Redirecting my project
Before my tutorial with Dan in week 10, my research question had been “How can language be used to break down borders in Norwegian society?”. However, after talking to Dan, I decided to shift the direction of my project, and to use Esperanto as my topic. My interest was never really in immigration, but rather in how we as people can communicate when not having the same mother tongue. In other words, I was more interested in communication issues, than those of immigration.
In order to establish my new project direction I started this week off by reflecting on new project questions, aims, audiences and report structure and arguments.
Using Esperanto as my project theme, potential aims could be to:
- Increase understanding across cultures
- Encourage communications with those who are different from oneself
- Finding common grounds (communication where no party has an advantage)
- Help Esperanto achieve it’s original purpose (world peace)
- Democratising Esperanto – for the language to achieve it’s purpose, everyone must know it (today it build community amongst it’s speakers, but for non-speakers it might not feel very available)
Potential questions could be:
- How can language be used to increase communication and acceptance across cultures?
- How can the number of Esperanto speakers be increased, in order to aid communication and common understanding across cultures?
- How can Esperanto be used to build world peace?
- How can visual communication be used to help Esperanto achieve it’s original purpose?
- How can Esperanto be made available to all?
- How can Esperanto be democratised, in order to help the language achieve it’s original purpose?
At this stage of the project I decided to stick with the last question.
In order for Esperanto to achieve it’s original purpose, every person in the world must be able to speak it. Thus, my audience is enormous, ranging from groups such as policy makers (deciding what should be taught in schools and to be used in various institutions), activists (this group can go forward as a leading example for the language) and diplomats (early stage users of Esperanto), to the every day man.
In my project it might be wise to focus on one of these groups, making sure to reflect on the ones I will not be looking at in my report, and how they would be needed for if Esperanto was to achieve it’s original purpose.
The goal of my project will be to make Esperanto available to the masses – for example by developing a new dictionary (Rhodes meant that the Esperanto dictionary had to be a portable size, and that convenience was important to get the public’s acceptance (Paul Wilson, 2019)). Of course, this project goal becomes a paradox, as language will never be a solution the our largest world conflicts. At the end of the day, world peace can only happen if every person in the world can agree on these conflicts – something which can not happen solely due to speaking a common language. Thus, my project will be comment on an utopia – a fantasy society which will never come to life, but that comments on the banality of disagreements on territories, climate crisis and other vital conflicts.
In my report it will be important to present Esperanto as a solution to world conflict, in order to highlight it’s original purpose, and why it should be made available to the masses. Further it will also be important to reflect on it’s current value (build community amongst it’s speakers), as well as it’s short comings (even if we all were to speak a common non-political language, we might not be able to agree on everything). Lastly I will have to defend my project by concluding on how Esperanto can be used as a symbol of diplomacy and “meeting in the middle” (Paul Wilson, 2019).
Speaking Esperanto is not a solution to anything in itself, but becomes an indication of one’s political stand: a diplomatic and non-nationalist stand, open to all people and cultures.
Before deciding on who my audience should be, I needed to figure out how Esperanto can best be taught to an entire society. An obvious platform for language learning are schools, and thus I wanted to find out who the policy makers for languages taught in schools are. In order to learn more about this, I reached out to my brother, who works as a teacher in Norway.
Through our conversation I learned that politicians are in charge of languages to choose from in mandatory language learning. However, in high schools, schools can choose to offer an additional language (not mandatory) based on student demand. This taught me that although politicians could be an obvious audience, I could also look to young students who are eager to take a political stand (or simply those interested in learning something different). Thus, one way of making Esperanto part of the Norwegian school system would be to engage young pupils. Engaging the public / young people could also be a strategy if wanting to affect politicians. Voters have power in our society, and thus if I could get young people interested in Esperanto, they might eventually begin to engage in bringing the language into the political scene.
A want for options
Further in our conversation, my brother explained how a local high school offers Chinese as a optional course, and that it’s very popular amongst the pupils. This tells me that there is a want for additional language courses amongst high school students. After our conversation I also found a news paper opinion written by a 13 year old to politicians, who asked for more language options in the mandatory school system.
In order to wrap my head around the above reflections, as well as the gathered information from the last two weeks, I ended the week by updating my literature review. Doing so I realised that I actually have a few sources for, as well as against Esperanto, which will be valuable for my report, meaning I’ll soon be able to start writing.
Weekly wrap up
This week has been valuable in the sense of getting me back on track with a new focus in my project. I was pleased to my literature review take form, and moving forward I think it would be valuable to discuss my project with someone from the educational system, as well as Esperanto speakers.
According to my project plan, this and the next four weeks will be dedicated to insight gathering. I am however finding this process rather challenging, mainly due to motivation struggles. This week I could have spent more time looking for literature and gathering insight, in order to move my project forward. However, I believe it’s also important to realise that I’m not just as effective at this stage of the design process, and that some work is better than nothing.
Next week I hope to interview some experts, and to continue my literature gathering. I will also try to set off designated time slots for insight gathering, in attempt to stay motivated.
Paul Wilson (2019) ‘Esperantujo, land of tue hopeful’, Migrant Journal [Preprint], (6).