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  1. Earlier
  2. We're currently one week away from launch but I woke up this morning to a post indicating that the book had been seen in the wild. The location in question was a Waterstones in London: The spotter, depending on his reaction, would be the best or the worst person who could possibly do it. He just so happened to be Professor John Wells, the most eminent and influential Esperanto speaker in this country. John is a former president of the Esperanto Association of Britain and the World Esperanto Association, and the author of the best two-way English-Esperanto-English dictionary, which began life as the Teach Yourself Esperanto Dictionary in 1968, a companion to the original Teach Yourself Esperanto. He also has a string of titles and accolades from outside of Esperanto. He is Emeritus Professor of Phonetics in the University of London and a Fellow of the British Academy, and has held the presidencies of the Simplified Spelling Society, the International Phonetic Association, and the British Association of Academic Phoneticians. This is a man whose opinion is worth something. You'll notice I keep referring to him as 'John' and not as 'Professor Wells'. That's because I'm lucky enough to be friends with the man in real life. I might've even danced a little jig when I saw how he'd referred to me in his book Sounds Interesting: I'm not the only one, by the way. John is my better half's favourite Esperanto speaker. (Don't worry; I think I made it to the top ten.) We have plenty of John's books in our house so I should be guaranteed a good review, right? Well, no, not at all. John doesn't know we have these books. And more importantly, John is a man of great integrity and credibility. Like me, he's not the sort to say he likes something if he doesn't. He's also one for precision, the only person I can imagine starting a meeting right on time even if he's the only one who happened to be punctual. Here's an excerpt from The British Esperantist 607 from November 1955, in which a 16-year-old John, who had been learning Esperanto for only three months, points out an error in a previous issue! So there was no guarantee the book was going to get an endorsement and my heart fluttered when I picked up the phone this morning and Facebook loaded, showing a large image of the book cover with a comment from John above it. I read it and read it again just to make sure: Phew! I can't tell you how proud that made me feel! And it's absolutely appropriate that the first person to pick up a copy and comment is not only the most eminent Esperanto speaker in this country and a friend whom I greatly admire and respect, but also somebody who was instrumental in bringing this book about. In early 2016, the Publishing Director for Languages at John Murray Learning contacted John and asked him whether he might consider writing a new update of Teach Yourself Esperanto. I will forever be grateful that John suggested the publisher instead contact me to write it. There was still a lot of work to be done to get a proposal approved and book on the market but that gesture from John was the foot in the door, the response which got the ball rolling. So I think you'll all understand why it means a great deal to me that John has spoken of the book the way that he has and that he kindly sent me a photo of him holding it: Thank you, friend! I'm so pleased that you're happy with it and hope that you'll be the first of many.
  3. Since 1954, the Universala Esperanto-Asocio (World Esperanto Association: UEA) has been able to claim that it works in consultation with UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization. This dates back to the monumental efforts of Ivo Lapenna, one of the great names in Esperanto history, to pass the Montevideo Resolution at the General Conference of UNESCO in Uruguay in December, 1954. Having received the petition from Lapenna, the General Conference acknowledged 'the results attained by Esperanto in the field of international intellectual relations and the rapprochement of the peoples of the world' and that 'these results correspond with the aims and ideals of Unesco'. It also noted that 'several Member States have announced their readiness to introduce or expand the teaching of Esperanto in their schools and higher educational establishments', requesting that they 'keep the Director-General informed of the results attained'. Most importantly, it authorised 'the Director-General to follow current developments in the use of Esperanto in education, science and culture, and, to this end, to co-operate with the Universal Esperanto Association in matters concerning both organizations'. It took a long time for a Director-General to attend an Esperanto event but when he did, it was the largest on the calendar and one which has passed into collective memory as possibly the best: the Universala Kongreso (World Esperanto Congress) in Reykjavík in 1977. (And that just happens to be where this blog is being written! No, I never imagined that any country would have such a thing as a National Phallus Museum either, nevermind have the name written in Esperanto on its window, as we discovered this morning when we chanced upon it!) UNESCO's DG, Audrey Azoulay, made a virtual appearance at this year's Universala Kongreso in Lisbon, greeting the participants. In her speech, she mentioned that both UEA and UNESCO have worked for many years to defend linguistic diversity and encourage multilingual education, and that is how 'we will create a more open, inclusive and peaceful world'. She also acknowledged that the slogan of their magazine UNESCO Courier is 'Many voices, one world': As of 2017, there is an Esperanto version of the magazine: Its editor is from China, a man called Huang Yinbao, known among Esperanto speakers as Trezoro: Over 60 years on from Montevideo, UNESCO acknowledged the centenary of the death of Ludwik Zamenhof, the inventor of Esperanto, with the statement 'The idea of a common language has fascinated many people and lots of them made similar attempts at creating one, but Zamenhof’s case is the only one to have achieved world success'. And that's perfectly true. The original vision that Esperanto would become everybody's common language doesn't look particularly close to fruition but Esperanto is relatively successful, the only planned language to have produced a community of fluent speakers, a wealth of literature, and to enjoy consultative relations with august international bodies.
