https://www.duolingo.com/MarkVortexx

What are Esperanto groups like?

I've lost track of how long it's been since I've started learning Esperanto, but I think it's been about 2 or 3 months. I'm using Duolingo, Lernu!, and two different email courses. I usually put in about an hour of study each day, although I wish I had more time! When I was learning Portguese, it was pretty easy to find native speakers to practice with in my town, eventually including my wife. Finding other Esperanto speakers to communicate with is a challenge. Thankfully, it appears that there is an Esperanto group that meets up about 20 minutes (Plymouth Meeting, outside of Philadelphia)from me once a month. I'm considering going, but I'm hesistant for two reasons: 1; I'm still a beginner and I'm not sure if I can have a flowing conversation yet, and 2; Someone I knew said he had a bad experience with an Esperanto group.

This person, who has been learning Esperanto for a bit longer than I have, decided to try out an esperanto group (not the same one that is near me). He felt like the group was full of Esperanto elitists that left him with feelings of inferiority. They interrupted him every time he used the accusative wrong, or made any other mistake. They spoke too fast for him to fully understand them, and when he asked for them to slow down, they refused, and if he asked for the meaning of a word, they gave the definition in Esperanto, refusing to give an English translation. They were not very friendly and didn't seem to have any sense of humour. Of course he never went back to this group.

I'm hoping that most Esperanto groups are not like this one. I'm quite certain his experience was not typical with Esperanto groups. Can anyone share their experience with Esperanto group meetings? Has anyone gone as a beginner and still felt comfortable? Were you able to understand them to a decent extent, or did they speak too fast? Were the people generally easy going and friendly?

I struggle with social anxiety and consider myself somewhat shy and quiet at times.

12/21/2018, 8:02:12 PM

29 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/carbsrule
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My local group: it's mostly older people, including people who've been speaking Esperanto for decades. There are some younger people. I'm one of the youngest. We have a club meeting every month, where someone gives a presentation in Esperanto on a topic of their choosing. We also have social gatherings through the year. The first time I went, I was very much a komencanto and could barely understand anything. But the people were very nice and helpful. That was probably 4 years ago.

If you're not confident, I'd recommend remembering phrases like:

  • Mi estas komencanto.
  • Mi eklernis antaĆ­ ___ monatoj
  • Bonvolu helpi min
  • Bonvolu paroli (pli) malrapide
  • Kion signifas tio/___

All the best :)

12/22/2018, 6:30:03 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/MarkVortexx

I know what it's like to be a beginner in a language and be surrounded by native or advanced speakers and barely understand anything. Eventually, things start to click. It's a surreal feeling when you begin to understand everything.

12/22/2018, 2:08:42 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Julio.HaiLiu
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I started learning Esperanto (using Duolingo) around a year ago and three months later I started attending the monthly meetings of a local Esperanto group. The group was very welcoming and I it has been a positive experience all around. They did not mind if I used some English at the beginning. By now I can understand most of what's being said and I try to use mostly Esperanto. Speaking is still challenging, and I do get some advice/corrections but I don't mind/ I take it as others trying to be helpful and I appreciate it since I do want to continue to improve.

12/22/2018, 1:45:06 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/MarkVortexx

That sounds like a good experience to me! I hope the local group near me is like that.

12/22/2018, 2:06:45 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/WitlessBittern
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One of my goals for the coming year is to begin attending an Esperanto group. I got excited when I saw "Plymouth," thinking we could go together for solidarity, but it's the wrong Plymouth. Good luck!

12/21/2018, 9:13:00 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/MarkVortexx

Good luck to you as well!

12/21/2018, 10:04:18 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/LeeMiller9

Esperanto group meetings always present a dilemma, because people come and want to speak Esperanto, but people new to the language need help and support. It's a tricky balance.

The group I'm involved with is about 50/50 older people/younger people. I'm the oldest, and the youngest regular attender is a teenager.

I think when a new person is there we kind of naturally shift to English to make introductions, ask questions, etc. Then sometimes parallel conversations happen. It doesn't help a new learner learn if everyone just switches to English, but it's not a good thing to make someone feel excluded. Sometimes it's a good idea to ask a new person what they would like, and what would be most helpful.

We hardly ever do anything formal. Usually it's just conversation, sometimes board games, etc. Once in a while I've brought some translation challenges and other things like that, but we usually meet in a restaurant and it's hard to do that with the noise.

12/22/2018, 6:20:13 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/salivanto
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Dear Mark109702 - everything you say is true. Fortunately it's not true everywhere and its not true all of the time.

