Tag Archives: Esperanto

A review of “Esperanto: Learning and using the international language” by David Richardson

Esperanto book-cover

I found out about this book several years ago (and even then it was not new), but I first looked at a copy only a month ago. This review was written for those who wonder whether it is worth recommending, and for those who already know it but maybe interested in the opinion of others.

Language textbooks more or less fall into two camps: grammar-centric (for example, Step by Step in Esperanto by Montagu Butler) and direct-method (eg the books by Stano Marček). This book certainly falls more in the first, but the grammar is presented gently and not too theoretically. Instead, it introduces concepts with useful examples. For example, there is a small section, “formula phrases”: “Openers, adding on, keeping on, questioning, disbelief, agreement, disagreement, changing the subject”. Also useful are several exercise tables, which the reader can use to create sentences from given elements.

The texts in the last part of the book are excellent. Some original poems by Zamenhof are included, as well as excerpts from his letters about the creation of the language, and a brief biography. Among the other is a poem of William Auld (Drunkenness) and excerpts from On Bloody Earth by Julio Baghy. This part also contains English language keys for the lessons, dialogues and exercises, a four-page bibliography and an Esperanto-English dictionary.

One feature, probably unique among Esperanto textbooks, is a section at the beginning: “Communication and the Language Barrier”. Included in four chapters is that story of auxiliary languages, and a description of the current state of Esperanto in the world (in 1988): “Esperanto Today – and Tomorrow”. In addition to the fact that the book is now very out-of-date, it would be better – in my opinion – if the background material were much shorter, or placed in an appendix.

Although the copy that I read is described as the “third edition”, with the exception of the dustcover (which incidentally mentions the internet on the flap) in fact is just a second reprint. It would be great if someone would rework the book for the 21st century.

“Esperanto: Learning and using the international language”
Author: David Richardson
First edition: 1988 (Reprinted 1990, 2004)
Publisher: Esperanto League for North America
Format: 368 pages, 22 cm
ISBN: 0939785064
Available at the book services of Esperanto USA (www.esperanto-usa.org/retbutiko) and UEA

[First published in “Esperanto sub la Suda Kruco” (Australian Esperanto Association), December 2016]

UPDATE (24 Feb 2017):
A slightly updated Kindle edition is now available for sale on Amazon.

Beautiful Esperanto lullaby


My choir, Jubila Singers, sang a beautiful lullaby in Esperanto during a performance on 13 September, although I’m the only member who speaks Esperanto. It’s title is “Sweet Wind”.


(Switch to the Esperanto version to read the lyrics.)

Music by Joseph Barnby.
Thanks to Alan Bishop for providing the score.
Thanks to Christine Lindsay for the sound recording and photo.

Art appreciation at the World Esperanto Congress

The program for the World Esperanto Congress in Lille has been published but, unfortunately, the “Congress Theme” sessions lack details. So, I want to announce that “Congress Theme 2” (Monday, 11:15–13:45) will include two lectures by Franz-Georg Rössler – about architecture (towers) and music – and a lecture by me. Mine will be “Art-appreciation for everyone”. Summary: “For many people, appreciating art is hard. This presentation will explore some of the obstacles to the understanding and enjoyment of art, myths and half-truths about art – for example, ‘Everything is subjective.’ It will also offer ways to find your own authentic responses to art.”

9,600 people have started learning Esperanto in two days

[This is my translation of an article in Esperanto, 9.600 homoj eklernis Esperanton en du tagoj, from the website Libera Folio. (Unfortunately that article has since been removed.)]

Two days after the launch of an Esperanto course at the popular language learning site Duolingo, the course has already gained almost ten thousand participants. The number of students, then, is almost twice as big as the number of individual members of UEA [the World Esperanto Association], although the course still is not even officially launched, but is in its test phase.

The founder of Duolingo, Luis von Ahn, mentioned in a lecture given in 2012 that most of the proposals for language courses to be added to the site were, for some reason, for Esperanto. Hearing this, Chuck Smith of Berlin immediately contacted von Ahn. And the answer was that Esperanto was indeed in the plan, but that other languages had priority.

Eight months ago, work began to create a course in Esperanto. Chuck Smith became the leader of the 5-person team, and Ruth Kevess-Cohen of the United States was chosen as the main person responsible for the course.

The course opened in test phase on Thursday 28 May at 8pm mid-European time. After less than two days, the course already had 9,600 participants, although it has not yet been actively advertised.

‘We simply sent the information to our “internal” groups. So, before the launch 26,000 people asked to be notified when the course started. In addition we put announcements in the Facebook group “Duolingo English Learners” and a Reddit group for Duolingo. Because we’re in a test phase, we’re trying to not have too many users, but of course everyone is welcome,’ says Chuck Smith.

The language-learning philosophy of Duolingo differs from most other online courses. The basic idea is that you have to translate more and more difficult sentences, and thereby gradually understand, how the language works.

‘Each group of lessons has some explanations, but we ask students to firstly just try the course before reading the explanations. If a sentence is difficult, each sentence has its own thread in which they can ask questions and then either one of the other students or a contributor will respond.’

