Teaching a Course About Esperanto
Hi all, I'm an American undergraduate at a school that lets students teach mini classes about topics that interest us. I really want to teach one on Esperanto! However, I don't want to just teach the language so much as I want to teach ABOUT the language. That is, the history and philosophy behind it, the debates around it, and its place in the conlang community in general. Do any of you have recommendations about what to include in the curriculum? Any suggestions are welcome! Thank you!
L.L Zamenhof was not just a linguist, but a sort of philosopher in his own right, there's a lot to cover. The rise and fall of esperanto is also interesting, play on the fact that Esperanto would have been way more popular if hitler hadn't came into power and just general linguistic suppression. It was illegal to speak Esperanto in some countries.
I was always fascinated by the idea that Esperanto was actively persecuted AND promoted in just about every major country in the world. "The Dangerous Language" is the title of the book??
There is a lot to cover, so unless the mini course lasts multiple days, you'll probably have to be quite selective.
There are dozens of news articles that give an overview of Esperanto's history, so you can look to them to see what is typically mentioned. Here's a recent one: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/dec/06/saluton-the-surprise-return-of-esperanto
For me, the most shocking discovery with Esperanto was how alive the language is today. If you are able to present clips, I'd show some short moments of various Esperanto vloggers, maybe an audio clip from the latest kern.punkto.info podcast, and a recent song (perhaps the amusing "Malaĉa") to demonstrate that you are not simply talking about a project from the 1800s.
For the history and philosophy, you can find plenty of translations of early documents for some first hand accounts, maybe pointing to recognizable names like Tolstoy to keep interest and show that its history is not entirely obscure. And of course the persecution under Hitler and Stalin is always something that can hold a student's attention.
The class is once a week for a whole semester so I can include a fair bit! Thanks for the info!
In what department would the course be offered?
If the students are completely new to the conlang idea, this may be a helpful book: https://www.amazon.com/Land-Invented-Languages-Esperanto-Dreamers/dp/0385527888/
My school has a thing called ExCos (stands for Experimental College) where students can submit a curriculum/syllabus and if it's approved the can teach the course and the teachers and students both get some credit for it. Most of the students would be completely new to the concept so I'll totally check that book out!
It's a little dated at this point. For example, you may want to mention in an introductory lecture the use of conlangs in pop culture such as Dothraki in Game of Thrones. But still a good book.