JES journal, Dec 28


On Tuesday morning, I got up before everyone else in my room, despite the drinking the night before. Lots of water before bed is the trick. The reason for my early rising was that I wanted to go outside and search for interesting birds, since we’re somewhat out in the country, in an area surrounded by forest.

I took a 1 hour walk through town, finding 15 species of wintering birds. Several houses that I walked past had bird feeders in the back yard, which attracted a variety of small finches, and the surrounding trees had plenty of Eurasian Jays, which are quite nice to look at, although they make quite an obnoxious noise. I also found some beautiful Great Spotted Woodpeckers, which have deep red ventral feathers that are brightly visible as they fly.

During the day, we went over to the school that we’re using as a “convention center” for our little conference. We browsed through 100 or so Esperanto books at the Libroservo, and looked at the day’s program of events. There were several workshops happening on a variety of topics, although that afternoon seemed to be crammed with all of the events that I had little interest in. Most of what interests me is happening later in the week.

Instead, I went back to the hostel and hung out with some friends, and we worked together to produce a new spreadsheet to help track our language studies for the coming year. We discovered some new tricks, such as having certain cells of the spreadsheet change color at various intervals as the number of practice-hours goes up, indicating when I’ve passed various goals. We also developed a little formula to calculate a 7 day average of progress, so that we can also try to keep our average speed above a certain level.

In the evening we stumbled upon a juggling workshop in one of the rooms downstairs, and joined in for a while. Over the next few days there are plenty of little workshops that I’d like to attend, including some language workshops… particularly the introduction to Dutch taught by a young octoglot from the Netherlands.


JES journal, Dec 27


Monday afternoon we caught a train from Berlin to Cottbus. The train was quite comfy (unlike the crowded train I took from Bratislava to Prague in the summer). We chatted the whole way in Esperanto, since there were 10 of us on board in total. I was kinda hoping that someone would ask us what language we were speaking, but nobody even looked at us.

When we got to Cottbus, we had to run across the station to catch our bus, but we made it with about 1 minute to spare. At that point, we realized that about 20 other Esperantists were waiting for the bus too, and it became a happy reunion for many.

The bus slowly made its way through Cottbus in the direction of Burg, our destination. Burg is a small town in the Spreewald (the forest along the river Spree, which eventually flows through Berlin). It’s sort of a resort town, known for its spa complex and forest surroundings. On the bus, I sat beside a Danish fellow named Kimo, who apparently was a musician of some sort.

We arrived in Burg and trudged through the snow to the youth hostel, and signed in. Soon afterwards it was dinner time, and the official opening event, attended by around 50 people, since not everyone would be arriving for another day or two. During the opening, we heard a couple greetings issued by local politicians who had come to say hi. Their slowly-delivered German speeches were filled with the expected ceremonial pleasantries, which were faithfully translated to Esperanto for the crowd.

Next came the musical act, which was Kimo from the bus. He busted out an accordion and started to crank out some catchy songs in Esperanto. Apparently he’s somewhat of a celebrity amongst the Esperanto community, because everyone seemed to know all his songs and sing along. He’s quite a lively character too, demonstrating his very youthful spirit, despite his gray hair and trimmed beard. As he introduced himself, he mentioned that he grew up speaking Esperanto with his parents, making him one of the small group of native speakers. Coincidentally, the stage lighting was being controlled by a computer programmer from England that I know, who also happens to be a native Esperanto speaker.

A while later, we went over to the Trinkejo (“drinking-place”) for a beer, and tried out some slovakian hard liquor that someone had brought along. Quite tasty, and also very smooth, despite having an alcohol percentage that made it suitable for use as boat-gas.

I the played a rather poor game of Go with a friend, and retired for the night, eager to see what would happen the following day.

Fun with Esperanto Wikipedia


As you read this on Monday, I’ll be on the train to a week-long Esperanto new years party called JES. Stay tuned for more from me when I get back in January and start working on Dutch!

Lately I’ve been puzzling over new ways to practice active language skills. Over the past few years I’ve become much more skilled at acquiring passive language skills (reading / listening / understanding), but I haven’t really gotten the hang of the active part as much as I hoped.

When I arrived in Germany, it was extremely easy for me to understand what everyone was saying and what was on all the signs and menus, because I had already read a dozen full books in German, watched hundreds of hours of TV, and listened to a lot of audiobooks, all while I was working full time back in Canada to save up for the trip. As I started trying to speak to people, my active skills developed at a reasonable pace, proportional to how much speaking I did, and it was greatly helped by my ability to understand everything my other conversation partners were saying in return.

