EAB News 2002-03-10: EAB NetNews Bulletin

EAB NetNews - March 2002


E A B N E T N E W S No 8 (10 Mar 2002)


*** Keeping you up-to-date about Esperanto, for people in the UK ***


1. UK LANGUAGE TEACHING DISASTER
2. SCHOOL LANGUAGE TEACHING: A SPECIALIST'S ASSESSMENT
3. BRITISH CONGRESS: AIR OF EXPECTANCY FOR NEW INITIATIVE
4. CONGRESS DOCUMENTS ON THE WEB
5. STILL TIME FOR NOMINATIONS (IF YOU'RE QUICK!)
6. ANOTHER ESPERANTO CD HITS THE HIGH STREET
7. LOIRE CHATEAU REJUVINATED FOR GOLDEN JUBILEE
8. ESPERANTO HOUSE COVER STORY
9. SHAPING THE FUTURE OF ESPERANTO
10. GOLDEN OLDIES
11. NEW USES FOR NETNEWS
12. ON A PERSONAL NOTE


1. UK LANGUAGE TEACHING DISASTER

During February there was much talk in the UK press on the disastrous state of language teaching in UK schools, and what to do about it.

On February 11, the ambassadors of four European countries joined forces to plead for urgent action to improve the state of language teaching in Britain's state schools, in an interview with The Independent newspaper (http://www.independent.co.uk/story.jsp?story=119344).

The following day saw the publication of a government green paper proposing the introduction of compulsory foreign language teaching from the age of seven, but making this optional at 14 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/education/newsid_1815000/1815073. stm). Reports of this had already caused an outcry in the teaching profession. The general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, John Dunford, attacked the proposals to take languages off the list of compulsory subjects. He did, however, welcome the greater flexibility that a curriculum shake-up might bring. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/education/newsid_1809000/1809116. stm)

Could this greater flexibility bring a new opportunity for Esperanto in our schools? Before the introduction of the national curriculum, some schools taught Esperanto as an introduction to language learning, so that pupils could later pick up other languages more easily. "The national curriculum squashed all that", ex-teacher of Esperanto, Neil Bryson, told NetNews.

"It is up to the Esperanto supporters in the profession to follow these events carefully, and to offer practical solutions, based on teaching Esperanto", he continued, "Teaching French in primary schools wasn't a great success - we needed the teaching specialists at primary school level. With Esperanto, a great deal of success could be achieved". Neil Bryson taught Esperanto from 1975 to 1987 to all 600 pupils at the Altwood Church of England School in Maidenhead, Berkshire, as an introductory learning language. A few of the pupils then continued with Esperanto, to take RSA or CSE.

Education Secretary Estelle Morris was quoted as saying "I've got to get the skills from wherever I can because we've not got enough teachers." (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/education/newsid_1833000/1833591. stm). "With Esperanto you could teach all the language teachers you would need within one year on the Web", Neil pointed out.


2. SCHOOL LANGUAGE TEACHING: A SPECIALIST'S ASSESSMENT

Could Esperanto have a role in the revitalisation of language teaching in the UK? In order to stimulate thinking on this, I asked a language teaching specialist for an assessment of the language teaching debate in this country, irrespective of the need for Esperanto, or any other language in particular. This is the assessment he sent for NetNews:

"The Government's latest initiative on language teaching is like most Government initiatives - good in parts. It is good to know that the Government has at long last realised that we are the worst linguists in Europe, and that all the best jobs are going to people who have in-depth experience of at least two and preferably three languages and cultures. It is not only football managers that we have to recruit from abroad, but the new Chief Executive of British Telecom for example is a Dutchman - I wonder why. Is it not acutely embarrassing that we have to wait for all the ambassadors of Germany, Spain, Italy and France to call for action to improve language teaching in Britain before we do anything. They have pointed out that they are unable to organise school exchanges because so few of our pupils learn anything other than French - and even that badly ! and that Britain is losing vast numbers of contracts because of poor language skills.

