language with a clear and simple structure, almost completely regular and, thanks to its agglutinative character, detachable into combinable morphological elements; a model which is easy to assimilate and develops aptitude for the study of other languages.

Even before the experiments conducted by Prof. Helmar Frank in Germany, similar research was conducted in Hungary by I. Szerdahelyi of the University of Science in Budapest. A group of native Hungarian speakers, after having studied Esperanto for two years in the third and fourth grade of elementary school, were divided to study their learning of Russian, German, English, and French.

According to the results, preliminary Esperanto study led to a 25% improvement in acquiring Russian, 30% for German, 40% for English, and even 50% for French. In other terms, children who had received preparatory teaching obtained notably better results than their peers who had not had an analogous introduction to the study of foreign languages.This system of preparatory instruction was put into practice in Germany, with a greater number of students, but with the sole aim of finding a way of facilitating the learning of English. The results showed that after two years of linguistic orientation using the International language, the advantage was about 30%.

The experiments conducted and repeated many times at Paderborn went much further:

:Students were divided into two competing groups. One started English instruction in third grade (A), the other, instead, followed preparatory teaching through Esperanto and started English only at the fifth grade (B).:The Esperanto programme required 160 hours in all, which can seem like a great loss of time, but, according to the final results, in seventh grade group B reached group A's level of English learning and in eighth grade they exceeded it. In other words, those who benefited from the preparatory teaching gained more time than they had lost in preparation.

Some researchers who study cybernetics applied to pedagogy and foreign language instruction advise that:

# Language study should begin with elementary school, starting at 8 years of age and with two years of Esperanto.
# After the introduction of the foreign language, Esperanto should be used in teaching a determined subject, such as geography, as an interscholastic means of communication (correspondence).
# There should be efforts to coordinate the steps necessary in all European Community countries to ensure a simpler linguistic communication between citizens.

Examples of pedagogic experiments

It is interesting to note how many teaching experiments have been conducted over the years and in how many places. The ones which follow are the most significant.

Girls' Middle School in Bishop Auckland (GB)

:Years: 1918-1921:Aims: Research on the question if prior study of Esperanto facilitates later study of French and German.:Conclusions:
* The simple and rational grammar of Esperanto constitutes, especially for less gifted children, a bridge which makes a more manageable passage to the complicated French or German grammars possible; it makes the meaning of the grammatical terms visible;
* it clearly indicates the meaning of the grammatical prefixes and suffixes;
* accustoms children to the idea of relationship between words, the construction of words, and derivations;
* Esperanto introduces students to the international lexicon.:Reports:
* Dr. Alexandra Fischer, "Languages by way of Esperanto".
* "Eksperimento farita en Bishop Auckland (GB) en la jaroj 1918-1921" in "Internacia Pedagogia Revuo", 1931.

Bishop's Elementary School, Auckland (New Zealand)

:Years: 1922-1924:Aims: Compare the ease of acquisition of Esperanto with that of French.:Report:
* Article in "Enciklopedio de Esperanto", volume I, p.436, on the pedagogic value of Esperanto.

Wellesley College, Department of Psychology (Massachusetts, USA)

:Year: 1924:Aims: research on the question if the "synthetic" languages can be learned more easily and quickly than the ethnic languages. Comparison between Esperanto and Danish.:Conclusions: Esperanto students achieved better results compared to those studying Danish, in part because of Esperanto's internal structure, as well as the interest and enthusiasm aroused by Esperanto in the students' minds.:Report:
*Christian Rudmick, "The Wellesley College Danish-Esperanto experiment".

Columbia University, New York (USA)

:Years: 1925-1931:Aims: research on the question, if and to what degree a planned language can be more easily learned than an ethnic language.Note: the experiment was organised on order by the IALA (International Auxiliary Language Association) by Dr. Edward Thorndike, director of the psychology section of the institute for pedagogic research at Columbia University.:Conclusions:
* it is possible for the average student to understand written and spoken Esperanto in 20 hours better than he can understand French, German, Italian, or Spanish after 100 hours
* 5 hours of study to learn German give practically no results; 5 hours of Esperanto study are enough to give a general idea of the grammar of the entire language;
* in general, in a time limit from 10 to 100 hours of study, the results acquired in the study of a synthetic language are practically from 5 to 15 times better than those obtain after the study of an ethnic language, according to the difficulty of the latter (Eaton, p. 6-7);
* for native English speaking students, the results of studying Latin, German, or French are better if such study is preceded by that of a planned language, as preparatory introduction (Eaton, p. 27-30).:Report:
*Edward Thorndike, "Language Learning". Bureau of Publications of Teachers College, 1933. []
*Helen S. Eaton, "The Educational Value of an Artificial Language." "The Modern Language Journal", #12, pp. 87-94 (1927). []

