Apart from Nigerian scammers, the Daily Mail website and a dreadful, never-ending avalanche of kitten photos, the internet is a pretty remarkable thing. It’s been a huge tool in my learning of Esperanto which, five months since I started, is probably beyond the “beginner” phase and into “intermediate” territory. It’s fair to say that Esperanto went out of fashion for much of the twentieth century, though I sense from discussing the matter with folk that the internet is allowing for something of a modest renaissance for the language.
Thanks to the web, I’ve been able to study the language, exchange emails with other Esperantists, read articles and stories online, and find many speakers to interact with on Google+. Yes, that much-maligned social networking service from Google may not be the success they hoped it would be, nor the “Facebook-killer” some hoped, but I have to say I enjoy it. It’s clean, crisp, advert-free (for now) and easier to manage what you do than on Facebook.
One very handy feature of Google+, which makes it ideal for learning a language, are the “hangouts”. These allow you to have a video chat with a large number of people together. An Argentinian Esperantist in the USA has started holding a weekly hangout (or “kunvidejo”, literally “place to see together”), and I joined one the other day and found the relaxed chat with him, a Brazilian and a German to be good fun and a useful experience. Reading and writing a new language is all very well, but nothing beats using it in real conversation to improve your competence and confidence.
He made a video of us all talking, as an advert and encouragement to other speakers (whatever their ability) to join in the weekly chats. You can see me, and the others, speaking Esperanto so you can get a feel for what it sounds like and even surprise yourself with how much you might find familiar in this satisfyingly simple language. I look like I’m reading a script in my part, though my hesitancy is purely down to a lack of conversational practice. That will come in time, I’m sure.