This is my second visit to the scenic Barlaston, home to Esperanto House. This is the base of the Esperanto Association of Britain (EAB) and its Butler Library, which houses an impressive collection of literature collected from across the world and translated into Esperanto, as well as a bookshop used to sell new material and second-hand books.
The course “Lernu Plu” means “continue learning”, and is pitched as a next-up for beginners, a place where you are assumed to know the words for “hello” and use both past and future tense in conversation. Luckily in Esperanto this is simple compared to the English: “-as” is the verb ending for present tense, always, while “-is” replaces it for past tense, and “os” for future.
The instructors are friendly and the day starts with Viv, the administrator and care-taker-in-chief of Esperanto House, supplying everyone with hot or cold drinks, and making sure that there are enough paper and pens for everyone. Every participant in the courses has a name badge, including the teachers, so being bad with names is no excuse not to come and experience the wonderful hospitality of Esperanto House.
The day starts with some basic conversation. One of my fellow students has been to a Lernu Plu before, though I'm under the impression at the time that several have, so I initially feel very out of my depth. However, the instructors Tim and Ian step in and help unravel my tongue, and by the end I feel a little more comfortable. After a few hour-long lessons and several tea breaks, I am feeling comfortable with Esperanto again. Not bad for only my second time in this environment! The lessons are made up of working through poems and songs, as well as a discussion of the meaning behind them and grammar points – these are mostly humorous or of historical value, and remain interesting throughout. Videos are also used to underline grammatical points, and just before the end of the day there is a full-blown presentation in Esperanto about one of the leading Britons when the language was first becoming popular in the UK. The presentation was given wholly in Esperanto and I was able to follow along and understand roughly 80% of the words used. Where I didn't understand, the instructor seemed already to know that the sentence would be tricky and automatically rephrased the Esperanto so that I could pick up the meaning.
The first day wrapped up with a nice pub steak dinner (although there were vegetarian options available) and a lengthy chat with my fellow students and instructors about the future of Esperanto in Britain and across the world, as well as other more mundane, everyday topics of conversation.
The second day (from 10am to roughly 2pm) is spent mainly in discussions of finer points of grammar, to answer questions raised throughout the first day, and another presentation given in Esperanto. A group photograph is also taken to commemorate the first time many of us have met. The library and bookshop is explored again, and all learners received free dictionaries and mugs.
All in all, a perfect pair of courses for a beginner – Lernu introduces you to the language and grammer, while Lernu Plu expands on these, allowing you to drill a little deeper into both the grammar and the history of Esperanto. Because of the way they work together, I would advise any komencanto (beginner) to first attend a Lernu session, even if their grammar and understanding are already very good. This is because even though Lernu is aimed at complete beginners, many komencantoj have never spoken Esperanto before, even if they have practiced using Duolingo.
After completeing both a Lernu and a Lernu Plu, the komencanto will have completed the majority of grammar points contained in the Teach Yourself Esperanto book, and, with the help of the tutors and fellow students, will be well equipped to continue their journey into Esperanto and its world.
Big shout-out to Tim, Viv, Ian and Malcolm for maintaining Esperanto House in Barlaston as a helpful, hospitable place where all are welcome to come and explore this fabulous language!