Excerpt from the Student Guide
Pasporto al la tuta mondo - A completely new approach to teaching the international language? Yes! You are all ready to begin the adventure of learning Esperanto, but before you plunge in, take a few minutes to understand what you will be doing and why!
Right from the beginning, you are going to be immersed in the language. But be assured you won't drown, it's not the "sink or swim" method! Everything has been designed to support your understanding as you become familiar with how the language sounds and how it is used. The good news about Esperanto is that you have a special advantage over learners of any other language. There are no irregular forms and exceptions to get in the way of your developing intuitions. Your confidence in what you know will develop quickly as you keep watching the episodes and realize that each time you are understanding more of the context of what you are hearing. Just remember that the most important thing is to let it soak in without being concerned about understanding everything immediately. You will see the results once you give yourself opportunities to practice and use the language. Now let's talk a little about how and why this will work for you.
How Children Learn
Let's think of another model. How did we learn our native language as children? No, not what we were taught in elementary school. We had already pretty much mastered the structure by then, along with a fairly extensive vocabulary. What skills did we have? Right from the beginning, we learned to comprehend a lot more than we could say. Did we understand all the words people were saying to each other, or using when speaking or reading to us? No. But could we figure out the meaning? Yes, that came, too. Perhaps not always the first time, but when we heard it enough in context, and in different contexts, we caught on. Then later when we wanted something, to get attention we attempted to communicate using the code we were hearing around us.
The advantage of multi-media approaches to language acquisition is that they can make it possible for students to have the type of immersion experience that has ben shown to be most effective for the learner. In Pasporto you will be able to hear Esperanto spoken in a natural context, with plenty of visual and situational cues to help you understand the meaning.
Is it going to be difficult to learn this way? It may seem so at first! Instead of being "spoon-fed" the language word by word, you will be hearing a lot of natural language material all at once. Scary and frustrating? It doesn't have to be, but that's a natural initial reaction. It will be challenging, but be assured it will become less intimidating as you continue to work with the lessons. It may feel uncomfortable if you are not understanding every word. But isn't that just the feeling you could have if you didn't understand everything someone was saying in your native language? Just keep reminding yourself that as a language learner it's fine to understand only the gist of what you are hearing. You will learn a lot more by being stretched to hear and understand the language at normal speed than if all the words were pre-digested and presented in a way that made every one perfectly clear. Each time you listen to a lesson, more of it will make sense. Then it will be fun to realize how much progress you have been making when you go back and listen to earlier lessons after you have worked with later ones.
Soak it All In
So relax. Your first task is to observe, listen, and figure out for yourself what is going on. A lot of Esperanto will be thrown at you right away. Don't try to assimilate it all at once (that could get to be really frustrating, and we don't want any angry students!). Don't try to decode it into English! Esperanto works differently from English, so work to understand it from the inside and avoid the translation trap. As you immerse yourself, you will begin to develop your own language intuitions for Esperanto, and this is what needs to happen. Otherwise your Esperanto will be no more than a shadow of the native language you already know.
Really work at hearing the sounds of the language. Since we tend to interpret any new sound in terms of one from a language we are familiar with, this effort is very important at the beginning. Have fun trying to imitate what you see and hear. Talk back to the characters! The more you speak out loud, the more you will tend to retain, and you'll be helping your "motor memory" for the next time you say the same words. Don't depend on the written form to be able to speak! The written symbols of the letters of the alphabet have triggered English pronunciation in your thought for so long that if you don't learn to speak from listening, you could perpetuate your native-language accent and never realize what you are doing.
Go For It!
So are you now prepared to be immersed in Esperanto? You know what to do. Just concentrate on listening and leave your native language behind. Don't fee you're not learning anything if you don't "get" it all and are not suddenly fluent right away. Your comprehension should always be way ahead of what you can communicate, but the more you listen, the easier you will find it to both understand and speak.
So if you're ready for your adventure, la familio Bonvolo is ready for you!
Excerpt from the Introduction to the text-workbook of Esperanto - Pasporto al la Tuta Mondo, by Duncan Charters, Ph.D, Professor and Chair of Foreign Languages, Principia College, Elsah, Illinois, USA, and President, International Association of Teachers of Esperanto (ILEI).