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My First Esperanto Encounter

Esperanto isn’t a language I talk about much, perhaps because it isn’t very well known among the general populace of the world, and perhaps because I haven’t had much occasion to speak it. But I have been learning it for more than a year now, and a couple of evenings ago I finally got to talk to some real live Esperantists in London.

They were very kind, and patient as I got into the groove of listening to and speaking Esperanto. I could understand better as we went along, and although I sometimes didn’t know a certain word, I was able to carry on a very reasonable conversation despite my occasional grammatical slip-ups.

One thing I found interesting about speaking other languages is how, even if I know the correct words for the language, it takes me a while to accustom myself to using them. For example, when I first arrived in Belgium and started speaking French, I found myself saying s铆 instead of oui, I suppose due to the fact that up to that point, anytime I wasn’t speaking English, I was speaking Spanish. And when I was speaking Esperanto the other night, starting out I kept unintentionally saying oui instead of jes! But if that is the greatest of my troubles, I’m doing pretty well.

To finish up this circuitous blog post, I just want to throw out an advertisement for Esperanto itself. I believe that the fact that I was able to speak it well the other night with so little previous practice shows how easy Esperanto is to learn. Stripped of the irregularities that frequent natural languages, Esperanto is very simple to learn, and once learnt, one can learn other languages more easily. Plus, Esperanto speakers tend to be very nice folks, and they may be found all over the world!

Black, Yellow and Red

As we entered the Royal Museum of Fine Art, it was on the right wall. Not quite a mural, but big enough to be one in a smaller building, it illustrated in vivid colour and motion a grave struggle. On the left side, a general rides up, amid the chaos of yelling soldiers, a barking dog, a drummer boy, and women trying to aid the wounded. Somewhat above this, a man holds out a paper that is being refused by those to whom it is offered. And at the very top can be seen the Belgian flag, which although it had been torn in battle, is still being held up by the young standard-bearers.

This painting apparently illustrates an important point in the 19th century Belgian war for independence鈥攁n event upon which I am sadly uninformed. But despite my ignorance, as I studied this huge work of art I was struck by the patriotism and emotion that it portrayed, and I became mindful of the sort of feeling that Belgians must have when they see the black, yellow and red tricolor on the wind. Being from Texas, for me red, white and blue are the patriotic colours, whether for the state or for the country. And being from such a large country, I think Americans may sometimes forget that citizens of other nations are just as patriotic towards their own homelands as we are towards ours—perhaps we are just a little ethnocentric.

Episode of the September Days 1830 on the Grand Place of Brussels


“Church of Our Lady”

Church of Our Lady

Cathedrals are majestic places, no doubt. The high ceilings, the many intricate statues, and the extravagant trimmings would strike awe into any heart. But despite these attributes, one thing about cathedrals continues to enchant me, and that is the tombs.

A place for the dead is not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of a cathedral, but in every one we have visited so far, the “Church of Our Lady” not excepted, I have found inscriptions that tell of the ones whose bones are housed within the walls and floors of these splendid buildings. Words such as Hic jacet and Hic sepultus est stare at me from the worn stone which was carved so many centuries ago.

How splendid these people’s funerals must have been, and how lamented their loss! And yet, today hundreds of people walk heedlessly over and past these tombs and their cryptic Latin epitaphs, whilst gazing upon the greater glory of the architecture around them.

Though I can read only a little of what these tombs tell, I at least try to honor the dead with a thought, which perhaps is more than many who see them.

(Church of Our Lady, Bruges, Belgium)

Language Mission: Fran莽ais

In anticipation of my upcoming three months in Europe, I have been familiarizing myself with the French language, since most of my time there will be spent in Wallonia, the French-speaking portion of Belgium. Unfortunately I haven’t had as much time to devote to it this summer as I had hoped, but I have been working on it a little bit. And just of late I have become inspired by Benny Lewis the Irish Polyglot, who has achieved fluency in a number of European languages in just the past few years.

His site is called “Fluent in Three Months,” but really what he advocates is simply getting out there and speaking a language in order to become fluent, which he believes can lead to that goal of fluency much more quickly than other methods (perhaps even in three months!). Personally, I agree. No amount of study in a language will get you to fluency–as much as this will help, eventually you’re just going to have to get out of your comfort zone and start talking to natives. Read More