Rezolucio de la 95-a Universala Kongreso de Esperanto


(note: the yearly esperanto conference just occurred, this year in Havana, Cuba. This is the official resolution produced)

La 95-a Universala Kongreso de Esperanto, kunveninta en Havano (Kubo) kun 1002 partoprenantoj el 59 landoj,

Konsiderante, ke Unuiĝintaj Nacioj deklaris la jaron 2010 Internacia Jaro de Interproksimigo de Kulturoj, konstatas

– ke la diverseco de kulturoj en la mondo grave kontribuas al la riĉeco de la homaro;

– ke jam dum 123 jaroj Esperanto kiel neŭtrala lingvo helpas konstrui pontojn inter popoloj kaj kulturoj, kaj

– ke la Universalaj Kongresoj de Esperanto, kunigante homojn el plej diversaj landoj tra la mondo, mem atestas tiun kapablon konstrui pontojn,

Deklaras la deziron de la Esperanto-parolantoj kunagi kun Unuiĝintaj Nacioj kaj Unesko por stimuli komprenemon inter popoloj kaj samtempe protekti la identecon de ĉiuj homgrupoj,

kaj invitas Unuiĝintajn Naciojn kaj Uneskon plene eluzi siajn rilatojn kun Universala Esperanto-Asocio por efike realigi siajn celojn.

Havano, 24 julio 2010

my translation to english (please let me know if i made a mistake):

The 95th Universal Esperanto Congress, convened in Havana with 1002 participants from 59 countries, in light of the fact that the United Nations declared the year 2010 to be the International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures, hereby proposes the following:

WHEREAS the diversity of cultures in the world vitally contributes to the richness of humankind;
WHEREAS in the 123 years of Esperanto’s existence as a neutral language, it has helped to build bridges between peoples and cultures, and
WHEREAS the Universal Esperanto Congress, consisting of people from many diverse countries throughout the world, itself demonstrates this capability to build bridges


It is the desire of Esperanto speakers to act together with the United Nations and UNESCO in order to stimulate the desire for common understanding between peoples, while simultaneously protecting the identity of all groups, and to invite the United Nations and UNESCO to fully make use of their relationships with the Universal Esperanto Association in order to put these goals into effect.

– Havana, Cuba, the 24th day of July, 2010.



There’s clearly some benefit gained by focusing on certain attributes of a language as you listen. Lately I’ve been trying to figure out how best to apply this concept in practice in order to gain a well-rounded knowledge of the language. Some people can be exposed to a language for many years and still speak and listen badly, so exposure alone is clearly insufficient.

What then, should we pay attention to, and how? One thing is training the habit of having an enquiring and curious mind. If you’re uninterested and just doing something hoping for a reward at the end, then you’re not going to get as much out of it. You have to cultivate that feeling of investigating something magical and important, and teasing out all of the facts and meanings. I hear some people like to pretend they’re and archaeologist, unearthing some ancient language and they have to make sense of it, For Science!

Besides starting from scratch with just curiousity, though, it also helps to have some pointers so you know what to look for. If you know that certain things exist in a language, then you’ll be better able to notice them as they pass you by in the course of your listening. If you, for instance, read about what sorts of sounds exist in a language, then when you’re listening you’ll be less likely to mistake two similar sounds for the same thing. Instead you’ll hear it, and think “that’s one of those sounds that will be tricky for me…I should try and distinguish it from the other similar one”.

I’m starting to think that a good way to “study” particular aspects of a language is to do this sort of “noticing” exercise. Perhaps there’s some complicated grammar aspect to a language that you just can’t get right. The problem is either that you haven’t had enough exposure to it, or you did but you never really noticed it before. Your brain never made the appropriate connections for you, because you assumed it was just irrelevant background noise. While the brain is a fantastic learning apparatus, it also is very good at ignoring and forgetting the unimportant minutae.

So, pick your target, get a little bit familiar with it by reading some explanations, but don’t worry about “memorizing” the explanations. Explanations alone are really no good for learning a concept…it’ll be much more strongly internalized through exposure to real content. Instead, go find your lengthy and interesting content (movies, books, audiobooks, conversations, etc) and then tell yourself that you need to pick out and mentally highlight any situations where your target concept happens. You want to practice using your ability to notice that particular feature. This will help you get the extra exposure needed to make the required connections for that concept. You’ll be learning something extra that was previously disregarded as background noise.

