Esperanto

by

From Genesis:

1And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.

2And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.

3And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. tower-of-babel

4And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.

5And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded.

6And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

7Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.

8So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.

9Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.

Ludwik Zamenhof sought to correct this.  A successful ophthalmologist and part-time philologist, Zamenhof, in 1887, published Unua Libro which introduced to the world Esperanto, a new language that he hoped would be adopted for international use.  It was Zamenhof’s goal that Esperanto would take hold as an international “second language” to be utilized for everything from business transactions to diplomacy.  Zamenhof believed many conflicts could be avoided and resolved if all parties had a neutral, unbiased universal language by which to communicate.  It was never his intention to replace any language with Esperanto; it was intended solely as a secondary, supplemental language. Tremendously simple, it is easily learned.  Today there are over a million people fluent in Esperanto.  Books and magazines have been published using it. It never took hold as the “official” international language that Zamenhof hoped, but it still lives on among a small, but devoted group of speakers around the world.

Here is a clip from “Incubus,” the only movie known to have been made using Esperanto:

Yes, that is William Shatner.

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14 Responses to “Esperanto”

  1. natdrive Says:

    haha- i totally watched that movie with my Dad when i was a kid. It is pure, undiluted SHANTER

  2. Michjo Says:

    Great post! If I may, I’d like to add just 3 comments:

    1. The confounding of the languages at Babel says is a condemnation neither of commonality of language nor of diversity of language: God confounded the languages because of the pride of the people. I don’t believe you think otherwise, but I have seen others read into this story divine disapproval of a common language and even of any attempt to bridge language the gap.

    2. Esperanto does more than live on – it thrives! The Internet has been a real boon to the language in the last decade or so. Googling “Esperanto” returns millions of hits. Interesting recent developments are lively Internet debates during the U.S. election campaign on the topic of Esperanto in American schools and currently in the European Union on the topic of Esperanto in European schools and government. Good resources and contacts are easy to find on the Internet.

    3. Among those good resources are numerous self-study courses. Lernu! is an excellent starting point for whoever desires to learn Esperanto. Another good resource is the freely downloadable Kurso de Esperanto, an introductory self-study course.

  3. languagewasanaccident Says:

    sick post. esperanto is pretty sweet, but english already has so much momentum as the world’s lingua franca that i highly doubt esperanto will ever catch up. plus, there’s just something unnatural about trying to communicate in a language that one dude invented. that’s just not how this stuff works.

  4. languagewasanaccident Says:

    also mark that is a tight middle name.

  5. mankso Says:

    @languagewasanaccident
    >that’s just not how this stuff works.

    There’s much more to it than numbers and being ‘unnatural’, as you put it. Linguistic neo-colonialism and language-based discrimination for starters. Think about these seven points of the Prague Manifesto for five minutes:
    http://lingvo.org
    and please let us know which language(s) (other than your mother-tongue) you are conversationally or professionally competent in – and how long it took you to get there.

  6. Michjo Says:

    @ languagewasanaccident:

    True, English has a lot more speakers than Esperanto, but the picture for English isn’t quite as rosy nor the picture for Esperanto quite as gloomy as they might appear on the surface.

    English, at any level, is spoken by at most 25% of the earth’s population. That means at least 75% speak no English whatsoever. Of the remaining 25%, most speak it poorly. It turns out that English is relatively easy to speak poorly, but very difficult to speak well. The most widely used international auxiliary language (IAL) is actually not (standard) English, but a highly impoverished form of English that some call “Globish”. The shortcomings of Globish become even more apparent when confronting native speakers of English. Think about it: even with colossal commercial and governmental support, most people speak no English at all, and of those that do, most use a lobotomized form of the language in which they must also compete with native speakers of English. English is rich, expressive and beautiful, but far from universal and ill suited as an IAL.

    Esperanto has a couple of million speakers – a far cry from English. But it reached that in just 121 years from just 1 speaker, by little more than word-of-mouth with essentially no external support and even occasional bouts of persecution. Based on the best estimates, it is growing faster than the world’s population. The Internet appears to have given it a boost over the last decade. Also, it is much easier – several times easier – to learn than English. Even after 121 years, it’s not down for the count – consider that Arabic numerals and the metric system took hundreds of years to catch on, and that a cure for cancer has not yet been found after searching for longer than the life of Esperanto.

    Esperanto is often called an artificial language. It indeed was artificial when it started, but has since become a complete, living, natural language. Its inventor released it to the then-nascent community soon after publishing it. From then on, it followed the same course as every other living, natural language, evolving and growing at the whims of the entire community, not those of one dictator.

  7. Kate (languagewasanaccident) Says:

    Man…did not expect my pithy little comment to warrant real, hearty responses. But, cool, in honor of the “freedoms of expression, communication, and association” (Prague Manifesto Principle #7), I might as well expand on my initial thoughts.

