Saturday 15 December 2012

Feliĉan Zamenhofan Tagon!

What??? (or, for older English readers, Hwæt!!!)

Today is Zamenhof Day when Esperantists round the world celebrate the birthday of the inventor of the artificial language Esperanto, Ludwig Zamenhof.

I can't really claim to be an Esperantist: it was something I was interested in as a teenager and can still just about make my way through a book or website in the language. (I thought briefly about trying to blog today in Esperanto but realized it was beyond me now.) It still strikes me as something of a lost opportunity (both for the world and me): it really is quite a remarkable invention with a simplicity in its design that is rather beautiful. Putting aside any fantasies about worldwide cosmopolitan conspiracies, the existence of an auxiliary language as a  means of communication that allows ordinary people to contact each other directly would be a good thing. A fascinating book, La danghera lingvo, (The Dangerous Language) describes, among other things, how Soviet Russia, having originally encouraged Soviet Esperantists to get pen-pals in capitalist countries as a way of distributing propaganda about the revolution, had to stop the correspondence when it became obvious that the Soviet workers were instead being given a direct insight into the rather better living conditions that existed under capitalism.

Anyway, did you know Vatican Radio broadcasts in Esperanto? (Three times a week according to their website.) Or that there is a International Catholic Esperanto Union? Or that there is a book called: Esperanto - The New Latin for the Church and for Ecumenism ? (English version here.) I can almost immediately hear the more suspicious among orthodox Catholics sharpening their knives at this point, and I suspect that there is indeed more than a whiff of the 1960s about some of this. On the other hand, there is also more than a whiff of self improvement and international solidarity about it too, and that's something that, despite its Communist perversions, has its good points.

Anyway, if you're really worried about international Zionist-Socialist-New-World-Order conspiracies to introduce a Newspeak, you could always try the older artificial language Volapük instead. It was invented by a Catholic priest after all...

The 'Our Father' in Esperanto:

Patro nia, kiu estas en la ĉielo,
sanktigata estu Via nomo.
Venu Via regno.
Fariĝu Via volo,
kiel en la ĉielo, tiel ankaŭ sur la tero.
Nian panon ĉiutagan donu al ni hodiaŭ.
Kaj pardonu al ni niajn ŝuldojn,
kiel ankaŭ ni pardonas al niaj ŝuldantoj.
Kaj ne konduku nin en tenton,
sed liberigu nin de la malbono.


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