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oatie (User's profile) January 3, 2006, 8:47:55 PM
Tahlequah teacher tackles language of communication
By Judy Gibbs Robinson
TAHLEQUAH -- Phil Dorcas learned something about Tahlequah's worldliness when he walked into a fast-food restaurant here recently. At least 2 million speak Esperanto
Esperanto is a language invented in the 1880s by Dr. L.L. Zamenhof, a Polish-born medical doctor who wanted a simple way for people of different countries to communicate.
In Esperanto, each letter has only one sound, and the accent is always on the next-to-last syllable. There are only 16 basic rules of grammar, with no exceptions. And the vocabulary incorporates many international words such as telefono (telephone), biologio (biology) and matematiko (mathematics).
Today, at least 2 million people in more than 100 countries speak Esperanto as a second language. Meetings and conferences are conducted in Esperanto. Books and periodicals are published in the language, and daily radio broadcasts are increasing.
Source: Esperanto League for North America Inc.
It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving and Dorcas, who lives in Texas, was visiting a friend in Tahlequah. Tired of turkey leftovers, they decided to grab a sandwich out. As they walked into the Burger King, a young cashier brightened, smiled at Dorcas' companion, and greeted her:
"Saluton, Sinjorino Magallon. Kiel vi fartas?" (Hello, Mrs. Magallon. How are you?)
The language is Esperanto, invented in the 1880s by a Polish-born physician who wanted a common second language people all over the world could use to communicate with one another. Dorcas, president of the Esperanto League of North America, could hardly believe he was hearing it in a fast-food restaurant in northeastern Oklahoma.
"If you go to Poland or Croatia or somewhere where 30,000 or more people speak it, that might be more common," Dorcas said. "In the United States, I've never heard it just by chance. That was a pleasant surprise."
It was no surprise for Dorcas' companion, Beth Magallon. The longtime teacher at Tahlequah Junior High estimates she has introduced at least 350 students to Esperanto -- including the Burger King cashier. As a result of her efforts, Tahlequah may have the largest concentration of Esperanto learners in the United States, where the language is far more rare than in Europe.
"I do know this," Magallon said. "It's been taught to more people in Tahlequah than anywhere else, at least in this part of the country."
Magallon had not even heard of Esperanto four years ago when she started teaching an "Exploring Languages" class to seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders. The textbook included a brief unit on Esperanto and provided an Internet address for the Esperanto League of North America.
"I was blown away," Magallon said. "I felt so stupid. How could something this big exist in the world and I'm pretending to teach a language course and didn't know it existed?"
Magallon learned that an estimated 2 million people in more than 100 countries speak Esperanto along with their native language. She discovered an Esperanto-only school in Mongolia, and Esperanto clubs across the United States.
Magallon was drawn to the invented language because of its simplicity -- there are only 16 rules of grammar and no exceptions. That made it a perfect vehicle for introducing middle school students to languages, she said.
"They can do the harder languages once they have the Esperanto in their brain," Magallon said. "They get the language part."
Dorcas agrees. He said even young students learning Esperanto can grasp concepts like verb tenses, conditional moods and imperatives.
"You can actually help young people learn about language itself because the nouns, phrases, verbs, conjugations and the way sentences are hooked together are so simple. You don't have to worry about irregularities."
Magallon quickly became a student of Esperanto, collecting dozens of dictionaries, study books, story books, tapes and other material in Esperanto. With scholarships from the league, she attended three summer immersion schools in Vermont and became friends with Dorcas and other Esperanto speakers.
Students also were enthusiastic.
"I think Esperanto is an awesome language," said seventh-grader Dianna Sinclair. "After I learned some Esperanto, it was easier to learn Spanish."
Luke Littlejohn thinks he will be able to use Esperanto in the future.
"I think it will help me because someday I want to be a missionary and travel the world," he said.
Eighth-grader Hannah Blake seemed surprised by her own response to Esperanto.
"I actually like it. I think I might want to take it again, like next year or something," she said.
Whether that will be possible is uncertain. Swelling Spanish enrollment cut into Magallon's time this fall and she had to drop her Esperanto-only course although she still teaches the three-week unit in the languages class.
She does not know what will happen next year, when a proposed realignment may move all the upper-level language teachers to Tahlequah High School.
If so, Magallon said she will plead with the principal to give her at least one Esperanto class, which students could take as an elective -- not to satisfy the graduation requirement for two years of a world language.
"I'll shadow his door because I will not be happy teaching only Spanish up there. It's too satisfying to teach Esperanto to give it up.
"Esperanto is just so much more fun."
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Alva (User's profile) January 4, 2006, 3:48:12 PM
well, nothing more to say
sorry if i have spelling mistakes...