I have been interested in foreign languages most of my life. I took Spanish in high school for two years and then lost interest in it for a fairly long period of time. What got me back into Spanish was an interest in being able to communicate with Amateur (Ham) Radio Operators in that language. With the school background it did not take long to get fairly proficient in the language using it on the radio, because I was able to speak to real people in real time and life situations. Today one could perhaps use computer chat to do the same thing.
Another language that I became interested in is Esperanto. I first heard of Esperanto when I was on active duty with the U S Army. I was in the 131st Tank battalion in the desert. We had a field training exercise called "Operation Bristlecone". The aggressor forces spoke Esperanto and were issued a small booklet of the basics of the language. They learned to speak enough of the language to make it sound foreign. This sparked my interest but that spark was short-lived and I soon forgot about the language.
Quite a few years later I read an article about Esperanto in a ham radio publication and quickly revived my interest. I contacted the author of the article and found out some more references. I wound up joining the Esperanto League of North America (ELNA) and the Amateur radio association of Esperanto. I also took the ten-lesson beginner course and was off to a good start.
I tried to find short-wave stations with Esperanto broadcasts and amateur radio stations with which I could practice talking. However, for the most part my search was disappointing. I did find some pen pals through ELNA and exchanged quite a few letters with them. Most were in Lithuania and Estonia with a few from Bulgaria and Argentina.
Now I find quite a few sites on the web for communicating in Esperanto. I think the web will be a big boost for the Esperanto language