Public High School in New York

:Years: 1934-35:Aims: research the influence of the study of Esperanto for a semester on later study of French and, in parallel, the native language, English.:Report:
*Helen S. Eaton, "An Experiment in Language Learning"

Provincial Grammar School in Sheffield (GB)

:Years: 1947-51:Aims: See if Esperanto is truly a useful introduction to the study of French. :Conclusions: In summary, it was concluded that, among the less intelligent students, those who devoted a year to Esperanto succeeded better in French after four years, without additional study time for that language in the three years spent studying it.In any case, among the more intelligent students, the best success in French was among those who began it immediately.Those who began with Esperanto achieved a better "passive knowledge" and those who began with French acquired better "active use.":Reports:
*J. H. Halloran (lecturer in Pedagogy at the University of Sheffield), "A four year experiment in Esperanto as an introduction to French".
*V. C. Nixon, "Lastatempaj eksperimentoj pri Esperanto en lernejoj".

Egerton Park School, Denton (Manchester, United Kingdom)

:Years: 1948 and following:Aims: study of less intellectually gifted students to ascertain if prior Esperanto study facilitates French study.:Conclusions: "A child can learn as much Esperanto in about 6 months as he would French in 3-4 years... if all children studied Esperanto during the first 6-12 months of a 4-5 year French course, they would gain much and lose nothing.":Report:
*Norman Williams (scholastic director) "Report on the teaching of Esperanto from 1948 to 1965".

Middle School in Somero (Finland)

:Years: 1958-63:Aims: research the study of Esperanto and the question of whether such study is advantageous or disadvantageous for the study of German.Note: the experiment took place under the direction of the Minister of Public Instruction.:Conclusions:
* the language knowledge acquired with Esperanto was evidently such as could not be reached (under similar conditions) with any other foreign language;
* the unchallenged superiority in the ability to use German achieved by the students who had studied Esperanto was observed;
* the rapid results achieved in Esperanto instruction raised the students' courage and their faith in themselves; the capacity to accept new ways in which to express themselves already constitutes a help, at the subconscious level, in assimilating a new foreign language.:Reports:
*J. VILKKI, V. SETÄLÄ, La eksperimenta instruado de Esperanto en la geknaba mezgrada lernejo de Somero (Suomio);
*V. SETÄLÄ, Vizito al la eksperimenta lernejo en Somero, Finnlando.

Eötvös Lorand University, Budapest (H)

:Years: 1962-63:Aims: Compare, in three middle school classes, the results obtained studying Esperanto with those obtained by studying Russian, English, and German.:Conclusions:For the Hungarian children, the coefficients of the result, in terms of preset educational goals, turn out to be the following: 30% for Russian, 40% for German, 60% for English, and 130% for Esperanto. "Such indications perfectly confirm the initial observations made by Prof. Barczi: in scholastic language instruction circumstances, Esperanto is the only foreign language for which educational goals can be met." (Szerdahelyi, 1970, quoted in Lobin, p. 39).:Reports:
*István SZERDAHELYI (University lecturer), La didaktika loko de la internacia lingvo en la sistemo de lernejaj studobjektoj;
*Günter LOBIN, Die Internacia Lingvo als Bildungskybernetisches Sprachmodell, p. 59.

International Pedagogic Experiment

:Years: 1971-74: Organiser:: International League of Esperanto Speaking Teachers (ILEI):Aims:
* show that, under normal scholastic instruction conditions, Esperanto can be more easily learned than any other language;
* examine if the study of Esperanto constitutes an enrichment of general linguistic knowledge, useful for a better knowledge of one's own native language;
* examine if Esperanto, as a neutral and international language, has easily utilisable pedagogic qualities and consequently facilitates the study of other languages;
* demonstrate that, even during instruction, Esperanto is already applicable in various way to a greater extent than other foreign languages.:Reports:
*Marta KOVÁCS, Internacia Didaktika Eksperimento Kvinlanda;
*Johano INGUSZ, Instruspertoj en esperantfakaj klasoj (en Hungario).
*Günter LOBIN, Internacia Lingvo als Bildungskybernetisches Sprachmodell, p. 59.

International Pedagogic Experiment

:Years: 1975-77:Organiser: International League of Esperanto Speaking Teachers (ILEI):Participating: 302 students of both sexes: 16 students in Belgium, 45 in France, 90 in Greece, 77 in West Germany, and 74 in the Netherlands. A final week united in St. Gérard (Belgium) in 1977: mathematics, geography ("Europe and Us"), drawing, sport, and music instruction in Esperanto, as well as Esperanto itself.:Aims:
* demonstrate the greater teaching effectiveness and economy of Esperanto instruction when compared to other foreign languages;
* study the influence of Esperanto on the improved study of the native language;
* conduct research on the possibility of improving reading and spelling capabilities in children, especially those who present problems in this field;
* form a capacity for language comprehension of such a degree that the children are capable of more easily learning other foreign languages;
* contribute to a European childhood education and a humanistic internationalism.:Conclusions:
* In the opinion of the non-Esperantist Belgian Inspector General: "Esperanto is the right language as a basis for those who plan on studying other foreign languages."
* positive progress was made in the evolution towards a complete internationalisation. Further, Esperanto revealed itself to be an appropriate instrument for common reciprocal comprehension and an excellent vehicle for other teaching subjects.:Report: Helmut SONNABEND, Esperanto, lerneja eksperimento.

