Category Archives: Esperanto

Doctor Who, Veganism, and the Great language divide

http://www.planetclaire.org/doctorwho/ninth_doctor.php

Dr. Who -BOOM TOWN (season 1)

Margaret: I spared her life.
The Doctor: You let one of them go but that’s nothing new. Every now and then a little victim’s spared because she smiled, ’cause he’s got freckles. ‘Cause they begged. And that’s how you live with yourself. That’s how you slaughter millions. Because once in awhile—on a whim, if the wind’s in the right direction—you happen to be kind.
Margaret: Only a killer would know that.

It’s amazing the way your mind wanders, how little things…quotes from t.v. shows and bits of blogs, make you think of the strangest things.

I’ve been studying Esperanto lately with my little boy, and we’ve been having a lot of fun.  And it didn’t occur to me until after we’d begun studying that the first time we’d heard of it was actually years before through Scifi. Red Dwarf features it as a second language throughout the show and Harry Harrison talks about it as the Galactic secondary language in his Stainless Steel Rat book series.  After we’d begun studying the language, I began to understand why.

Esperanto was created as a supplementary language to facilitate peaceful relations between people of different language backgrounds and cultures.  It’s not meant to replace anyone’s native language, but rather to ease communication while preserving the linguistic and cultural identity of its speakers.  In fact, Esperanto has a culture of it’s own.

Because of it’s original peaceful intent, its sometimes referred to as a Peace Movement itself.  Because it doesn’t belong to any one country, nor is it a requirement, the people who study it tend to be self motivated activists and idealists.  There are a lot of vegetarians and vegans in the Esperanto movement.

Which led me to thinking of the similarities between Esperanto and veg*nism. Both movements are considered somewhat on the fringe.  Both are taken up by a small fraction of the overall population of the Earth.  Both are considered by many as a good idea though unattainable “in real life.” Both have lofty, noble, peaceful goals.

Which led me to remember the Doctor Who quote above.  You may wonder why I’ve cited it in a post about Esperanto and Veganism; Then again, you may not.

What struck me about that conversation, the very first time I heard it, was how it illustrates perfectly the compromises and double-think we’re all guilty of in our everyday lives.  How many times have we cried out enraged against cruelty to animals while simultaneously filling our bellies with their flesh?  How many times have we fed the ground remains of some animals to the animal companions within our own homes?  The pressure for this kind of double-think is so rampant throughout our society, that most of us are completely unaware that we do it.  We’re immersed in it; it’s become part of the way we think, or rather the way we double-think ourselves, in order to rationalize our actions and be “normal” members of society.

But what is so “normal” about our society?  When our society is fractured and split by the great language divide, when our compassion is split between the animals that need to be cared about and the ones that can be abused, is being “normal” a worthy goal?

What is “normal” anyway?  I’m going to be cliche here and quote from Merriam-Webster Dictionary…

  • Main Entry: 1nor·mal

1 : perpendicular; especially : perpendicular to a tangent at a point of tangency
2 a : according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle b : conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern
3 : occurring naturally <normal immunity>
4 a : of, relating to, or characterized by average intelligence or development b : free from mental disorder : sane**

Here, I believe, lies the fundamental difference between the idealist and the “normal” people.  “Normal” to most people equals conformity and sanity, while the idealist sees conformity as insanity. How is it sane to settle for the way things are when the world could be so much better- if everyone just lived the values they already profess to cherish?  Normal people see seemingly unattainable goals (that go against the mainstream of society) as impractical.  Idealists see the seeds of change in thoughtful choices and small everyday acts of kindness.  Even Cyrano himself (in the play Cyrano de Bergerac) claims:

What say you? It is useless? Ay, I know
But who fights ever hoping for success?
I fought for lost cause, and for fruitless quest!

What does it matter if the numbers are few? If society frowns upon the person who devotes time to causes that seem fringe, hopeless and impractical?  Some things are worth fighting for.  Some things are worth speaking out for.  I may have begun studying Esperanto purely as a hobby, but I still respect it’s ideals and culture and would never disparage it.  I became vegan for other reasons: for the animals; for my conscience; and for a better, more peaceful world.  And unlike Cyrano, I don’t NEED to fight.  All I need to do is be true to myself and my ideals.  Whether or not something is attainable in my lifetime (or even at all) is irrelevant. Some things are worth doing simply because they are the right thing TO do.

And maybe, just maybe, our small numbers will make the difference.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.” —Margaret Mead

I think The Doctor would approve.

**In the above Merriam-Webster definition, I made the text that I wanted to draw attention to both bold and italicized.

LINKS:

To learn more about Esperanto:
http://www.lernu.net

To learn more about Veganism:
http://www.veganoutreach.org
http://www.compassionatecooks.com

Downloadable Podcasts:
Food for thought

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Filed under Action Alerts, Animal Rights and Veganism, Current events, Esperanto, Musings and mischief

Why should anyone learn Esperanto?

