Research on esperanto as a language accelerator

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samfrances
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Research on esperanto as a language accelerator

Postby samfrances » Sat Sep 19, 2020 7:42 am

I recently saw this Polyglot Conference talk about research studies into whether teaching children esperanto before learning a "real" foreign language can act as a language "accelerator". The idea, I believe, is that learning your third language is, for reasons that may not be fully understood, easier than learning your first. Since esperanto is extremely regular, its easy to learn, so its an easy way to get your first "foreign" language under your belt. Here's the talk:



My question is: has anyone come across any research findings on the outcomes of these projects? The talk was given when these projects were just starting, I believe, and I can't find any research findings online. It's an interesting theory, but I'd like to find out if it really works. After all, many people agree that language teaching (at least in Anglophone countries) doesn't work well at the moment, but that's not the same as knowing how to improve it. This was a really interesting and innovative idea, and it would be great to know if it works.
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Re: Research on esperanto as a language accelerator

Postby Iversen » Sat Sep 19, 2020 8:09 am

I have once been to an Esperanto universal congress (could be Copenhagen or Nitra or Lille or Lisboa, but also - and maybe more likely - a smaller non-UEA congress 2012 in Galway) where there was a lecture about this topic, and maybe it was filmed, but that doesn't mean that the film is on Youtube. However I do remember that the bulk of the research that was mentioned took place in Croatia, and that the outcome was positive - it was faster for the young Croatians to learn Esperanto first and then English than it was just to learn English. I even think I have commented on it here or in HTLAL, but I have written so much that it can be hard to find this precise comment - but if I find it it will also tell where the lecture was given and maybe even by whom, which should make it easier to trace. Or maybe the Esperanto organisation keeps a list of lecturers at its congresses, and then it should be possible to find it there (Galway may be different, since it wasn't an official UEA congress). One of the perks about UEA lectures is that many lecturers just read a paper aloud, which makes those lectures quite boring to listen to - but then the original text may be kept in their library or in the book they produce after each congress. Ah dunno ... ah ne'er read those beuks.
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Re: Research on esperanto as a language accelerator

Postby DaveAgain » Sat Sep 19, 2020 8:43 am

samfrances wrote:My question is: has anyone come across any research findings on the outcomes of these projects? The talk was given when these projects were just starting, I believe, and I can't find any research findings online. It's an interesting theory, but I'd like to find out if it really works. After all, many people agree that language teaching (at least in Anglophone countries) doesn't work well at the moment, but that's not the same as knowing how to improve it. This was a really interesting and innovative idea, and it would be great to know if it works.
There was a UK project: springboard to languages

http://repository.essex.ac.uk/5991/1/Re ... 2b_EAB.pdf

NB, the study was funded by the esperanto association of britain.

EDIT
Towards the end of the Polyglot Conference talk here were some remarks about English in the EU, and third language skills in Sweden. I sometimes watch a YouTuber who works as a French teacher in Sweden, she has said in the past that its difficult to interest the children in a third language, they feel that English will suffice for any extra-Sweden needs.
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Re: Research on esperanto as a language accelerator

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Sat Sep 19, 2020 11:20 am

I remember a bunch of HTLAL topics about this, e.g. Learn Esperanto or not (from 2013) which has a link to the Wiki article Propaedeutic value of Esperanto:

For example, studying Esperanto for one year and then French for three years results in greater proficiency in French than when someone would only study French for four years. This effect was first described by Antoni Grabowski in 1908.
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Re: Research on esperanto as a language accelerator

Postby iguanamon » Sat Sep 19, 2020 12:43 pm

The benefit of having learned any second language is a big advantage to have. Constructed languages like Esperanto are easier to learn than natural languages because of their regularity and gender free vocabulary. So, sure, I believe learning Esperanto prior to learning a natural language would help a lot with getting a monolingual learner's mind around the concept of how languages work and giving said learner experience with self-learning so that they know what works best for them in self-instruction. Learners gain the knowledge of how to learn. They learn how to overcome setbacks and rough spots.