"Anyone who has any experience of teaching modern languages knows that the younger you start the learning process the better, not least because younger children have not yet acquired the inhibitions and mono-cultural isolationism that is unfortunately so prevalent among our teenagers. When the new academic year begins in September 2002 we shall be the only major country in Europe not to insist that all primary pupils learn a modern language. So what is the Government going to do about it ? Not follow the advice of the Nuffield Languages Inquiry, (published 21 months ago), which warned that primary languages must be part of a coherent national strategy. No, the Government will introduce foreign languages into primary schools by 2012 but pupils will not have to study them - unlike anywhere else in the European Union. And to ensure that only a very small number ever reach the stage of fluency in another language, they will allow the majority to give up at the age of 14... Compare this with the International Baccalaureate for example, which is accepted as an entrance examination by virtually every university in Europe, and which insists on a modern foreign language (in addition to one's own mother tongue and mathematics) as one of the five compulsory subjects.

"And how will we avoid a repetition of the Primary French disaster in the 1960s (which I personally well remember) ? Because of the acute shortage of modern language teachers (which is probably even worse now) the Government in its infinite wisdom decided that one only had to send primary school teachers to France for six weeks and then they could come back and teach French to all their pupils. At least they now realise that French is not the only other language in the world, and they want to encourage the teaching of German and Spanish - both of which are much easier to learn (and more use in the modern world) than that of our geographically nearest neighbour. But where are all these language teachers to come from ? Ever since a modern language ceased to be compulsory for university entrance, fewer and fewer pupils have studied one at A Level, and fewer still at degree level. Anyone lucky enough to have a good degree in a modern language will be offered far more remunerative jobs than teaching.

"It really is very simple - without good and competent language teachers UK pupils will never become fluent in a modern foreign language. Rather than the mish-mash that is proposed, it would be better to offer a generic language course covering all three languages at Key Stage 2, one of which would be compulsory at Key Stage 3, and an additional one would be optional at Key Stage 4, with at least one being compulsory until 16, and a Grade C or above GCSE being required for the British Baccalaureate, university entrance and any decent job. We had better start training the language teachers now!"

Grahame Leon-Smith, Former Headmaster of Townmead School and Teacher of French and German for some 30 years. (http://www.surreyweb.org.uk/rotary_district_1140/morris2.htm)


3. BRITISH CONGRESS: AIR OF EXPECTANCY FOR NEW INITIATIVE

EAB's Development Officer, David Kelso, is to focus attention on his "New Start for Esperanto in Britain" at the British Esperanto Congress in Stoke-on-Trent during the weekend of 3-5 May.

"The Management Committee is backing this initiative with serious money,", David Kelso told NetNews, "with up to £100 000 over the next two or three years perhaps - if that is what is needed to get our message across".

He will outline the draft Strategy and, in an open brainstorming session, will invite everyone to contribute their ideas on what is needed, and why, and how it might be done. The Management Committee is then expected to consider the proposals in detail at a Planning Weekend in June.

"I do hope that everyone with something to contribute will come along," said David. "Beginners, veterans, activists, isolated Esperantists, and those who support the idea of an international language even if they haven't actually learned it themselves - everyone has something to contribute to the future of Esperanto in Britain. That is, after all, what congresses are for, isn't it?"


4. CONGRESS DOCUMENTS ON THE WEB

A newsletter has been sent out to people who have already joined the British Esperanto Congress. It's called Klariono, and I've asked RobERTo (my friendly robot, who compiles and sends out NetNews) to post it on the NetNews archives site at http://esperanto.org/uk/eabnetnews. At the same time, RobERTo will post a file of main events of the Congress.

An application form for joining the congress will also appear on the site. I didn't quite get as far as turning it into an online registration, but it can be printed out, filled in, and sent off with a cheque to the congress organiser. Note that it's in two parts, though!

These documents are in Esperanto so far. If you don't speak the lingo, and you want to get involved, or find out what Esperanto's all about, please do email the organiser (terry-pageatsupanet.com), or the EAB office (eabatesperanto.demon.co.uk) for an English version. If anyone else wishes to lend Terry a hand, and translate the other documents, I'd be delighted to post them on the website with the April NetNews.


