Paderborn method

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The Paderborn method for language teaching, also known as the Paderborn method or Paderborn model is a method for teaching foreign languages, originally conceived for children's education. It consists in first teaching a simple language (Esperanto), then two years later teaching a second language. Many studies confirmed that learning a complete and easy propaedeutical language helps in later learning a more difficult one with no lost time, indeed with gain of it.

The effectiveness of this method was empirically noticed in different studies of the last century.[1] Prof. Helmar Frank, of the University of Paderborn's Institute of Pedagogic Cybernetics, scientifically proved the method's efficacy; his study gave the name to this method.

History of the method[edit]

Many adults who learned Esperanto had noticed that they could better understand the grammar of their own mother tongue and foreign languages — thanks to having come to know this simple, planned language with its transparent grammar — and started to think that such a language could have propaedeutical value in language teaching.

Other experiments[edit]

This consideration led to many independent experiments being done in Hungary, Great Britain and other countries. Some of the most significant were:

  • 1918-1921 - Female middle school in Bishop Auckland (GB). Esperanto taught as propaedeutical language for French and German[2]
  • 1934-1935 - Public high school in New York[3]
  • 1947-1951 - Provincial grammar school in Sheffield (GB),[4] focused on help received by less intelligent students
  • 1948-1965 - Egerton Park School, Denton (Manchester, GB).[5]
  • 1958-1963 - Somero (Finland), Esperanto used as propaedeutical language for German[6]
  • 1971-1974,[7] 1975-1977[8] - The International League of Esperanto Teachers (ILEI), encouraged by previous studies, coordinated international studies, the first in Hungary and the second in Belgium, France, Greece, West Germany and the Netherlands. In 1977 the students met in an educational week, where they learnt about various topics in Esperanto.
  • Late 1970s to early 1980s - Paderborn experiment (more details below). Experimental observation of two different groups of students focused on the differences in learning of the two groups.[9]
  • 1983-1988 - After Paderborn other experiments compared two different groups of students — for example, in the primary school "Rocca", in San Salvatore di Cogorno (Italy) — with similar results.[10]

Experiment in University of Paderborn[edit]

Under the supervision of Helmar Frank, a professor at the Institute of Cybernetics of Paderborn, two groups of pupils (A and B), both with German as mother tongue, were created in a primary school.[9] The aim was to prove the propaedeutical value of Esperanto for learning English (and in general, any other foreign language).

Group A started to learn English from the third year of study, while group B in the same year started to learn Esperanto (160 hours); group B also started to learn English after two years (i.e., in the fifth year of study). Although group B studied English two years less than group A did, by the seventh year the two groups reached the same level in English, while in the eighth year of school the English level of group B was more advanced than that of group A.

The following table summarizes the Paderborn experiment:

Year of study Group A Group B English knowledge
3 ENGLISH ESPERANTO A reaches a basic level of English, while B does not know it at all
4 ENGLISH ESPERANTO A reaches a basic level of English, while B does not know it at all
5 ENGLISH ENGLISH A continues to learn English while B starts to learn it
6 ENGLISH ENGLISH A continues to learn English, while B quickly improves in it
7 ENGLISH ENGLISH The level of English of A and B is the same
8 ENGLISH ENGLISH B exceeds A in English skills, even if B learnt it for 2 years less

The study demonstrated not only that group B gained linguistic skills with English, but also that group members could use two languages instead of only one. Because all the pupils had a Germanic language (German) as their mother tongue, the help they got from Esperanto was not a result of its greater similarity to English than to German. In addition to cultural gains, the saving of time and resources resulted in an educational saving as well.


There could be many reasons why this method works, notice also that in the following only Esperanto is mentioned, because this method uses it, but it is likely that another very easy planned language with similar features could be employed instead.

  1. Esperanto is extremely regular and transparent. For example, to make the plural form of a word the ending -j is used, and this rule has no exceptions (as, for example, the English tooth–teeth or the Italian ginocchio–ginocchia). Verbs, adverbs, nouns, and adjectives are marked by a particular ending (e.g., all adjectives end with -a and all nouns with -o); so the difference between these parts of speech is passively learned by the student. When they start learning another language, it is then easier to explain to them what an adjective and a noun is. In addition, Esperanto is an agglutinative language, and this involves the student in active use of the lexicon.
  2. Teaching this language, that is the whole grammar of a language in a short time, one helps the students to make a comparison between their mother tongue and Esperanto. This comparison can be used consciously or unconsciously when learning a more complex language. This can be compared to observing a model engine for students who need to learn how a complex engine works (and in addition, Esperanto is a completely working language, not just a simplified language model).
  3. The grammar is minimal, so children can start using it actively (in speaking and writing) pretty soon. This allows them to keep their initial enthusiasm that is usually lost after the first encounter with a foreign language that needs to be studied for many years before being able to express mere basic sentences. This would give them self-confidence, and when a new language study is started, it is seen as something easily achievable as it was for Esperanto.
  4. On the other side, a failure in learning a foreign language or the difficulties experienced during the first impact with it (as any other subject) can traumatize the student and reduce their self-confidence in their own language skills. It is possible to create simple sentences since the very first lessons of Esperanto, avoiding this trauma.
  5. The sooner one can use the language, the sooner the language can be used in meeting foreign people and this stimulates the interest of the student in other cultures and other languages.

