This is an excerpt from a Draft Lojban Textbook by Robert
Setting Your Lojban Goals
If you already know enough about why Lojban is worth learning, and
want to learn Lojban, you can start with Lesson 1 now (well, finish
this section first). If you are studying as part of a group or a
class, feel free to work ahead on your own. Learning a language is
a complex effort; you will not hurt your group effort by studying
ahead. You may even enrich the group through personal insights that
you may gain in a first reading.
nu ko cuxna le do terzu'e ra'a la lojban.
Before you start learning Lojban, you should clarify your goals
for studying and using the language. If you have an instructor,
make your goals clear to the instructor. It is also useful to look
over your cultural and language background and your experience in
learning languages. Then, use this book's resources in ways suited
to your specific needs.
There are several reasons for studying a language. You may wish
to visit a foreign country where people speak the language, or to
host a native speaker of that language visiting you. You may wish
to read literature in the language. You may wish to confer with
other speakers of the language. You may simply wish to gain the
perspective of another language and its inherent cultural viewpoint
on the nature of human life and civilization.
You are unlikely to visit Lojbanistan (except in your mind), or
to host visitors from that realm. The other reasons listed above
could still apply to learning Lojban. In addition, as the number of
Lojban speakers grows, you might find knowing Lojban an excellent
bridge to communicating with someone who does not know English.
Lojban has a couple of additional reasons for study that do not
apply to other languages. You may be interested in computer
applications of Lojban. You may be interested in planning,
conducting, or participating in, various linguistic research
efforts that will use Lojban. You also may be learning Lojban as a
stepping stone to other languages; researchers have shown that
learning one foreign language makes learning others easier. Using
easily-learned Lojban as your first foreign language could greatly
accelerate your learning another language that will be more
important to your life. Lojban may be especially valuable for
learning languages that are far different from English, languages
whose structures may not easily translate into English.
These are just a few possibilities. What are your reasons?
No language textbook can teach everything about a language to you.
Some textbooks are more effective than others for particular
skills, or for people with particular backgrounds. How much you
achieve in a course of study depends on how long the course is, and
how intensely you study. Language study, in particular, requires
much practice, preferably with others. Set realistic goals, so that
you gain confidence at your successes, and not disappointed when
progress seems slow. People do not learn languages overnight. You
took years to learn English; if you practice a couple hours every
day, you might be fluent in Lojban in several months. Most people,
though, will skip days of practice entirely (while we might wish
otherwise) or spend only a little time on those days when they do
study. If your expectations are reasonable, this becomes less of a
problem. Continue your learning efforts and you will eventually
reach your goal. Reading this book and doing the exercises is not
enough to learn Lojban. Not only must you study the vocabulary, you
must use Lojban. If you are in a class or study group, try saying a
few sentences every session. Don't worry about making mistakes;
everyone else will too. In fact, it is almost obligatory that you
push your knowledge of the language to the point where you make
mistakes as often as possible. That is how you will learn.
- Are you studying Lojban just out of curiosity, but have not
(yet) decided to try to master the language for any particular use?
(If so, you probably want to concentrate less on memorizing
vocabulary, and more on structures of the language, especially
those emphasized in Lesson 1.)
- Do you intend to read Lojban? Do you want to do so with or
without a dictionary in hand? (Written Lojban will tend to have
more complex grammar than spoken Lojban, and probably a larger
vocabulary usage. You need to concentrate on recognizing Lojban
words, disassembling complex words into their components; you must
also have a broad command of the grammar. You will not have much
need to recall a Lojban word for a concept without seeing that word
in print. Pronunciation rules and listening practice probably
aren't very important to you.)
- Do you intend to speak Lojban with others? Does your knowledge
need to be fluent, for comfortable conversation or serious
communication, or do you just need to 'get by' speaking the
language only occasionally? (Having a command of the vocabulary is
more important in speaking the language. You need to both recognize
and recall Lojban words quickly; the recognition should include
some practice with spoken words in isolation and in the context of
sentences. To be fluent in Lojban, you must either build a large
vocabulary, or be quick and skillful at 'making up' words or
paraphrases to get your point across. On the other hand, you will
seldom use more complex or unusual features of the grammar.
Concentrate on the grammar covered in the earlier lessons of the
- Do you wish to translate English or other languages into
Lojban, especially with publication quality? (If so, you need to
concentrate on the grammar, including the less common structures.
You need to recall Lojban words for concepts easily, and to create
new words and paraphrases easily. Your total vocabulary need not be
large, especially if an English-Lojban dictionary is available; you
need little emphasis on speaking and listening to the
- Do you want to write creatively or originally in Lojban? (You
need the same skills as a translator, though concentrating on the
more common grammar structures before worrying about rarer
constructs. (You should have complete mastery of the basics before
playing with unusual word orders and constructs.) For poetry, you
also need a feel for how the language sounds. You need especial
skill at recognizing when your expressions rely on non-Lojban
cultural information, or on idiom derived from other
- Do you plan to write in Lojban only minimally (primarily
sentences, paragraphs, or maybe short letters)? (You need a good
command of the basic vocabulary, and the basic structures of the
languages, but do not need to master any particular feature.)
- Do you plan to use Lojban for designing computer applications?
(You need to understand the grammar thoroughly in a formal or
technical sense that will not be emphasized in this book. The
informal approaches here will provide a basis for such advanced
study. You also need to concentrate on learning patterns in the
Lojban vocabulary far more than individual words. Topics to
understand include the construction of new words and determination
of their formal definition, analysis of meanings, and the
interactions between words in complex expressions.)
- Do you plan to teach Lojban? If so, to which of the above types
of people? (Most likely, you need to master those skills that your
students need. You also need a certain amount of fluency, as
described in 3. above, in order to quickly invent a good example
when someone is having trouble. If you are planning to teach
children, you need to concentrate heavily on the most basic and
common structures and vocabulary. On the other hand, the author and
others taught the first Lojban classes with only a minimal,
non-fluent, command of the vocabulary and grammar.)
- Do you plan to use Lojban in linguistic research? (If so, you
probably should learn a variety of grammatical forms, and minimize
vocabulary unless your research will significantly require
- Now that you have focussed on your goals for using Lojban,
consider the most important question: What do you expect to
accomplish toward your goals before finishing this book? How much
time will you spend in this pursuit, and with what intensity?
Many people believe that adults have particular difficulty
learning new languages; that only young children can become fluent
in a new language with ease. Actually, the only proven difficulty
adults have in learning languages is speaking with a native accent.
Otherwise, your greater understanding of the rules of even one
language give you a strong advantage over children in learning
On the other hand, children aren't afraid to make mistakes.
Listen to any young child speaking her/his native language and you
will hear mistakes in nearly every sentence. As children grow older
and gain more experience in the language, they make fewer and fewer
mistakes. To learn any language, including Lojban, you must lose
your adult self-consciousness, and learn like a child. You'll learn
much more quickly and will speak fluent and error-free Lojban
within a few months. In learning Lojban, do not be afraid to make
mistakes. You will learn from those mistakes, just as children do,
and more quickly master Lojban.
In addition, adults have more responsibilities than children,
and find it more difficult to sustain long-term effort at learning.
Adults also have higher expectations of themselves, and get
discouraged more easily. A child does not expect total mastery of a
language in a few months. After leaving formal school, most adults
find it difficult to pursue even a single course of study for more
than a few months. Recognize your limitations, but take pride in
your progress. You will find yourself capable of expressing far
more in Lojban in a very short time than you can in comparable
effort in learning any other language.
Last modified: Mon Jun 27 23:10:37 PDT 2005
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