Remember that it won’t come instantly. Anything worth learning will take many exposures to become imprinted in your brain. Through exposure, it will change step-by-step from “huh?” to “ok, I think I see it”, to “ya, this is easy now”. The only effort required is your attentiveness to the concept. If it feels hard, just remember that you’ve encountered plenty of “hard” things before, but now they are easy. This is just one of those. I like to call this concept “secretly easy”, which means that nothing is really harder than anything else, you just have to see it enough times to become used to it. Things that are “hard” now are just as easy as those “easy” things you already know.

Another thing you can do, of course, is gather some of those examples that you found in your favourite long content, and add them to an SRS program for further reinforcement. Examples gathered from your content are worth much more than random artificial sentences gathered from a big list somewhere. When these sentences come up again in your SRS, you’ll be reminded of the situation in your book or movie or conversation where they occured. Your mind uses the full context of the situation to help remember it, making many connections. Having it come up regularly due to your SRS’s scheduling mechanism just means that this particular connection will be made much stronger than all of the other sentences you may have heard that day.

That’s it! Now go find something interesting to do in your target language, and enjoy it as often as you can 🙂

first afternoon in Berlin.


I visited with Benny the Irish Polyglot today, and had a pleasant conversation over lunch. He encouraged me to jump right into Swedish and find some Swedes here in Berlin to talk to. He also stressed the usefulness of CouchSurfing as a method for just meeting people. The accommodations part of it is only incidental.

He got me thinking about taking one of the Goethe Institute language tests too. He just recently did the C2 test, which is the highest level. He got his results back today, but I’ll let him tell the story on his own blog. 😉

Let me just say that it was ballsy for him to even think of taking the test so soon. He had some high-school German knowledge from years ago, but his speaking was hopeless when he first came here (very similar to me). My speaking has ramped up rather quickly since I’ve been here, but I need work in certain areas and I need to develop the fluidity of my speech a little bit. That’ll come with speaking practice, I suppose. I would also need to specifically target certain grammar aspects that I normally try to gloss over.

This has me thinking, though. In order to fulfill one of my goals of becoming a software translator, it’d be really handy to have such an official certification stating that I have a high level of German, which would go well with my existing resume full of computer skills. And while I’m a social person, I also pride myself on my self-study skills, and tests are basically all about studying. I think it’d be up my alley.

It also has me thinking quite a bit about whether I could manage to get a C1 (2nd highest) certification in Swedish before I leave Sweden at the end of September. It’s sort of thrilling to me to have such a challenge. Perhaps that would help motivate my studies a bit, besides the communicative aspect.

I have no idea how tough it would be, but I’m willing to give it my best shot. I’ve already spent plenty of time on Swedish, and I’ve still got 2 and a half months to go until the end of September. I guess it’s doable, so I’ll just have to aim high….and it will be high indeed, in the number of study hours required.

By study here, I don’t necessarily mean reading a bunch of dry grammar explanations and doing textbook exercises. Instead, I’ll be concentrating on finding audiobooks that I enjoy (probably the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, with which I am intimately familiar), and then just simultaneously reading and listening for as many hours per day as I can, while occasionally picking out some new vocabulary for later review. That part is not exactly Benny’s style, but I enjoy it.

The thing that *is* Benny’s style is getting out to meet people and have fun socially, which for me is where the speaking practice comes in. I’m content to learn the content of the language from reading my favourite books/audiobooks, but it doesn’t translate directly into speaking skills. I was very familiar with German when I got here, but I stumbled through my speech constantly. A certain amount of speaking practice is absolutely necessary, no matter how good your listening comprehension is.

Perhaps the best thing for me to do at this time would be to come up with another spreadsheet to track my Swedish progress, and have some targets to meet, with the end goal being a C1 certification. Then it’ll just be a matter of filling in the blanks each day and marching towards completion.

first (brief) swedish conversation


I was just sitting in the common room of a hostel here in Bratislava listening to the Germany vs. Uruguay match while reading Olle Kjellin’s Accent Addition article, when I happened to notice that the fellow sitting beside me had a novel with a Swedish title!

I pointed at the book and asked him “är det svenska?” in my best Swedish accent and he replied “ja…men du talar svenska…” (yes, but you speak Swedish). I told him “jag vill lära mig” (i want to learn). He asked where I’m from, and was surprised when I said Canada, so then he asked (still in Swedish) why the heck I was learning Swedish, at which point I had to break the chain and reply in English.

