Content is king: what international auxiliary languages need

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

This post will focus on Occidental, but this applies to just about every other international auxiliary language as well.

What is most important for a language like Occidental? Let's think first about what is probably most important for a language: content, and lots of it. On any popular site one can see pages and pages of user-created content, comments written by users who are mostly writing in their L1, meaning that they can churn out content seemingly without end, without having to give any real thought to what they are writing. The process is even relaxing for many, a way to wind down or let off steam after a hard day at the office. Through a momentum all its own, these languages are able to maintain a steady stream of content that IALs can only envy.

Let's compare this to Occidental. For someone interested in learning Occidental and other languages its size, the general attitude is this: "Here's a grammar, here's a dictionary, the language is easy and so come back to us if you have any questions." It's not a particularly unfriendly approach, but it is a bit lacking in structure. For those of us used to using IALs it's quite easy to learn the rules to most new ones, but for a new learner it can be extremely vague. How does a knew learner know when he's good at the language when there are both too few people to practice it with and not a great deal of content?

So here's what Occidental needs: a Foreign Service Institute-style textbook with tons and tons (and tons) of examples, from short to long, mundane to philosophical. The format would be quite easy, with about a page of examples and questions to answer for each grammatical concept. At the very end samples of the writing could be included, and the whole thing would need to be recorded as well.

Here's an example of what it might look like.

(top of the page/section introducing the grammatical concept)

For the comparative one indicates equality with tam - quam, a greater amount with plu - quam, a lesser amount with min - quam.

Then examples:

A: Es Canada plu grand quam Rusia, o es Rusia plu grand quam Canada?
B: Vide li carte - Rusia es plu grand quam Canada.
A: A, to es ver. Ma existe un land plu grand quam Canada, ma min grand quam Rusia?
B: No, pro que Rusia es li max grand land in li munde, e null land es tam grand quam Rusia, ma Canada es li duesim grand, e dunc omni landes es min grand quam Canada e Rusia.

Add to this about three other examples, and then to questions for the student:

Q: Mi auto have un longore de 4 metres. Tui auto have un longore de 3 metros. Es tui auto plu grand quam mi auto, o es mi auto plu grand quam tui auto?
A: (written at the bottom) Tui auto es plu grand quam mi auto.

Q: Yo have 2000 dóllares. Mi amico anc have 2000 dóllares. Un mann questiona me pri qui have plu mult moné. Qualmen yo deve responder?

A: (written at the bottom) "Mi amico have tam mult moné quam me."

At the very end of the textbook would be a kind of test to make sure the student has mastered all the concepts, with the answers to be sent to someone qualified to check them over.

The end goal for this would be the creation of confident new students who are capable of expressing themselves in the language with as little reference to the dictionary and grammar as possible, just in the same way we use our L1s or any other languages we are fluent in. In other words, the creation of users of the language that are capable of just sitting down at the computer and churning out pages and pages of content.

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