Esperanto Language Blog

Language Festival with Esperanto beer! Posted by on Feb 23, 2011 in Events

Have you heard of a language festival before? If you’ve never heard of that, think of what that could mean.

Bienvenu Sene presents the Lingala language

In 2004, I was invited to Russia to participate in a language festival in Volgograd. There was an introduction where they introduced all the speakers and the languages they were presenting. They took over a school for the day and dedicated each room to a different language. I still remember presenting Dutch there, quite an exotic language in Russia! They always invite foreign Esperanto speakers to lecture, so then they present in Esperanto and a local would interpret the lecture to Russian on the fly, so everyone could understand. I still find this to be a fascinating, natural way of introducing Esperanto to the general public. The participants then see Esperanto being used for a useful purpose and understand it (due to the interpretation). They also see that Esperanto speakers are interested in culture, since they organized the language festival after all!

On Saturday, I participated in such a festival in Leuven, Belgium. You can see the list of languages on the program from Bulgarian to Sinhala (spoken in Sri Lanka). The Irish lecture by Seán Ó Riain was particularly interesting since it was given in Esperanto with live interpretation into Dutch. I think everyone was surprised to discover that five of the attendees asked questions in Esperanto afterwards… which made all of us wonder how many Esperanto speakers were lurking in that crowd!

Child admires German and Esperanto posters

After this meeting, I attended the talk on the Kurdish language, which was given in Kurdish with interpretation to Dutch. Even though I can normally understand Dutch okay, the interpreter’s accent in Dutch was just too difficult to understand for me. After this, I headed to Judith Meyer’s lecture on German. She explained differences in Dutch and German mostly by using a German song with a Dutch translation.

Another surprise was that there were four Esperanto-speaking visitors from other countries, and we could all speak Dutch! Marek Blahuš (Czech) had previously lived in Leuven and I (American) had previously lived in Rotterdam, so that explains us well. The others, however, had a more interesting story to tell. Pete Lypkie (Canadian) and Judtih Meyer (German) had made a January Dutch Challenge to learn Dutch in six weeks. To raise the stakes, Judith decided that she would make her presentation at the language festival in Dutch at the end of these six weeks, which she did! Also, be sure to check out Pete’s report of the language festival from his perspective.

Esperanto beer brewed in Leuven just for this Language Festival!

So, what can top a lecture in Dutch about German? Well, I don’t think anything can, so I headed to the bar to get me some Esperanto beer. The organization Esperanto 3000 brewed a special beer that is sold only at this language festival using their own recipe. I have to say it had a bit of a fruity taste and was quite smooth. Downing some Esperanto beer while chatting with other attendees in the same language seemed a nice way to finish off the event. Afterwards, we went to an Indian restaurant at which point I was surprised to learn that many of the Belgians had never eaten Indian food before, so that definitely added to their cultural experience!

If you want to learn more about the history of this event in general, Wikipedia has a nice article: Language Festival. The largest language festival in the world takes place in Cheboksary, Russia every year in October and lasts eight days: two days of the festival and six days of the “international caravan” visiting a different school everyday. If there’s no language festival near you, organize one in your own city! It seems they work best in medium-sized cities around 50,000-300,000 since it’s large enough to have foreign speakers, but not too large that there’s too many competing events for everyone’s time. Last but not least, you can also attend a language festival online; Lingva Prismo was developed to let you explore foreign languages right from the comfort of your home. In any case, I hope you’ll find some way to join in the global celebration of language diversity!

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About the Author: Chuck Smith

I was born in the US, but Esperanto has led me all over the world. I started teaching myself Esperanto on a whim in 2001, not knowing how it would change my life. The timing couldn’t have been better; around that same time I discovered Wikipedia in it’s very early stages and launched the Esperanto version. When I decided to backpack through Europe, I found Esperanto speakers to host me. These connections led me to the Esperanto Youth Organization in Rotterdam, where I worked for a year, using Esperanto as my primary language. Though in recent years I’ve moved on to other endeavors like iOS development, I remain deeply engrained in the Esperanto community, and love keeping you informed of the latest news. The best thing that came from learning Esperanto has been the opportunity to connect with fellow speakers around the globe, so feel free to join in the conversation with a comment! I am now the founder and CTO of the social app Amikumu.



    Dear Chuck/kara Chuck
    Interesting and sound report about this interesting event in LEUVEN – Belgium where we met “en la ‘kafejo'”, drinking the famous Festival Beer and later in the ‘Himalaya’ restaurant, together with other Eo-istoj kaj ne-eo-istoj: via koramikino Judithh Meyer, Pete Lypkie, Benedikt Wildenhain, Evi Van Hamme + nephew, Ben Indestege, Marc Borgers (ne eo-istoj sed interesata) yourself and myself.
    I sent Pete’s report and yours (at least the URL) to my Belgian friends and I’m sure you don’t mind, do you?
    Ook proficiat voor je inzet om de Nederlandse taal te leren. Mijn oprechte bewondering daartoe en datzelfde geldt vooral Judith, die een opmerkelijke prestatie leverde (naar ik hoorde, ik was spijtig genoeg niet in de zaal gedurende haar presentatie van het Duits) om na zo een korte studieperiode reeds dit resultaat te bereiken!
    I hope you received my pictures and could use them somehow, somewhere.
    And about Indian restaurants in B: indeed, only the last years they appear in the bigger cities, but , you know, practically every city has one or more Chinese restaurants or in the north, near the Dutch border, Indonesians. This is quite normal considering the colonial history of both countries. Though , we Belgians don’t have a lot of Congolese restaurants 😉
    Korajn salutojn el Belgio kaj bv. vergisst nicht Judith ganz herzlich zu grüssen …