Trains and Esperanto?

Posted on 26. Jan, 2014 by in Uncategorized

Maglev train in Japan

Maglev train in Japan

A little while ago, I read that there are now discussions about whether to build a 500 kph (300 mph) maglev train from Washington DC to New York City. When this starts running, you could then travel between these two cities in just an hour, completely revolutionizing possibilities along this corridor. Also, since both cities have excellent rapid transit networks, travelling by train would be nicer than dealing with the hassles of travelling by car like traffic, finding gas stations and finding parking in a metropolitan area.

Living in Berlin, I am fortunate enough to have a high-speed network practically at my backdoor. For example, yesterday I went from Berlin to Duisburg in just 4 hours, at speeds going up to 300 kph (180 mph) crossing the entire country from east to west. Over Christmas, I visited the USA and was disappointed with the transportation options available there. That’s why I took MegaBus from Philadelphia to Harrisburg. Hey, at least it was cheap, since the first ticket on every route is just $1.50 (incl. credit card fee).

Esperanto train worker organizations

Already in 1909, the Internacia Asocio de Esperantistaj Fervojistoj (literally fer-vojo means iron-way) was founded to help connect Esperanto-speaking train workers across countries. If you could think of which occupation could find Esperanto the most useful a hundred years ago, I think people working on trains would be one of the top occupations for that. They disbanded during World War II and came back as the Internacia Fervojista Esperanto-Federacio, which is still active today!


Other Esperanto speakers remember the enjoyable long-distance train trips to Esperanto meetings by train. A group from Paris always finds a way to get cheap group tickets on local trains to the biggest Esperanto events. Then, people who want to attend these events can see their schedule and see where they can “jump on” in the middle of their trip. It’s a great pre- and post-conference with chatting, singing and playing cards before the great event.

Transiberian Caravan

Transiberian Caravan

Even more unusual was the Trasiberia Karavano, which turned a train ride into an Esperanto event! 22 brave souls decided to take a train from Moscow to Hanoi (Vietnam). The trip took place on Jul 9-28, 2012 arriving just in time for the Universala Kongreso in Hanoi. In any case, no matter how you use Esperanto, it’s likely you’ll run into a train at some point along your journey!

Being vegetarian in Esperanto

Posted on 06. Nov, 2013 by in Uncategorized

Tutmonda Esperantista Vegetarana Asocio

Tutmonda Esperantista Vegetarana Asocio

I still remember my first thoughts about vegetaranismo in Esperanto. I had this conversation.

Anna: Why do you eat meat?
Me: It’s too difficult to always find a vegetarian option.
Anna: That’s a stupid reason. Every Esperanto conference has a vegetarian option. Why aren’t you a vegetarian here?
Me: I never thought of that!

After that point, I’ve signed up as a vegetarian to almost every Esperanto conference I’ve attended. I came across this again while looking into the main groups, which are most likely to learn the language: traveller, geek, language lover and vegetarians. In my blog post The “Average” Esperanto speaker, I wrote the following about vegetarians and vegans:

While this is the newest addition to the tendencies of Esperanto speakers, it took me a while to figure out why this group was so prominent. Well, they are a group of idealists who also practice what they believe. Typically vegetarians support animal rights, but also support their beliefs by no longer eating meat. Vegans even more so by not eating any animal products. They think about the way the world should be and adapt their lives to do their part to help move us all toward that ideal. They also face resistance from their friends for their lifestyle in the same way Esperanto speakers encounter disbelief for their choice of language, so they need a thick skin to receive this criticism and continue on despite that.

So, last week I saw the documentary Vegucated about 3 New Yorkers who decide to go completely vegan for 6 weeks. A vegan is someone who doesn’t eat meat or any animals products (i.e. eggs, cheese, honey, etc) nor buy clothes made from animals (i.e. leather, silk, etc). I would highly recommend this film for anyone interested in the thinking that goes behind becoming vegan. It really hit home how we’re a cog in the machine that doesn’t treat animals very kindly, to put it mildly. So, in the same way that many people learn Esperanto by seeing the world in the big picture of language inequality, many Esperanto speakers use the same logic to realize that we can change the world a little with our personal decisions, whether that’s what language we learn or how we eat.

I’ve been flexitarian for a couple years now, eating meat about twice a week after watching Why I’m a Weekday Vegetarian (with Esperanto subtitles). In this talk, Hill explains how meat was eaten twice per week traditionally, so that’s also how he chooses to live. With his logic, two weekday vegetarians help animals as much as one vegetarian. So, the question was no longer am I a meat-eater or a vegetarian, or can I be something in between?