    First of all, I dig the idea of an ethnically neutral language for purposes of global communication. There’s no denying that English gained its lingua franca status in part through the “linguistic neo-colonialism” (if I correctly understand what mankso is referring to) that has accompanied the worldwide exportation of American culture. Simply put: it’s not fair. As a matter of fact, I’ve got nothing but love for the entire Prague Manifesto. The motivations behind the Esperanto movement (and indeed Zamenhof’s own intentions) are certainly admirable.

    However, you’ll have to excuse my shortage of idealism if it seemed like I was dealing the Esperanto community a diss. That wasn’t precisely my intention. I’m fascinated by Esperanto and I’m thrilled that it exists. I have the utmost respect for its cheerleaders. But there are reasons why I haven’t joined in the movement myself. For one thing, as Michjo points out, English as a second language has “colossal commercial and government support” which is exactly what Esperanto would need to ever truly become a global language. (See above re: shortage of idealism.) Plus, I do think Esperanto is hindered by a sort of strange paradox. On one hand Esperanto is better suited to be an IAL because of its simplicity; on the other hand the Esperanto community promotes its vitality and growth as a “complete, living, natural” language which necessarily means that over time it will cease to be simple.

    Historically, natural languages start as pidgins. For example, if a group of people are conquered and must begin to communicate in a new, dominate language, they generally do it in a “lobotomized” form. They strip the language to its barest bones. Pidgins are fascinatingly simple but in just a few decades they can dramatically increase in complexity. As soon as a generation of children are born who learn the pidgin as their native tongue, it takes on a new life. Children who learn Esperanto natively, if given the context of a speech community of other native speakers, will embellish the language to their liking. It will become more complex and more expressive—but harder to learn.

    My point is that Esperanto can only be one thing or the other: it must either be a sort of neutral, stagnant, standardized code used for intercultural communication OR a living language. It cannot be both.

    Since you asked—I assume the relevance of the question is to highlight the expeditiousness of learning Esperanto—I’ve studied both French and Spanish seriously for several years. I’m uncomfortable with fluency labels but surely I’m “conversationally competent” in both at this point. I definitely credit the time that I’ve spent abroad in Spanish and French speaking countries with helping me get to this point. I’ve tried to pick up other languages (German, Russian) just through online courses and while I have a “feel” for these languages, I can’t really use them conversationally. Personally, I know I’d have to make the effort to immerse myself in the language. I suppose a new Esperanto learner could “immerse” him/herself in the language by communicating with other speakers online, but I imagine this is primarily written (typed) language. Written language is an invented system that connects vision with the language of the mind. It is completely learned, whereas spoken language is half-instinct. The difference ends up being that written language evolves much more slowly. This is great if the goal is to keep Esperanto simple, but, again, it in turn restricts Esperanto from hopping on the fast-track to “naturalness.”

    By the way, my wordpress name “languagewasanaccident” might also have seemed like a direct shot, but actually I used it for my first blog over a year ago and it was inspired by some Bright Eyes lyrics. Nothing to do with this. That’s what I get for trying to sound ironic.

    Thanks to maddaps for the venue.

  8. maddaps Says:

    Crushing someone will not be an accident if anyone disses language was an accident. That is a killer song tooooooooooooooo.

  9. mankso Says:

    ‘Crushing someone’?!! This, from elsewhere in this blog a couple of days ago, is surely an example of language used to exclude outsiders:
    >My homey Steve Lieb from thegrip turned 26 today. I always talk shit on him and his blog but for real I got nothin but love for the dude. nh. Can I say no homo still? Anyway hit up some bday daps for the boy.

    I (willy-nilly a native speaker of English) have little idea what this all might mean. Can anyone translate it into standard English, please? Thanks.

  10. Michjo Says:

    @ Kate,

    I read no ill intent into any of your remarks on Esperanto. I did, however, read statements with which, based on my experience, I respectfully disagree. If, in my enthusiasm, I came across as a masked avenger, I apologize.

    I understand and essentially agree with your linguistic arguments because, as you say, that is how languages behave. However, I disagree with one crucial premise, that all languages must behave that way. The Esperanto I know is simple and relatively short-lived, yet complete; living and evolving, yet regular and remarkably unfractured; largely self-taught and maintained through written media, yet naturally and fluently spoken.

    I could go into a lengthy discussion of how Esperanto can “break the rules” and get away with it, but since we are dealing with the realm of observable fact, the most convincing explanation I can give you is to invite you to try it out and see for yourself. Please learn it, compare it with the languages you already know, then make contact with the Esperanto community, both in writing and orally. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to learn, how quickly you’ll pick it up, how readily your written skills will transfer to oral ones, and how gap-free and expressive it is. My hope is that you’ll then understand how it could work as an IAL, one that is thriving and even picking up steam, thanks largely to the Internet in recent years.

    If you’ve never learned Esperanto before, I suggest starting with Kurso de Esperanto, a free self-contained multimedia introductory course. A good follow-up is Gerda Malaperis!, just one of several free courses from Lernu!, a Website devoted to learning Esperanto.