Esperanto, on the other hand, has been somewhat of a different story. I learned the basics through some step-by-step lessons in about 35 hours, and then I was able to read a lot of sites I found on the internet somewhat successfully (like an article from some Japanese antiwar activists who were writing, in Esperanto, about their country’s unconstitutional contributions to the Iraq War). I didn’t do that much reading in it at all, although I did a bit of listening to the Radio Verda podcasts, which are, incidentally, produced by two people in my home town of Vancouver (although I haven’t yet met them).

With Esperanto, I didn’t have as much of the intuitive sense of the language that I had with German, and I felt rather frustrated in my attempts to speak it. I had heard a lot of other people saying that Esperanto was the language that they felt most at home with, other than their native language, but I didn’t feel this at all.

I realized that the unique feature of Esperanto that comes into play here, is that the grammar is completely regular, which allows you to follow your intuitions and know that you’ll always be right, despite not being a native speaker. There’s no need to spend years receiving the input required to learn all the annoying exceptions that occur in the other languages.

With that in mind, I set out to pursue an output-oriented activity in Esperanto: I started editing articles in the Esperanto Wikipedia. My plan was to pick some Esperanto articles that need a bit of work, and then look for a larger article in the English Wikipedia and translate a section to add back to the Esperanto side.

It turns out that Esperanto Wikipedia is quite a fun project on its own. It already has around 138000 articles currently, which puts it among the top ranks in terms of size, compared to all the other languages. Compared to the estimated 1M – 2M speakers of Esperanto (very few of whom are natives), this is an exceptionally high ratio of articles to speakers. To make things more interesting, there’s also a system to show the List of 1000 articles every Wikipedia should have, which ranks the different Wikipedias according to the size of their verions of these 1000 articles. Stubs (less than 10kB) are worth 1, medium articles (10kB – 30kB) are worth 4, and large articles are worth 9 (more than 30kB). The overall score is then normalized to a score out of a possible 100, by dividing the total by 90.

If you look at the resuls of this “quality” metric, it’s interesting to note that Catalan is in the top position, above English. English has far more articles than Catalan, but of those important 1000 articles, Catalan has more detail. It appears that there’s some group of Catalan speakers who are quite dedicated to ensuring that their wikipedia is of high quality (which I think is a rather good idea, considering that the language was suppressed in various areas of public life under the Franco dictatorship, until his death in 1975) . In this ranking, Esperanto is in 33rd place, lacking none of the 1000 articles, but with only 57 of those in the “large” category.

For me, this means great fun! There’s a high score list, and anyone can help increase the greater glory of Esperanto ;). So I started picking some articles that sounded interesting, and read their Esperanto versions. Then I picked a section of the English version that looked easy to translate, and started working on it, trying to get my chosen article up past the 10kB mark into the realm of “medium” articles, which increases its worth from 1 to 4 points out of a possible 9.

At first, I was going quite slowly. I had to look up a lot of words, and I had to ask for a lot of help in formulating the sentences to convey the exact meaning I was looking for. If I were just chatting on the street, I probably would have been close enough for the other person to figure out what I meant, but it was harder to get the precision that I wanted for Wikipedia.

I spent most of this past week hacking away on various articles. The hard work paid off, though. My production speed has greatly increased, and now I can much more easily spot errors in other people’s writing. I can compose things from scratch, and I can translate with ease. I’ve also solidified the basic vocabulary much more, and learned a lot of rather obscure words too. Most importantly, the task was fun to do, which allowed me to continue for several hours each day without feeling like it was “work”.

So, I’m now feeling quite ready to spend the next week speaking nothing but Esperanto with friends and new acquaintances at JES, which will be held in a small town called Burg in the Spree forest just south of Berlin. Among the more than 300 attendees will be Chuck Smith, the founder of the Esperanto Wikipedia, who currently writes at the Transparent Language Esperanto blog, and is good friend of mine here in Berlin. Also a very good friend, the very experienced polyglot known to some of you on HTLAL as Sprachprofi will be coming, as well as globe-trotting polyglot Benny Lewis.

See you in January 🙂

(eo) legu unu milionon da vortoj


This post is an experiment in practicing my writing in various languages. I’ve taken an old post from almost 2 years ago, and I’m translating it into Esperanto. I plan to do more posts like this, with other languages.

