martes, 4 de agosto de 2009

Saudi Gazette - Esperanto fans keep artificial language flourishing

Saudi Gazette - Esperanto fans keep artificial language
Esperanto fans keep artificial language flourishing
The elegant Nepali woman, clad in a pink sari, beamed as the tall German
man strolled by.
They both called out a greeting: “Saluton!” Then they launched into an
animated discussion in Esperanto, a language created from scratch more than a
century ago in an attempt to foster global harmony.
Some 2,000 Esperanto-speakers from 63 nations spent last week in Bialystok
at an anniversary congress marking the 1859 birth in this northeastern
Polish city of their founding father, Ludwik Zamenhof.
It is hard to say how many people speak Esperanto, which has devotees
worldwide but never achieved the breakthrough Zamenhof dreamed of.
“There are no official statistics, and estimates range from the hundreds
of thousands through to two million. But I think to be honest under a
million is more realistic,” said Jaroslaw Parzyszek, 46, head of the
Bialystok-based Zamenhof Foundation.
For users, Esperanto is more than a language. It offered global social
networking well before the birth of the Internet. “It’s about contact with
people,” said Indu Devi Thapaliya, 45, from Nepal. She stared learning in
1990 from a Pole in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. She now teaches it, and was
attending her fifth annual congress.
Esperanto’s seeds were planted in the 1870s. It grew out of an idealism
that saw its founder nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 13 times before his
death in 1917 - but an idealism that fell foul of Nazi Germany and the
Stalinist Soviet Union who saw it as a threat and even killed or jailed
Esperanto supporters.
“When he was young, my grandfather saw the hostility among people who
couldn’t understand one another. And he said to himself: ‘If these people could
understand one another, they could understand the reason for their
differences, and appreciate these differences,’” said Polish-born
Louis-Christophe Zaleski-Zamenhof, 84, who lives in France. He tested it on fellow
students while studying ophthalmology, and published it in 1887. “Esperanto” was
his writer’s pseudonym, a reference to the word “hope”.
Francois Randin, 58, from Switzerland said he fell in love with Esperanto
15 years ago. “The beauty of Esperanto is that it’s so simple - not
simplistic - yet so rich,” said Randin. The language is regulated by the
45-member Akademio de Esperanto, which works to keep it up to date via suggestions
from speakers. “Esperanto’s a tool to meet people of every nationality and
culture. It makes us all dual nationals by definition,” he added.
The issue of English’s global clout sparks debate among
Esperanto-speakers. “Esperanto is neutral, unlike English which creates inequality between
people who are born anglophone and those who learn it,” Zaleski-Zamenhof
said, recalling regular misunderstandings when doing business in English.
Esperanto fans are used to the kooky image many outsiders have of them. “I
speak it because I find it useful, not because I have any ideological link
to it in any way,” said Rolf Fantom, 28, who was raised in an
Esperanto-speaking household in Britain.
“You have a lot of strong-minded people who’ve taken it from being a
completely made-up language through to, 120 years later, hundreds of thousands
of people speaking it,” he said.
Some 75 percent of Esperanto’s vocabulary comes from Latin and Romance
languages, notably French, and around 20 percent from Germanic tongues like
German and English. The remainder is drawn from the Slavic languages Russian
and Polish, while most of its scientific terms come from Greek.
And, to ease learning, the language is phonetic. Esperanto uses a modified
Latin alphabet, every word is pronounced exactly as spelled, and there are
no “silent” letters or exceptions.
What makes Esperanto exceptionally easy, however, are its logical rules.
There are no complexities like grammatical gender. There is only one verb
conjugation - for example, “paroli” means “to speak”, “mi parolas” means “I
speak”, and “vi parolas”, “you speak”. To form the past tense, the “as”
verb ending becomes “is”, while the future is “os”. A prefix can be
added to any word to change it to its opposite - the Esperanto for “good” is “
bona”, while “bad” is “malbona”.
The language’s flexible word order allows users to employ the structure of
their native language and still speak Esperanto that sounds perfectly
intelligible and grammatically correct to others.
There are multiple sites aimed at online learners, notably at
_www.lernu.net_ ( and _www.esperanto.net_
( . - AFP
The following are some basic Esperanto terms, with their English
Hello - Saluton
How are you? - Kiel vi?
Please - Bonvolu
I don’t understand - Mi ne komprenas
I speak Esperanto - Mi parolas Esperanton
Please speak slower - Bonvolu paroli malpli rapide
Where are you from? - De kie vi estas?
What time is it? - Kioma horo estas?
I love you - Mi amas vin

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