  4. That's not a joke, by the way. And it wasn't a drinking bar, either. The people in question were three of the voice actors for Complete Esperanto and the salad bar was a place called Abokado on Baker Street, just round the corner from the studio where they'd spent the morning recording audio for the book. It was an intensive day from start to finish. The booth was set up waiting for them to arrive, if they survived the morning's downpour: The sound engineer, Federico Louhau, was a keen fan of Esperanto. He's originally from Argentina and regularly noticed an Esperanto club advertised from a dingy building next to a record shop. Being a teenager at the time, he never made it past the record shop but he had retained an interest in Esperanto, putting it on his to-do list for some undetermined point in time, and so was very excited when he signed up for the project: He really was excellent throughout the recording. It was uncanny how he would say something like "let's do it again from ĉiom" and nail the pronunciation every time having heard the word only once. The voice actors really had their work cut out: look at the size of the script they had to read from! They were joined by Emma, a professional voiceover artist. All five artists soon took their seats in the studio in preparation for a quick start ahead of a long day. Federico asked them all to read an excerpt from the script to check their levels and I jumped as soon as Emma spoke; I've heard her voice so many times before! It turns out that the Emma who was joining us was famous voice actress Emma Lintern! And just as I jumped when I heard her voice, so did everybody else when they heard Ian Carter's! Here are the two of them in action: Each of the 18 units of Complete Esperanto contain two conversations. These are preceded by thematic vocabulary and new expressions used in the dialogue. In this except, Ian and Emma are recording some of the new expressions for the first conversation of Unit 9, which is titled Aligatorejo: Where the alligators are – speaking other languages. The book centres on Sara, a student from London who is new to Esperanto. Her journey mirrors that of other beginners; one of the first things she says is Mi estas komencanto I am a beginner when talking to other Esperanto speakers in a chatroom in the first unit. She is voiced by Stela Besenyei, who is a native speaker of Esperanto. (She has a French father and Hungarian mother. They met at an Esperanto event and had no other common language, so Stela grew up multilingual.) By the middle of the book, Sara speaks a little more quickly than she did at the beginning. There's still much she doesn't know about Esperanto, just as is the case with other new learners. In the following video, Sara explains to Roberto that she doesn't think she can arrange a hotel by herself in a country she doesn't know, so will pay a bit more to be allocated one by the organisers and that she's not sure what she's going to do about food: By the end of the book the dialogues are much lengthier and contain some of the more challenging aspects of Esperanto grammar. In this excerpt from the final unit, Marteno Miniĥ is recording the role of Miro, a Slovak Esperantist who is guiding Roberto and Sara through Bratislava, where the World Esperanto Congress is being held.` In this unit students are learning about passive participles, which is why the dialogue involves taking a tour: Miro is easily able to flood his presentation with constructions like "was built", "is being renovated", "will be finished", "so-called", "named", "is known". Perhaps the most memorable part of this section is where Miro presents the UFO Bridge (NiFO-ponto), explaining that the name means "NeIdentigita Fluganta Objekto" (that's a passive participle, the causative suffix -IG- and an active participle neatly brought together) and that the name was given because the café at the top "pensigas onin" about a spaceship. Yes, we even got "onin" neatly into the book! Notice how fluently the actors have adapted to working from the script. They all wait until the last line on the page has been voiced before moving their papers, whilst sound engineer Federico Louhau, instantly jumps back to something just said to give the actors a jumping-on point. Everything occurs in a flash but is structured: as soon as the last word is spoken, Federico stops recording, the papers are moved, the recorded line is played back, and the recording resumes. It was amazing how they all worked so fluidly. There was so much to do that we only finished right on 6pm, the allotted finish time. It's unbelievable how much skill is required from all sides to pull this off; the voice actors all had several roles (sometimes even talking to themselves in the same dialogue), the sound technician works so smoothly, the narrator imparts such warmth and friendliness into her delivery. Three cheers for the team! (Emma Lintern, Marteno Miniĥ, Sally Phillips, Ian Carter, Tim Owen, Stela Besenyei) PS: It legitimately was just the Franco-Hungarian (Stela), the Slovak (Marteno) and the Malagassy (Sally, born and raised in Madagascar) who walked into the salad bar ... Ian and Tim found a pub!
