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Esperanto Society of the Carolinas and Virginia



What is Esperanto?


Esperanto is a relatively easy-to-learn language spoken all over the globe in books, magazines, meetings, conventions, correspondence, travel, and conversation. It has enjoyed a recent growth of interest and use thanks to the Internet, with a minimum of over 1.5 million web pages in the language (based on a Google search in late 2007) and more than 90,000 articles in the Esperanto version of Wikipedia. Experience shows that Esperanto is an excellent basis for learning other languages. And unlike most tongues, Esperanto doesn't belong to any particular country or nationality. It belongs equally to everyone who speaks it.


Here's a short (minute-and-a-half) video about Esperanto with subtitles in English:


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And here's a somewhat longer one (7-8 minutes) with some examples of spoken Esperanto:


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Why learn Esperanto?


In brief, because of all the things you can do with it relative to the time and effort required to learn it.


In the following video, Dr. Claude Piron, a Swiss clinical psychologist, for 20 years a member of the faculty of the University of Geneva, and an experienced translator for the World Health Organization and the United Nations, explains (in English) why he thinks Esperanto makes sense today as an instrument of international communications:


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Other websites about Esperanto




How do you learn Esperanto?


The quickest way to get started is to take advantage of free courses on the website http://lernu.net  (Lernu is Esperanto for "learn")


Another good on-line course is Esperanto Viva!


The Esperanto Association of Britain has a page about learning Esperanto at http://www.esperantoeducation.com It also briefly  that also describes the Springboard to Languages program for schools, used to introduce young students to language learning and geography.


If you'd like to learn Esperanto in a classroom setting, courses of various lengths are offered in schools and colleges (including the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham). An intensive three-week North American Summer Esperanto Institute, with classes at several levels, takes place annually and offers college credit through the University of California at San Diego. See http://esperanto.org/nask for information in English and Esperanto.


You will probably also want to get a few books, starting with a dictionary, and perhaps some music to listen to. Esperanto-USA operates the largest Esperanto bookstore in the Western Hemisphere and handles subscriptions for a number of magazines in the language. If you join, you get a discount on purchases as well as a subscription to the magazine EsperantoUSA. Visit http://esperanto-usa.org



Myths about Esperanto


Esperanto speakers sometimes encounter misconceptions about the language that are worth correcting.


Myth: Esperanto is intended to replace other languages

Esperanto has been put forward as a language to bridge language boundaries as an easy-to-learn second language, not as a replacement for any existing language. In fact, most Esperanto speakers are interested in languages in general and in their preservation. Some have suggested that more widespread use of Esperanto would help preserve minority languages because it requires less effort to master than major international languages such as English.


Myth: Esperanto was supposed to end war

Given the number of wars between people who speak the same or closely related languages, it's hard to see how anyone could believe that any language could prevent war. Esperanto has been proposed as a neutral language (that is, one not associated with a particular nationality or political faction) and as a way of helping ordinary people literally understand each other. Easing mutual misunderstandings can have its benefits, but no one is so naive as to think it will magically make everyone get along.


Myth: Esperanto isn't a "real language"

Some people suppose, based on a lack of information and an excess of supposition, that Esperanto is "artificial" and hence incapable of expressing subtle nuances, grand emotions, or humor. These notions seem downright strange to those who have read the poetry of William Auld, seen heated arguments at an international meeting, or laughed at songs from the group Kajto or jokes by Raymond Schwartz. It's true that Esperanto has been around for a only a few decades over a century and that the nucleus of the language was consciously put together by one individual (Dr. L.L. Zamenhof of Poland), but since then Esperanto has evolved naturally in use exactly like English -- much more so, in fact, that other languages, such as Icelandic.



Myth: English has made Esperanto irrelevant

English is certainly the most widely used language in history, but that doesn't mean there's no reason for other languages to be spoken, including Esperanto. Those of us who know it have found it in practice to be very useful for travel, international contacts, and other purposes. For most Esperanto speakers it's no big deal that Esperanto hasn't achieved the onetime dream of serving as a second language for everyone; it's doing just fine as a second language for us. There are still those who would like to see it serve a wider public, but in the meantime we're enjoying the language and its surprisingly rich culture as they exist today.


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