Esperanto, anyone?

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ColoradoGuy

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Esperanto is a totally made-up language, invented in 1887 by a guy living in what is now Poland. I've known bits and pieces about Esperanto, and even a few folks who played around with it for fun, but not much else. I recently read an excellent (and brief) review in the Times Literary Supplement (Feb 6 edition) of what it is and where it is going, written as a review of a newly published encyclopedia of Esperanto writings. (Unfortunately you need to subscribe to the TLS to see the review, but here's a link from an outfit called esperanto.org about Esperanto generally.)

Esperanto's inventor envisaged it as a kind of second language for all. One reason it never achieved that is the emergence of English as an international second language. Another reason is that the whole notion is kind of weird, at least to me. I see languages as organic things, growing through usage and interactions with other languages. To me, totally made-up languages are what one uses for computer programming and the like.

In spite of that, Esperanto is a tiny, but thriving phenomenon. Perhaps 100,000 persons are proficient in it, and perhaps several thousand of these might be called native speakers. There is Esperanto poetry. The language apparently lends itself well to punning because it has so many homophones. There are even people who Twitter in Esperanto.

If anybody knows any fascinating stuff about Esperanto -- where it came from and why, where it is going -- I'd love to hear about it. I'd especially like to hear from anybody who knows the language.
 

ColoradoGuy

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archerjoe

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William Shatner speaks Esperanto? That's really funny considering the number of people who speak Klingon has surpassed those who speak Esperanto, according to the Guiness Book of World Records. Funny or maybe a little sad.
 

DaddyCat

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I have the Incubus movie in my collection, mostly for its close ties to The Outer Limits TV series. Be aware that many dedicated Esperanto speakers are critical of the film for misrepresenting the language. The actors were hastily coached while filming and, according to those who truly use the language, chronically mispronounced their lines.
 

celldee

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I'm learning Esperanto at the moment. After having studied French and German at school, and subsequently trying to use them in conversation, I came to Esperanto with significant doubts about my linguistic abilities. I have been pleasantly surprised.

I won't go into the history of the language here. If you're interested I'm sure that you'll do some research yourself. Suffice it to say that Esperanto was created with several national languages and grammatical features as its basis. Therefore it performs very well as a practical means of communication.

I find it relatively easy to learn compared to the other languages that I have studied, being completely regular and consistent in pronunciation. It is very expressive, meaning that I can say anything that I want to say in Esperanto. However, the best thing is that it allows me to converse with people from all parts of the globe without feeling that any of the participants are at a disadvantage.

Esperanto is not going to become the second language of the world as its inventor hoped. It does take effort to learn and it doesn't give you any obvious economic benefits. Nonetheless, it is alive and well and thriving in this Internet age.

One of the best online resources that I have found is Lernu! - http://lernu.net

As this is a writer's forum you may be interested to learn that William Auld, who was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature, wrote original works in Esperanto.

Mi bondeziras al vi felicxon kaj sanon.
 

Zelenka

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I learned Esperanto through a correspondence course from the official society years ago but haven't really looked at it in a long while. My uncle had found out about it through reading Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series of SF books, where they used Esperanto and which had the address of the society in the author's notes.
 

Kalyke

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I have a book on esperanto. I know some Russian, and some Spanish, and I would like to learn those two languages a little better.
 

robeiae

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Okay, here's something weird. I took my son to see Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li today and guess what? It's filled with people speaking Esperanto! But there's more: the bad guy's secondary company is call The Esperanto Corporation.

Why is that?
 

Saoirse

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I speak it. :) I've been studying it for about a year now. About 2-3 hours a week with a friend. There are classes you can take - nothing official of course, but experts will offer classes a low cost to help komencantoj (beginners) improve their skills. I've taken 2 classes so far, with plans to take more. There are also tutors on iTalki that will tutor you in Esperanto as well.

I originally learned French (about 7 years) so that helped me tremundously, as French was one of the inspiration languages Zamenhof used. Apparently the opposite is also true - if you learn Esperanto, it will help you learn other languages. It is also supposedly the easiest language to learn.

The community is thriving. I learned on Duolingo first, and there are events held all the time. Lernu is another one. Facebook has a Duolingo Learners group that is a wonderful resource. I've found that Esperantists in general are just really friendly, fun people. And I hear that in some countries there are places you can stay for free if you speak the language.

My friend and I both have a goal of becoming fluent, then helping komencantoj. Because the experts of today won't be around in ten or fifteen years, and we want to keep the language alive. I personally want to get fluent also as a challenge to myself. And, if I were going to have kids (which I am not), I'd definitely teach them Esperanto. It's a fun language, very logical, very consistent, and I think it'd be cool for a kid to grow up learning it. I wish I had! But then again, I'm a total language geek.

I've written poetry in Esperanto (points to sig). I'd love to translate my books into it someday.
My family thinks I'm nuts, but whatever. Ili ne komprenas min! (They don't understand me).
 

Paul Lamb

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But is Esperanto like Latin, fixed in it's structure? Or does it evolve like any living language does. I think it must be fascinating to linguists to have this kind of "control" language in their observations.
 

Saoirse

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It's pretty fixed, actually. I recently tried to read something from the 1900s and could read it just fine. I was stunned. It hasn't changed much at all. I believe there were some modifications made, but...wow.

I've heard that they do call it a living language now because there are native speakers (denaskuloj) but as to its evolution....yeah. I'm not sure if anyone wants it to change much. That's a very good question.
 

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