I have a confession to make, but I’m hesitant. Who wants to look ridiculous? But my guilty secret is weighing me down and I’m hoping that ‘getting it off my chest’ will bring some relief. Confession, I’m told, is good for the soul. So here goes.
Mia nomo estas Richard, kaj mi estas Esperantisto.
That’s right. I am an Esperantist, a speaker (or, at least, a user) of Esperanto.
I know, I know. Esperanto is a joke, a failed nineteenth century experiment, a constructed language based on an impossibly utopian dream. So if you want to laugh, be my guest. A vegetarian Methodist in Britain today has no street-cred anyway. One more thing to make me an object of derision won’t hurt me.
The thing is that although Esperanto has a terrible image problem, it can and does do all that its inventor (the Pole L.L. Zamenhof) promised it would, namely provide an easy to learn auxiliary language to enable communication between the peoples of the world. It was the claims about its simplicity that made me try it out. I started out a few months ago, and using the book ‘Teach Yourself Esperanto’ (which has been sitting idle on my bookshelves for about 20 years) and the resources of the website Lernu! I’ve been dipping in for a few minutes here and there. Now I find that I’m able to converse with people from many nations in “our” language, not mine or theirs. I’ve taken part in webchats with people from China, Poland, France, Korea, the Philippines, Brazil, Colombia… the list goes on. I have no aptitude for languages at all and yet after only a little study I have more confidence than I ever did with French which I studied for 5 years in school.
So now my secret is out, and I may never be able to show my face in public again. So be it. I’d thought Esperanto was a joke, and I was wrong. It may not be a perfect language (what could be?), but Esperanto is a simple if rather radical answer to one of the world’s most fundamental problems: getting people talking.