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Mobile Youth: How Digital Media Changed Language Learning, Activism for Free Speech and the Very Experience of Time

Abstract

Following the creation of a ground-breaking online language course in 2015, this chapter explores how digital media and the emergence of the first natively digital generations of Esperanto speakers have triggered changes in this speech community. The use of online communication technologies has brought about fast-paced exchanges, a reconsideration of Esperanto’s language ideology through the lens of open-source and the possibility of complementing verbal communication with emojis, gifs and Internet memes. I argue that, while digital media open up new forms of language use, it also prompts significant changes in people’s experience of time and community. Beginning with what is left unsaid when communication largely moves from face-to-face to online settings, I explore the implications of such a shift for the shape of a speech community.

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Fig. 7.1

(Source Facebook group Esperantaj Memeoj, retrieved December 2020)

Notes

  1. 1.

    The figure refers to people who registered to learn Esperanto, since Duolingo does not disclose data on how many users effectively complete its courses.

  2. 2.

    Here I follow Boellstorff’s (2008: 20–21) distinction between ‘virtual’ and ‘actual’ worlds. Such choice of terminology avoids the trap of considering the ‘virtual’ as opposed to the ‘real’ world, which, in turn, would imply that technology makes ‘real’ life less real.

  3. 3.

    Such as in the case of ‘software’ and ‘drone’, as discussed in Chapter 5.

  4. 4.

    One of JEFO’s most traditional undertakings was the organisation of FESTO, a week-long Esperanto festival taking place annually since 1996. FESTO was, however, discontinued after 2014 due to a shortage of volunteers to organise it.

  5. 5.

    In 2016, the age limit for membership at TEJO was also increased from 30 to 35 years old. This was aimed at expanding the association’s membership and ensuring that some active members could remain for longer.

  6. 6.

    TEJO proved to be an exception in this regard. Through feeding active social media profiles, encouraging young Esperantists to participate in YouTube videos about student life, offering free magazine samples to those who finish Duolingo’s skill tree and organising online meetings, TEJO succeeded in converting a number of online learners into members.

  7. 7.

    In this regard, it is interesting to note the strategy that Esperantists developed to bypass the hesitancy of saying ‘good morning’, ‘good afternoon’ or ‘good evening’ in online communication, particularly in spoken chats. For not knowing in which time zone their interlocutors are, Esperantists frequently greet each other saying ‘bonan tageron’, meaning ‘good fragment of the day’.

  8. 8.

    As explained before, the printed database of Pasporta Servo also became available online in 2008. However, Pasporta Servo’s interface was meant to be accessed through the computer’s Internet browser and, for this reason, it is not as user-friendly for mobile phone users as Amikumu’s.

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Fians, G. (2021). Mobile Youth: How Digital Media Changed Language Learning, Activism for Free Speech and the Very Experience of Time. In: Esperanto Revolutionaries and Geeks. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-84230-7_7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-84230-7_7

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