Basically, learners who achieve a high level in any second language learn more than just a language. That's the advantage we gain as monolinguals. We can then build on that advantage by not wasting time going down blind alleys, searching for the perfect resources and getting discouraged because we can't speak X after not many lessons of a course. We just get on with it.

In practice, I haven't seen any people here over the years actually do this. People are often too eager to start speaking, reading, and watching films/tv to go through the long process of learning an easier language like Esperanto first. A lot of our members want to learn other languages even before having learned one to a high level.

The advantages of learning a second language to a high level are not concrete. I can't document them or support them with provable evidence. I just know in my experience, for me, that they are real.
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Re: Research on esperanto as a language accelerator

Postby samfrances » Sat Sep 19, 2020 1:02 pm

iguanamon wrote:The benefit of having learned any second language is a big advantage to have. Constructed languages like Esperanto are easier to learn than natural languages because of their regularity and gender free vocabulary. So, sure, I believe learning Esperanto prior to learning a natural language would help a lot with getting a monolingual learner's mind around the concept of how languages work and giving said learner experience with self-learning so that they know what works best for them in self-instruction. Learners gain the knowledge of how to learn. They learn how to overcome setbacks and rough spots.

Basically, learners who achieve a high level in any second language learn more than just a language. That's the advantage we gain as monolinguals. We can then build on that advantage by not wasting time going down blind alleys, searching for the perfect resources and getting discouraged because we can't speak X after not many lessons of a course. We just get on with it.

In practice, I haven't seen any people here over the years actually do this. People are often too eager to start speaking, reading, and watching films/tv to go through the long process of learning an easier language like Esperanto first. A lot of our members want to learn other languages even before having learned one to a high level.

The advantages of learning a second language to a high level are not concrete. I can't document them or support them with provable evidence. I just know in my experience, for me, that they are real.


I look forward to experiencing those advantages. Currently trekking across the vast deserts of the intermediate plateau :D .

Although interestingly, the talk suggested that learning a limited subset of esperanto was sufficient to accelerate learning in subsequent languages.
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Re: Research on esperanto as a language accelerator

Postby chove » Sat Sep 19, 2020 1:08 pm

Is there any work on this effect from a language other than Esperanto?
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Re: Research on esperanto as a language accelerator

Postby DaveAgain » Sat Sep 19, 2020 1:25 pm

chove wrote:Is there any work on this effect from a language other than Esperanto?
The FSI's Lessons learned from fifty years of theory and practice in government language teaching notes a benefit from a theoretical understanding of the grammar of a target language (lesson 3), that seems to be the benefit suggested in the esperanto studies, and also from being familiar with classroom study of language (lesson 6).
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Re: Research on esperanto as a language accelerator

Postby Deinonysus » Sat Sep 19, 2020 2:23 pm

Anecdotally, Esperanto was the first foreign language I was ever able to think in. I didn't have to grasp for vocabulary because it was so familiar, and I didn't have to think about the grammar because it was so regular. I was able to produce a wide variety of sentences very quickly (within days), and I was also thinking in Esperanto without translating very quickly because the grammar is so systematic (even though it is more complicated than it needs to be imo).

Esperanto will probably never become the global language, but it has developed a remarkable niche international community over the past century and change.

Esperanto's propaedeudic value needs to be studied more. I think it's tremendously valuable for any speaker of a Western European language (particularly English, Spanish, and French) who wants to learn how to learn foreign languages, and any speaker of other languages who wants an easy introduction to Western European languages.

Is Esperanto the perfect international auxiliary language? Not by a long shot in my opinion. But is it a great intro to language learning with lots of resources and a vibrant community? You betcha!
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Re: Research on esperanto as a language accelerator

Postby boon » Sun Sep 27, 2020 9:12 am

I learned Esperanto partly for this reason, although I never really got past the "intermediate" level I don't think.

One good thing about an artificial language is that it's less intimidating than a natural language, and not just because the grammar is (usually) more simplified. Artificial languages are just more "neutral".

Another option might be to start with a "dead" language such as Latin.

If your goal is to learn a romance language, perhaps Interlingua might be a better choice than Esperanto. I never studied Interlingua much so I don't know for sure.
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