Why i love Esperanto

Resumo: Mi diskutas mian lernadon de Esperanto, kial Esperanto tre plaĉas al mi, kaj kion mi dezirus ŝanĝigi.

I am so happy to be learning Esperanto again. I have come a lot further than i ever did before – the difference this time is i have lots of people i can talk to in Esperanto. In Second Life, particularly, although i am suddenly finding people all over the Internet – Facebook, Youtube, and even commenters on this blog who speak Esperanto! I go to Esperanto lessons in Second Life, i receive homework by email, and i’m doing a bit of Esperanto practice a couple of times a day from Teach yourself Esperanto.

I have studied many languages over the years, but i am still learning things about grammar through Esperanto. It’s quite amazing how it highlights ambiguities in English which are distinct in Esperanto.

For example: I met an old friend could mean:
Mi renkontis maljunan amikon – the friend is old in years
Mi renkontis malnovan amikon – it is a friend i have known for a long time.

How about: The mouse ran under the bed:
La muso kuris sub la liton – the mouse was not under the bed but ran to be under it
La muso kuris sub la lito – the mouse was already under the bed, and ran around underneath it.

A cup of tea:
Taso de teo – as opposed to a cup of coffee
Taso da teo – as opposed to a pot of tea.

John was unhappy because George drank his beer:
Johano ne estis kontenta ĉar Georgo trinkis sian bieron – the beer was John’s
Johano ne estis kontenta ĉar Georgo trinkis lian bieron – the beer was George’s.

For the first time in my life i understand the difference between to lie (kuŝi) and to lay (kuŝigi) – the latter is a causative verb:
La knabo kuŝas sur la lito – the boy is lying on the bed
La knabo kuŝigas sin sur la lito – the boy lays himself down on the bed (causes himself to be lying)

Lay is to lie as teach is to learn. Or as remind is to remember. How fascinating is that?! :)

* * *

Another thing i like about Esperanto: how easy it is to construct verbs using simple rules:

Mi dancas – I dance
Vi dancis – You danced
Ni dancos – We will dance
Ĉu li dancus? – Would he dance?
Dancu! – Dance!
Ĉu ni dancu? – Shall we dance?
Ĉu vi ĝuas danci? – Do you enjoy dancing?

All verbs are perfectly regular and easy to remember. We also get some real power with compound tenses, including a future participle that does not exist in English. This gives us nine combinations of things we can say:

Ŝi estas dancanta – She is dancing
Ŝi estis dancanta – She was dancing
Ŝi estos dancanta – She will be dancing

Ŝi estas dancinta – She has danced
Ŝi estis dancinta – She had danced
Ŝi estos dancinta – She will have danced

Ŝi estas danconta – She is about to dance
Ŝi estis danconta – She was about to dance
Ŝi estos danconta – She will be about to dance

We can take the root and add affixes to construct all sorts of imaginative words:

danco – a dance
dancejo – a dance hall
dancado – dancing in general
dancebla (la muziko estas dancebla) – you can dance to the music
dancinda (la muziko estas dancinda) – the music is worth dancing to
dancemo – someone who is apt to dancing all the time
dancisto – someone who dances for a living
dancilo – A Dance Dance Revolution machine??!! ;)

* * *

I love how you can combine any affixes you like to construct a word that maybe nobody has ever thought of before, but any Esperantist would understand. For example i made up malsanulejistino: mal-san-ul-ej-ist-in-o: not-health-person-place-profession-female-noun … meaning … a female nurse who works in a hospital!

The real beauty of this is that any of the affixes can stand as a word in its own right. Well, maybe not mal- in this sense, but you could potentially say: Mi estas ina isto de la ejo por uloj kiuj estas malsanaj (or kies sano estas malbona) … but it would be a bit silly! The power is in the flexibility.

* * *

The one problem i have with Esperanto is, of course, its inherent sexism. Today i dreamed up the word novulo for newbie but then i realised that it implies the newbie is male. A female newbie would have to be novulino.

I don’t particularly mind that the female form is a modification of the male form. You get that in English too: actor – actress. I just dislike the fact that you have to make the distinction at all. In English we have this cop-out solution which is to allow the male form to apply to females as well: females who act may also be called actors. This is not ideal.

Another Esperanto example: patro means father and patrino means mother. But where is the word for parent? As far as i know, there isn’t one. Fortunately, i think we have a neat solution. There is a word for parents (both male and female) which is gepatroj. Why not just make that singular and have gepatro for parent.

Similarly, gefilo could mean offspring, gefrato for sibling, geaktoro for actor/actress and genovulo for newbie, the singular ge- prefix indicating that i don’t know what gender they are and let’s be honest, what difference does it make anyway?!

The other neat thing about this idea is we get a wonderful gender-neutral title of respect: gesinjoro. Imagine beginning a letter not with Dear sir or madam but with Kara gesinjoro. I really like that! :)

* * *

I have a couple of analogies. Firstly it occurred to me that Esperanto is like Java. Programs written in Java can run on any computer platform, provided the Java Virtual Machine is installed. Learning Esperanto is the equivalent of installing JVM, and once you do, you can communicate with Esperanto speakers the world over!

Secondly, i read that Esperanto is the linguistic equivalent of a handshake. Both parties reach out and meet in the middle, with a neutral, simple but rich language they can both understand with ease. That is a nice metaphor.

