The “Average” Esperanto speaker? Posted by Chuck Smith on Sep 30, 2012 in Esperanto Culture
When the telephone was first invented, how useful was it? Well, no one else had one, so not much at all! Like the phone, as more people learn Esperanto, it becomes more useful. So naturally Esperanto speakers would like the language to become more mainstream.
From that, most people assume the best way to promote it would be in mainstream settings. I’ve always said that if Britney Spears sang a song in Esperanto, its popularity would skyrocket. While that feels like a pipe dream, it is funny to note that Kelly Clarkson even learned a few phrases, so that’s a start! About a decade ago, Freundeskreis (a German hiphop band) made an album titled Esperanto. You can see the video below. Also, TEAM’ sung in Esperanto and was the biggest rock back in Slovakia!
Barring lucky opportunities like the national talk show with Kelly Clarkson and a hiphop album, I think the approach of mainstream promotion is misguided, because it’s inefficient compared to more targeted strategies. But then the question is how can you target? Well, we’ve discussed this in Berlin and have agreed that members of our community tend to fall in at least one [but more likely two or three!] of the following categories: traveller, geek, language lover, vegetarian. It’s easier to reach people if they are already likely to learn the language by belonging to one of these groups.
If you’re a frequent traveller, knowing Esperanto can be an incredibly useful tool during your travels. Almost every major city has an Esperanto speaker who can be reached, who will often be happy to show you their city or even host you for the night with, for example, Pasporta Servo. On the other hand, not all Esperanto speakers like to travel. If you often go to international events, you may not think so, but there you will meet people who like to travel indeed! However, I still remember staying with Jim Medrano in New York City who told me that he likes Esperanto as a way to meet foreigners who visit him… a different way of “traveling” perhaps!
Often Esperanto brochures used to say unfortunate things like “Esperanto is a logical language like Mr. Spock.” A regular language attracts mathematicians and computer scientists, since it feels like solving a curious puzzle. In reality, no language can really be completely logical, and although Esperanto does have some irregularities, it is still much easier than any national language. This also tends to attract people who enjoy intellectual activities like playing board games or reading books.
This one almost seems to be so obvious, but I think it’s worth mentioning anyway. Many people who learn Esperanto just love languages! Polyglots usually have one of two reactions when thinking about Esperanto. They either see it as too simple and therefore not interesting to learn. Or they see it as an easy language, which would be quick to add to their linguistic arsenal. Think of Esperanto speakers you know. How many languages do they speak? Did they learn those other languages before or after Esperanto? In any case, it’s interesting to note that one thing all Esperanto speakers have in common is that they are all at least bilingual!
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.
In which group(s) do you belong? No matter which group describes you, come back for my next part where I’ll talk about how to attract people from each of the above groups to Esperanto!
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