Raising children as Esperantists: What resources are available?
On the same day that the Esperanto course finally made it to beta, I became the father of two gorgeous baby boys. Setting aside how stoked I am to be a dad, I'd really like to utilize Esperanto as a sort of familial language to be used in the home.
Problem is, I'm far from fluent! I've managed to knock out the first three parts of Lernu's Bildoj kaj Demandoj course, and half of the Duolingo Esperanto tree. I can get the gist of almost everything I read or hear (Esperanto is a wonderfully easy language to pick up), but forming sentences and speaking them aloud is problematic for me. I don't know how vital it is that I be able to speak fluent Esperanto while they're still sleeping for 90% of the day, but I imagine I need to start speaking to them in it sooner rather than later. It took until the Family lesson in the Duolingo tree before I even knew that ili estas mia filoj kaj mi estas via patro!
So basically, are there any sites or groups where I can get additional information on raising my boys to be "native" speakers? Certain phrases I should prioritize learning, etc. would be hugely appreciated.
EDIT: To clarify, I've finished the first three tests in the Bildoj kaj Demandoj course, so 30 individual lessons.
I've got an inkling I remember there being a book by a dad who raised his kiddies to be "native" Klingon speakers...that might be an interesting read for you. And I'm sure you're not the first to want to do it with Esperanto - that's been around a lot longer. Yeah, that's what I'd suggest - see if there's any biography/memoir books by parents who've tried it, give those a critical read, see what worked for them and their kiddies, what didn't work, make up your own mind what could have been done better to do the best by the kiddies themselves.
And as far as making yourself fluent - I'm sure it's just practice practice practice! Use it as much and as often as you can around the house; talk to your partner (if applicable), talk to the kiddies, talk to yourself, just about anything and everything that comes to mind - get the feel of it on your tongue, and your brain will become quicker at finding the word/structure you need. And you'll suss out for yourself which words and phrases are most applicable to your living situation, whether it's "get the dog off the couch!" or "I need to shovel snow off the driveway" or "the apartment elevator is broken again". 'Coz that's going to vary /so/ much from person to person.
And hunt down an Esperanto club or social group in your town, or start one yourself, and make friends who will speak it with you. That's the thing with Esperanto - it needs /community/ around it to actually be used. If I remember rightly, what happened with the chap who raised his kiddies as Klingon-speakers was that there was absolutely no-one else around him who knew or spoke the language, and so the kiddies forgot it all by the time they were about five even though it had been their first language, because there was no immersion or use at all.
And congratulations! <3<3
I actually know the case you're talking about! It was a fascinating read, but the idioglossia-c nature of Klingon certainly didn't lend itself to retention. Esperanto has a clear advantage in that regard.
As an aside, I've read that twins are prone to inventing their own primitive languages to talk exclusively to each other in, and that this cryptophasia can be harmful to their language development skills if allowed to continue for too long. I figured Esperanto would serve the same purpose as a twin-talk language while still being structured enough to keep them from talking like cavemen into their teenage years.
As for immersion and usage outside the home, there aren't any local groups/clubs near me, so I expect I'll have to start my own once things settle down at home. Oh, and thank you for the information and the congratulations, both are appreciated!
Ahhh, is that why they didn't remember it...oh, that's /very/ interesting... But yes, Esperanto seems to have staying power! I learned a little on Lernu about five years ago, just one evening when I was procrastinating during exams, and I still remember it today!
Aha, yes, I've heard of that twin languages thing! I suppose what you'd be looking to do, then, would be to sort of...redirect it...into Esperanto...interesting! And I've heard that bilingual children perform better academically than those who don't learn or speak another language, so hey, why not Esperanto?
Very welcome! ^_^ Sorry it wasn't really much concrete information, just sort of...ideas and thoughts...but good luck!
And I've heard that bilingual children perform better academically than those who don't learn or speak another language
I'll have a direct observation of that phenomenon when my children reach school age. My younger daughter, two years old, sings songs in three languages : French, Italian and English. My older one can speak fluently in French and Italian and have basic conversations in English. I don't know if I should teach them German (extended family speaks it) or Esperanto next.
That would be a good idea of a discussion thread on the Educators Duolingo forum : to ask teachers if they personally observed such an advantage in bilingual (and other polyglot) children...
