412 Esperanto in my life (7)

In part 6 of these musings, all of eight years ago, I wrote, concerning my Esperanto Library work:

“So that, and nothing else concerning Esperanto, is what I’m doing now. The Library’s founder, Montagu Butler, died in harness after 40 years of beavering away at the Library. I don’t specially want do either of these things (die in harness or serve for 40 years) as I don’t think I would do a particularly good job at the age of 75. Of course, by the time I am 75, I may think differently! “

This is still true in 2015, but changes have occurred. One factor is that a good deal of library and especially information work can now be done on line. This means that the need for librarians and library users to travel to library premises to do their work is greatly redcued. Another factor is that for health reasons any travel by me has to be planned very carefully and well in advance.

This ought to mean that, combining the two factors, I could mostly sit at home and fulfill my functions from there. Of course it’s not like that. Enquiries come in that require research in the library archive, which is still all paper. Cataloguing new books and, in particular, classifying new archive documents is much easier if it is possible to compare and contrast what has been done before with similar items. Working from home, everything has to be done from scratch and there’s no guarantee that it will match what’s already in the Library.

So it is that around the beginning of 2015 I started handing over the work to a younger colleague who lives much nearer to the Esperanto Centre. This is now (October) well under way, and the amount of physical library material that I have at home is quite small. As I finish work on particular items they are packed up and in due course go off to Barlaston.

Given that “that, and nothing else concerning Esperanto, is what I’m doing now”, does this mean that I am losing touch with Esperanto? It does happen. Now and then when someone asks about a particular person’s contribution to Esperanto, I find that they disappeared without trace and I cannot find even an obituary, simply because no-one in Esperanto circles knew that the person had died. Now I hope that this website will at least overcome that problem; and in any case Esperanto will remain in my life for the foreseeable future. There will still be library work to do, particularly concerning the Sound Archive, a (currently) 12 gigabyte collection of recordings and music scores. This has yet to go on line, but when it does there will be more to add. There is all sorts of behind-the-scenes activity to continue, such as the transfer from card index to computer of a huge index of magazine articles compiled by Montagu Butler some 30 or 40 years ago. Also an index, all my own work, of Esperanto songs in printed collections; for want of time this has not yet got very far, so I hope to have more time for it in future. The library website is still in my hands, and after I hand it over I shall certainly continue to contribute.

When the library begins to take up less time there are other areas, such as discussion groups, where I could play a more active part, provided, of course, that I have something useful to say.

There is a less tangible benefit that Esperanto brings, and which I have been experiencing ever since taking up the language 57 years ago. Speaking a second language, especially Esperanto, really improves a person’s grasp of their first language. Being bilingual from birth is even better, with such people usually being more articulate in both languages.

When writing or saying something that needs careful thought, I often find myself considering how I would say it in Esperanto. This tends to reveal the meaning and structure of what I am trying to express and gives me a better chance of making my point clearly. Here’s a trivial example.

The instructions for the medicine I am currently taking say: “Take one tablet twice a day”. This wording made me uneasy. How, I thought, can a person take one tablet twice? Esperanto came to the rescue; the translation of the instruction would be “Po unu tabloido du fojojn en tago”. The key point of this is the expression “Po unu” which means “One at a time”. Also the second part “du fojojn en tago” clearly relates the adverb “twice” to the verb “take” and not to the individual tablet. In view of this, a clear and logical, but cumbersome, English version would be “Twice a day take a dosage of one tablet”. Inserting the word “dosage” renders the function of the Esperanto “po” by indicating a quantity twice a day rather than an individual tablet twice a day.

Of course the intended meaning was clear from the start, but a knowledge of Esperanto makes it easy to understand why over-concise English can sometimes seem a little strange.


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