  5. Tomorrow's a huge day for Complete Esperanto. The voice artists are off to the studio to record the audio for the course! They're going to be busy; here are the run sheets I prepared, showing which artists are playing which character in which tracks: You'll be able to see for yourself that the main protagonists are characters called Sara and Roberto, played by Stela Besenyei and Ian Carter. Sara appears in nearly every single conversation in the book, which is why Stela very rarely has any other spoken role in the book. Ian benefits from a break in the early units and so can pick up other characters. His day is going to be particularly busy, though, because he's also the voice who works with the narrator to introduce you to new vocabulary and expressions in every unit. Sally Phillips really has her work cut out; she plays several of the main characters, including a couple of scenes in which she plays two distinctive people and even has to talk to herself. Fortunately, she's a very accomplished actress; I once saw her in a theatre production in which she played three lead roles. Marteno Minich plays several lead characters, although each only appears in a couple of units. He'll be most busy playing a man from Bratislava; fortunately for him, that won't be difficult; it's his home town. Every unit ends with listening exercises and so the artists will need to voice them too. With the exception of one exercise, these are one-off activities with no connection to characters in the story. The actors will still have to pull off various accents, though! Here are some statistics: There are 18 units in the book. Each unit has two conversations, plus activities at the end. The script for the audio is 246 pages long! There are 27 characters who appear in the main conversations. Some of them only have a single line but others have dozens, maybe hundreds. There are 43 different characters speaking in the non-storyline end-of-unit listening exercises. Somehow the voice artists have to pull in all this in a single working day in the studios in London tomorrow. Wish them luck!
  6. We've travelled today to a town which you've most likely never heard of but which has a memorable place in Esperanto history, giving its name to an ideology which probably applies to most Esperanto speakers even though they've never heard of it. That town is in western Finland and is called Rauma. It was here in the near-constant daylight of the Finnish summertime that 332 people spent a week in 1980 participating in the 36th Internacia Junulara Kongreso (International Youth Esperanto Congress), Yes, there were the usual cultural activities plus some ones specific to this event, such as sweating in sauna cabins and basking in pine forests. But it was for a declaration presented to and signed off by the congress's participants that the event lasted into posterity. Traditionally, the Esperanto movement was run with a goal in mind; the dissemination of Esperanto and its worldwide adoption as a neutral international language for people from different language backgrounds. There isn't anything particularly controversial about this; businesses every day make international deals in dollars or euros or sell things in litres or metric tonnes without giving up their pounds or yen, gallons or ounces back home. Esperanto would work the same way; the Thai speaker and the Spanish speaker would use their own languages as normal but Esperanto when talking together. What happened in 1980 challenged this traditional outlook. It wasn't necessarily anything new in concept; at the first Universala Kongreso (World Esperanto Congress), a definition of what actually constituted an Esperantist was proposed by Ludoviko Zamenhof: "Esperantisto estas nomata ĉiu persono, kiu scias kaj uzas la lingvon Esperanto, tute egale por kia celo." (An Esperantist is a person who knows and uses Esperanto, for whatever purpose.) Still, within the Esperanto movement there wasn't really any way of demarking those traditionally minded Esperantists from the people who use it for some other purpose. It was understood that to be an active Esperantist, a member of a traditional Esperanto organisation, you were a supporter of the traditional aims of the Esperanto movement. It certainly wouldn't have been considered that the bulk of participants at a movement congress would actually be part of the "other purpose" group. That changed in 1980 when the young people participating in the Tutmonda Esperantista Junulara Organizo's (World Esperanto Youth Organisation) flagship annual event issued a statement. The Manifesto of Rauma was the result of a debate during