Tuesday, December 15, 2009

L.L. Zamenhof: Who He Was, Why He's on Google

L.L. Zamenhof: Who He Was, Why He's on Google:
Importantly, a few years after he had fine-tuned his language, Zamenhof gave up control of it to its users.

"Zamenhof looked up recent cases of [attempts at creating artificial languages] and he saw that the fatal flaw in these projects was their inventors kept grasping their own languages and trying to control and modify them, which created a lot of animosity among its speakers," Pool said.


  1. Good luck to Esperanto :)

    Many people do not realise that Esperanto is now a living language!

    You can see this at http://www.lernu.net

  2. Mi lernas paroli esperante. Sed mi ne skribas bene.

    Ankaŭ, vidu la Unitarian Universalist Esperanto Network (angle) ĉe, www.grupoamikema.org/UUEN.html

  3. Brian and Scott, you make me a little jealous.

  4. I discovered Esperanto from Harry Harrison's Stainless Steel Rat series, took the mail-order lessons and then went to the summer course at SFSU in 95. Had a blast, and by the end of it I was speaking more fluently than I could Spanish after 3 years of it in high school.

    I haven't had much opportunity to use it after that, though I did write my journal in it for a while... Anyway, I think Esperanto's major goal (providing a second language for everyone so no one has an unfair advantage) has pretty much failed especially in the face of the juggernaut named English. Now I think of the Esperanto community as a huge international club that has its own not-secret language. Cool and geeky, but not particularly relevant.

    Though I do remember talk of studies that taught kids Esperanto for one year, then Spanish for 3 years, and the kids came out ahead of other kids who had Spanish for all 4 years. Supposedly learning Esperanto trains your brain to better learn other languages. I'm not sure how rigorously that experiment was done however.

  5. Peter has a point; after all, the Zamenhof banquet I attended on Sunday felt much like an old Unitarian fellowship, down to the internationalist concern that has -- to my continuing disappointment -- evaporated in a puff of self-conscious sectarianism.

    But there's also the ethos: that language (and religion) can be used to oppress and humiliate others and that a neutral (in so far as that's possible) seconary language should exist to mediate there. (His religious experiment, Homaranismo, is also interesting but much less well known or documented in English.)

    This played out in my life on Monday. At work, the office building has three cleaners whom I recently met. None speak any significant amount of English, and self-conscious of my very limited and poor Spanish decided it was better to smile and move on. Except we wanted to give them a year-end gratuity and that's my responsibility. But I didn't know their names, to cut checks. First, I asked if any other staff members speak Spanish and a few do. But -- thinking of Zamenhof -- I realized it was my responsibility (first, as the one with the question and secondly as the one with marginally more accomodating language skills) to ask, and then seek assistance if it didn't work.

    But it did work.