One of my students (who is not all THAT much younger than me) has told me that her local group, she's the only one there who doesn't have grey hair. At my local group, I tend to be the oldest. My sense is that the Philly group is mostly krokodiloj but I did attend a meet-up in Philly where we spoke all Esperanto ... at least I don't remember krokodilng.

Generally, a good way to look at it is "komencantoj estas bonvenaj, sed krokodiloj ne." Chances are pretty good that people will initiate a conversation with you in English. Make it a silent game to see if you can hold out better than the regulars.

This person, who has been learning Esperanto for a bit longer than I have, decided to try out an esperanto group (not the same one that is near me).

Not knowing the group or your friend, it's hard to say, but...

He felt like the group was full of Esperanto elitists that left him with feelings of inferiority.

Well, when it comes to Esperanto, let's face it. He almost certainly was "inferior". You've got to go into this knowing that you're going to make mistakes. Certainly the regulars should have tried to make him feel welcome - and I have a hard time believing that they didn't try.

And let's give a thought to the elitists. They've been waiting all week to talk to each other and get caught up on the latest news.

They interrupted him every time he used the accusative wrong, or made any other mistake.

If anybody does this to you, politely tell them to stick it in their ear. Tell them that they are not welcome to correct you. They should listen and when it's their fricking turn to talk, then they can model good language use.

Seriously.

I mean, what the h.e.c.k. is wrong with people?

And yes, this happens. Tell them Tomaso Alexander told them to knock it off.

They spoke too fast for him to fully understand them, and when he asked for them to slow down, they refused,

Well, what is going on here? Did he want two fluent speakers not to talk fluently to each other? Am not sure how I would feel with such a request. If, however, it was "bonvolu paroli malpli rapide al mi" - then this is absolutely reasonable - but getting carried away is not the same thing as "refusing." When I'm teaching, I give my students permission to slow me down any time... and I still get carried away. I don't mind repeating myself or simplifying things. Feedback has to work both ways.

The way to handle this is to go in planning on learning 10 new things or whatever. Pick out what you can. Remember them. Learn them. Come back next time and pick up 10 more.

As an alternative, you can find a person willing to talk directly with you and let the group conversation go on without you.

and if he asked for the meaning of a word, they gave the definition in Esperanto, refusing to give an English translation.

Again - not knowing the situation, it's hard to say, but this sounds like a good practice to me. I LOVE talking to beginners in Esperanto - and making it as simple as necessary till they understand. I really don't like giving an English translation. We may as well just hang out and speak English.

In my own city, we've had plenty of evenings hanging out at my house, and more recently at a cafe. Sometimes the conversation strays from Esperanto - especially when people start getting really excited about finally finding someone else in the world who shares an obscure interest. (Some of these are lost on me.) In one of those moments, one of our participants commented "I have found my people." I think that's downright awesome.

Plan on making the trip to ARE in October. It will be fun - and I'll give you lots of definitions in Esperanto.

12/22/2018, 12:56:37 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/MarkVortexx

You sense that the Philly group is mostly "krokodiloj"... How would you define a "krokodilo"? Someone in an Esperanto meeting who speaks too much English (or any other language) and not enough Esperanto? Is someone labeled a "krokodilo" if they speak even a single word of English once in a blue moon to help someone out, or if they don't know a certain word? My wife (who is Brazilian) and her friends, when speaking Portuguese, sometimes throw in a few English words if they've forgotten the word in Portuguese (the word for blueberries comes to mind, which is 'mirtilo', yet most Brazilians forget, since blueberries are very rare in Brazil, so they often just say the English word, "blueberry"). I'd imagine in Esperanto it could be similar.

If I go to an Esperanto group meeting, I'm there to speak (or at least try my best to speak) Esperanto, not English. I expect at least 95% of the conversation to be in Esperanto. If I wanted to speak English, I'd call up my English speaking friends. I can be very comfortable with not speaking English. I stayed in Brazil for a month a couple of years ago, and I didn't speak a word of English the whole time. It was actually really strange when I came back here after not hearing my own native language for a whole month.

Several years ago, I was trying to learn German, but any time I would encounter a German person, they would respond to my German in English, and say things like "Why do you want to speak German to me? I'm fluent in English." I had eventually given up on German, but one day I'll try again.

I can understand what you mean about the regulars possibly feeling frustrated with wanted to converse and have to deal with a beginner being there, asking them to slow down. They should have slowed down when speaking to him, but not necessarily to one another.

I agree, interrupting to correct someone is just plain rude. There is a right way to do it. When I teach English to a Portuguese speaker, I listen to what they say first, and if I hear an error, I will say politely at the end, "Do you mind if I correct that sentence?" Or "May I give you some advice?" But then again, that's in the context of an English lesson, not just casual chit-chat.