Instruction of Linguistic Orientation, Paderborn (D)

:Years: late '70s - early '80s:Description: This kind of instruction was the object of in-depth study by a group from the Institute of Pedagogic Cybernetics in Paderborn, under the direction of Dr H. Frank, well known in cybernetic circles.It is characterised by the introduction to the study of foreign languages, uses children from 8-10 years old and is based on comparison between languages, using Esperanto as a reference. Since it is perfectly adapted to children, it turns out to be extremely effective from the pedagogic point of view.Scientifically measured, the results confirm that such instruction of linguistic orientation:
* considerably increases children's interest in the diversity of European cultures and languages;
* require a small time investment which can be saved during later study of other foreign languages;
* is of help in teaching the native language, geography, and mathematics;
* very quickly creates the possibility of interethnic communication perfect for children, without limiting it to the territory of a specific privileged language. In such a way it opens the way to better comprehension between people, without language discrimination.:Source:Protocols of the annual November meetings in Paderborn "Laborkonferencoj: Interlingvistiko en Scienco kaj Klerigo" (Working conference: Interlinguistics in Science and Education), which can be obtained from the Institute of Pedagogic Cybernetics in Paderborn. Also in the works by Frank, Lobin, Geisler, and Meder.

An Experiment in an Italian Elementary School

In Italy, where Esperanto received positive treatment in a 1952 memo from the Minister of Public Instruction, Segni, there have been various experiments in the use of Esperanto, above all in the cities of Cesena (Gianfranca Braschi Taddei), Cagliari (Nino Pala) e Genoa. The experiment cited here took place at the "Rocca" Elementary School in San Salvatore di Cogorno (province of Genoa).:Years: 1983-88:Classes: 9-11 years (study Esperanto), 11-14 years (study French):Aims:
* rapidly start providing a useful instrument of linguistic communication for immediate use in transnational reports (correspondence, possible encounters);
* dispose of a simple and regular comparative model for more effective instruction of the native language;
* prepare a practical basis for later study of foreign languages;
* serve to enrich the scholastic programme through a wider use of other subjects.:Conclusions:
* According to the final analysis, the word capacity achieved by the children was remarkably good: they spontaneously conversed about various topics, their pronunciation was correct, they occasionally ran into grammatical and lexical errors, but without affecting reciprocal comprehension;
* comparing the results of the same students in Esperanto and French gave indications of the learning rates for the two languages;
* after having compared the French exercises of those children who had previously studied Esperanto with those who had not received such preliminary preparation, indications as to the introductory value of the International Language were reached.:Report: Elisabetta FORMAGGIO (Chiavari, Italy), Lerneja eksperimento pri lernfacileco kaj transfero en la fremdlingvoinstruado.

* [ Study] International Language (known as Esperanto) Commission, Interministerial Decree April 29/October 5 1993, Italian ministry of public instruction.

EKPAROLI project (Melbourne, Australia, 1994-2000)

From the project's summary: "In 1994 the Government of the State of Victoria proposed that every primary school (6-12yrs) should begin to teach at least one LOTE (Language other than English) for at least 2.5 hours per week... It was clear from Esperanto experiments in Europe that Esperanto helped learners make a good, quick start in learning their second European language. However no research had been done on whether the early learning of Esperanto helped with the later learning of East- Asian Languages. The situation unfolding in Victoria seemed to offer an ideal opportunity to do some research on that idea.":Years: 1994-2000:Classes: 9-11 years (study Esperanto), 11-14 years (study French):Aims:To see whether previous study of Esperanto would assist children in the subsequent learning of East-Asian languages (particularly Japanese).:Conclusions:
* The Esperanto-pupils rated LOTE-learning and also rated Esperanto one of their favourite subjects.
* The attainment level of the Esperanto-pupils, which was rated by the teachers (from 1 to 5), was impressive as 96% were rated 3,4 or 5. Concerning the pupils motivation for LOTE-learning, again rated by the teachers from 1 to 5, 86% of the Esperanto learners were rated 4 or 5 compared with 55% of the non-Esperanto learners.
* Regarding the speaking ability of LOTE, no Esperanto pupil was rated less than 3 in this skill.

* [ Study] Monash University EKPAROLI project home page

External links

* [ Esperanto and Education: Toward a Research Agenda]
* [ Esperanto: a joke, or a serious option?] by John C. Wells, University College London.
* [ Springboard to Languages] - a current project, supported by Esperanto Association of Britain

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