Other hypotheses are discussed by Claude Piron in some of his articles.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Official bulletin of Italian Ministry for Public Education, 122nd year, Rome, May 25 - June 1, 1995, No. 21-22. Contains a large number of studies and experiments (original in Italian)
  2. ^ Alexandra FISCHER, Languages by way of Esperanto; Eksperimento farita en Bishop Auckland (GB) en la jaroj 1918-1921 in Internacia Pedagogia Revuo, 1931.
  3. ^ Helen S. EATON, "An Experiment in Language Learning", in Modern Language Journal, Volume 19, Issue 1, pages 1–4, October 1934
  4. ^ J. H. HALLORAN (teacher of pedagogy at University of Sheffield), "A four-year experiment in Esperanto as an introduction to French", in British Journal of Educational Psychology, vol. 22, no. 3, 1952 (Nov.), pp. 200-204.
  5. ^ Report: Norman WILLIAMS (didactical director) Report on the teaching of Esperanto from 1948 to 1965. - It concluded that a child can learn as much in six months of Esperanto study as in about 3-4 years of French study. The conclusion was that if all children would learn Esperanto during the first 6-12 months in a 4-5 year course of French, they would gain a lot of time without losing anything.
  6. ^ J. VILKKI, V. SETÄLÄ, La eksperimenta instruado de Esperanto en la geknaba mezgrada lernejo de Somero (Suomio); V. SETÄLÄ, Vizito al la eksperimenta lernejo en Somero, Finnlando.
  7. ^ Marta KOVÁCS, Internacia Didaktika Eksperimento Kvinlanda; Johano INGUSZ, Instruspertoj en esperantfakaj klasoj (en Hungario)
  8. ^ Helmut SONNABEND, Esperanto, lerneja eksperimento
  9. ^ a b Prof. Dr. Helmar Frank, Das Paderborner Experiment zum Sprachenorientierungsunterricht in the publication of the Hanns-Seidel Stiftung eV, Verbindungsstelle Brussel/Bruxelles; Günter LOBIN, Der propedeutische Wert von Plansprachen für den Fremdsprachenunterricht, (tesi di laurea), Universität Paderborn, Institut für Kybernetik.
  10. ^ Report: Elisabetta FORMAGGIO (Chiavari, Italia), Lerneja eksperimento pri lernfacileco kaj transfero en la fremdlingvoinstruado.
  11. ^ See scroll down to Esperanto (articles about Esperanto) then, if desired, further down by language (articles about Esperanto in: English, Nederlands [Dutch], Italiano [Italian], etc.).


  • Günter LOBIN, Der propedeutische Wert von Plansprachen für den Fremdsprachenunterricht,, Universität Paderborn, Institut für Kybernetik, Wartbürgerstrasse 100, D4790 Paderborn.
  • J. H. HALLORAN, A four year experiment in Esperanto as an introduction to French. In "British Journal of Educational Psychology", vol.22, n. 3, 1952 (nov.), pp. 200–204.
  • R. Selten: "The Costs of European Linguistic (non)Communication.", ed. Esperanto Radikala Asocio, 1997
  • Raif MARKARIAN, The educational Value of Esperanto Teaching in the Schools, In: R. Schultz & V. Schultz (compilers) "The solution to our language problems" pp. 362–386, Bailieboro, Ontario, Esperanto Press, Canada, 1964.
  • Judit BALOGH, Rule of Esperanto as bridge language for foreign language teaching, (in Hungarian). PhD thesis in General linguistics at University of Eötvös Lorand, Budapest, 1979, 182 p.
  • Wilhelm SANKE, Linguistische und sprachdidaktische Aspekte eines Sprachorientierungsunterrichts - Thesen und Fragen am Beispiel einer Plansprache. In: I. Meyer (Red.): "5. Werkstattgesprach- Interlinguistik in Wissenschaft und Bildung, Arbeitspapier n. 62", IfKyP. Paderborn: FEoLL GmbH, 1981, pp. 18–206.
  • Lian O'CUIRE, An Cas do Esperanto, Esperanto-Asocio de Irlando, Dublin 1984, 5 p.
  • Ludovik PREBIL, Internacia pedagogia eksperimento en 5 landoj (1-a regiono), nella rivista "Esperanto", 1972, n. 121, luglio-agosto.
  • W. PERRENOUD, Conférence International sur l'enseignement de l'espéranto dans les écoles, au secrétariat de la Société des Natios, du 18 au 20 avril 1920. Compte rendu sommaire en français. Genève.
  • Antoni Grabowski, Esperanto kiel preparo al la lernado de lingvoj, in "Pola Esperantisto" 1908, n. 1, p. 48.

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