ESPERANTO

"... the gift ... to see ourselves as others see us." Robert Burns.

Do you want to become a true citizen of the world? To see other people with whom you share the planet as brothers and sisters, regardless of where they live and the beliefs they hold? To learn how they indeed, see us?

If so, maybe Esperanto is a step in the right direction?

What is Esperanto? It's a gift. It's a fully-fledged language given to the world by one who hoped it would be a means of greater mutual understanding and sharing. His name is Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof (or in Esperanto, Ludviko Lazaro Zamenhofo). Like Buddha, he saw suffering and sought to alleviate it. Zamenhof saw the source of much suffering as the inability to speak of problems in a meaningful way with another person who does not speak (or chooses not to speak) your language. And, like the Buddha, he did not seek or acquire personal gain but rather, through personal sacrifice, worked tirelessly to create a neutral second language that would enable the fulfilment of the basic right of all people to communicate and share, as people to people,  regardless of their location, beliefs, and languages.

Not all people are as generous as Zamenhof. There are those that fear that people will be freed by way of language from an exploitative hold held over them and they, the ones that hold the fear, will lose power and wealth. Notable among these are Hitler and Stalin.

Unfortunately, to the extent that people have heard of Esperanto, they often associate it with the failure of a good idea. They might say something like: "My grandparents used to speak Esperanto, but it died out, didn't it? It wasn't a success."

If there has been a failure, is it a failure of Zamenhof, the Esperanto language or something else? Thanks to Zamenhof, Esperanto works. It's a functioning living language. It's spoken by people in over 70 countries and it can be used on the Internet. But is it everyone's second language as Zamenhof hoped it would eventually become?

For a further insight into this question watch Esther Schor's TED TALK - Published  on YouTube, July 17, 2018:


Sadly, the answer is - "definitely not!" So what is the reason? The language is there. It works. It's easy to learn. And, thanks to the Internet, it's freely available. Perhaps the answer to the question of failure is this  - it's our failure to promote and use the language.

In a busy world we all have had valid excuses, but, with retirement, things change - new opportunities arise - particularly if you join a U3A!

"The internal idea of Esperanto is: the foundation of a neutral language will help break down barriers between peoples and help people get used to the idea that each one of them should see their neighbours only as a human being and a brother." L.L.Zamenhof, 1912.

Esperanto's grammar is logical and consistent with minimal exceptions . The vocabulary is mainly based on Romance languages, although there are some words from Germanic and other languages. The meanings of many words are similar to English words, so English speakers get a head start when they learn Esperanto! The first textbook appeared in 1887.

Research has shown that Esperanto is much easier than most languages to learn and learning it makes learning other languages easier.

And learning a language helps stave off memory loss! That's very important, as we age. But there is one very well-kept secret. Psst! Esperanto is really a game - a word game - making up words and challenging others to work out their meanings.

It's fun! Try it! It's a great game to play with your grandchildren!


Brian Belcher, 13-11-2018.

Click here to see the notes and hear the sound recordings used in Esperanto lessons at U3A Box Hill in 2018.