the IJK about the goals for Esperanto during the 1980s. It criticised the traditional approach and acknowledged that the fruition of the traditional goal was not going to happen in the 1980s. It went further and outright stated that defeating English, the de facto occupant of the role of international bridge language, wasn't something that Esperanto speakers should be concerning themselves with. What they proposed were new goals for spreading Esperanto, rather than defaulting to repeating the traditional ones when asked about the language. They noted alternative reasons to want to spread Esperanto: because its relative simplicity could make it an ideal first foreign language en route to people learning others; because it could serve as a nondiscriminatory tool of contact between ordinary people; and because it contained its own, new culture, worth preserving and promoting in its own right. The signatories went even further, asserting that "Esperantishness" was akin to belonging to a self-selected linguistic minority spread around the world, as opposed to the traditional mindset of "pacaj batalantoj" (peaceful warriors), striving to see the universal adoption of Esperanto as a language for international communication. Raumism became the word to describe this ideology, that Esperanto is worth learning, spreading and preserving because of its own inherent cultural values, irrespective of the original goal. The declaration wasn't written in TEJO's name but it emanated from the participants at its event. As time has progressed the meaning seems to have changed, with certain people speaking about an Esperanto citizenship and one of the two authors of the manifesto distancing himself from this interpretation. Others have characterised the declaration unfairly as people not wanting to spread Esperanto at all, only enjoy it. The wording of the manifesto counters this; they wanted to spread Esperanto but for different reasons. Most Esperanto speakers probably fall into the same camp as those young people from decades ago. And indeed it can be very annoying even today to still hear the same slogans ("The FInal Victory will happen! English is our enemy!") asserted by a few die-hards among the traditionalists. But in the main, even the majority of those people still working towards the traditional probably acknowledge that it's very unlikely to happen and that Esperanto is worth preserving and promoting for those other reasons. And it's important to remember that without those pioneering traditionalists from a century and more ago, there would never have been the dictionaries, magazines, books and so on to create the culture for the non-traditionalists to enjoy ... just as there wouldn't have been an event in 1980 for them to have had their debate and issue their declaration. There don't appear to be any signs of Esperanto left in this town which long ago gave its name to a philosophy which probably describes the thinking of the majority of the world's Esperanto speakers. The best we could come up with was somewhat tenuous and unglamorous: But it is what it is: one of UNESCO's world heritage sites because of the wooden architecture of its old town. And we're glad to have paid it a quick visit.
  7. Tim

    TEJO: Truly a global team

    Esperanto enthusiasts often speak about their language being used around la tuta mondo the whole world. It can sometimes be hard to imagine it so. After all, the language is very European in appearance: you can probably understand "Esperanto estas bela lingvo" at first glance if you have a little bit of familiarity with any of the Romance languages. And if you don't, you can probably work out what is where if I say "la birdo estas en la nesto". At any rate, it's visibly much more European than it is, say, Asian or African. Given that Europe is Esperanto's birthplace and its main area of activity, it's easy to think that the international Esperanto world might be dominated by Europeans. And that indeed has traditionally been the case, which is why the election of the committee for the Tutmonda Esperantista Junulara Organizo World Esperanto Youth Organisation in Badajoz, Spain today is particularly inspiring: Yes, Europe is covered, of course. But so is North America (the USA), South America (Colombia), Asia (Vietnam) and Africa (Benin). And four of the nine committee members are female too. A downside of having a global team is that it becomes harder for everyone to be physically present, although two thirds of the new team were in attendance in Badajoz: Congratulations to the new committee members on their election to a truly global global team!