YouTube Preview Image

As I mentioned before, you can sign up as a vegetarian for pretty much every Esperanto conference in the world with one meeting going as far as introducing what they called the “cruel tax” to pay extra if you want to eat meat. Needless to say, that name didn’t go over too well… In any case, here is some vocabulary to help you be vegetarian or vegan in Esperanto:

Kial vi estas ĉiomanĝanto, vegetaranovegano?
Why are you an omnivore (literally: everything-eater), vegetarian or vegan?

Ĉu tio estas viandotofuo?
Is that meat or tofu?

(Remember j is pronounced like y.)
Ovoj, fromaĝo kaj mielo estas bestaj produktoj.
Eggs, cheese and honey are animal products.

Kie estas la plej proksima vegetara restoracio?
Where is the nearest vegetarian restaurant?

Do you have a special diet? Tell us about it in the comments!

Measuring up in the USA

Posted on 26. Aug, 2013 by in Uncategorized

Are you soon planning to visit the USA? Perhaps you already live there, but don’t yet know how to talk about non-metric measurements in Esperanto. Well, believe it or not, sometimes the American customary units system is easier to use in practice. For example, if I’m riding in the car with someone heading to an Esperanto conference in America, I don’t tell the driver, “There’s 8 kilometers to our exit!” However, it can be fun to give metric measures to Americans in “inappropriate situations” to see the blank looks on their faces! Never forget The Onion, which reminds us that converting to the metric system starts with the individual. :)

Normally when you write or speak in Esperanto, you will want to use metric measurements, since the only countries not yet using metric are the United States, Liberia and Burma. Also, the United Kingdom officially uses metric, although there are still some cases where Brits still use the imperial system such as measuring body height and weight as well as distance and speed on the highway (ahem, motorway!).

In Esperanto, these units can sometimes be used in a literary manner to convey a local flavor to a text, but should almost always include the metric conversion in parenthesis behind it, such as “Mi mendis usonan pindon (0,47 litrojn), ne britan pindon (0,57 litrojn) da biero.” When translating English text to Esperanto, it’s even better to avoid using the units altogether if they’re not important. For example, Russ Williams convinced me to drop the units when translating the Esperanto subtitles for the board game documentary Going Cardboard in the following sentence (also note how we shortened the text to make it quicker to read):

English: About two weeks after I registered, I get an email message within the Geek from a local gamer, Mark Edwards, who ends up living two miles down the road from me.
Esperanto: Du semajnojn poste, mi ricevis retpoŝton en BGG de loka ludanto, Mark Edwards, kiu loĝas proksime de mi.

However, back to the USA, many people don’t realize that the metric system is really used there sometimes too! For example, there are two liter drink bottles, and nutritional information on food boxes is indicated in calories and grams. Also, all Americans calculate using the metric system studying science in school, such as in chemistry and physics classes. To learn more about other uses of the metric system there, I would highly recommend this incredibly detailed Wikipedia article: Metrication in the United States.

Finally, without further ado, here are some useful imperial Esperanto phrases:

[Remember that the Esperanto j is pronounced like the English consonant y.]

La grandeco de mia televidilo estas tridek du coloj.
My television is thirty-two inches large.

Mi altas kvin futojn.
I am five feet tall.

Usona piedpilka tereno havas cent jardojn.
An American football field has one hundred yards.

La terpeco de mia avino grandas dek sep akreojn.
My grandma’s land is seventeen acres large.

Kvin funtoj da terpomoj kostas 1,98 britajn pundojn.
Five pounds of potatoes cost 1.98 British Pounds.
(note that commas are typically used instead of periods to indicate decimals)

La distanco inter Novjorko kaj Losanĝeleso estas 2464 mejloj.
The distance between New York and Los Angeles is 2464 miles.

Iru aĉeti du galonojn da lakto.
Go buy two gallons of milk.

Ekstere estas malvarme: tridek gradoj farenhejtaj.
It is cold outside: thirty degrees Fahrenheit.

Estas dek ses uncoj en unu pindo.
There are sixteen ounces in one pint.

Kiel mi povus rapide trovi tunon da tinusaĵo?
How could I quickly find a ton of tuna (food)?

So, now you’re ready for an epic Esperanto road trip across the United States. Bonan vojaĝon, y’all!