So far this is encouraging, since I’ve been worried that all the Swedes I meet will automatically jump to English once they hear I’m from Canada. It was nice to have a counterexample. It also reminded me that I should find some “connectors” for Swedish conversation, similar to the czech connectors I’ve seen before…I like the idea.

Getting back to Olle Kjellin’s article for a moment (which is good, go read it), I’ve prepared some materials for my long train ride tomorrow. I sliced out a few sentences from a Swedish audiobook that is read by a particularly pleasing voice. My plan is to listen to each of them a few dozen times, and then if I have some time alone (so that I don’t sound like a fool) I’ll try and repeat them along with the recording. The goal will be to use the recording to correct myself, and to hear the sound of my own voice making the correct sounds with the correct rhythms. Auditory feedback is very important when speaking, so it’s important to train yourself in what it sounds like when you speak correctly.

I also have plenty of listening materials, and I might try to simultaneously listen to a Swedish audiobook while reading he translated text in English, and see if I can pick up some new vocabulary that way. I’d prefer to also read the Swedish text, but I don’t have any Swedish books with me right now, so that will have to wait until I arrive in Sweden later this month (although if anyone knows of a Berlin bookstore that has some Swedish books, please let me know right away).

SES summary: where’s my Esperanto at?


Well, the SES (Somera Esperanto-studado) meeting is winding down now. Today is the last day, and then I leave tomorrow morning to take the train back to Bratislava. After that I’m taking the train up to Berlin, and I’ll be starting back working on Swedish full-time before I arrive in Sweden.

I feel like I’ve made tremendous Esperanto progress this week. “La Hobito” has gone from hard-to-read to easy/moderate. I get everything in the story now, although I’m still fishing out lots of interesting and obscure vocabulary. I’ve made a lot more sentence-based Anki cards from it this week, and I’ll continue reviewing the cards as they come up.

I also bought a comic book called “Diabolik”, which is translated from Italian, and another book called “La Burgo Kondamnita” (apparently written in Russian by Arkadij and Boris Strugackij in 1992, and translated to Esperanto in 2009). $40 to order this sucker on the American Esperanto Association website, but I bought it for €7 here at the libroservo. 🙂

So, I think I now have enough lengthy Esperanto content to really make some huge improvements through reading. “La Burgo Kondamnita” is about twice as long as the Hobbit, so there’s lots there. I’ll slowly work through them piece by piece over the next while, until later this year when I can take some time to go through them in detail. August and September will be too full of intensive Swedish study, I think, so I’ll just be doing incremental Esperanto work and review in that time.

This week has been very helpful for my speaking, since I’ve had all sorts of crazy opportunities to speak to people. I had lots of trouble at the beginning of the week, but it’s much easier now. I still wouldn’t quite say that I’m at “basic fluency” yet, since there are several things that still trip me up, and some important things still seem to be missing somehow, but overall I’m able to have some somewhat satisfying conversations, and functionally get my meaning across.

I can really feel the difference between my Esperanto and German skills now, since my German is based on such a huge amount of foundation from TV and reading, and Esperanto has been mostly just acquiring the basic vocabulary but not doing so much in-depth reading to fully acquire the language. So really, my Esperanto is more based on calculation of various rules, plus whatever I’ve heard from others this week. It doesn’t feel like a personal part of me quite yet, but I hope to change that through reading.

It was really interesting to see so many people here start with almost zero Esperanto (or just horribly low speaking skills at least), and progress over the course of a week into conversant members of the Esperanto community. We talked and laughed together, had some beers and some good times…almost all of it in Esperanto, with ever increasing amounts towards the end of the week.

I’m very glad I came, and that I had such an opportunity which is usually so far removed from Canadians due to the distances involved. Now that I’ve had the relatively comfortable experience of being in a meeting of beginner Esperantists, I’m eager to jump into one of the yearly congresses…perhaps next year when it comes to Copenhagen in the summer.

That’s about it for now. I’m spending a few more days on Esperanto studying, and then I’ll be adding in more and more emphasis on Swedish to prepare myself for the shock I’ll receive in Sweden where absolutely nobody speaks English! (just kidding ;). Seriously though, a strong basis in Swedish will be required in order to prevent all those English-crazed Swedes from switching over all the time. My scheduled two months there is barely enough time for me to get started learning the language, so I have to have as much of a head start as I can.

voĉlegi en esperanto


Hodiaŭ mi pensadis ke voĉlegi esperanton estas iom alian ol voĉlegi en aliaj lingvoj ke oni malbone komprenas. Kutime, oni ne devus voĉlegi nekomprenita lingvojn ĉar onia prononco estus malbone. Oni ne volus ekcersi la malĝusta prononcmaniero.