This guy said that the members of this group seemed to be the type who are obsessed with Lord of the Rings and playing Dungeons and Dragons (not that there's anything wrong with Lord of the Rings or D&D) and had poor hygiene. They were middle-aged men with long greasy hair and unkempt beards, and bad BO. Again, not judging people with long hair or beards, just painting a picture of what he said the group was like.

Anyway, krokodiloj or not, I'm going to give this group a try, and if they speak too much English, I'll ask if they can switch back to Esperanto. I'm sure they're still good people.

What is ARE?

12/22/2018, 4:25:42 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/salivanto
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How would you define a "krokodilo"?

A krokodilo here is someone who constantly speaks English at Esperanto events. I know you asked some clarifying questions, but I personally wouldn't define it any more precisely than that. You'll have to make your own assessment of the groups you visit.

I will underscore, however that made (or tried to make) a distinction between krokodiloj and krokodilado. For example, when I drove Chuck Smith from Philly to his parents' house near Harrisburg, we spoke only English in the car. I call Chuck a lot of things (including "friend"), but never krokodilo. English seemed to both of us the "appropriate" language at the time. I've also mentioned that at my own meetings, sometimes people get so excited about an idea that they break into English just to get the thought out. In a group of English speakers, this strikes me as perfectly healthy.

[They] sometimes throw in a few English words if they've forgotten the word in Portuguese (the word for blueberries comes to mind,

I do the same thing with fluent Esperanto speakers who know English. When speaking to beginners, however, I am persuaded that what they need is comprehensible input - not lists of translations. If they say "kio estas hundo?" and I can get them to understand without recourse to translation, the word will be remembered longer - and it will be recalled more easily when needed.

[The regulars] should have slowed down when speaking to him, but not necessarily to one another.

I am sorry your friend had a bad experience. My point is that neither you nor I were there - so there's no sense in speculating. Maybe they did, and your friend got frustrated anyway.

But then again, that's in the context of an English lesson, not just casual chit-chat.

There are times when I'm just chatting with people and they look at me as if they're expecting me to correct them. I don't - not because I'm being polite, but because I'm tired of giving feedback. On a good week, I teach Esperanto live for 15 hours. The Esperanto event is my chance to relax and NOT be the teacher.

This guy said that the members of this group seemed to be the type who are obsessed with Lord of the Rings and playing Dungeons and Dragons (not that there's anything wrong with Lord of the Rings or D&D) at 2:00 am, and had poor hygiene.

Wait a second. You mean, there are other kinds of people?

:-)

What is ARE?

Fall Esperanto Gathering on Lake George in the Adirondacks. People drive in from Baltimore and beyond.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLl5PRFz0DHxbQACKz1rmEPFeBEC56UnEi

12/22/2018, 2:17:03 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/MarkVortexx

I found your post to be very enlightening and encouraging. I feel much more confident to attempt to mix and mingle with Esperantists. Thank you! I would consider going to something like ARE, but that's a 5 hour drive from me, and I probably wouldn't go to something so far without my wife, but sadly, she has little to no interest in learning Esperanto, and it would be very awkward for her not understand anyone.

12/22/2018, 3:16:52 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/salivanto
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Lots of fun things for wives to do in the area that weekend. :-)

12/22/2018, 11:35:16 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/MarkVortexx

Salivanto, someone is still downvoting your comments. I guess you've made some enemies here. Either that or people have terrible aim when hitting the upvote- downvote buttons.

12/28/2018, 5:52:26 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Janmarko6

Esperanto speakers are a tribe of cats - you will find a lot of different behavior and attitude towards new members. It is nice if you have a local group which is interested in teaching to beginners. But is is also understandable that some group of people just want to exchange in Esperanto and are not interested in the slow and cumbersome conversation with a beginner. The point is you want to be clear of your needs and what is acceptable the group of interest. You may want to start practicing with people willing to help and teach you. I use Skype and https://edukado.net/ekparolu, but I do not know how many 'onkloj' are in your time zone. Obviously you need a minimum level, also this is fairly well explained in the site (in Esperanto !).

12/22/2018, 10:20:02 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/MarkVortexx

Totally understandable. That's why I wanted to wait until I've reached a certain level to attend groups, so I don't interfere with the advanced speakers conversations.

12/22/2018, 2:12:26 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/salivanto
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Generally speaking, the advanced speakers would rather have you come out sooner rather than later.