  8. Over 260 young people have gathered in Badajoz, Spain to take part in this year's week-long Internacia Junulara Kongreso International Youth Esperanto Congress. The IJK is normally timed to occur close to the Universala Kongreso World Esperanto Congress, usually in a nearby country to make it easier for people to attend both events. The UK this year (28 August - 4 July) in Portugal was followed by the IJK (4-11 August) in Spain: This year marks the 80th anniversary of the IJK. The first was held in the Dutch village of Groet in 1938 and attended by around 300 Esperanto speakers from 10 countries. A film of the event was prepared by H J Schut, the first half of which is still in existence: IJK_1938.mp4 The Second World War understandably caused considerable disruption. Since the first post-war IJK in 1947, the event has taken place every year, with the record attendance occurring in Krakow in 1987, when 1034 young people celebrated Esperanto's centenary. Customarily the IJK has been held in Europe. It wasn't until 1965 that it headed outside the continent, when Tokyo hosted the 21st. Since then the event has become much more international, with Canada, Cuba, Brazil, Vietnam and China among the hosts. 2017 marked a watershed when the IJK took place in Africa, with the 75th Internacia Junulara Kongreso was held in Aneho in Togo:
  9. Tim

    Heading Westwards

    Wednesday is typically a day for excursions at the World Esperanto Congress and participants in Lisbon will be spoiled for choice. Many of them took a local train to Belém, a beautiful parish of Lisbon only a short train journey away. Among the sites for them stands the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monumento de la malkovroj, Monument of the Discoveries). The monument pays homage to Portugal's Age of Discovery in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries when, alongside Spain, the country headed westwards towards a new world: Esperanto too had to leave the security of its European base and head westwards. The first sojourn was remarkably soon after Esperanto's birth, when Henry Phillips Jr, secretary of the American Philosophical Society, published a translation of the first Esperanto book in 1889, only two years after the Russian original appeared: Europe remained Esperanto's base and the first five World Congresses were held there. In 1910, however, the Esperanto world looked westwards and for the first time the event was held outside Europe, when Washington DC hosted it: The distance prevented the majority of Europeans from attending, with the result that this was the smallest congress at that time with 357 participants, down from the previous year's 1287. A photo from the event indicates quite the coup, though: among that small number was no other than Ludwig Zamenhof, the inventor of Esperanto, who had travelled across the Atlantic. He's the short man in the front row: Although the modern World Esperanto Congress is organised by the World Esperanto Association (UEA), this wasn't always the case. UEA was only formed in 1908, by which time there had already been several of the events. In the same year that the World Esperanto Congress was in the USA, UEA held its own one back in Fortress Europe, in Augsburg, Germany: The event soon returned across the Atlantic with very short notice. The 1914 World Esperanto Congress in Paris was cancelled because of the mobilisation of armed forces ahead of the outbreak of war. Rather than see another year without the event, a group of volunteers held it in San Francisco. Clearly the Europeans were unable to attend and their absence told in the attendance figures; at 163, this was the smallest World Esperanto Congress there has ever been and the next one wouldn't be held until 1920. But for 50 years it held the title of the last World Esperanto Congress to be held outside of Europe, until Tokyo hosted it in 1965.