If you've got the time and energy (I know, I know, it won't happen until at least six months, I'm a father of two myself, but they're two years apart), you can try and start your own Esperanto group/club. You could maybe just launch the idea through Meetup, and hope that someone with any free time (and some sleep time) will pick it up and make it thrive.
>> I remember there being a book by a dad who raised his kiddies to be "native" Klingon speakers...that might be an interesting read for you. And I'm sure you're not the first to want to do it with Esperanto <<
This has got to be the understatement of the year. I'm surprised no native Esperanto speakers have chimed in on this thread.
I see; I've never been there much so I hadn't thought of that.
I had the impression that for at least some native speakers, Esperanto is not "special" as a language (from a philosophical point of view) and so they don't necessarily consciously seek out the community or seek to impart it to others.
Yes. There is a lot of variety. In some cases there are even fourth generation Esperanto families. There are Denaskuloj who don't seek out contact with the community. A little girl whom I met in Europe when my kids were babies is now a young woman actively promoting Esperanto youth events.
There are several meetings made specially for Esperanto-families. Maybe you could go there, talk to people in Esperanto and receive some advices:
You can search others at eventoj.hu
However, remember that it is really necessary to be not only fluent but proficient in Esperanto. That is the problem of native Esperanto speakers - they are not better than non-natives for very simple reason: they speak Esperanto well only if parents spoke good Esperanto. Otherwise they will do the same mistakes as you did and it will be very hard in the future to learn good Esperanto because it is much harder to change your customs in native language than in foreign language.
My mother and father both spoke Esperanto and my mother was even very proficient Esperanto-speaker, she even has got a diploma that she can teach Esperanto. However they raised me and my sister monolingual because they thought that Esperanto should be a choice of a person, that we should not be forced to learn Esperanto as a family language but in the future, if we are into it, if we support it, than we can learn by ourselves. And yeah, after around 20 years we both learned Esperanto.
Well, I'm not saying you're wrong, but many (all?) parents make some mistakes at some point in their native language, no matter what it is. Who can brag of speaking their language perfectly, without any mistake, ever? The only thing though, is that the children learning Esperanto will probably not correct their mistakes while studying its grammar thoroughly in school, so there's that.
Still, I know that barely learning a language is different than making small mistakes despite having spoken it for years. I just wanted to nuance it a bit.
It's said that Esperanto is a language that teachers can learn as they teach it (to young kids). I do know someone who talks to his three daughters only in Esperanto while his wife talks to them in French. They're all doing great ;) If you register to the pasporta servo, you can have foreign guests or even au pair to let your children no choice if they want to interact with them. The man I know had a chinese au pair for a few months. Now his oldest daughter travels in Europe and feels at ease in German and English too.
On a more practical note; why not learn a few esperanto songs to sing for them or to listen to? There is a lot to be found on youtu.be (e.g. https://www.youtube.com/user/Jomka ) To practice talking Esperanto you could also use skype (people are easy to find thru google or facebook groups).
If possible I suggest you also pick up a sign language. We started using sign with our youngest when he was around 4 months old; it really helped him communicate and made him more attuned to acquire languages in general i think. I guess that was also a reason why he was really interested in letters and reading when he was around two years old. Now he is five he (and we) forgot most signs and we mainly use simple signs when communicating in loud environments or when far apart. Still a very useful skill to have. One of the older sisters tried teaching some of her girlfriends so they could silently communicate in class :)
I also used signs with my children, but not an official sign language (may it by ASL or another one). We've picked up one or two books specifically about using signs with young children, and they recommended to either simplify the signs of ASL (or any sign language really), or even create your own. That's because children don't have the dexterity of an adult, and it may be very difficult to differentiate two similar signs. You can check some resources online for that, like this one.
Also, I don't really have some other child to compare with, but my four year old speaks three languages easily enough. She also stopped using signs completely.
I suggest you join the DENASK mailing list (formerly DENASK-L), which is all about raising children natively in Esperanto. Get into contact with other parents who have been in similar situations.
Get a copy of Jouko Lindstedt's "Hejma Vortaro" if you can find it (it's out of print, I believe) as it'll contain lots of words for the little daily mundane things that are all around us but that might not figure prominently in language courses despite being fairly prominent in the life of a child (for example, what's a see-saw in Esperanto? I wouldn't know off the top of my head, but my daughter sure used it a lot when she was younger).
http://www.kono.be/vivo/ might help; my bookmarks say that it contains a copy of the Hejma Vortaro, though on a quick look just now, it wasn't mentioned on the page. But it seems to be a meta-search engine for multiple Esperanto dictionaries, which can come in handy.
