Further response to Nicole Martinelli

Nicole Martinelli has just posted a further piece about Esperanto, responding to some of the points raised in my previous post. Here are a few words in response.

Firstly, I’d like to say how pleased I am to take part in discuussing Esperanto with someone who comes to the subject with an open mind, rather than with a mass of received ‘wisdom’ that’s impossible to shake, even in the face of clear information to the contrary. For that, I’d like to thank Nicole very much.

I’m still going to dispute a few points though. 🙂 Well, it wouldn’t be a debate if we all agreed, would it?

Nicole says:

A few considerations: I was taken to task (albeit politely) for calling Esperanto an “artificial” language. The definition comes from Wikipedia: “a language designed for human communication which was created by the work of one or more persons, rather than having naturally evolved as part of a culture.”

My point wasn’t that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not the way people usually learn languages. Is it a better way? Easier way?

Well, the definition you cite comes from the part of Wikipedia clearly marked “nostalgia”, i.e. way out of date. Looking for the same page in the current Wikipedia gives a much more detailed and accurate article. However, quibbles over terminology aside, I’m not sure that I understand the connection between Esperanto’s artificiality and people learning the language. Nobody’s asking learners to invent (or re-invent) the language themselves; it’s there to be learnt, just like English or Italian or Chinese… it’s just that because it’s based on a planned structure rather than a thousand years of organic evolution, most people find it easier to learn.

Here’s an analogy that’s just popped into my head: imagine a tourist visiting central London for the first time, and another in Manhattan. You could live for years in London and still not be aware of street names even a couple of miles from home. As for giving directions, if you haven’t got a map, it’s difficult to direct anyone who hasn’t already memorised hundreds of place names and street names. In Manhattan, where the street layout and naming convention was planned rather than grown organically, pretty much anyone only needs two minutes to see how it works, and can then take themselves to “the corner of 5th Avenue and 32nd Street” or “10400 18th Street” or whatever. Nobody’s expecting visitors to Manhattan to be qualified in town planning, but the fact that the town is planned makes it much easier to navigate, for beginners and experts alike.

Nicole also says:

Part of the problem will be gaining enough critical mass, including the English-language press, to get the point about Esperanto across.

[..] the study I cited […] was actually about how much money the UK makes with the dominance of English. It was by a French governmental agency and there’s no trace of it in English […] And, If you look at Google news, the Esperanto congress in Florence never happened. As some of the posters on Morley’s site conceded, Esperanto has always had a PR problem.

…and it still has. 😦 You’re right that the study has yet to be translated into English, although I believe the Italian Radical Party is offering a bounty to any volunteer translator who’s willing to have a go.

But to answer your final qustion:

Hmmm. Anyone know of an Esperanto group in Milan?

Well, yes I do. 🙂 Well, I don’t actually know anybody there, but according to the World Esperanto Association’s Yearbook 2006, the Milana Esperanto-Klubo meets on Fridays (except August and national holidays) from 9.30pm at Via De Predis 9, 20155 Milano. The entrance is next to Via Bramantino. The Itala Esperanto-Federacio is also based in Milan, and can be contacted at f.esp.it@infinito.it

8 komentoj to “Further response to Nicole Martinelli”

  1. Manuel Says:

    Jen kelkaj respondoj al nikolaj demandoj:

    * Pri e-grupo en Milano: ĵus fondiĝis esperanto-branĉo de tutnacia kultura asocio ARCI [arĉi], nome “arci-esperanto”; la ĉefgvidanto de arci-esperanto estas milanano, Andrea Montagner, kies retadreso estas: io (ĉe) andreamontagner.it
    * Pri la raporto Grin: troveblas tradukoj en ŝtataj lingvoj de ĉiuj EU-membroj en la retejo de EEU:

    Bv. traduki kaj transdoni al ŝi (flanke, kial diable itala ĵurnalisto eldonas blogon anglalingve !?)

  2. timsk Says:

    Here’s a translation of Manuel’s post, as he requested.

    * About an Esperanto group in Milan: an Esperanto branch of the national cultural association ARCI, named “ARCI-Esperanto”, has just been founded; its leader, Andrea Montagner, lives in Milan, and can be contacted on: io (at) andreamontagner.it

    * About Professor Grin’s report: translations into all EU member states’ languages are on the website of European Esperanto Union: http://lingvo.org/grin. [N.B. These translations are one-page summaries of the report, not the full text. — Tim.]

    Please translate and send on to Nicolle. (By the way, why on earth is an Italian journalist blogging in English!?) [Because she’s American, as mentioned both on her blog and mine. — Tim.]

  3. Manuel Says:

    Dankon pro la traduko, Tim. Mi aldonas:

    Post mia komento, ja mi konsciis ke la multlingva tradukaro koncernas nur al la resumo de la Grin-raporto, ne al la tuto.

    Ankaŭ post mia komento, mi trovis ke la blogo de Nicole estas fakte kolektiva blogo de anglalingvaj ĵurnalistoj. La mencion pri ŝia usona deveno mi tamen ja preterlegis.

    Mi profitas la ŝancon gratuli vin pro via inteligenta kaj afabla reago. Estas pli kaj pli malfacile trovi esperantiston kiu ne reagas “talpisme” al tiaj mencioj de esperanto. Eble tiun pesimisman penson influas ĵus pasinta ĉeesto al UK…

  4. timsk Says:

    Manuel diris:
    “Estas pli kaj pli malfacile trovi esperantiston kiu ne reagas “talpisme” al tiaj mencioj de esperanto.”

    Ĝuste. Vidu tiurilate miajn lastatempajn mesaĝojn al la retlisto reago.

  5. Nicole Martinelli Says:

    Hi Tim,
    Just a quick response to your points above.

    Thanks to you and all the Esperantists for turning what could have been a flame war into a discussion.

    You’re right about the vintage Wikipedia link, I don’t know what happened, whether I had initially used a different page or they changed it in the meanwhile. I’m sure I got the “artificial” concept from them.

    Under the def of “constructed language” they use “artificial” as a synonym (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructed_language) but in any case, as you stated, that’s not really the point.

    I like your tourism/map analogy, it makes a lot of sense.

    Just downloaded the summary of the study — and just may check out the Esperanto group here in Milan.


  6. timsk Says:

    Thanks for your note, Nicole.

    I’m also very pleased with the level of the comments here. Esperanto is an issue that seems to inflame emotions, both for and against, and yes, flame wars ensue. Thanks are also due to you for the interest, healthy skepticism, and open-mindedness shown.

    If you do find time to check out the Esperanto group in Milan, I’d be very pleased to hear how you get on, so do drop me a line.



  7. Ruben Conti Says:

    Hi Tim !
    We met in Vilnius.
    I live in Milan and I have to tell you that next sutarday (11/11/2006) we (Esperantists) are meeting for our first one hundred years of Esperanto in Milan.

  8. timsk Says:

    Hey, congratulations on the centenary! I’ve emailed Nicole Martinelli about Saturday. Don’t hold your breath, but you might just get to meet her. 🙂

    I’m afraid I’m struggling to remember your face from Vilnius though. I met a lot of new people there… I’ve probably got you on video somewhere though. Is there a photo online somewhere to jog my memory?


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