    Thanks for the very enjoyable read, and, if you decide to go for it, bonan ŝancon dum esperanta lernado (good luck learning Esperanto)!

  11. maddaps Says:

    Hello Mansko!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I apologize for stating that I would “crush” you. I am sincere in that apology because I do not believe in striking other individuals. But “crushing” you would be warranted considering your ignorance regarding my “homey” and her prior post as well as her response. I imagine that you have read this response and realized your comment was not only ignorant but was intended only to attack, not to actually add anything to the post itself or the subject at hand, hence you decided to attack me considering that yet again you have no actual information to offer.

    It saddens me to see you question the merit of an individual based on two sentences and you managed to do it not only once but twice. I welcome any and all to read this weak blog but not disrespect those with actual intelligence, furthermore if all you have to offer is ridicule then at least have some substance to accompany it.

    But since you asked for a translation:

    The terms you are speaking of are known as “slang” and it is utilized in my social circle quite often.

    “My homey Steve Lieb turned 26 today.” First we would decipher the word homey which in some cultures, especially those outside of your absolute boring and racist existence would constitute “friendship” or a “friend” for that matter. I imagine you are now clear regarding the meaning of “homey” and how it relates to the individual we are speaking of.

    As for “Steve Lieb” this would be the birth name of the friend mentioned above or one of my “homeys” which would be the plural form of friend. I imagine the plural wouldn’t apply for a person such as yourself considering you probably have very few “friends” or “homeys” given the ignorance you have displayed on my lowly blog.

    26 is simply the length of time that has passed since my “homey” has been born. As for thegrip, that would signify the title of his weblog or blog. Today was simply stating the date of his actual date of birth.

    “Always talking shit” would be similar to how you approach things I would imagine. Only the individual I am speaking of is my friend and the “shit” that I talk is allowed due to that fact. I apologize that I did not signify what “talking shit” actually means but you seem to do it so well that I do not believe I need to provide an explanation.

    “I got love for the dude” would basically mean that I care about him a great deal and the reference of “nh” or no homo would highlight the fact that I do not love him in a homosexual way but in a heterosexual male bonding type of manner. The “no homo” phrase was made popular by a rap artist titled “Cam’ron” that our group of friends happens to enjoy so therefore we adopted the term as part of our embrace. By no means is it an attack on homosexuals just a statement that signifies our sexual preference, consider it the rainbow sticker on our back windshield if you will.

    “Can I say no homo still?” was a question posed at one of our friends who happens to be homosexual who may think the term has been overused, not because it seems derogatory towards actual homosexuals but because it may be “played out”. The phrase “played out” would highlight the fact that something, whether it is song, verse, film, art or phrase has been used so frequently that you grow tired of hearing or seeing it. A good example would be “willy nilly” as you stated, that phrase possibly has been played out.

    “Anyway hit up some bday daps for the boy” was simply stating that those who know and care about him should wish him happiness on his day of birth. The “daps” would come into play more so in actual personal one on one or group instances. It is debated on what would signify daps and I am no expert so I would suggest a hi-five, handshake or hug with a pat on the back possibly.

    As for “crushing someone” that is not slag whatsoever, it truly means what it appears to mean. I do not condone my use of it, I feel it is ignorant to provoke human beings as I mentioned prior. The important thing to note here is that you still have offered nothing to the conversation and just attacked one person directly involved in it as well as attacking me about a post that holds no relevance regarding the subject at hand.

    If you truly care about the language then educate others regarding it.

    My apology Michjo. I did not intend to seem to be masked nor attack you. My dear friend Kate has sacrificed many luxuries at the cost of studying and teaching language. I would not stand to see someone make a snide remark and offer nothing else. You however did so my comment was not directed towards you.

    I appreciate your insight and the information you have provided.

    Kwaheri!

    Robert N. McMillen

  12. marklawrencescott Says:

    Comment Wars ’09!

  13. Bill Chapman Says:

    I just wanted to contribute that Esperanto is more than just an ideal. It is a useful language which enables yyou to get to know ordinary people in other countries.

    I am a British citizen at present in Cameroon in Africa. I have spent some time with Esperanto-speaking friends in Douala. I have slept as they sleep, eaten as they eat. In fact, I am confident that few white men have got to know how pepople live in this part of town, as I have vbeen able to. Esperanto opens doors!

  14. David Curtis Says:

    Back in 1974 I was dubious about Esperanto, but learned it, put it to the test on foreign Esperanto-holiday courses, and soon became absolutely convinced that it was the best way to make friends with foreigners regardless of nationality. Normally, foreigners are more interested in practising their English upon me, than in me, personally; and I am always put in a superior position because I know my own language better than they do. Meeting foreign Esperanto speakers is far better than that, for both they and I are on the same level. Instead of staying in hotels in each other’s countries, we stay in each other’s homes, and thus become friends for life. If any doubter is reading this, I hope that he or she will first learn Esperanto before continuing to doubt its value. Best wishes, David Curtis, Weston-super-Mare, England.

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