  10. Tim

    Esperanto Theatre

    The Esperanto speakers who are currently in Lisbon for the World Esperanto Congress won't have to travel far to see the theatre (teatro in both Portuguese and Esperanto). It stands loud and proud in the centre of the city: Theatre has been part of Esperanto culture since the language's early days. The first play put on in Esperanto dates all the way back to 1896, when some young Esperanto speakers in Smolensk presented Unua brandfaristo (The First Distiller), a six-act comedy by Tolstoy. Esperanto theatre became truly international when seven participants from a range of countries put on a production of of Molière's La edziĝo kontraŭvola (Le Mariage forcé, The Forced Marriage). The fact that Esperanto actors live in different countries means that it's difficult to have regular practices, so productions aren't particularly common. Nonetheless, the World Congress has on several times hosted theatre productions in Esperanto: And sometimes groups of Esperanto speakers who live nearby form theatre troupes, such as the group in Toulouse or when members of the British Esperanto Association put on a performance of La Graveco de la Fideliĝo (Oscar Wilde's The Importance of being Earnest) at Bloomsbury Theatre in 1987 for Esperanto's centenary: It's not only Esperanto speakers who put on productions using the language though! In the revered World Congress in Reykjavík in 1977, the national theatre company learned a script in the language to entertain their visitors! And completing the circle, there have been people who don't speak Esperanto presenting plays about it in their own languages, such as the Dutch group House of Nouws giving several performances of La plej bona ideo por ĉiuj (The Best Idea for Everybody) during a week-long cultural festival in Den Bosch in 2018:
  11. The people in Lisbon at the moment for the World Esperanto Congress won't be able to avoid the São Jorge Castle, the citadel which looms over the city: Esperanto has its own castle, around 250 kilometres southwest of Paris. It's called Kastelo Greziljono, Château de Grésillon in French. The property is owned by a co-operative of Esperanto speakers and has been used as a Kulturdomo de Esperanto (Esperanto Cultural House) since 1951. The non-profit team hold residential courses throughout the year, including several for beginners and new learners. So, once you've finished with Complete Esperanto and fancy immersing yourself in an Esperanto environment, you might fancy participating in one of the courses run from Greziljono with other beginners. You can find details on the kulturdomo's site.
  12. Tim


    Yes, a strange title, that one. It'll make sense later, I hope. Esperanto speakers have descended on Lisbon for the World Esperanto Congress this week. One of the things that they won't be able to avoid is an icon of Lisbon, the yellow trams: They're so iconic that there are shops which seem to sell little other than models of them! And you can find them on the fridge magnets which are on sale everywhere too: There have been iconic Esperanto vehicles too. When the First World War broke out, the British Esperanto Association organised a collection to send an ambulance to the front line: They quickly hit their target and the ambulance was immediately sent to help wounded soldiers: The ambulance was, of course, named Esperanto: In fact, so successful was the call to funds that the British Esperanto Association soon had enough money to send a second ambulance to the Belgian Red Cross! So there you have it. Lisbon has its iconic trams but there have also been important vehicles in the Esperanto world too. I bet you weren't aware of that!
  13. Tim

    Licking Lips in Lisbon

    In Lisbon, where the World Esperanto Congress is currently taking place, you wake up with the sunshine in the sky and on your plate. The Portuguese adore an egg tart called Pastel de Nata. You can barely walk a street in the centre of Lisbon without seeing them stacked high: And drivers aren't excluded from temptation, courtesy of large billboards backed by the bluest of skies: It would've been rude not to sample some of the local specialities: I can confirm that they're very nice indeed! At international Esperanto events you often don't even need to go into the city to try food from different cultures. A part of the programme at many events is a session where people bring in typical food from back home, put it on display, and then everyone else is free to give everything a try: Some people bring just a little something. Others manage a variety: You don't have to try something if you're not sure, of course. Some of my best friends are from Catalonia but they can keep their anchovies: Crisps and Cherry Bakewells! I think I'd pretend not to be English so that I could help myself to those! I'm not convinced of the 4KG of haggis though. And I don't have a clue what "fruity leather thingies" are: So there you have it: Esperanto can give you a nice insight into other cultures. Not only can you speak to people who come from places you wouldn't be likely to visit ... you can gobble up some of their food too! (With thanks to John Parkinson for the use of his photos from Somera Esperanto-Studado 2018 in Liptovský Mikuláš, Slovakia.)
  14. The biggest event of the Esperanto calendar is taking place right now in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. You'll know you're in the right place when you see the logo pinned up on a building: Do you have any idea why the emblem is designed like that? It's because one of the outstanding features of Portuguese culture is ceramic tiling in a style called azulejo. Esperanto speakers in Lisbon will see the style dotted all over buildings, such as this one: The tiles are also used to create murals and appear all over the city: And tourists are offered fridge-magnet varieties by the armful: So, it's no surprise that the organisers made their logo take the form of azulejo tiles. But why is there a green star there? It's because the green star is the symbol of Esperanto! That's why we have one on the cover of the book!
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