12/22/2018, 11:36:08 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/MarkVortexx

I think at this point, I've reached a level where I can hold a relatively basic conversation, occasionally needed to ask to meaning of a word, or looking it up. But for someone who had just started learning, say, less than a week ago, and only knows 20 words or less, wouldn't it be more or a burden on the fluent speakers to have such a person there? Of course, that person could just simple sit there and pretend to be understanding, nodding his/her head, laughing when other people laugh, etc, and not really saying a whole lot. That way me, when I first started learning Portuguese, and I understood less than 1% of what was being said by the people around me.

12/28/2018, 5:45:51 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/salivanto
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Komencantoj bonvenoj, krokodiloj ne.

Seriously. We've had people come out who have been learning for a few weeks. If you come out with a can-do attitude, it's a wonderful thing.

12/28/2018, 11:59:20 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/StuartTheBrave
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Best of luck to you. I've also been trying to link up with speakers where i live in Wisconsin. I doubt most groups are like that. It sounds like a personality problem rather then an Esperanto problem.

12/21/2018, 9:30:23 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/MarkVortexx

Thank you, good luck to you finding speakers as well. You're right, one can't generalize based on one experience. I'm sure there are lots of welcoming, helpful, and fun Esperanto groups out there.

12/21/2018, 10:03:21 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Stweiss2
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I doubt anyone will argue with the idea that what you get out of a language meeting group is directly correlated to what you put into it. If you don't participate freely in the conversation to the best of your ability, you will not gain or contribute as much compared to if you did. Still, it's important to have reasonable expectations of yourself and of others. If you go to a meeting and expect others to coach or train you rather than just engage you, it's not surprising that your expectations and theirs may not correspond, and the experience may be dissatisfying for both sides.

That being said, there are definitely some members of the Esperanto community who are....ahem, a bit intense. I will readily concede to being an Esperanto dabbler, and some of the interactions I've had on this board convinced me pretty early on that going to an Esperanto meeting would probably not be the best use of my time. That doesn't mean they're useless or bad groups, or that the people who attend them aren't good people, or that they would straight out refuse to help a newbie. It just means that the kind of casual commitment I'm willing to engage in would likely not be the most welcome there, and I have shown my understanding and respect for that by not imposing my presence.

I would also argue that there is a marked difference in how people communicate based upon culture and gender, which is another potential consideration when picking a group. You mentioned a group full of "middle-aged D&D guys," which may not be the best choice of language learning experiences for someone who is female or from a different generation or has other interests. Again, not because middle-aged D&D guys are bad people or unwilling to talk to non-D&D guys of other ages, but because that social setting may not be comfortable for someone who is an outsider trying to interact with others to learn to speak a language.

12/28/2018, 4:51:46 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/MarkVortexx

That's an interesting outlook on the subject that I hadn't thought about. You might be right, that someone with just a casual interest in Esperanto like yourself, might not get much out of such a meeting. I look forward to my first in-person interaction in Esperanto. I'm very passionate about learning languages and I dream of one day being a "polyglot".

12/28/2018, 5:49:44 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/lectroidmarc

I have met with two different groups, in two cities -- so I certainly can't speak for everyone everywhere. My experiences so far have been very positive. Both groups were very supportive of beginners and more than willing to translate and switch back and forth between English and Esperanto as needed. It's bloody scary trying out a new language for strangers and most people realize that.

Yeah, I did meet one guy who was not too friendly and seemed to just ooze disdain because I couldn't keep up, but screw that guy ;) I had fun anyway. And yeah, there are corrections from time to time, but they're usually trying to be helpful, not hurtful.

12/22/2018, 12:05:15 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/MarkVortexx

I'm glad that most of your experiences have been good ones! The one near me "seems" to be nice and friendly, only judging by the Facebook page. Hopefully, I'll get to find out soon!

12/22/2018, 12:56:16 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/FranzEbersburg
12/22/2018, 12:51:51 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/carbsrule
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12/22/2018, 2:13:07 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/MarkVortexx

Dankon!

12/22/2018, 2:10:17 PM

https://www.duolingo.com/Danielconcasco
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My group (Northern NJ) was great. I made it to one meeting and it was just me and Dave, but he was the exact opposite of what you described.

If Norther NJ isn't too far of a hike for you, you should check it out.

12/28/2018, 1:52:22 AM

https://www.duolingo.com/MarkVortexx

Happy to hear you had a good experience. Northern New Jersey is a little bit of a hike for me (between 1.5 and 2 hours driving distance), and I detest long car rides (I have a back problem that gets aggravated during long car rides) so I probably wouldn't come up just for one meeting that lasts a couple hours and drive home, but you never know, maybe one day!

12/28/2018, 5:38:17 PM
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