5. STILL TIME FOR NOMINATIONS (IF YOU'RE QUICK!)

The deadline for nominations to the EAB Management Committee has been extended. In practice, it's the last date that Eric can squeeze something into EAB Update. Eric told me that he could just about manage it up to March 31, but he'd appreciate any further nominations to be in as early as possible.

A nomination form should appear on the NetNews website with this issue. It requires signatures of the proposer, seconder and nominee. Since there's not much time, it may be an idea for all three to print the form out separately, sign it, and send it straight to the EAB Office in Barlaston. Any personal statements by the candidates, for publication in EAB Update, could be sent directly to the editor (eabupdateatesperanto.org), perhaps.


6. ANOTHER ESPERANTO CD HITS THE HIGH STREET

Just across the Channel, a CD in Esperanto of the popular French singer Morice Benin was released on February 15 for distribution in shops throughout France. This and the Esperanto Symphony by David Gaines (see NetNews 7 http://esperanto.org/uk/eabnetnews) are possibly the first records entirely in Esperanto to hit the high street.

Morice Benin is well-known in France. There's a French website at http://membres.lycos.fr/moricebenin, and an article in French at http://satamikarohm.free.fr/esperanto/cabouge/563/chanson.html. The songs are translations of some of his well-known French-language songs, and were recorded by Vinilkosmo (http://www.vinilkosmo.com - see under 'Kanzono - Folkloro'), and the CD is called In-Spir'. In France, it's distributed by Mosaic Music Distribution www.mosaicmusicdistribution.com/, but it can be ordered on-line through the Vinilkosmo website.


7. LOIRE CHATEAU REJUVINATED FOR GOLDEN JUBILEE

Extensive renovation and modernisation work at the Esperanto holiday home in France, known as Chateau Gresillon, (Kastelo Grezijono), has now been virtually completed, writes Laurence Mee. Some minor jobs remain, (improving internal decoration, cleaning up after the professional workers' labours, improvements to the kitchen area, (following a period of being unused), and landscaping work adjacent to the main house), and already that work is going well.

The chateau was bought up by Esperanto enthusiasts after the war, when work groups were encouraged to come and prepare the chateau for use as a unique international Esperanto centre. A few years ago, however, due to tightening up of French building regulations, the centre had to close down, and for a while it was in the balance whether it would ever reopen.

But now they are in business again, and with a splendid website, too, carrying pictures of the recent work brigades, and even instructions on how to get there by bicycle. That's at http://greziljono.kastelo.free.fr/indekso.htm. I notice you can hire the whole place for just 380 euros a night, though it appears that if you're a scout group you can hire the outhouse in exchange for emptying the soil out of the swimming pool.

On July 20 the mayor of Bauge will visit for celebrations of the centre's 50th anniversary.


8. ESPERANTO HOUSE COVER STORY

The roof is now on Esperanto House, and everything is on schedule wrote David Kelso a few mintues ago. The interior fitting is about to start. The builder has no objection to a visit or visits during the British Congress, subject to insurance considerations, and Terry and David are just sorting out whether this would be small-scale visits, or a general visit.

Lydia Arnold has provided some more photos, which RobERTo is putting up on the NetNews archive website.


9. SHAPING THE FUTURE OF ESPERANTO

The Crown Prince of Denmark was presented with a new book of sculptures by Esperantist sculptor Jesper Neergaard at the National Museum of Denmark on February 8, writes Birthe Lapenna in Ret-Info.

The book contains 450 photos - mainly in colour - of the sculptor's works. Among these works are "La Espero" in Esperanto Square in Graz, Austria, erected in 1987 to mark the centenary of Esperanto. Last year in Zagreb, Croatia, a further Esperanto sculpture was inaugurated in Kennedy Square, under the title "La Futuro".

