I’m sitting here in Piešťany, Slovakia at the lernu.net “SES”: Somera Esperanto-Studado. The event is a week long, and is being held in a Hotel school here in Piešťany. Every morning we have some Esperanto class time (divided into 4 skill levels according to a placement test we took on the evening we arrived), and then in the afternoon we have various interesting workshops and activities. The evenings have performances and more workshops. There’s also a lot of social opportunities in which to talk with our fellow Esperantistoj.
So far, I’ve had interesting Esperanto conversations on a variety of topics with people from Russia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Germany, USA, China, Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, Spain, Hungary, Poland, and probably more that I’ve forgotten already.
One thing I’ve found particularly helpful is having my laptop with me, and using the wireless access provided to look up things on the internet. If there’s a topic in which my explanation doesn’t suffice, or the other person’s vocabulary is perhaps lacking, then I can quickly look up the topic on wikipedia and click their native language. Once they read the summary of the article in their own language, then we get back on track in our Esperanto conversation now that we’re on the same *ahem* page.
I found it quite hard to adjust to speaking Esperanto in the first day and a half, since my mind was really in German mode after spending a month in Germany and Austria. I actually tended to gravitate towards the many Germans here, because we’d have something to talk about immediately, and sometimes if we got stuck then we could ask what a certain German word was in Esperanto, and then continue. I’ve almost entirely avoided speaking English here, except when a Slovakian guy was trying to ask for help with his computer but his beginner-level Esperanto wasn’t up to the task. Once I understood his computer problem, we switched back to Esperanto.
There’s an interesting age range here, with a decent number of highschool students (some of whom have fantastically great Esperanto abilities), and quite a few people over the age of 50 as well. Being in the middle at 30, I’m somewhat of a minority, strangely.
The classroom setting is sort of what I expected. The teachers seem quite well versed in the popular teaching techniques these days (such as total physical response where we stamp our foot whenever we add an -n ending to an accusative word, or using some physical props to act out various positional prepositions), but it’s still pretty similar to every other classroom setting. The teacher hauls us through various meaningless exercises as an excuse to do something in the language.
Personally, I’d rather study on my own and just use the plentiful conversational opportunities. On my own, I get to do more vocabulary faster, because I don’t have to suffer through the words I already know, and I can move at my own pace. In self-study, I can also do more valuable things like reading a book or internet article, which are actually interesting content and are exposing me to new and challenging parts of the language. My preference is always to learn mostly through exposure to real and interesting content, either audial, visual, or written.
So, today I skipped class so that I could continue with my flashcards for basic Esperanto vocabulary (thanks Judith!), and so that I can read a couple easy articles and some bits from “La Hobito” by Tolkien ;). I’ve also been experimenting with the usage of a little “timer” applet on my laptop, so I can do some “Time-boxing”.
The idea is to limit my work on one topic to 3 or 4 minutes, and then when the timer beeps I switch to another topic. So maybe 3 minutes of flashcards, then 3 minutes of reading La Hobito, then 3 minutes of an internet article in Esperanto. What this effectively does, is turn “work” into “play” by giving me a time when I know I’ll be done, and some enforced variety. It plays with my short attention span so that this “study” work is more like websurfing. On AJATT, Khatsumoto compared it to eating a bag of chips. You’re not consciously trying to finish the whole bag, you’re just eating the current chip. Then another. Then another.
So, I’ve found that eating my Esperanto chips is doing a good job at keeping me on-task overall, while still allowing me my natural reaction of bouncing between multiple shiny tasks. Somehow it keeps it fun, so I’ll have to do this more in the future. Later today I’m going to add to my materials by buying some Esperanto comic books that I saw at the little book table that was set up. (I also want to get this awesome shirt that says “Lingva Revolucio!” and has a pic of Zamenhof wearing a hat with a star on it, similar to the famous Che picture).
Ok, time to get back to some studying. I’ll try and report back again near the end of the week. Ĝis!