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【转】Esperanto lives on despite shortage of speakers

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发表于 2010-12-31 14:51:14 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
December 28, 2010  Filed under News  

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By Zhang Dongya
It has been more than a century since Esperanto came to China, but this year’s annual Esperanto Forum of Peking Esperanto Association (PEA), held last Saturday, was a somber reminder of just how little the language has spread.
Estimates put the nationwide total at 10,000 or fewer active speakers.
The association, founded in 1981, reached its zenith in the 1980s when more than 6,000 people were regularly attending training classes in Esperanto. Today it has dwindled to 300 members, 30 to 40 of whom frequently participate.

esperanto-1.jpg
The Sichuan Esperanto Association receives lecturers from abroad. Photos provided by Xu Jie

Decline in Beijing
Chu Junmei, 36, joined the Esperanto association in 1996 and has since taken charge of the group’s publications and website.
“Esperanto has much in common with English, so I found that learning Esperanto gave my English ability a boost in vocabulary, grammar and translation,” Chu said.
In the mid 1990s, Esperanto was part of the foreign language examination. Chu said it was a popular choice among test candidates since it was easier to learn than English.
However, the language has since been purged from the evaluations in Beijing, though it still remains an option in Sichuan Province.
The opening of China in the early 1980s prompted a renaissance in language study, including constructed languages like Esperanto. For many, language learning was a way to win promotions or residence certificates.
In the run up to the International Esperanto Conference, held in Beijing in 1986, the government organized many training classes to encourage study of the language.
But since the 1990s – outside of select central media groups – Esperanto programs have vanished.
“The decline of the language is due to many factors, including poor governmental support and limited job opportunities for Esperanto speakers,” Chu said.
For members in the Beijing association, Esperanto is a hobby.
Most members are in their 40s and 50s and spend 20 yuan per year on their membership dues. Membership grants them access to monthly lectures and discussions.
“Most members have other jobs and are casual participants. We do not see anyone using the language professionally. Without our own offices, classrooms or financial support, it is hard for us to organize training classes,” Chu said.
Occasionally, members from other associations in the provinces of Heilongjiang, Shandong, Hunan and Hubei will come to meet up with the Beijing association. International visitors include speakers from Australia and Poland.





Young students learn at Experanto training class.

Sichuan’s support
While the situation may look grim in Beijing, things are different in the Sichuan Esperanto Association. Many young people in the province are learning Esperanto in training classes and trying to popularize it online.
Founded in 1916, the Sichuan Esperanto Association is one of the oldest in the country. Most of its 200 members are younger than 30.
Xu Jie, 26, deputy secretary-general of the association, joined two years ago.
“I saw an Esperanto textbook in my university library and started to teach myself,” Xu said.
Finishing the textbook, Xu practiced his writing skills by writing letters to Esperanto speakers abroad and practiced his speaking with the Esperanto Corridor organized by Sichuan Esperanto Association.

Xu said most young people in the association have a similar experience in learning the language.
Today, Xu teaches a training class once a month. He also spends his spare time translating Esperanto materials for student’s roads and transport bureau.
“It is a small class with 10 people, but it is probably the only professional training class for Esperanto in the country,” he said.
Students pay 500 yuan to join. After 20 hours of class, a student can expect to master basic writing, reading and speaking skills. They class also helps introduce students to Esperanto speakers abroad so they can be pen pals.
The group also posts job vacancies for Esperanto users. Xiao Fujun, deputy president of the association, owns an international trade company doing business in Esperanto. The company employed two students from the training class.
But more importantly, Sichuan Province preserves Esperanto as a foreign language option for those sitting the professional evaluation exam. Xu passed the primary Esperanto examination in lernu, an Esperanto-leaning network.


Equal footing
“Using one nation’s language as a lingua franca is only a temporary solution. It used to be French. Today it is English. Tomorrow it might be Chinese. But this is always unfair to other nations, since people in other countries have to waste time mastering the language,” Xu said.
“Esperanto puts everyone on an equal footing and is easy to learn. I still believe Esperanto will be the language of the future.”
But Esperanto appears dead throughout most of the rest of the country.
“Some associations whose membership is mainly teachers and professors exist mainly for academic exchange,” he said.
The Sichuan Esperanto Association gets people returning from abroad, managers and office staff, making the group younger and more dynamic.
“They have a better idea how to manage an association with modern appeal,” he said.
Outside the associations, most young Esperanto speakers congregate online using Douban and Tencent groups: the Lernu network alone has more than 7,000 registered speakers.
“Esperanto has experienced ups and downs in its hundred years of development. It is very possible it may rise again in the future,” he said.


原文链接 http://www.beijingtoday.com.cn/n ... hortage-of-speakers
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