Don’t Take it Personal: Esperanto

[This is the fifth in a series of posts called “Don’t Take it Personal.” I will be writing letters to languages that have not been selected in this project, giving reasons for why I decided to “move on.” These will appear between regular posts, adding a more “comedic” spin to the blog.]

Dear Esperanto,

Greetings! Or should I say, Saluton? I am writing to you from America, as it is painfully hot in my area of the country. I hope you are staying cool, wherever you are.

I suppose I will spare you the further details about the weather and jump straight into why I am writing you this letter. It is about us, and maybe a misunderstanding, at least on my end.

I think it might be obvious to state that we are not right for each other. Although, I do believe we have the same interests. We both share a love of all things international, as your goal is to promote understanding across all cultures, regardless of language.

First, let me say how brilliant it is that you combine the Romance and Germanic languages, with a dash of Slavic phonology, to form something that truly unites people all over the world. In 120 years, you have achieved a status like your non-constructed cousins, with between 100,000 to 2 million speakers, even being taught in some universities. What also amazes me is the ability of Esperanto speakers to learn other languages much more rapidly, along with how simple it is to learn how to speak you.

However, I did not intend on learning a constructed language. Part of the reason is that I have an affinity to speak a language derived from a specific region, one that reflects the molding and careful crafting that only time can give it. To my knowledge, no country has declared Esperanto an official language, even as a secondary one.

And then there are other peculiarities. For being a constructed language, almost all of your vocabulary comes from European languages, which makes it difficult for someone living in Africa or Asia to learn. And then there is the issue of your “auxiliary-ness” itself, which makes me wonder if this is the reason why most universities and other institutions have generally overlooked you. Unlike ethnic languages, you do not have a culture to identify with, or rather, one that seems to be constructed purely by its followers. Perhaps it is my fault for not being more engaging.

For some reason, I think of you like Latin. While Latin is a classical language, it is dead and is only used for practical purposes, specifically in science or academia. I think learning you would be practical, but there would be something missing, something that the other languages I bonded with have.

Forgive me for this. I still admire you and all that you are achieving. Your followers are truly dedicated and fantastic, as they have helped promote your status to a global level. I think your father, L. L. Zamenhof, would be proud of you, as I remember his words: “I was brought up as an idealist; I was taught that all people were brothers …” No wonder he named you “one who hopes.”

Take care,
Keith

13 thoughts on “Don’t Take it Personal: Esperanto

  1. Hello from Wales!

    No, I can’t speak for Esperanto, but I don’t take it personally. You are entitled to learn and promote any language you want to, and to leave alone any language you want to.

    You are right that “no country has declared Esperanto an official language”, and I’m not sure that I would want it to. Esperanto belongs to a voluntary international speech community,and one of its strengths is not being identified with any section of humanity or any power bloc.

    Bondezirojn el Kimrio!

  2. Ah, you haven’t heard of Moresnet then: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moresnet

    Of course, officiality in one country in particular (the mythical Esperantujo not withstanding) would defeat its purpose of being “A second language for all.”

    While I enjoy original works in Esperanto, I find even more compelling are those translated into the language by native speakers. To me, this gives a better understanding of their culture, as they will have a much better understanding of idiom and what things really mean than a non-native translator.

  3. Hello Keith

    Really good to see that you acknowledge Esperanto as a living language. In terms of human history, it is still relatively young 🙂

    It’s unfortunate that only a few people know that Esperanto has become a living language.

    During a short period of 122 years Esperanto is now in the top 100 languages, out of 6,800 worldwide, according to the CIA World factbook. It is the 22nd most used language in Wikipedia, and a language choice of Google, Skype, Firefox and Facebook.

    Native Esperanto speakers,(people who have used the language from birth), include George Soros, World Chess Champion Susan Polger, Ulrich Brandenberg the new German Ambassador to NATO and Nobel Laureate Daniel Bovet. According to the CIA Factbook the language is within the top 100 languages, out of all languages, worldwide.
    Your readers may be interested in the following video. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670 A glimpse of the language can be seen at http://www.lernu.net

    1. Yes — hopefully I will be able to spread the word about it! Thank you very much for reading and your comments!

  4. Saluton, Keith!

    Congrats on being able to not choose Esperanto without simultaneously denigrating the language either for valid or (as is mostly the case) invalid ones.

    I do take issue with one of your statements, though: “Unlike ethnic languages, you do not have a culture to identify with, or rather, one that seems to be constructed purely by its followers.” It’s this last phrase that gets me. Doesn’t this apply to all languages? I mean, Spanish culture was constructed purely by Spanish speakers, no? French culture by French speakers? Etc?

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Dmitri!

      I think what I meant to say was non-constructed languages are molded by the history of the regions they are spoken in, along with events, religion and other factors. This is why I always preface each post with a “regional history.” Because Esperanto is not spoken in a specific region this would be difficult. But you are right, the culture that has bloomed from Esperanto’s speakers is certainly just as valid.

  5. >” I have an affinity to speak a language derived a specific region, …”

    Do you consider Second Life a valid region?

    >”… one that reflects the moulding and careful crafting that only time can give it.”

    moulding, crafting and time = Esperanto (al last!). No need to wait any longer. See the origin of the vocabulary at http://remush.be/etimo/etimo.html.

    >”Almost all of your vocabulary comes from European languages, which makes it difficult for someone living in Africa or Asia to learn.”

    Did you happen to ask those Asian and African what they thought of it, for instance compared to English or even to a language from the neighbouring village?
    I did!

    Remuŝ

  6. > No wonder he named you “one who hopes.”

    The name of the language was “la Internacia Lingvo”.
    Zamenhof signed with many pseudonyms based on his family name. Zamen + hof (in Dutch hopezaam) would be translated to “Esperanta”.
    The language became known as “the language of Dr. Esperanto”, what became “Esperanto” to the dissatisfaction of the author.

    In summary, he did not name it “Esperanto”, Jesus knows why.

    Remuŝ

  7. To Remuŝ!
    I wish you didn’t end your writing with “Jesus knows why”
    You could have ended: Marko probably knows why.
    Marko was his father and Jesus had nothing to do with this!

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