I also like the article "Adekvate Paroli Esperanton al via ido", which basically talks about what to do if you think your vocabulary may be inadequate (and the advice in it is applicable for any language, really).
This makes me happy to hear, I wish that I some day meet a native Esperanto speaker.
Good luck on your endeavour! :)
My advice here is for sure not going to be a popular one. Keep in mind that it is coming from someone who has "been there". My advice to people thinking about raising their children to be native speakers of Esperanto is very simple: DON'T DO IT!!
Don't get me wrong. I am very proud of my children. I am happy for the experiences we have had together with Esperanto. I like seeing the young people they have become - and I am glad that for all of them, Esperanto is still part of who they are. The problem, however, is that too many people think it would be "cute" or "cool" to raise "native speakers of Esperanto" and they don't take it seriously enough.
So many people have come up to me over the years and said that they tried speaking Esperanto to their children but 'it didn't work." I want to shake these people and say "you just didn't try hard enough." It takes a ton of time, a ton of support, and if you don't live in Europe, it takes a ton of money. Before you start building a tower, make sure you have enough bricks.
Also, whether your child will grow up speaking the language you speak to it is not a given with any language.
Case in point: my youngest sister, when she realised that nobody in her kindergarten class understood her English, refused to speak English any more and would reply to my father in German, sometimes even claiming she understood no English. (She regretted that lack of practice in her youth later and now speaks to her children in English.)
Same father, but three children spoke English back to him and one didn't.
So if you have kids and you speak any language other than the most useful one given the environment, it could be that the child will switch to speaking only that language to you at some point, whether the language you speak to it is Esperanto, English, Abkhaz, or something you made up late one night after one too many Pan-Galactic Gargleblasters. It depends on, I don't know, many things but including the child's temperament, which is unpredictable.
And can change; my second sister's children spoke German back to her, especially the oldest, but she persevered with English and now that her oldest is a bit older, he's starting to incorporate more English when he's speaking with her. If she had given up because "it didn't work", that probably wouldn't have happened.
I'm glad that my daughter speaks English back to me here in Germany, but I realise that this is not a given. Sometimes you have to settle for a passive bilingual (understands the language you speak to it but speaks the community language back to you), and sometimes they reject even that and insist on being spoken to in the community language only.
The Esperanto course contributor ĝeremio (https://www.duolingo.com/gxeremio) said he is planning on raising his child using the OPOL approach.
Quote: "Yes we are using the One Parent One Language approach to early bilingualism - I speak to her in Esperanto and my wife in English."
Omniglot has some information on different approaches: http://www.omniglot.com/language/articles/bilingualkids4.htm
I don't know if I can give you any good tip that you haven't had already in this thread, but I can share my experience of raising children in two (and a half) languages.
We've read in many places that we should speak one language each (mom speaks X, dad speaks Y), but, at least for us, it was way easier said than done. I don't know for you, but when people talk to me in a language I master, I have to make a mental effort to reply in another language. And god knows there are times in the life of a sleep deprived parent when you don't have much patience for such (seemingly trivial) effort ;-).
Also, you may notice that at the age where most children of the same age as yours will start to speak, yours will still be babbling unintelligible grunts and such. Even more so because they are twins (they'll understand each other without much words). Don't worry too much about that, when they do start to speak, that'll go fast and they will probably master both languages even more than monolinguals of either one before they get into school.
Congratulations on the birth of your twins and good success in your endeavor!
Edit : I wanted to add another observation I found very interesting. Although we struggled to keep the two languages separate, my SO and I, my oldest daughter now separates them perfectly, besides some words taken from a language and morphed in an un-existing one in the other (which is always funny and adorable). She addresses me in French and my SO in Italian. She also noticed by herself that certain people only understand one of the too languages she knows and talks to them appropriately. It took some time though, so if your children mix up the languages you taught them until they're maybe 3 or 4 years old, that's nothing to be worried about and should sort itself with your good examples, without needing to correct them too harshly.