Today I was thinking that reading out loud in esperanto is different than reading out loud in other languages that you don’t understand well. Usually, you don’t want to read out loud in a language that you don’t understand, because your pronunciation would be bad. You wouldn’t want to practice the incorrect accent

Tamen en esperanto, ne estas grandaj problemo ĉar la prononco estas pli facila ol aliaj lingvoj. Ĉar estas regula, oni povas mem voĉlegi librojn por proksimumas aŭdlibrojn.

However, in Esperanto, it’s not a big problem because the pronunciation is easier than in other languages. Because it’s regular, you can read a book out loud yourself in order to approximate an audiobook.

Mi sentas ke mi povas voĉlegi esperantajn librojn eĉ se mi ne tuj komprenas la vortojn. Mi nur voĝlegi kaj aŭskultas samtempe min mem. Unue, mi ne komprenas multa, sed se mi daŭras voĉlegi, mi post nelonge komprenas plimulte. Estas strangan senton, ĉar produkti la sonoj estas apartan procezon de kompreni la skribvortojn kaj kompreni la sonojn.

I think I can read out an esperanto book even if i don’t immediately understand the words. I just read it out loud and listen to myself simultaneously. At first, I don’t understand much, but if I keep reading then after a little while I understand more. It’s a strange sensation, because producing the sounds is a different process from understanding the written words and understanding the sounds.

Nun mi sugesti ke oni klopodas rapide voĉlegi librojn kaj mem aŭskultas onin. Ne zorgas pri kompreni la vortojn, nur daŭre voĉlegi. Eble estos kiel aŭdlibron, sed senkosta. 🙂

I suggest that you try to quickly read books out loud and listen to yourself. Don’t worry about understanding the words, just continue reading out loud. Perhaps it’ll be like an audiobook, except free. 🙂

many simultaneous languages?


(from a post at HTLAL, in which someone asked for advice on learning multiple languages over the summer)

Some people manage multiple languages at once, and some people get bored with doing the same language all the time, so they need a couple in order to switch between them to keep things interesting. But you should evaluate this for yourself.

Personally, my biggest problem in learning languages is keeping up the motivation after it gets hard and I stop seeing the quick progress I had at the beginning. If it takes longer, I won’t stay interested. For this reason, I like to concentrate on one language until I get to a certain comfortable level. For instance, in 2009 I concentrated on German for about 5 months solid, and was able to understand most of what I was reading, so then I decided to start Swedish.

I think if I had done both German and Swedish simultaneously, I would have spent a long time in that middle-zone where I can’t quite understand everything, and it seems frustrating. To keep my motivation up, I want to spend as little time as possible in that frustrating zone, so I try to do my most intense immersion then. I read every book I can find, and constantly listen to audio. I do nothing else, and purely concentrate on that language.

I don’t know what your current level is in any of these languages, but my recommendation would be to pick one first and power through it as hard as you can. Find every method possible to put your language superpowers to work. Start re-reading those posts where some crazy person says “ya, I learned 5000 new words in a month” and be inspired. Once you can sit down with a new novel and enjoy it with ease, then you will have gone through most of the hard stages of a language, and you’ll know what to expect for the others.

Once you have a satisfactory experience of being able to enjoy a novel in a new language, or something else that might signify “victory” for you, then perhaps at that point it would be a better time to try to take on multiple simultaneous languages. When you’re working on those languages, you can look back on your previous victory and use it as motivation, and as proof that if you just keep working then you’ll get there in the end.

I commonly feel a strong desire to work on many languages, mainly because I’m eager to be able to speak those languages to people around me. Language-learning (and especially polyglottery) is a long-term project, and you have to treat it as such. If you want to learn 5 languages, budget 5 years. If, after 5 years, you’ve learned a decent amount of those 5 languages, you’re actually huuuugely ahead of most people, and you will have accomplished it very fast. Personally, I just really want to be there at the end, speaking with many people in their own languages, but I know that it’ll take a little while.

It’ll probably be more satisfying to speak 1 language after 1 year, 2 languages after 2 years, 3 languages after 3 years, etc…rather than 0 after 1 year, 0 after 2 years, 0 after 3 years, until eventually you’re able to speak all 5 that you were simultaneously working on. This is my experience, anyway, since I spent multiple years with 0 functional languages, despite dabbling in over 10 of them.

