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Episode 15: The Esperanto Comeback

At 100 years old, the made-up language Esperanto is having a resurgence thanks to the Internet

SBS Italian news, with a slower pace. This is Slow Italian, Fast Learning, the very best of the week’s news, read at a slower pace, with Italian and English text available.

Italian

L'Esperanto, lingua di fatto inventata, compie 100 anni ma gode tuttora di ottima salute.

Gli esperantisti di tutto il mondo sostengono che la tecnologia e l'internet stanno aumentando il numero di parlanti.

Anche l'Australia, lontano dal luogo di nascita della lingua che è nell'Europa orientale, sta vivendo una rinascita.

((Singing of Esperanto anthem ... fade under))

Questo inno non appartiene ad una nazione, ad una squadra di calcio, o ad una scuola… appartiene ad una lingua.

È l'inno ufficiale dell'Esperanto, la cosiddetta lingua universale.

Saluton vuol dire ciao, e Adiauo vuol dire addio nella lingua che pochi sentono al giorno d'oggi.

Ma secondo il presidente di Esperanto New South Wales, Jonathan Cooper, si tratta di una lingua ricca di storia e parlata in tutto il mondo.

“It was launched in 1887 in what’s now Poland -- it was part of the Russian Empire. And it spread first to other parts of Europe, and then the United States, America, and now it’s in over 80 countries. And there are approximately ... I mean, no-one knows exactly, but there are approximately 2 million people speak it around the world.”

Considerata la lingua artificiale di maggior successo,  l'Esperanto venne inventato negli anni '70 dell'Ottocento dall'accademico di origine ebrea Ludwik Zamenhof.

Cresciuto ai tempi dell'Impero Russo, il dott. Zamenhof creò la lingua con la speranza di abbattere le barriere linguistiche e di costruire ponti tra le culture.

“It was originally created by Zamenhof to remove barriers that didn’t have to be there, namely linguistic barriers. It’s about people feeling as though they’re part of the world as a whole, rather than, you know, 'us versus them.'”

Facile da imparare e facilmente adattabile, lo scopo dell'esperanto era che tutti potessero parlare almeno due lingue, comprendendosi meglio ed evitando conflitti interculturali.

Sia Adolf Hitler sia Josef Stalin avrebbero vietato la lingua e condannato a morte esperantisti.

Al di fuori dell'Europa e del Nord America, la lingua è anche parlata in alcune parti dell'Asia, tra cui Giappone e Cina.

Pare che il governo cinese abbia incaricato un giornalista di produrre contenuti per radio, televisione e carta stampata nella lingua.

Ma l'obiettivo del dottor Zamenhof di creare una lingua universale che tutti possano parlare non si realizzò mai pienamente, e il numero di parlanti dell'Esperanto calò dopo la seconda guerra mondiale.

Solo ora gli Esperantisti parlano di una rinascita.

((Sound of teaching in Esperanto ... fade under))

L'esperantista Richard Delamore è conosciuto e rispettato in tutto il mondo per il suo canale YouTube e i suoi video per insegnare la lingua.

Basato a Sydney, visita spesso Esperanto House, il quartier generale di Esperanto New South Wales e l'unico edificio dedicato all'esperanto in Australia.

A suo parere, nei suoi otto anni di insegnamento dell'Esperanto, la lingua ha ricominciato ad acquisire popolarità.

“So the resurgence with Esperanto is down to what I’d say is two things. One, now there’s so much material online to learn it. No matter where you want to learn it, what form you want to learn it, it’s possible. There’s YouTube videos, there’s full video courses, there’s audio courses for when you’re driving, there’s books, there’s pretty much any media possible.”

Molti attribuiscono il merito di aver riportato in auge l'esperanto alla app Duolingo.

Ci sono ora più di 1.6 milioni di utenti della app per l'apprendimento linguistico che imparano l'Esperanto, 41,000 dei quali si trovano in Australia.

Secondo Delamore è la semplicità di questa lingua ad attrarre la gente.

A suo parere, mentre un anglofono con buone conoscenze linguistiche conosce circa 10,000 parole, gli esperantisti possono esprimere la stessa complessità con sole 2,000 parole.

English

At 100 years old, the made-up language Esperanto is having a resurgence.

Esperantists around the world say technology and the internet are boosting the numbers of speakers.

Even Australia, far away from the birthplace of the language in Eastern Europe, has experienced an increase.

Singing of Esperanto anthem ... fade under

This anthem does not belong to a country, or a football team, or even a school … it belongs to a language.

It is the official anthem of Esperanto, the so-called universal language.

Saluto is hello, and Adiauo is goodbye in the language few people hear about today.

But the president of Esperanto New South Wales, Jonathan Cooper, says it is rich in history and spoken all over the world.

“It was launched in 1887 in what’s now Poland -- it was part of the Russian Empire. And it spread first to other parts of Europe, and then the United States, America, and now it’s in over 80 countries. And there are approximately ... I mean, no-one knows exactly, but there are approximately 2 million people speak it around the world.”

Considered the most successful constructed language,  Esperanto was invented in the 1870s by Jewish academic Ludwik Zamenhof.

Growing up in the then Russian Empire, Dr Zamenhof created the language in the hope of breaking down the language barrier and building bridges between cultures.

“It was originally created by Zamenhof to remove barriers that didn’t have to be there, namely linguistic barriers. It’s about people feeling as though they’re part of the world as a whole, rather than, you know, 'us versus them.'”

Easy to learn and readily adaptable, Esperanto was meant to have everyone speaking at least two languages, understanding each other better and avoiding intercultural conflict.

Notably, both Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin reportedly banned the language and had Esperantists killed.

Outside Europe and then North America, the language is also spoken in parts of Asia, including Japan and China.

The Chinese government reportedly supports a broadcaster that handles radio, television and print in the language.

But Dr Zamenhof’s goal of creating a universal language everyone could speak never really took off, and the number of Esperanto speakers dwindled after the Second World War.

It is only now that Esperantists around the world are claiming a resurgence.

Sound of teaching in Esperanto ... fade under

Esperantist Richard Delamore is respected around the world for his YouTube channel and online videos teaching the language.

Based in Sydney, he often visits Esperanto House, the headquarters for Esperanto New South Wales and the only official building dedicated to the language in Australia.

He says, in his eight years of learning and teaching Esperanto, the language has begun to gain popularity again.

“So the resurgence with Esperanto is down to what I’d say is two things. One, now there’s so much material online to learn it. No matter where you want to learn it, what form you want to learn it, it’s possible. There’s YouTube videos, there’s full video courses, there’s audio courses for when you’re driving, there’s books, there’s pretty much any media possible.”

Many credit the well-known language app Duolingo with helping the language back into some prominence.

There are now over 1.6 million users learning Esperanto, 41,000 of them in Australia.

Mr Delamore says the simplicity of the constructed language is what attracts people.

He says, while a capable English speaker knows around 10,000 words, Esperantists can achieve the same complexity with only 2,000.

Report by Amelia Dunn

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