I'm thinking your children (gratulojn!) would be great listeners and that would really help you towards fluency. Figure out something you want to say, maybe write down a list of sentences, and just keep repeating them and smiling. There seems to be a tendency to do this with small children in any language along with hugs and tickles and nose bops or hide-and-seek and so on. You'll be reinforcing correct speech in yourself and exposing them to spoken Esperanto. You won't need to worry about talking "off script" for a while yet, so in the meantime, you will have a chance to develop that skill, and by the time they begin to talk, you'll be all set.
This is based on absolutely no experience, just observation, but I'm thinking the reasoning is sound.
And anything I've read about it and heard from multiple-language families, each parent will speak one language exclusively and the child speaks with the parent in their particular language.
Suggested sentences to start: Saluton, infano! Saluton [name]! Vi estas mirinda knabo!, and so on. Doesn't have to be anything profound at this point, right? Oh, and, of course, Mi amas vin! ;-)
I would also add that it is very important to talk to the child since very young age, and you should not only talk about the feelings but also about the world surrounding the child, so phrases like "Tiu estas panjo", "Rigardu kiom bela besto" and so on would be helpful too. The child needs till the age of 3 or something acquire a huge vocabulary and its success depends on how much and how different parents talk to the child
Yeah, my current plan is to practice spoken Esperanto by joining a Skype group, and have a script set aside like LunjoTO suggested. That way I can get my grammar and what not corrected by fluent Esperantists while expanding my vocabulary, and still be able to talk to my kiddos in the meantime.
There has been some awesome advice throughout the thread, it'd be silly to reply to everybody but I want everybody to know that I really appreciate the hell out of it!
I agree, but at the very beginning, things can be much simpler as an aid to the new father gaining fluency and confidence in speaking. The script can be expanded as he goes along.
BTW, denaskuloj are native speakers of esperanto. I believe there are something like 1,000 of them around the world, including George Soros. There has also been a bit of info written up about them too! Here's a wiki on them http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_Esperanto_speakers. It's actually fascinating: "Native-speaking children, especially at a young age, may coin words that do not exist in the speech of their parents, often for concepts for which Esperanto has a word they do not yet know, by exploiting the morphology of the language. This is analogous to what adult speakers do for concepts where Esperanto lacks a word, and indicates that some of the grammatical alterations that adult learners may find difficult come easily to native-speaking children."
Also, here's a youtube interview with a few of them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UzDS2WyemBI
Here's another video of a man speaking/teaching esperanto to his 21 month old baby: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0ErKbLL5WQ
Here's a video that looks like it's from the 1990s of native speaker children from around the world: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eWrFJoUMTlQ
Also, do you remember Muzzy? It's a cartoons in many languages that used to be advertised on TV (at least here in the USA) that helps children learn new languages. There is one for Esperanto called "Mazi en Gondolando". This will be awesome for your young child in the future. It's also on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWbyXVSiCxw
There may be children's books in Esperanto that you can search for too but I don't know. I would recommend putting labels on different objects around the house as your child learns to read just as you would with your native language. Reading stories to them in esperanto will help too (there are stories at a beginner level that you can find that should be appropriate for children).
Now though? In a couple of months I would start playing audio (music maybe?) of the language to them and maybe speaking a few basic phrases every now and them (maybe select phrases that you might say often for specific periods of time, i.e. "are you hungry?") as children soak in info like sponges from the youngest of ages.
I hope this helps.
That helps quite a bit, actually! Labeling stuff sounds like a great idea, not just for their benefit but mine as well. It'll be easier to remember what an object is called if it's got a label on it, right?
For the next couple of months I plan on talking to them in a bunch of pre-vetted sentences that I know are correct instead of trying to "freestyle" it and embedding errors into their lexicon. Once they start talking a bit, I'll try my hand at translating some children's stories I enjoyed as a child. With a dictionary handy and maybe an Esperantist friend to grammar-check my work, it should build up my vocabulary quite a bit and provide the kiddos with a decent supply of bedtime stories.
Definitely need to get my hands on a copy of the Esperanto Muzzy course. I remember those commercials from when I was a young kid, tried talking my parents into buying a copy of the French courses to no avail.
Again, thank you for the advice and resources. I'm surprised and humbled at how many people have gone out of their way to provide a complete stranger with as many tips, articles, videos, etc as they can find. If there's one thing I'm taking away from this thread above everything else, it's that I want my children to be a part of this community even more now.
Second Sunalooch's suggestion to start translating now.
When my daughter was very small, I would read her some German books, translating into English on-the-fly (i.e. I would see the German words on the page and would speak the English translation), but as she got older and her books got longer and with more text per page, that got difficult to keep up and I switched to only reading from English books.
