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We no speak Esperanto so good

So in our history segment last week, we told you the story of *Esperanto* — the “universal language” created by Dr. L.L. Zamenhof in the late 1800s. It’s spoken by about two million people worldwide, a large number of whom apparently listen to our show, judging from the piles of email we got from Esperantists taking us (gently) to task for our dismal attempts at pronouncing their mother tongue.
To wit:

*Gentlemen, I love DPD. I have to write to correct you on your terrible pronunciation, though. Not of English, but of Esperanto. One of the immutable rules of Esperanto is that in every word, the accent must fall on the next-to-last syl-LAB-le. Thus, “lingvo internacia,” the original name for Esperanto, should be pronounced more or less “LING-vo een-ter-not-SEE-ya.”*
*But don’t be too dismayed. The clip of [“Incubus”](http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F77k6SQX7iQ) you played shows that William Shatner has a terrible North American accent.*
– Creede Lambard, Shoreline WA

*Normally, the name of the language is written ‘La Internacia Lingvo’ although the other way is not incorrect. The letter C is pronounced like TS. So, Lah een tehr nah TSEE ah LEENG voe is the correct pronunciation.*
*The accent is always on the penultimate (next-to-the-last) syllable. So [in the case of the word “Doktoro”], doke TOE roe with a Spanish trill on the R is the correct way to say it.*
*Mi esperas ke, vi lernos Esperanto-n. I hope that you will learn Esperanto.*
– William Munsil, Mesa AZ

Mea culpa maxima! We humbly apologize. Although we are heartened by Mr. Lambard, who insists, “It could have been worse. Like, say, if you’d been at a dinner party in Shanghai and messed up your Mandarin tones in an attempt to show off your Chinese. ‘Very amusing, Mr. Gagliano. Is “My duck nibbles the furnace” an American expression?'”

  • http://www.scn.org/~lilandbr/ Leland Bryant Ross (Haruo)

    It’s true that Shatner’s accent is pretty atrocious (though I think it’s more faux-French than North American, with a lot of final-syllable stresses). But Esperanto is a language almost all of whose speakers are second- (or third- fourth- umpteenth-) -language speakers; complete fluency, grammatical correctness, and giftedness of locution are not to be anticipated (but indeed to be praised when met). My experience has been that percentage-wise, Japanese and Chinese Esperanto-speakers speak it better (and after much less intensive and time-consuming training) than do Japanese and Chinese English-speakers. And, frankly, I think anglophone Esperanto-speakers do better in it than most of their collinguiots [!; based on “compatriots”] who actually try to employ their high-school French, German, or conversational Latin.
    Leland aka Haruo