Many of the more than nine thousand students must have joined the course just out of curiosity, to see what this strange language is, Chuck Smith assumed.

‘An interesting effect of the course is that many people do one lesson just to try out this strange language and then can’t stop and simply continue…’

Out of the 9000+ adherents, four even have finished the whole course (or “tree”, according to the terminology of Duolingo) within one day. One of the finished learners, Jules, told about his experiences in a forum of Duolingo:

‘The number of initial lessons of the Esperanto-tree flew past quickly, and made me believe that all the language would be just as easy. I know it’s reputed to be an easy language to learn, but we must however remember that it is a language, and learning a language isn’t easy.’

In the middle of the course Jules felt a bit frustrated because of the many affixes that needed to be memorised, but he decided to continue, and gradually learning became easier and enjoyable.

‘I think I’ll try to keep my new knowledge about this fascinating language. Its vocabulary is very similar to the other Romance languages, with small additions of German and even Greek here and there. The purpose of this language is to bring people together around the world and promote peace, and this probably motivated me to complete the course. So, I give a big thank-you to the Esperanto team for their great work, because they’ve created an excellent course (and also with some of the best sentences I have ever seen !!) and I hope everyone else will enjoy learning this language.’

‘At the moment one can learn Esperanto at Duolingo only via English, but it’s not impossible that other languages could be added later,’ says Chuck Smith.

‘Nothing is certain about languages other than English, but the plan is to analyse the results of our course when it has “stabilised” (no longer in test phase) and then see if it’s worth doing it from another language, and if so, which language would be most appropriate. This could be judged according to various criteria such as requirements of the community, quantity and quality of candidates and so on. The likelihood that they will add a language course will grow if more people join as contributors to Esperanto.’

Already two days after the launch of the test version, the Esperanto course at Duolingo has not only fascinated more than nine thousand students, but also received a good deal of public attention. In addition to mentions on social networks, an extensive article appeared on the website “The Verge”.

Chuck Smith had no contact with the UEA on the course during the eight-month preparatory period – but, according to him, it’s not clear how the association could help anyway. On the other hand, the team reached a agreement with TEJO [the youth section of UEA], which promised to send “Kontakto” [TEJO’s monthly magazine] free of charge to new students at Duolingo.

Libera Folio: What generally happens when one finishes the course; do the learners receive information about how they can use the language?

Chuck Smith: ‘There is a bonus course about Esperanto culture, which explains a lot, but for technical reasons, it will appear later. In the official forum of Esperanto at Duolingo you sometimes hear about cultural issues, but I imagine that one will hear more when the community there matures further.’

A beautiful song in Esperanto: La Nuboj (The Clouds)

By Jhomart and Natasha

Here is a literal translation of the lyrics:
(See the lyrics as sung, in Esperanto)

On this earth grasses murmur
In the sky the clouds gather
I am a tiny cloud, too
Me too… (x 3)
And I don’t strive anywhere

I no longer need anything
Just to see my family again
Just to ask God
To see you (x 3)
Just to kiss you goodbye

And pain is not in vain
On the earth cannons roar
White clouds in the blue
My life (x 3)
Stopped so soon

I fly over rooftops
Far from home the wind carries
Mum! In silence
Listen to me
At least for a moment

White clouds over the earth
Blameless and free
And continuously in the air
We fly (x 3)
Innumerable and eternal


Typing Esperanto characters in Mac OS X

In recent versions of OS X (at least since 10.5), you can type the accented letters of Esperanto very easily, without downloading anything or using a website, as long as the language of your system is English.

To prepare your computer (required only once):

1. Open “System Preferences…” from the Apple menu.
2. Click on “Language & Text”, or “International” (depending on your version of OS X).
3. Click the tab “Input Sources”, or “Input menu”. You will see a long list of languages ​​(keyboard layouts, in fact). If you live in Australia, chances are “Australian” is already selected.
4. Scroll down to “U.S. Extended” and select it.
5. Scroll up again and deselect “Australian” (or whichever keyboard layout was selected before)*.
6. Close the window.

Language & Text dialog box

Then, to type the accented letters, do the following:
For ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ or ŝ, press option-6, and then c, g, h, j or s. (This also works for the capital letters.)
For ŭ: press option-B, and then u. (This also works for Ŭ.)

(The reason for “option-6” is not surprising, because above “6” on the keyboard is “^”. “B” is obviously from the word “breve”, which is what the ˘ symbol is called.)

* You can keep your original keyboard layout selected if you like; but if you do, you will need to switch between that and “U.S. Extended” as needed, by typing -space.

Esperanto, the forgotten language?

“Every summer, Château Gresillon [in France] is full of families enjoying the French countryside – but it’s quite unlike any other château: it’s Esperanto-land. It was bought by a handful of Esperantists back in the 1950s, and has been hosting speakers of the obscure universal language ever since.”

A video by the global news agency, AFP

It’s very nice, but it says that the number of Esperanto speakers worldwide is ‘100,000’. Really, no-one knows for sure. I’ve heard ‘about a million, maybe more’.