So it's useful to have a good store of Esperanto books to read - either ones you've translated ahead of time or ones completely in Esperanto.
I don't know what the state of Esperanto children's literature or films is.
I think you can start translate already before they'll start to talk. Then at the time they'll start talk or even earlier you'll have a bunch of bedtime stories ready to be told and a better skills of Esperanto. Btw. when I learned Esperanto after learning basic Grammar I corresponded around 2 months with Esperantists on lernu.net. I wrote at least one letter every day and then when I went to Summer School of lernu.net I discovered that I acquired quite a good skills in Esperanto and could talk in Esperanto (I was B1 level). Then, after 1 more year of learning Esperanto with a teacher, preparing to C1 exam, I passed it. So, if you'll put enough efforts you will be able to become a proficient Esperanto speaker after 1.5 year. But you need really practice a lot, try to write a blog, just write everyday what you have done during the day. If someone will correct you, it will be even better. Do exercises, besides lernu you can find exercises on edukado.net, it will help your grammar. And write-speak-write-speak a lot in Esperanto! Good luck!
Hi there, I'm a mom of two native Esperanto-speaking daughters & just wanted to mention one of my favorite resources for new parents interested in doing this... 'Mil Unuaj Vortoj.' It's an adorable picture dictionary with tons of useful words and very amusing pictures. You can order it from Esperanto-USA. My girls & I have found it one of our most useful Esperanto books!
You may be interested in the interviews with denaskuloj writen by Amuzulo:
Not Esperanto particularly, but you might find the pages and mailing list at http://www.nethelp.no/cindy/biling-fam.html useful. It's not very active now, but when questions are asked, people do respond... And there's rather an archive of previous messages. And there are quite a number of people on it raising their children with a non-native language. They're a really supportive bunch:-)
Just a quick comment: I think you meant "ili estas mia filoj kaj mi estas ilia patro!"
By the way,this idea is likely to be controversial and I've no idea if this is an option for you, but it might be better to give the kids regular (say weekly or more) interaction with a native speaker of a natural language (other than English, obviously). They're at the perfect age for language learning and it almost seems a shame to use that potential on the most easily learnt of languages. If I could chose any language as a second native one for a child I'd go for one as different from English as I could get - something tonal and with a completely different grammar structure. That way you give them the widest possible base from which to learn any languages the child may want later.
You may find this TED talk on baby's language learning skills interesting, it helped shape my thinking on this topic. http://www.ted.com/talks/patricia_kuhl_the_linguistic_genius_of_babies
Hum. Not such a quick comment after all. Oh well, take it or leave it, and I wish you and the twins well whatever you decide.
Argh, this is exactly what I mean! How can I expect to teach them a language when I'm making horrible errors like that on the simplest sentences?
In any case, I've got tons of reading material to chew through now, and I have a much better idea of what to expect and how to go about my plan. As for teaching them something more... relevant, I'd go with Spanish or German as well but I'd be nowhere near ready to teach them that by the time they're starting to talk. Esperanto is easy enough that I might be able to reach a conversational level in the next 4-8 months.
When I actually came to learning a language, the first thing I did was learnt the basics. However, I suddenly thought to myself you cannot possibly learn a language only by doing lessons. Of course, lessons are useful as they give you a head start, but the point is if you want to learn the language fluently ie. to a high standard you need to hear the language around you regularly. In other words if you can afford sometime in your life, I highly recommend go to a place where they speak the language you're learning. I actually did that not long ago when I went to France. I found myself learning new words and vocabulary to whole new level. Even though I understood everything what they were saying and was able to communicate really easily I found that I still was learning new things. If you can't afford that's completely fine. My advice for you is listen to the radio in French ; watch a French movie once in a while or if you know anyone from the country quite well I suggest Skyping them or talk to them on a social network. I do this sometimes. I find it helps because then I know I can't forget the language if its around me regularly.
If you get a chance to live in the country or any country I guarantee you'll learn something on a regular basis. Remember though if you live there for a few years or more try to balance the languages you know. I know some people who didn't do that and they forgot their first language (own). So if you can, talk to someone in your language half a day and then the opposite. If you know more than 2 languages fluently it's going to be a bit harder but I'm sure you'll find a way.
For any questions or further information type the comment box below. Thanks :)