Getting awesome at one language first will also help your language-learning skills, enabling you to learn the rest faster. Spending multiple years being a beginner at 10 languages only helped me get good at blasting through the beginner portion of language learning, but then I’d just drown in the intermediate “frustrating” section until I’d quit and start something else.

first report from the Esperanto course


I’m sitting here in Piešťany, Slovakia at the “SES”: Somera Esperanto-Studado. The event is a week long, and is being held in a Hotel school here in Piešťany. Every morning we have some Esperanto class time (divided into 4 skill levels according to a placement test we took on the evening we arrived), and then in the afternoon we have various interesting workshops and activities. The evenings have performances and more workshops. There’s also a lot of social opportunities in which to talk with our fellow Esperantistoj.

So far, I’ve had interesting Esperanto conversations on a variety of topics with people from Russia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Germany, USA, China, Belgium, Netherlands, Finland, Spain, Hungary, Poland, and probably more that I’ve forgotten already.

One thing I’ve found particularly helpful is having my laptop with me, and using the wireless access provided to look up things on the internet. If there’s a topic in which my explanation doesn’t suffice, or the other person’s vocabulary is perhaps lacking, then I can quickly look up the topic on wikipedia and click their native language. Once they read the summary of the article in their own language, then we get back on track in our Esperanto conversation now that we’re on the same *ahem* page.

I found it quite hard to adjust to speaking Esperanto in the first day and a half, since my mind was really in German mode after spending a month in Germany and Austria. I actually tended to gravitate towards the many Germans here, because we’d have something to talk about immediately, and sometimes if we got stuck then we could ask what a certain German word was in Esperanto, and then continue. I’ve almost entirely avoided speaking English here, except when a Slovakian guy was trying to ask for help with his computer but his beginner-level Esperanto wasn’t up to the task. Once I understood his computer problem, we switched back to Esperanto.

There’s an interesting age range here, with a decent number of highschool students (some of whom have fantastically great Esperanto abilities), and quite a few people over the age of 50 as well. Being in the middle at 30, I’m somewhat of a minority, strangely.

The classroom setting is sort of what I expected. The teachers seem quite well versed in the popular teaching techniques these days (such as total physical response where we stamp our foot whenever we add an -n ending to an accusative word, or using some physical props to act out various positional prepositions), but it’s still pretty similar to every other classroom setting. The teacher hauls us through various meaningless exercises as an excuse to do something in the language.

Personally, I’d rather study on my own and just use the plentiful conversational opportunities. On my own, I get to do more vocabulary faster, because I don’t have to suffer through the words I already know, and I can move at my own pace. In self-study, I can also do more valuable things like reading a book or internet article, which are actually interesting content and are exposing me to new and challenging parts of the language. My preference is always to learn mostly through exposure to real and interesting content, either audial, visual, or written.

So, today I skipped class so that I could continue with my flashcards for basic Esperanto vocabulary (thanks Judith!), and so that I can read a couple easy articles and some bits from “La Hobito” by Tolkien ;). I’ve also been experimenting with the usage of a little “timer” applet on my laptop, so I can do some “Time-boxing”.

The idea is to limit my work on one topic to 3 or 4 minutes, and then when the timer beeps I switch to another topic. So maybe 3 minutes of flashcards, then 3 minutes of reading La Hobito, then 3 minutes of an internet article in Esperanto. What this effectively does, is turn “work” into “play” by giving me a time when I know I’ll be done, and some enforced variety. It plays with my short attention span so that this “study” work is more like websurfing. On AJATT, Khatsumoto compared it to eating a bag of chips. You’re not consciously trying to finish the whole bag, you’re just eating the current chip. Then another. Then another.

So, I’ve found that eating my Esperanto chips is doing a good job at keeping me on-task overall, while still allowing me my natural reaction of bouncing between multiple shiny tasks. Somehow it keeps it fun, so I’ll have to do this more in the future. Later today I’m going to add to my materials by buying some Esperanto comic books that I saw at the little book table that was set up. (I also want to get this awesome shirt that says “Lingva Revolucio!” and has a pic of Zamenhof wearing a hat with a star on it, similar to the famous Che picture).

Ok, time to get back to some studying. I’ll try and report back again near the end of the week. Ĝis!