Propaedeutic value of Esperanto
The Wikipedia article states it well:
The propaedeutic value of Esperanto is the benefit that using Esperantoas an introduction to foreign language study has on the teaching of subsequent foreign languages. Several studies, such as that of Helmar Frank at the University of Paderborn and the San Marino International Academy of Sciences, have concluded that one year of Esperanto in school, which produces an ability equivalent to what the average pupil reaches with European national languages after six to seven years of study, improves the ability of the pupil to learn a target language when compared to pupils who spent the entire time learning the target language. In other words, studying Esperanto for one year and then, say, French for three results in greater proficiency in French than studying French for four years. This effect was first described by Antoni Grabowski in 1908.
Springboard… to Languages summarizes the propaedeutic case for Esperanto with these words:
Many schools used to teach children the recorder, not to produce a nation of recorder players, but as a preparation for learning other instruments. [We teach] Esperanto, not to produce a nation of Esperanto-speakers, but as a preparation for learning other languages.
The preparatory teaching conducted by Institute of Pedagogic Cybernetics at the University of Paderborn in Germany prepares students to become aware of the essential characteristics of languages, using the international language Esperanto as a model, a language with a clear and simple structure, almost completely regular and, thanks to its agglutinative character, detachable into combinable morphological elements; this model is easy to assimilate and develops aptitude for the study of other languages.
Even before the experiments conducted by Prof. Helmar Frank in Germany, similar research was conducted in Hungary by I. Szerdahelyi of the University of Science in Budapest. A group of native Hungarian speakers, after having studied Esperanto for two years in the third and fourth grade of elementary school, were divided to study their learning of Russian, German, English, and French.
According to the results, preliminary Esperanto study led to a 25% improvement in acquiring Russian, 30% for German, 40% for English, and even 50% for French. In other terms, children who had received preparatory teaching obtained notably better results than their peers who had not had an analogous introduction to the study of foreign languages. This system of preparatory instruction was put into practice in Germany, with a greater number of students, but with the sole aim of finding a way of facilitating the learning of English. The results showed that after two years of linguistic orientation using the International language, the advantage was about 30%.
The experiments conducted and repeated many times at Paderborn went much further:
Students were divided into two competing groups. One started English instruction in third grade (A), the other, instead, followed preparatory teaching through Esperanto and started English only at the fifth grade (B). The Esperanto programme required 160 hours in all, which can seem like a great loss of time, but, according to the final results, in seventh grade group B reached group A’s level of English learning and in eighth grade they exceeded it. In other words, those who benefited from the preparatory teaching gained more time than they had lost in preparation. Some researchers who study cybernetics applied to pedagogy and foreign language instruction advise that:
- Language study should begin with elementary school, starting at 8 years of age and with two years of Esperanto.
- After the introduction of the foreign language, Esperanto should be used in teaching a determined subject, such as geography, as an interscholastic means of communication (correspondence).
- There should be efforts to coordinate the steps necessary in all European Community countries to ensure a simpler linguistic communication between citizens. . . .
Continue reading. The article includes a list of places where the approach was tried.