At Barlaston, situated right outside the main entrance at 'The Limes' building, stands Neergaard's sculpture Sunsong, one of a series of pieces which are located across the world. "Neergaard has created over six hundred pieces - this one reinforces the College's longstanding relationship with the Esperanto movement", Lydia Arnold, at the EAB office, told NetNews.

This and many other sculptures at Wedgwood Memorial College may be seen by prior appointment by calling 01782 372105 (and there'll probably be a visit to the College and new Esperanto HQ during the British Congress). The book costs 40 euros, and should be available from any book shop.


10. GOLDEN OLDIES

Laurence Mee, in Manchester, has been trying to stimulate interest in Esperanto amongst members of 'U3A' - the 'University of the Third Age', which encourages educational pursuits amongst retired people.

He is U3A's 'Network Co-ordinator for Esperanto Studies', and occasionally sends out bits of news via the organisation's languages email list. There used to be a number of U3A Esperanto groups, when John Rapley was coordinating activities in the UK, before he retired to France. Also, a past president of U3A, Jean Thompson, is an Esperanto speaker, and visited various U3A Esperanto groups in her travels abroad.

I notice on the U3A website at http://www.u3a.org.uk/languages/Year_2000.htm that they will be holding a Languages Study Day in Godalming on April 4. Perhaps interest could be stimulated by offering to add them to the EABNetNews mailing list (just one issue per month), and forming a community around a web course, like 'Esperanto Viva!' (http://esperanto.org/espviva). I understand that EAB has been targeting retired people by placing a series of adverts in the magazine Choice.


11. NEW USES FOR NETNEWS

Having read about the Esperanto Rock Orchestra in NetNews, one of our local club members in Berkshire brought out a couple of the original vinyl discs of the orchestra's music, and played excerpts after the AGM. It livened the discussion up, and created an interesting focal point. I've just received the Esperanto Symphony CD by David Gaines (see NetNews 7), and am looking forward to listening to it.

Perhaps others have found ways in which NetNews can be used to stimulate the movement. When this issue appears, I'll try printing a few copies out, to see what interest there would be at the London Esperanto Club amongst people who don't have Internet access. The congress documents could be of interest, too, especially the application forms. This could be a rather efficient way of getting stuff out, or making spare copies - not just for EAB members, but to the Esperanto community as a whole.

I'd be interested in hearing of other people's experiences.


12. ON A PERSONAL NOTE

March 1 was a special day. It was the day on which I became a 'veterano', having learned Esperanto just forty years ago. I didn't actually learn the whole language in one day, but March 1 was the day in which I had completed half of 'Teach Yourself Esperanto' - enough to get around in the language with the help of a dictionary.

So why did I remember the date? The material in that lesson was a translation of a page from the Radio Times. Remember 'Muziko dum vi Laboras', 'Horo por Virinoj', 'Taglibro de s-ino Dale', 'Horo por la Infanoj'? Well, the 'Horo por la Infanoj' included a special programme from Wales on the occasion of 'la Tago de Sankta Davido'. Yes - it was the programme for March 1, the day on which I was reading it.

To celebrate the occasion, I took cheese and wine to the London Esperanto Club ( http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/home/wells/lek.htm). It made for a nice atmosphere, whilst hearing about the languages and ethnic divides in Nigeria (Thanks, Henriko!). Pity I didn't get this issue of NetNews out on March 1 as well. I'd delayed it to get the lastest on the British Congress.

It's also 50 years since I had my first piano lesson, so I'm giving a 'prelegrecitalo' with the title '40 jaroj da Esperanto: 50 da piano' at the British Esperanto Congress in May, and will be demonstrating what human language (particularly Esperanto) and musical language have in common, so if you don't yet understand one of these languages, you might just enjoy the other!


EAB NETNEWS - a newsletter from Esperanto Association of Britain
Editor: Ian Fantom, eabnetnewsatesperanto.org, tel: 01635 38592
EAB Office: Esperanto Association of Britain, Wedgwood Memorial College, Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent, ST12 9DE
Tel: 01782 372141 Fax: 01782 372393
Web: http://www.esperanto.org.uk

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