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How many times have you heard this?
Me: I’m going to learn Esperanto.
Friend: Why are you going to waste your time with that?
If you’ve ever considered learning Esperanto, the above dialog will play out over and over in your life like a broken record. Let’s try another:
Me: I’m going to learn how to play Shogi (Japanese Chess).
Friend: Wow, that sounds cool, have fun!
I’ve learned Esperanto and I’ve learned how to play Shogi to an intermediate level. Although I have to admit I’m quite rusty these days; I remember the rules, but I’ve forgotten the castles (opening defense formations). But, I digress. What I’d like to point out is how much I’ve “done” Esperanto and Shogi. I’ve met many interesting people by speaking Esperanto and by playing Shogi.
The experiences are, though, very different. I once had the chance to meet the American Shogi Champion. While dropping by the Shogi Championships one day in NYC (when I lived there), I had the random chance to play a game against a master while the rest of the room was playing tournament matches. However, I’d have to say that [outside of Japan] it’s easier to find Esperanto speakers than Shogi players.
Even when the Tokyo Esperanto club invited me to Japan, I never got around to playing Shogi when I was there, but I did enjoy teaching Go to some Japanese people in Esperanto in a club owned by an Esperanto speaker there. How random! But such experiences abound when you mix foreign languages and hobbies. When someone moves to a new city and wants to make friends, I always recommend they seek out local groups for their hobbies. This way they already feel more comfortable due to their common interest. Plus, speaking is bound to come easier due to extensive knowledge of the hobby.
Now I want you to think back to the original dialogs above telling others about your hobbies. I bring this up, because we all know that all hobbies do not have the same level of prestige. Let me list a few and think of what you associate with them: stamp collecting, fashion, surfing, filmmaking, skydiving, watching football, playing poker, yachting, learning languages, knitting. Did you notice that different hobbies get different reactions from other people? Why is this?
I would say that you should enjoy your hobbies despite what others say about them. If you enjoy collecting stamps, but others say it’s not cool, so what? You’re a man who likes to knit? Cool! You want to watch football even though your intellectual friends say it’s lame? Fine, why not? Enjoy what you want and let life lead you on the most interesting adventures. You can never forge your own path if you’re just doing what everyone else says is popular and cool. Enjoy life… in whichever language you want!
Note for Esperanto Shogi players: You might also find it amusing that there are two books about Shogi in Esperanto: Invito al Japana Ŝako (beginner) and Japana Ŝako (intermediate). Some players even recommend these over English or Japanese books, because the Esperanto books give a great overview, unlike English or Japanese books, which tend to focus on specific topics and are thus more limited, yet deeper in scope.
Picture: Shogi (CC BY SA 3.0 Oliver Orschiedt)