Esperanto

(See also: the Esperanto Music list)

For the last year or so (as of April 2017) I've been learning Esperanto. I've used Lernu.net, Duolingo, and other random internet stuff.

Where it all started, was Toki Pona. I had been interested in constructed languages a long time ago (the 90s-2000sish) and was familiar with Toki Pona because Internet. But I was listening to an episode about it on The Allusionist, and learned that its creator had reappeared out of obscurity and published a book on it, so I had to pick up that book.

I got Pat Dunn, my Internet Friend From Way Back, interested, and we wrote some Toki Pona to each other, and I wrote and read it on the Toki Pona subreddit.

This gave me a taste of the fun of talking in made up languages to people on the internet, and the next step was obvious, especially because Pat was a fluent Esperantist from way back in the day. I had to try Esperanto.

I had some prejudices against it and some negative reactions to some elements of it, but I learned in spite of them, and eventually I got to know Esperanto as a real world language that people have been really using for well over a century, and when you look at it in that context, it's kind of inevitable that there are going to be things about it that you don't like but are just facts of history. It is what it is, it's not a proposal to be debated, it's a fact in the world. It's not impossible to change Esperanto, but it's not something you can just declare needs to be changed and it magically changes because you were Right on the Internet. There's a community out there that uses it and have, some of them, their whole lives. (Denaskuloj, native Esperanto speakers!)

So you learn to take it on its own terms. And if it wants to use -a and -o endings in ways that are completely, 100% in conflict with the way a Romance language speaker expects, well, it's not a Romance language. If it wants to use mal- in a way completely different from the Latin root, well, that's what it does. It is its own thing, despite drawing its vocabularly from European languages. You just have to not expect everything to be what you expected it to be. Its vocabulary is European-language-derived, and it looks kind of like Italian or Spanish with all those -os and -as, but it plays by its own rules.

So lernu.net taught me the grammar. Duolingo burned vocabulary and pronunciation into my head by repetition. I listen to Pola Ret-Radio to get used to hearing it in the real world. I drop into the Esperanto Telegram group from time to time, where people from all over the world chat in Esperanto (there are a lot of Russians, Iranians, and Brazilians).

I've gotten pretty darn good at it, not entirely fluent but capable of conversation. And that's more than I can say for any natural language, despite having taken a lot of courses in French and German and getting a master's degree in Latin and Greek.

It feels good to have an achievement like that at this point in my life. It's not often I go out there and master a new skill at my age. Especially as significant a one as learning a language! It means a lot to me that I can do that.

Do dankon al Sro. Zamenhof, pro lia bona lingvo. Estas bela, estas facila, kaj multaj interesaj homoj paroli ghin. Kaj ghi donas al mi la kredon, ke mi povas atingi novan lertecon, ech en mia maljuneco. (Chu estas 48 "maljuneco"? Tiel shajnas al mi.)