In Montreal, the World Congress of Esperanto showcases indigenous languages

The Esperanto community has a “particular sensitivity” for linguistic and cultural rights, says local organizer Nicolás Viau.


“Greetings from Montreal!”

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The 107th World Congress of Esperanto began on Saturday in Montreal, a first for the city and the province.

Created in the 19th century and inspired by a multitude of languages, Esperanto is destined to serve as a global means of communication. Adherents say that Esperanto is politically and culturally neutral as it is not the official language of any nation. Its regularity and recognizable root words are supposed to make it relatively easy to learn.

The Montreal World Esperanto Congress was originally scheduled for 2020, but that event, like many others, was postponed due to the pandemic.

The theme of this year’s congress is “Language, Life, Land: The Decade of Indigenous Languages” and several experts on the preservation and revitalization of indigenous languages ​​will speak at the conference, which will be held at the Université du Québec. to Montréal.

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Local organizer Nicolás Viau said in a telephone interview that the Esperanto community has a “particular sensitivity” for linguistic and cultural rights. It carries a message “of tolerance and equality between languages ​​and cultures”.

To underline its recognition of indigenous cultures, the Universal Esperanto Association announced that the congress will take place under the symbolic patronage of Huron-Wendat historian and philosopher Georges Sioui.

Over the course of the week, participants will be able to attend sessions on a range of topics, enjoy an original Esperanto play and attend an award ceremony for Esperanto literature. They will also be able to buy books in Esperanto and meet attendees from dozens of countries.

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Viau said more than 800 people have registered for the conference, but some will not be able to attend due to visa backlogs in Canada.

Esperanto was invented by Louis-Lazare Zamenhof in 1887, in a region of the Russian empire that would later become Poland.

“I lived in a world that was quite culturally divided,” Viau said, where different groups — Russians, Poles, Jews, etc. — communicated “little or poorly.” His language put everyone on an equal footing.

The Universal Esperanto association says that it has national associations in 70 countries and individual members in 120 countries.

The number of people who speak Esperanto is more difficult to determine since many people learn directly from the Internet.

Although the language is only spoken by a small number of the earth’s inhabitants, Viau says that the fact that they are scattered far and wide really creates “a different international experience,” especially when traveling and meeting local chapters.

He points out that Esperanto has built its own culture over time, with literature, music and cinema.

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