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Welcome to the home page of the Newcastle Esperanto Society. We hope that this page is useful to our members, to people interested in finding out more about or in learning Esperanto. To join our mailing list, please enter your email address in the box at the bottom of this page, or visit our contacts page. This site has been provided by the Australian Esperanto Association.

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What Is Esperanto?

Esperanto is the international language planned by the Polish linguist Dr. L.L. Zamenhof in 1887. Since that time, Esperanto has evolved like any other language, and is currently spoken by approximately two million people world-wide. It is the only neutral language to be widely spoken for international use, and it is used in the home as a family language, for business, tourism, scientific interchange, international exchanges, and leisure.

The Newcastle Esperanto Society aims to promote Esperanto as the second language of Newcastle, to introduce Esperanto into the school system in Newcastle, and to provide teaching, translating and interpreting services to members and non-members. The advantages of learning Esperanto are many (read more below), but for people who don't have the time or inclination to learn Esperanto but support the idea, the Friends of Esperanto is a volunteer organisation for people who don't speak Esperanto who promote Esperanto, take part in lobbying and assist NES with their activities.

Myths about Esperanto
(This is not an exhaustive list of misconceptions. For more information,
email us.

1. Esperanto is a dead language. Most people have heard about Esperanto, but many believe that it is no longer spoken or so scarcely spoken that it is not worth mentioning. In fact, Esperanto has a constantly growing number of speakers (with a few notable boom periods), and the current boom period can be attributed to the growth of the internet. The most recent official estimate suggests that around two million people speak Esperanto, although because this estimate is several years old, it is likely to be no longer current. Most people (although they may not realise it) would have friends who speak Esperanto. Esperanto is the native language of some several hundred people, and some tens of thousands of people learn Esperanto each year, at school, university, through a local club, on the internet, or on their own. Esperanto is a particularly major issue in the European Union, and has the lowest profile in the English-speaking world.

2. English is the international language. English is a national language which is being increasingly used for international use, but almost all experts on language policy agree that this is unfortunate. The quality of communication between non-native English speakers is usually poor, and dialogue between native English speakers and non-native English speakers is almost always unequal. Claude Piron, a former interpreter for the United Nations, describes the current language situation as a ping-pong match between two right-handed people, where one of the players has to play left-handed. People in non-English-speaking countries who are forced to learn English for economic reasons must spend thousands of dollars and over six years learning a language which they will probably never master as well as a native speaker. Language inequality has become one of the biggest inequalities in the modern world.

The language used for international communication in any era, be it Greek, Latin, Spanish, French, or English, is that of the main political, economic and military force of the day. People are forced to learn the language of the most powerful nation. This can only be avoided if countries make a concerted effort to teach a neutral language, and countries such as Hungary and China are finding that this is working fairly well. In the meantime, people who choose to learn Esperanto (possibly as well as English) find that their international contacts with Esperanto are much better to those with English. Esperanto is being used as a neutral international language.

3. Esperanto is unsuitable for international communication. There is a small number of people who believe that Esperanto is unsuitable for international communication. Some people believe that Esperanto, as a planned language, is too mechanical to be able to be properly used as a language. These people have never actually learnt Esperanto. Of course this argument doesn't make much sense to people who use the language every day for friendly conversation, angry arguments, serious scientific discussion, or to get married in! Non-native English speakers say that to them English seems artificial, but Esperanto is not. Other people claim that Esperanto is too Europe-centred, and of course they also have not bothered to check before making the claim. The majority of Esperanto speakers do not live in Europe. Although the vocabulary of Esperanto comes from European languages, the grammar is closer to some Asian languages, and the pronounciation and structure is regular so as to be easy to learn for everyone. Esperanto is certainly much less of a European language than English is. Some people are worried about replacing the world's languages with one language - with good reason, because language diversity is extrememely important. Esperanto as a second language for the world provides a simple, neutral language in addition to the other diverse languages of the world. Interestingly, whereas English has killed off several hundred languages, Esperanto usually sparks an interest in learning other languages.

4. Esperanto will never gain the support of governments and international organisations. There is currently no country where Esperanto is taught to all students. However, hundreds of schools and scores of universities around the world teach Esperanto. In Hungary, Esperanto is the third-most taught language in the school system (behind English and German), and in China, the government chooses people to learn Esperanto in order to fill the small number of jobs where a knowledge of Esperanto is necessary, in addition to the thousands of people who learn the language voluntarily. Considering Vatican City as an independent state, the Vatican supports Esperanto (the previous Pope, John Paul II, was a keen supporter of Esperanto) and broadcasts in Esperanto every week on its radio. Of course UNESCO (the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) has twice affirmed its support for Esperanto and government teaching programs, and a former Secretary-General of UNESCO addressed the Universal Congress of Esperanto at Reykjavik in 1977. Esperanto is an associate non-governmental organisation to UNESCO, and has an office in United Nations Plaza in New York. Apart from the nominal support by the Catholic Church, three other religions support Esperanto - the Baha'i faith, Oomoto (a Japanese religion), and the Brazilian spiritualist movement. Australia's only comprehensive language policy (National Language Policy, lo Bianco 1987) originally included support for Esperanto but this was removed after the first draft to Parliament. Governments around the world are becoming more and more interested to Esperanto as a solution to the world language problem, especially in the European Union, where a political party supporting Esperanto (EDE) has recently been set up.

Why learn Esperanto?

Of course it is not practical to try to convince everybody to learn Esperanto - the best way to introduce Esperanto as the international language is by introducing it as a basic component of the school system. For this reason, the Friends of Esperanto was formed for people who don't speak Esperanto. Yet there are many reasons why people in Newcastle choose to learn Esperanto. Esperanto is easier than any national language because of its regularity, and some people want to learn Esperanto before they learn any other language because it is easier. Studies have shown that people who learn Esperanto for one year and (for example) Japanese for one year end up speaking Japanese better than people who learn Japanese for two years. Some people learn Esperanto for social reasons, and because it is a fun language to learn. Some people learn Esperanto for business potential, and there is some business/tourism potential in Esperanto. Esperanto allows you to communicate without any language barrier with people all around the world, and this is an unmatchable experience. For more information about learning Esperanto, click here.

The Friends of Esperanto

If you would like to support Esperanto and help to have Esperanto introduced into Newcastle schools, either through practical or nominal support, then you can join the Friends of the Newcastle Esperanto Society (FNES). FNES is a sister organisation of NES of people who do not speak Esperanto. Activities of FNES include distributing flyers, creating posters, organising events, web site design, corporate liaison and political lobbying - choose your area of interest. If you would like to join FNES and receive information but cannot currently give practical help, that is also possible. To contact FNES, click here.

 

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