Esperanto raises grammar hopes

18th May 2007 at 01:00
THE ARTIFICIAL language of Esperanto is making an unexpected comeback in primary classrooms, with two schools exploring whether it can help children with their grammar.

Scorton CofE primary, near Preston in Lancashire, and Bar Hill primary, Cambridge, are getting to grips with such Esperanto phrases as "Saluton"

(Hello) and "Kiel vi fartas?" (How are you?).

But there is a slight drawback to teaching the language, invent-ed 120 years ago by Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof, a Polish ophthalmologist.

While the Department for Education and Skills wants all seven to 11-year-olds to learn a modern foreign language, they do not include Esperanto.

A DfES spokeswoman said: "One of the three core learning objectives of the key stage 2 framework for languages is intercultural understanding - developing an interest in the culture of other nations. Esperanto cannot meet these objectives as it does not have an associated culture or homeland."

This has not deterred Liz White, head of Scorton primary. It already has excellent teaching in French according to Ofsted, which praised pupils'

fluency and accurate pronunciation. Now pupils there are working for half an hour every week with Steven Thompson, an Esperanto teacher.

"The benefits are extraordinary," Mrs White said.

"I hadn't realised they would do so much grammar. It has helped understanding in English and in French. Things such as nouns, verbs, adjectives. They are so simple in Esperanto that children really understand about them, it backs up what we do with the National Literacy Strategy."

The project will be evaluated by a Manchester university researcher.

Paul Gubbins, of the Esperanto Association of Britain, said: "Learning a relatively easy language such as Esperanto gives confidence to children when they are beginning, which facilitates other languages that are far more difficult."

The DfES has not yet decided when all seven to 11-year-olds should learn a language, though its previous target was 2010. l www.springboard2languages.org

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