So … there are just a few of my thoughts about Esperanto at the moment, what i’ve been learning, why i love it, and how i’d like to see it evolve into something less sexist.

It is such an easy language to learn, and incredibly satisfying when you start communicating with people from all over the world, whose native tongue you have never learnt.

Lernu Esperanton!

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14 comments on “Why i love Esperanto

  1. Very sharp observations, Aimee! Just a quick note about gendered words: the Cresswell & Hartley text is excellent, but a bit dated. Words like novulo, aktoro and even anglo are not necessarily male; they can refer to either male or female newbies, actors, or English people.

    In the past it was customary to assume that such words were male from context, although that assumption is no longer universal, just as English words like “actor” can now be male or female, at least in la usonangla. As a form of shorthand the base form can be considered male, e.g., if we say novuloj kaj novulinoj, the assumption is that novulo is male. But it’s perfectly fine to call a female newbie a novulo. Only a few words for family members are unambiguously male by default, e.g., patro, frato, kuzo etc.

    More about this can be found in PMEG:
    http://bertilow.com/pmeg/gramatiko/o-vortoj/seksa_signifo.html

    Also: an unofficial, updated version of the Cresswell & Hartley text can be found online, in the handouts for this Esperanto course. In this version, the default gender distinction has been corrected: http://esperanto.lodestone.org/kursoj/feb

    Bonan lernadon!

  2. Hello Aimee, Kapitano here.

    About sexism in Esperanto:

    Yes, when the language was originally formulated, all nouns were male unless you made them female. Filo was “brother”, so “sister” was filino. The prefix ge- meant “a group composed of both genders” and was always used with plural nouns, so gefiloj was “siblings”.

    However, the “male as default” idea only stuck with about a dozen words referring mainly to family members, and all other nouns quickly became neuter (or epicene – “gendered but of unspecified gender”). So we had:

    Patro – Father
    Patrino – Mother
    Filo – Son
    Filino – Daughter
    Frato – Brother
    Fratino – Sister
    Onklo – Uncle
    Onklini – Aunt
    Aco – Grandfather
    Avino – Grandmother
    Viro – Man
    Virino – Woman
    Knabo – Boy
    Knabino – Girl
    Edzo – Husband
    Edzino – Wife

    Plus Gepatroj – Parents etc. But:

    Amiko – Friend (of either sex)
    Hundo – Dog (male or female)
    Esperantisto – Esperanto speaker (of either sex)

    It was a short step to introducing the singlular Ge- form to create Gepatro (“Parent”), but there is also the word Pareno, which personally I prefer.

    There is also (since the 60s) a male suffix – icx. (I’m using the convention of using “x” to indicate a circumflex over the preceeding letter, because I’m only using an ASCII keyboard.)

    So there is:
    Amikicxo – Male friend
    Amikino – Female friend
    Sekretario – Secratary
    Sekretariicxo – Male secretary
    Sekretariino – Female Secretary

    Unfortunately, these reforms were introduced too late for Patro, Knabo etc to easily change. There are gender neutral replacements now available, but most are little used.

    Se oni rifuzas lerni Esperanton cxar la seksismo en la gramatiko, la aktuala kialo estas malameco de la tuta esperanta ideo.

    (If anyone refuses to learn Esperanto because of sexism in the grammar, the real reason is hatred of the whole esperanto idea.)

  3. Dankegon al Kapitano kaj al Hoss por tiuj klarigoj. Mi ĝojas lerni, ke la seksismo ne estas ankoraŭ ordinara. Mi pensas, ke mi havas la unuan eldonon de ‘Lernigu vin Esperanton’/’Teach yourself Esperanto’.

  4. Vi donis kiel ekzemplon:
    For example: I met an old friend could mean:
    Mi kunvenis maljuna amikon – the friend is old in years
    Mi kunvenis malnova amikon – it is a friend you have known for a long time.

    Sed “kunveni” signifas “veni en unu lokon” (come together). Por la senco de “meet”, kiun vi volas, uzu “renkonti”, do:
    Mi renkontis maljunaN amikon.
    Mi renkontis malnovaN amikon.

    Bonan sxancon!
    stevo

  5. Saluton Stevo. Dankon pro la korektadon kaj la klarigon de la vortoj kunveni/renkonti. Tio havas grandan sencon. Mi ofte forgesas la ‘n’ de la akusativo, do mi ŝatas vian kontroladon.

    Mi ŝanĝigos la blogaĵon.

  6. Your testimonial is simply amazing and delightful, and caught my attention! I wrote something very similar when I started learning Esperanto months ago. Cheers from Brazil ;)

  7. Pli bona ol la kontrauxfundamenta 'gepatro' estas 'gepatrano'!Better than the anti-fundmentas 'gepatro' is 'gepatrano'!

  8. For example: I met an old friend could mean:Mi renkontis maljunan amikon – the friend is old in yearsMi renkontis malnovan amikon – it is a friend i have known for a long time.How about: The mouse ran under the bed:La muso kuris sub la liton – the mouse was not under the bed but ran to be under itLa http://www.geonlineservice.com muso kuris sub la lito – the mouse was already under the bed, and ran around underneath it.

  9. Thanks for the encouragement, Andrew. I am actually having a bit of an esperanto phase at the moment so i'll see if i can think up a new blog post! :D

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