Belfast Telegraph

OAP marks Esperanto 124th birthday

The international language Esperanto, devised by Ludvic Lazarus Zamenhof, is 124 years old
The international language Esperanto, devised by Ludvic Lazarus Zamenhof, is 124 years old

A Northern Ireland pensioner is celebrating the 124th anniversary of the world's best-known universal language.

John Murray, 71, is one of around 40 speakers of Esperanto across Ireland. The Omagh enthusiast is using the tongue to progress Quaker outreach work in Europe.

A World Esperanto Congress is held annually and this year's event is under way in Copenhagen, with 1,500 esperantists from all over the world in attendance. Mr Murray said his work involved making Quaker courses available in Esperanto.

"That course already exists in 14 languages and this is about making it available in yet another language," he said. "This is a way of encouraging Quakers to learn about Esperanto."

He said a group of people were working on outreach in France, Poland and Germany.

Esperanto was begun in 1887 by Ludwik Zamenhof, who had been working for 14 years on a common language for all people, using the pseudonym Dr Esperanto. From that pseudonym came the name of the language, which is used by a committed minority worldwide.

Interest in Esperanto has been seen as a niche concern in modern times, and its practical use is limited in comparison with English or French. Among those to experiment with the language were former UK home secretary David Blunkett, who has stopped using it.

Mr Murray said he was unaware of any legislators in Northern Ireland speaking Esperanto. "The language means 'the person who hopes' so it is based on idealistic ideas of international friendship," he said.

"If you are an Esperanto speaker you are both speaking in your non-native language. The point of Esperanto is that both people are outside their own comfort zone, so to speak."

Esperanto is not taught in schools in the UK, the former teacher of the language added. It was abandoned during Margaret Thatcher's period in government. Hungary is one of the places where it is still on the curriculum. Despite this, Mr Murray said a lot of young people were interested in it.

Press Association

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