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Multilingual accelerator - now you have the opportunity to accelerate language learning of your students using this didactic tool

The Multilingualism Accelerator is a curriculum which enables children to learn foreign languages faster and to become more confident in their language-learning abilities. It was based on the propedeutical idea, i.e. that learning a model language, in this case basic Esperanto, if it is limited to the 300 most frequently-used morphemes, can boost children’s language learning skills. Several studies have shown that learning the model language Esperanto for one year may increase the speed of subsequent language learning by up to 30%. The reason is that such a model language is very easy, has no exceptions and functions logically. It enables children to easily understand the underlying linguistic principles by taking apart and rebuilding words and sentences. It is thus far more effective than other languages, burdened by many exceptions to rules, in motivating students. They learn by autonomously constructing their own sentences.

Through this course, children playfully learn the basics of an analytical language, and this gives them clear ideas about how languages are organized. Children understand grammatical terms such as plural, the basic two cases (nominative and accusative), how to create sentences, and acquire the ability to create many new words from the basic roots and affixes present in every language. This gives learners a clear view of the structure of languages in general, known as meta-linguistic knowledge. All materials are developed for language teachers who have no previous knowledge of Esperanto and the didactic material thus contains grammar sections and detailed guidelines to help teachers prepare for class.

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Why Esperanto?

Esperanto is a planned language, which was designed for rapid and easy learnability. It has a regular, transparent grammar and exploits root words and affixes to a maximum in its streamlined word-building system. One school year, comprising 60 classroom hours and electronic homework for self-training by pupils on computers, suffices to learn the basics, to enable pupils to speak independently, and to understand and read texts.

Children learn an analytic language in a playful manner, and this gives them a clear idea of how languages in general are structured. They come to understand grammatical concepts such as plural, two cases of nouns (nominative and accusative), the building of sentences and how to create many new words using root words and affixes that exist in all national languages. Thus the pupils get a clear perception of the universal structure of languages, or metalinguistic knowledge.

What is the didactic material based on?

The teaching materials are based on the application of a scientific approach to the frequency of words and grammatical elements.

In 1979, during an international meeting of Esperanto-speaking families in Lucerne, Switzerland, an interesting study was conducted on the number of morphemes used in the daily speech of children who speak Esperanto natively, in addition to their native language. Some 60.000 words were recorded in Lucerne and then divided into morphemes. One of the properties of Esperanto is that all words can be clearly divided into their component morphemes, as in Mandarin Chinese. The morphemes were counted and sorted by frequency on a computer. The results were revolutionary: a mere 1,500 morphemes appeared in the corpus; the most frequently-used 467 covered 95% of the entire corpus, and the 250 most frequently-used morphemes covered about 80% of the corpus. More recently, the words from a corpus of online texts that included 10 million words of online text were computer-analysed. The results were very similar to the 1979 findings. The main difference was that the Lucerne corpus had more morphemes for a conversation with children.On the basis of the most common morphemes, an Esperanto textbook called the Zagreb Method was created. This has been published in some forty languages.

The MLA pedagogical course is based on these studies on the frequency of morphemes in the spoken language. Teaching materials based on about 300 morphemes will allow children to form their own sentences right from the beginning, instead of memorising readymade phrases. The large vocabulary to be memorised is one of the biggest problems in language learning. Thus the goal of MLA is to minimise the number of morphemes to learn while still allowing children to build many sentences and communicate freely. Morphemes not included in the teaching materials should therefore not be spontaneously added during class, as this tends to slow down learning.

Dialogue

The use of this approach for two years with five teachers in three primary schools in three EU Member States has shown remarkable success. Questionnaire replies from pupils, teachers and parents showed enthusiasm for the MLA course. The children enjoyed the course very much (2 hours per week) and the teachers found it not only interesting but also useful. Two tests at the end of the school year evaluated recognition of elementary grammatical notions in the native language and the metalinguistic knowledge of the pupils. The tests were completed by the pupils who learned Esperanto and a control group of equal size who did not. They showed that the MLA children had higher scores than the non-MLA children.

What does the material contain?

The material contains:

  • an introduction to the Multilingual Accelerator and guidelines for teachers on using the didactic material; 
  • didactic material for 6 lessons divided into 60 school classes;
  • ready-to-print material for teaching and e-learning exercises, based on the morphemes used in the lessons for practicing basic Esperanto online.

The materials are available on this link: https://lernu.net/en/instruado and were developed as a part of the project co-financed by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Commission.

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