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Esperanto Riposte

Aug
15
2006

At the end of my post about the World Esperanto Congress, I asked folks who had learned Esperanto why they bothered and what they planned to do with it.

Well, did I get answers.

Tim Morley, who won my immediate sympathy by stating he learned it to “talk, laugh, be entertained, flirt” when traveling, racked up a lot of answers worth reading on his blog.

Thanks to Esperanto, the posters have composed a symphony, become UN translators, helped asylum seekers, overcome stuttering, learned Chinese and traveled extensively, aided by a network of like minds.

Though I’ll never be accused of trying to catch flies with honey instead of vinegar — a concept niether my father nor my grade school teachers succeeded in getting across — I’m at a loss for contentious zingers here.

I know, I know. It’s just not the way these things are done. However, if you were trying to foster a brotherhood of understanding, you’d do well to start with the Esperantists.

And not because they intend to do that with Esperanto (most of them say they have more practical reasons for taking it up) but because they are a smart, articulate and unfailingly civil bunch, if the posts are anything to go by.

A few considerations: I was taken to task (albeit politely) for calling Esperanto an “artificial” language. The definition comes from Wikipedia: “a language designed for human communication which was created by the work of one or more persons, rather than having naturally evolved as part of a culture.”

My point wasn’t that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not the way people usually learn languages. Is it a better way? Easier way?

The artificial tag is said to make a lot of Esperanto buffs bristle, but I don’t see much difference between artificial and the preferred term “constructed” language.

Though it may have simplified grammar and poetry has been written in it, Esperanto still doesn’t come from a culture. This doesn’t make it better or worse, it just means that it will be propelled as far as the Esperantists lead it — and convince their children to take it up and pass it on.

Part of the problem will be gaining enough critical mass, including the English-language press, to get the point about Esperanto across.

Morely notes that the study I cited (from an Italian press agency) about how much money the EU spends in translation was actually about how much money the UK makes with the dominance of English. It was by a French governmental agency and there’s no trace of it in English, at least not as far as I could tell on Google News. And, If you look at Google news, the Esperanto congress in Florence never happened. As some of the posters on Morley’s site conceded, Esperanto has always had a PR problem.

Still, I’m not new to the benefits of taking up a niche language. Working in Italy, speaking Italian – a language I started learning during a junior year abroad in college – means more or less a month of vacation in August plus nearly another two weeks of public holidays during the year.

Hmmm. Anyone know of an Esperanto group in Milan?

Share  Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 8:47 PM | Permalink

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