Back from Montréal

I’ve just returned from a trip to Montréal for a joint conference of the United States’ and the Pan-American Esperanto associations. I had a wonderful time, and my only regret was that I had to leave early for travel and work considerations. It was a wonderful experience. In the year since I began seriously studying Esperanto, I still hadn’t met another Esperantist (they’re hard to come by in Norfolk!) and now I was completely immersed in Esperanto, surrounded by hundreds of speakers, mostly fluent, from not only the whole Western hemisphere, but from as far away as Japan.

The whole experience was a blast. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a great desire to travel, and other cultures, languages, and belief systems have always fascinated me.  Here I was having “three-language” days, speaking with the other attendees in Esperanto and with the locals in French and English. (I tried to use French as much as possible, and to switch to English only when necessary—it usually was … my French is very limited).

Although some of the presenters were sometimes challenging for me to understand, it was mostly because of their poor public speaking abilities rather than a matter of language itself. In conversations, I could understand everyone almost perfectly for the duration (with one notable exception!) and I only “crocodiled” for a very few, short instances (krokodili is Esperanto slang for speaking your native language with with other Esperantists). Ninety-nine percent of the time I spoke and listened in Esperanto, and I now feel I can truly consider myself a bilingual person.

Esperantists often speak about the “internal idea” (interna ideo) of their language. The entire reason for the existence of the language is for people of all cultures to have common access to an extremely powerful, descriptive, and fairly easily-learned means of communication, that belongs to no one culture or country and so, puts none at a disadvantage. Somewhat ironically, the desire of a planned “universal” language is to protect linguistic and cultural diversity. The conference exemplified the internal idea quite well, as its theme was diversity and sustainability regarding ecosystems, languages, and cultures.

The “internal idea” has other names outside of the context of Esperanto: love, compassion, tolerance. Interestingly, the more we realize universal truths, such as the fact that everyone of us is simply embodied Spirit, just as every other one is, the more we can appreciate the uniqueness of every wonderful soul.

4 thoughts on “Back from Montréal

  1. Wow! I dropped by to see if you perchance had posted something about the Esperanto World Congres that’s happening in Rotterdam right now. Good to hear that there is a Pan American one too!

    Not that I went there (Rotterdam), but I have just been watching a broadcast about an earlier congress (1998) in Montpellier and that made me think of you.

    If you want to see it (some Dutch, lots of Esperanto)

    Click the first video (De Nalatenschap van doctor Esperanto). You’ll get a screen with two sets of choices. Don’t bother with the first one, the video defaults to Windows Mediaplayer no matter what. The second is between dial-up (smalband)and DSL/Cable (breedband. Klik “opslaan” and the video should play.

    A very touching scene in the second “Dutch” bit. The man cries because he remembers how Esperantist were persecuted and murdered by the Nazi’s. The couple learned Esperanto from refugee Esparantists.

    The video left me with the same feeling of love, compassion and tolerance. Wonderful!

  2. Jon- So glad you enjoyed your trip. I enjoyed reading about your time there and about a subject that I know virtually nothing about. “Love, Compassion and Tolerance” – certainly qualities the world can use more of.

    Welcome back…

  3. @Margreet Dankegon! Thanks for the links. I still haven’t had time to watch both videos completely, but I will.

    BTW, How’s your Esperanto study coming? And are you going to be to take part in any of the UEA Kongreso’s activities in Rotterdam?

    @Trevor Thanks. It really was a wonderful experience.

  4. Jon, I can read and understand spoken Esperanto just fine. The passive knowledge I have gained in just a few months amazes me. For instance, I can’t really remember whether something in those video’s was said in Esperanto or Dutch. The only other language that does the same to me is English. But I’m terribly bad at “practicing” things like writing and speaking or any kind of rote learning. I didn’t learn English (or any other language) that way. I somehow just absorbed it by listening and reading and gradually I began to write and speak it. I’m more than confident the same will happen with Esperanto if I keep listening and reading.

    I won’t be able to go to Rotterdam even though the distance from were I live is “around the corner” by American standards. Nederlando estas malgranda lando! But I’m swamped in work right now.

    Apart from the potential of Esperanto to solve a lot of world problems, it also has special meaning for me because that very same idea, the “interna ideo” was very much supported by my grandfather. It’s part of my heritage.

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