EsperantoUSA № 2008:1

Teaching a one-lesson microcourse

At meetings of clubs, civic groups, and churches, at science fiction conventions, in fact any time organizers have a need for talks and presentations to entertain and inform their members, you have an opportunity to introduce Esperanto.

A common approach is to give a talk about Esperanto — what it is, why to learn it, and so on — but an interesting alternative is to dive right into teaching the language. Dennis Keefe’s article in the latest issue of Internacia Pedagogia Revuo1 makes some useful suggestions for doing this.

In designing a one-session micro-course it’s important to take into account the varying interest levels of your audience and the fact that they haven’t (yet) signed up for Lesson Two. Ideally, the lesson should be as fun and entertaining as possible, bearing in mind the likely diversity of participants. It helps to cover a number of topics: a little about pronunciation, a little about grammar, a few useful phrases, etc.

Keefe suggests beginning by speaking in Esperanto for a minute or two simply to let the audience hear it. You can then switch to English (or the appropriate local language), asking if they recognized any of the words, and spend a small amount of time, perhaps three to five minutes, talking about what Esperanto is, giving a little of its history, current use, similarities to English, and so on.

You can now start teaching them to speak Esperanto. Keefe suggests breaking up the lesson into three to five topics, each four to six minutes long. The details depend on the teacher, but here’s a possible outline:

  • Start by teaching a few useful phrases.

  • Talk a little about the alphabet and pronunciation.

  • Review the phrases already taught and introduce a few new ones.

  • Explain the grammar and word-formation used in the phrases covered so far.

  • Give them some more practice speaking.

Don’t try to rush through too much or cover anything completely. (You don’t even need to present the whole alphabet.) But before you finish, you might want to point out how much the students have learned already.

If possible, show some brief video segments of Esperanto in use, for example at Universalaj Kongresoj and Internaciaj Junularaj Kongresoj. There are a number of short videos on YouTube that could be useful. Show them Esperanto magazines, books, and CDs, and let them listen to a few brief clips of music.

At the end allow 5-10 minutes for questions and finally explain how they can continue learning if they want to, whether in a local course or group, on the Internet, or at NASK.

This approach lets you cover a lot of ground in well under an hour while obeying the old performer’s maxim of always leaving them wanting more.

These one-lesson micro-courses have been used in a series of successful “language festivals” held in Europe over the past ten years or so set up to offer brief introductory lessons in as many as a few dozen languages.

For more about language festivals, see the linguafest web site.

  1. Internacia Pedagogia Revuo is the publication of Internacia Ligo de Esperanto-Instruistoj and one of the two quarterly periodicals received by members of the American Association of Teachers of Esperanto.