I honestly never gave much thought to Esperanto until a little over two weeks ago. I might have wondered why the signs on Red Dwarf were written in both English and Esperanto, but other than that…nothing. I knew nothing about it. If anything, I thought it might be a dialect of Spanish.

But an online friend asked me to view a short video about Esperanto and consider spending ten minutes a day trying to learn it. I’ll admit – my first thought was, Yeah, right! Why would I want to do that? But by the end of the video I was convinced.

Now, I’m not telling anyone that they NEED to learn Esperanto. No one does, obviously. BUT it is very useful and really a lot of fun! Not only are there tons of free courses, music, puzzles, games, and literature available on the internet, but it seems that whenever you mention that you are learning this amazing language you immediately start communicating with people from different linguistic backgrounds!

That’s not at all surprising. Esperanto was designed to be a supplementary language to foster international communication. That’s why it was created to be intuitive, making it the world’s easiest language. Depending on the person’s native language, Esperanto is four to eight times easier to learn than any other. Students of Esperanto can become relatively fluent in three to four months, whereas comparative proficiency in another language would take years.

So after viewing the video, I thought, What the hell? Why not? I don’t have a terrific track record when it comes to foreign languages. Like many others, I passed one year of High School Spanish – a course that I took mostly because it was supposedly easy and I lived near Miami. I also managed to live in Germany for over three years while never mastering the German language. I knew a few phrases by speaking but was never able to write even those phrases. I also found some of the sounds hard to pronounce.

Esperanto has been the easiest and most enjoyable learning experience that I’ve ever had. Pronunciation is pretty simple – each letter has only one sound and every letter in a word is pronounced. The only slight difficulty for English speakers might be rolling the “r”s, but that is not a hard-and-fast rule so it’s not really a big deal.

Most languages have hundreds or more grammatical rules, exceptions to rules, and redundancies. Esperanto has 16 rules. That’s it. SIXTEEN. Because the language was designed rather than evolving naturally, there are no redundancies or exceptions, which accounts for the difficulty of other languages.

Because Esperanto was designed to be learned easily and quickly, the ordinary Joe (or Jane) on the street can begin conversing with people in Esperanto in a short period of time. My personal experience shows this to be true. Plus Esperantists typically love to share their knowledge of the language and help any newbies (such as myself).

It’s common for people who learn Esperanto to develop the confidence and desire to acquire other languages. Developing an understanding of the basic rules of grammar while becoming proficient fosters the confidence to explore other tongues.

Last, but not least, it’s really fun! In the past two weeks or so, I’ve made a bunch of online friends, downloaded Esperanto rock music and heavy metal, listened to mp3 lessons, and played Esperanto themed games with my eight year old son (We’re learning together). I’ve even started an Esperanto blog to practice writing and show our progress with our lessons. I’m sure it contains grammatical errors, but hey- I’m learning. :)

I’m not anyone special. If someone like me can pick up that much of a feel and love for the language in just a couple weeks, just imagine what someone who actually has a knack for languages can do!

***

If you are interested:

Lernu.net – A huge Esperanto site aimed at promoting the International language. They have free lessons available in many different languages. Members (free) of this site have access to lesson plans, free audio and text lessons, online forums, and more.

Music – This site has downloadable songs in Esperanto from different musical styles from the Blues to Heavy Metal.

Literature and Podcasts – It’s self explanatory. Get free books and podcasts in Esperanto. It’s fun!

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Filed under Current events, Esperanto

My Shiny New Esperanto Blog

Update:

Hubby was kind enough to help me set up a separate blog for my ramblings in broken Esperanto. While my son and I try to learn the International Language, I will be chronicling our daily progress and exploits. If cows have indeed sprouted wings and anyone is interested in this, you can find my new Esperanto blog, Ganymeder-a blogo, by clicking here.

As soon as I am able, I will resume posting here on my regular Monday-ish schedule. :)

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Filed under Action Alerts, Current events, Esperanto

Tech stuff and my apologies…

For a little over a week now, my son and I have been learning Esperanto over the Internet. In an attempt to facilitate our learning, I have created a page where I keep an ongoing record of our progress. You may find this page by clicking here or by going to the right hand side of this page beneath the heading Pages and clicking on Ganymeder-a blogo en Esperanto kaj la Angla.

Since I am directing more effort to Esperanto and the Esperanto page on this blog, my usual Monday posts may be less frequent for awhile. If anyone other than my husband follows this blog, I apologize for the reduction in (English) posts. I have several posts partially written, but I have less time to work on them now. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

When I become more comfortable in Esperanto, I will most likely resume my previous Monday (or Monday-ish) schedule for weekly blog posts.  Again, thank you for your patience.

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Filed under Current events, Esperanto, Writing Corner