I heard about an interesting idea last week. It’s sort of a mental game, suggested by someone from Japan who was learning English. The idea is that if you read a million words, then you’ll be quite good at reading that language. simple enough.

En la antaŭa semajno, mi aŭdis interesan ideon. Estas tipo de mensa ludo, kiun japano, kiu lernantis la anglan, proponis. La ideo estas ke se vi legus unu milionon da vortojn en la lingvo, kiun vi studis, do vi legos bone en tiu lingvo. Sufiĉe facila, ĉu ne?

The rules are as follows:

  1. No dictionaries
  2. When you don’t know a word, just keep going
  3. Read a total of a million words.

La reguloj de la ludo estas la jenaj:
1) ne uzu vortaron.
2) se vi vorton ne komprenas, simple kontinuu.
3) legu entute unu milionon da vortoj.

With something as simple as this, it’s hard to go wrong. There are several ideas that I take away from this game. One is that you should read for enjoyment and read for understanding the story, not just for “sentence mining”. Previously I had trouble getting anywhere in my reading because I was always trying to precisely understand every word in every sentence, and always on the first time that I saw it. This kills the natural ability of my brain to figure things out via multiple exposures.

Kun simplaĵoj kiel ĉi tiuj, estas malfacile erari. Mi akceptas diversajn ideojn de tiu ludo. La unua estas ke oni devas legi por ĝui la rakonton kaj por kompreni la rakonton, ne por vortokolektado. Antaŭe mi havis problemojn legi ĉar mi provadis precize unuafoje kompreni ĉiujn vortojn. Tio ĉi malhelpas la naturan kapablecon de via cerbo kompreni per multaj eksponoj.

I used to try and add tons of sentences to anki just because I didn’t know a word in them, and I was always using the dictionary compulsively, but it just slowed me down. What I actually need is better reading speed and more content (ie more input). I don’t need to memorize every word in the order that I see them. If it’s a common word, I’ll see it again soon anyway. No need to worry right now.

Mi antaŭe aldonis multajn frazojn al Anki nur ĉar mi ne komprenis unu vortoj de tiu, kaj mi devige uzadis la vortaro, sed fari tion malrapidigis min. Tio, kion mi vere bezonas, estas plibonigi la legrapideco kaj pli legindaĵoj (pli enigo por mia cerbo). Mi ne bezonas parkeri ĉiujn vortojn laŭ la ordo en kiu mi vidis tion. Se ĝi estas ordinara vorto, mi ĝin baldaŭ vidos denove. ne zorgu pri tio nun.

This way, I can focus on which words are particularly awesome…something I really want to learn. Hopefully I’ve seen it a couple times already so it has partially sunk into my brain via text, and then I can use anki to fully insert it.

Tiel mi povas koncentriĝi je bonegaj vortoj…tiuj, kiujn mi vere volas lerni. Espereble mi jam vidis ĝin kelkfoje dume, do ĝi pro legado ensinkis en mian cerbon, kaj post tio mi povas uzi Anki enigi ĝin.

This method is also supposed to be somewhat of a long-term method. Don’t pretend that you’re going to learn a language super-fast overnight, because you’re not. But I think you can actually read a million words in a reasonable amount of time…like several months. This is the proper length of time for your language learning goals. If you expect to see awesome results on the order of days or weeks, then you’re doing it wrong. You will see the BIG results on the order of months, so I think this game is good for that.

Ĉi tio metodo devas esti longe uzota. pensado ke ĝi rapidege lernigus lingvon estas eraro, sed mi pensas ke vi fakte povas legi unu milionon da vortoj dum modera tempo…eble malmultaj monatoj. Tiom da tempo estas deca tempo por via lingvolerna celoj. Se vi atendus bonegajn rezultatojn post nur tagoj aŭ semajnoj, do vi eraras. Vi vidos rezultategojn post monatoj, do mi pensas ĉi tiu ludo decas por tiu celo.

In the short term, just read and enjoy reading. Reading is fun! In the long term, it’ll make you awesome. If you can just avoid interrupting your reading to make notes or look up things in the dictionary, you’ll actually get more practice reading and become faster and better at it.

Mallongtempe, nur legu kaj ĝuu vian legadon. Legi amuzas! Longtempe, legi bonegiĝos vin. Se vi nur povas eviti interrompi vian legadon por fari komentojn aŭ uzi la vortaron, vi vere ekzercitiĝos pri legado kaj rapidiĝos kaj boniĝos.

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.

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. 🙂