Saturday, July 3, 2010

Books. Books. Books. Ohmigod, books.

"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind." -Rudyard Kipling

"I cannot live without books" -Thomas Jefferson

"A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking." -Jerry Seinfeld

Kiel vi fartas? (How are you doing?): Mi fartas lace kaj bone. (I am tired and good.) :D

After my wakeup call during my last post, I've gotten back in the groove of studying Esperanto fairly regularly. This is a very good thing, considering that I found out that if a person were to study Esperanto for ten minutes a day, in four months they'd be essentially fluent.

You have no idea how exciting that sounds to a lingvemulo like me. After three years of studying French, I am definitely not at a level of fluency where I can confidently communicate with a native speaker at all, or even discuss abstract topics with a fellow student.

Alas, I've been trying to do some more studying (whilst my parents watch Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland), but the stupid Lernu! site is down. I go to the page and it's blank except for: "Ŝajne estas iuj problemoj pri la datumbazo, bv. reveni pli poste." I think this means that there's some problems with the server and that I should return later.

Well, shoot.

What's all this about... books?

*spazz* Igotnewbookstoday!! :D

A fantastic bookstore in Seattle, Elliott Bay Book Co., had changed locations since my family was last there, so today after work we decided to go check out the new place and get some reading material. Despite having to walk past the large, brightly-colored SEX section to get to the good stuff (Philosophy, Women's and LGBT Studies, Linguistics, etc.), I had a ton of fun poking around. I bought this fantastic thing called In the Land of Invented Languages. There's a whole section in here on the history of Esperanto, so I'm starting with that, and then I'll read the rest of the book. I want to put up an excerpt which I found deep and highly amusing at the same time:

Still, it is not hard to understand why so many people find Esperanto so repellent. Language is not just a handy tool for packing up our thoughts and sending them along to others. It's an index to a set of experiences both shared and extremely personal... We love our languages for this... Compared with them, Esperanto is an insult... It asks us to give up what distinguishes us from the rest of the world for something that makes everyone in the world the same... Strange, then, that I don't think I've ever been anywhere more colorful than Esperantoland. On my second trip there... I was exposed to so much culture that I started to get a headache. We sang "Guantanamera" in Esperanto on ten separate occasions in ten different Cuban musical styles.

And with this, I'd like to segue into something that caught my attention a few days ago...


Crazy, huh? This goes beyond "It's ugly" (any language can be considered ugly...) and into "...Esperanto -- it's been tried, and it FAILED. Esperanto is a DEAD language, with a few wingnuts who insist it's some kind of 'perfect' solution. It's not, it's not even a LANGUAGE -- it's gibberish... Esperanto is an abysmal failure. If it were at all successful, it would be spoken by more than just a handful of self-righteous linguistic pricks. In fact, Esperanto was REJECTED by the world."

Someone actually wrote that on a blog post on The original post wasn't even about Esperanto, but with debates about language usage and communication erupting in the comments section, this person contributed their harsh two cents.

My first question is: What on Earth did a language do to earn such violent commentary? Jeez, I haven't seen such a response since someone suggested that maybe it was okay to address Mexican immigrants in Spanish.

Second of all, I wanted to address specific points made by this person, in the hopes that any present or future readers here will better understand my madness.

1.) "...Esperanto-- it's been tried, and it FAILED." Now, then, is it really fair to say that a language has failed when it's still growing, and more speakers are coming all the time... and it's not even 200 years old?
2.) "It's not even a LANGUAGE-- it's gibberish..." So too is any language which cannot be understood by a listener. But more than that, if Esperanto is gibberish, it's the darn most organized gibberish I've ever seen. Being so nitpicky to ensure that all nouns end in "o" and all adjectives end in "a"? Jeez, Zamenhoff, you're a little OCD.
3.) "If it were at all successful, it would be spoken by more than just a handful of self-righteous linguistic pricks." Now, see here, besides the fact that two million is not "a handful" in any sense of the term, I see nothing self-righteous or prick-y about being interested in language. It's just part of being a linguist... okay, you're accurate there. A lot of people who speak Esperanto are linguistic-types, because they're language nerds. Like me. It's fun.

Are you gonna go into another full-blown rant?

Nah, I'm not really in the mood. I just wanted to respond without opening a massive can of worms.

That's the problem with a website geared towards debate and action. You get people who are willing to debate you into the ground.

With that, friends, I leave you with a common farewell of Esperanto:

Ĝis revida!

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