Several years ago I was lucky enough to employ a teacher who spoke Esperanto. As Principal of Treetops Montessori I had struggled for years with the requirement to teach a language. A shortage of LOTE teachers meant that consistency was impossible. I had become seriously disenchanted with what we were able to offer our students in this area. I had watched a parade of different languages being “taught” in my school and was tired of hearing my students count to ten in several different languages but have no real understanding of any one language or of how language worked.
We began to teach Esperanto right through the school from the 4 year olds up to the Middle School. The children loved it. They easily got beyond the colours and numbers stage and were quickly able to be conversational in their new language.
We soon began to experience all the benefits of Esperanto as a first, second language. The students had pen pals in several overseas countries, a group of older students did an exchange trip to Switzerland but most importantly they began to have a usable second language rather than the “party trick” few words they had developed in our earlier language programmes. We also found that some of our students who had difficulties with reading found Esperanto easier than English. Skills learnt in Esperanto classes about how language is structured were transferable to their English studies.
The confidence that their command of Esperanto gave the children was a huge benefit and the connection it gave them to the rest of the world was wonderful.