Esperanto meetups: newbie stories
I commented on another thread about this and someone asked if I could post it as a new topic since it might be interesting to hear feedback and could possibly encourage other newbies to take the plunge and go to their local meetup. I will just paste my comment from that thread below:
"There is a group in Atlanta near me. They even have a small website which says they meet at a local pub monthly, but it doesn't appear that they have met in the past 3 months. I'm really nervous to go, though. Anybody have any stories (or links to stories) about the first time meeting up with the local group?"
Last January an Esperanto group popped up in our city. They were holding their first meetup. I knew the very basic grammar but had never said anything beyond Hello and How are you. (My husband knew more). We decided to attend. I was quite nervous. It was held at a noisy, crowded cafe. I was wondering how we would spot the Esperantists, but once we got through the door we saw a few people at a table with an Esperanto flag. I had brought a notebook as well as a cheat-sheet of common Esperanto phrases and grammar. There were two other people, both students of linguistics, who were interested in the language, but not really familiar with it. The organizer, Andy, was very friendly. He came with a dozen Esperanto books and pamphlets. I flipped through the books - The Little Prince (in Esperanto), a song book, a specialized dictionary, an Esperanto textbook, etc. Andy taught us some basic phrases in Esperanto and we went around in a circle answering some simple questions. Because it was a crowded cafe, it was sometimes hard to hear each other. We stayed for an hour and a half.
I am glad that I went (and continued to go to every single meetup of the group) - despite that it was challenging to understand what was being said. I was nervous before many of the meetups, but I still made a point to attend. Yesterday we had our 12th meetup of the group. We've had between 3 and 10 people at our meetups. It has been mostly beginners that show up, although there have been some fluent speakers at a couple meetups. Most of the beginners have started learning through Duolingo. We read short stories at every meetup nowadays. Each person reads a sentence or two and then tries to translate it.
It really truly makes a difference to complete Duolingo lessons with face to face interaction. Learning sentence structure and grammar is great, but being able to follow a conversation and respond to it on the spot is super important.
So the moral of the story is - GO. Go to the meetup even if you're nervous. Everyone has been a beginner at Esperanto at some point. People are generally friendly, too. If you're nervous, write out an personal introduction in Esperanto. (I've done it, it has helped me!). Bring a friend! Just go!
cliff900, I started studying Esperanto about 17 years ago. I found my local club about 15 years ago on the ELNA (Now called Esperanto-USA) website. Contacted them, found out where the next meeting was, (at the home of one of the members), and showed up. I walked up and down the street several times, I had assumed that there would be something outside the house indicating I was at the right place, but there was not. Finally I worked up the courage to ring the doorbell, and found, much to my relief that I was in the right place. All my fears were unfounded. The people were really nice and open.
I've been part of this group for 15 years. I'm now the person who maintains the website to try to make it easier for new members to find us. Last week at our monthly meeting, we even had someone show up at the meeting who is learning Esperanto here on Duolingo, and showed up to join us.
I was looking forward to seeing some more replies here. When I saw that there weren't many, I though about adding my own story even though it was almost 19 years ago. Encouraged by Ron's story, I decided to do it -- and now that I'm typing, I think I can't remember exactly how it was.
My wife and I started learning together in June. In October we went to a regional event. I know we had contact with local speakers before that because I remember showing a local person a printout of a description of the event. (This was before smart phones.) The motoro of the local club died a few years before we started learning so there was no local club - even though there had been at least since the end of WWII. I'm thinking we probably had some people over to our house. We also met out at various local restaurants - which is where the name "Salivanto" came from. I couldn't tell you which of these was my very first experience.
I could tell you more about the regional event. I remember my wife was overwhelmed at first - so I can certainly appreciate that people might feel nervous. It really is true, though, that we've all been there - and at least some of us even remember it. I remember being amazed that so many people could speak Esperanto so fast. A year later, I figured out that speaking fast wasn't really all that impressive. It's having something to say and saying it clearly which is impressive.
Here's my newbie story. I was learning by myself from Teach Yourself Esperanto for up to a year before I went to my first meeting. Nerves aren't a problem for me as I like to meet new people and that woudn't have been a problem anyway since everyone was so welcoming and kind. The group was about eight strong at the time and I wasn't the only beginner. I could say "Saluton" at the beginning and "Gxis la revido" at the end and just listened the rest of the time. They didn't slow down particularly, but the majority of the members had very clear pronuciation, so even if I couldn't catch everything, I could certainly figure out the main topic of conversations and presentations.
After a short time I was able to start trying sentences and everyone was patient and helpful. I was able to make such rapid progress that it made it easy to stick with Esperanto to the point of fluency. And I've made a lot of good friends that I still meet with frequently for Esperanto activities, many of whom were at that first meeting I attended in 1998.
My first meeting went something like this. I looked up the local group on the Internet and found their regular meeting times - every Wednesday evening in a certain café, with language practice for half an hour before that.
So I showed up, with some trepidation, not knowing what to expect. I tried to look and listen around in the small café to find a group of people sitting together speaking Esperanto.
After a short while, I saw a group that I thought might be the ones; I think I said something like "Bonan vesperon" and/or may be "Ĉu vi parolas Esperanton?"
And they were friendly and introduced themselves to me and invited me to continue attending meetings, whether I decided to become a formal member of the local society (and pay dues) or not.
I attended off and on, and eventually decided to become a member, and started going more often.
A while ago, I decided to resign, because Esperanto wasn't such a big factor in my life any more, and I haven't been to the meetings often, either. (I'm one of the few for whom Esperanto is just one language among many, rather than a philosophical thing or a means to itself.)
I'm surprised to hear that someone would need to or want to "resign" from a local group. My own group isn't anywhere near that formal. If people aren't interested they just ... stop coming (or come less often.) You're awfully busy on the boards here for someone who is not interested in Esperanto, by the way.
I have a friend who seems to have had the opposite experience of you. For him Esperanto very much is a "philosophical thing" and he struggles with learning languages (including Esperanto). He confided once that he sometimes feels like an oddball among Esperanto speakers because for most of them, Esperanto is just one language among many.
Well, it's a society with membership dues. It was more out of a desire to stop paying those if I only attend twice a year or something.
We're Germans, we like to do things orderly, with statutes and membership dues and the like -- not just a bunch of people who meet occasionally :)
Perhaps one reason for being here but not at the meetings is that I don't feel the need to "meet up to speak Esperanto" - I have a friend or two that I speak Esperanto with as a matter of course, but that's like how I have friends that I speak German to. I don't got a meetup just to speak German. And I'm not consciously trying to improve my Esperanto.
I like to think that my Esperanto is at a pretty decent level, enough to be able to give advice to others here. Doing so is fun, but if it stopped being fun, I'd find something else to do. I also hang around in the German forums.
I used to read quite a few more language forums here but then lack of time came and now it's mostly down to German, Esperanto, and Welsh (the latter mostly read-only.