Another Argument in Favor of Esperanto???

Really, you would expect this sort of thing in America, but in England? Oh, my.


Mia kateto estas tre bela!

I think I mentioned that my neighbor Judith and I rescued a feral cat and her litter of kittens from a local park this summer. I currently have two of these kittens as permanent members of our household. We found other homes for all of the other kittens with one exception. We kept trying to find a home for Murray, but Judith decided to make her November birthday the deadline. If Murray hadn’t found a “forever home” by then, Judith would offer him a permanent position in her own home. As it turned out, at the end of that month Judith contacted all the local businesses that had put up signs on Murray’s behalf. He was no longer available for adoption. He was Judith’s cat now and forever.

That left the mom cat: Nori. Although we had hoped that she would adjust to an indoor life, such was not to be. And that’s the problem with feral cats, at least adult feral cats. If they were never socialized in their kitten days, what’s to become of them? Realistically, there are only two choices. One is to trap them and humanely euthanize them. The other is to trap them, sterilize them, inoculate them against common cat diseases, and release them back into their original territory. This second option does nothing to protect them from predators or the elements, but it does give them the opportunity to live our their lives in what they consider “normal” conditions without contributing further to the on-going feral cat problem.

Although Nori had established relationships with select human beings, she didn’t adjust to being kept indoors. We were hopeful at first. She let us pet her (almost unheard of for feral cats) and would even purr in response! But once we started sending her kittens away to their own homes, she lost all faith in us. She continues to live in Judith’s home, but is clearly unhappy being there.

In the meantime, I spent all autumn volunteering at a local farm that has been turned into a historical site. We hosted first grade and sixth grade students there from September through December. My main station was the chicken coop. We told the 6-year-olds that, had they lived on the farm 100 years ago, they might have been in charge of taking care of the chickens. We gave them a flavor of what that might have been like. They fed the chickens. They collected eggs. They learned how to candle them. And all that time, I kept half an eye on the original 1897 barn across the pasture. What a shame, I thought, that there were no animals housed there now. And what a fine opportunity, I thought, for a barn cat.

At the end of the season, one of the museum staff mentioned (with great revulsion) that she had seen a rat run under the chicken coop. I decided the time was right. I went home and wrote up Nori’s resume and sent it on to the museum. I don’t think the director had ever seen a feline resume. This is what I wrote:

“My neighbor and I rescued this cat along with her 7 (!) kittens from Isaac Evans park this summer. The mom cat had a bit of a “fan club” who had been providing her with extra food for months, so, although feral, she had established some relationships with select humans. In fact, it was one of these people who picked her up for us and put her in a crate after we had live-trapped the kittens (she wasn’t going to fall for our trap herself).The same person told us that mom cat had been born in the park the previous summer.

* Nori is only about 18 months old and in excellent health

* She is now spayed, so would not be contributing any kittens

* She will not be attracting the attentions of mischievous or destructive tom cats

* She has all her shots, so should not contract or spread any serious diseases

* Although she had been receiving some food at the park, we know she is an excellent hunter

* She is very savvy about avoiding predators, having kept herself and her kittens safe and healthy during their free-roaming days (all the kittens survived and now have permanent homes)

* She would make herself scarce when visitors come to the farm, but would probably establish a relationship with [caretaker] Stan (or whoever filled her food &water dishes regularly).

* And, she’s a very attractive black cat with white markings (she didn’t have a fan club for nothing!)

(Veterinary records are, of course, available)

“My neighbor continues to foster Nori in her home, but, even after several months, Nori is clearly unhappy with what she thinks is unnatural confinement. I think that life as a barn cat would be a perfect situation for Nori, providing her a bit more safety and security than she had in her feral days, while giving her the opportunity to roam and hunt in the manner she would clearly prefer. Mostly though, I think she would be an excellent match for the farm’s requirements should you guys decide to go with a barn cat.

“Sorry about the length of this, Boss. I just wanted to put her resume in writing so that you would know of Nori’s interest should the job come open.

“Thanks for considering her,

Kristy “

Guess what? She got the job! We get to take her to the farm next week. Please wish us luck in helping Nori make the transition to her new life.

More Esperanto

Wow, the Esperantists found that post really quickly, and I appreciate their input and supportive comments. So, being on a roll, I think I will give another brief sermon from my Esperanto soapbox.

Let me tell you a little story. When I was in junior high school, I took a year of Spanish. Although I didn’t take any foreign language courses in high school, I decided to pursue a bachelor of arts degree in college. Essentially, it was the same thing as a bachelor of science degree, only with an additional two-year foreign language requirement. Having a shallow familiarity with Spanish (based on my hazy junior high memories), I decided to take first and second year Spanish in college.

Flash forward (mumble-number-mumble) years. We now find Kristy employed by the King County Library System, one of the largest circulating libraries in the country. Many of our patrons were non-native, non-English speakers. For the first time in my life, I found those two years of college level Spanish being put to occasional good use. Even after two years of study, I hadn’t learned all the verb tenses that exist in Spanish, so I wasn’t entirely comfortable risking making a fool of myself in another person’s native language. Nevertheless, more often than not, I took that risk and was largely able to communicate, as awkward as those conversations often were. And I felt very proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and doing what I could to help those patrons use our services.

Then, a few minutes later, another recent immigrant would step up to my desk. Although I didn’t speak Russian, I recognized it as the language that this person was using. And I couldn’t help her. I’d have to get a translator on the phone from our central branch or resort to an online program such as Babblefish in order to attempt to communicate. This encounter didn’t leave me feeling nearly as warm and fuzzy.

Then, within the hour, another patron would step up and attempt to communicate in yet another language–one that I might or might not have even been able to recognize.

The diversity of our local population was further reflected in the foreign language collections at each library branch. In mine, we had books and movies in more than a dozen languages. Spanish, yes. Russian. Hindi. Tagalog. Chinese and Vietnamese. A few French titles. Swahili and more. And people, those titles circulated. There was a far greater demand than I would have ever imagined before working in this setting.

The same year that I was working at the library, my daughter entered middle school for the first time. I was all the more committed to the idea of language study after my experiences at the library. True, there was no way that any one person could learn all the languages spoken regularly in our local community, but any small bit we could do to foster an understanding of other cultures is clearly even more essential for kids growing up today. I remembered Spanish, German, and French as being the only choices when I entered middle school. I wondered what sort of additional languages might be available to my daughter.

What I soon found out was that she had zero choices. Zip. NO foreign languages were even offered at the middle school level. In the heart of King County, alive with so many different languages, our children are losing their best opportunity of ever becoming fluent in another language by being denied the opportunity to study one when their brains are young and malleable enough to eventually achieve such a goal.

Today, my daughter is in high school. It’s a bit late as far as I’m concerned, but she’s finally being offered foreign language electives. Her choices? Spanish, French, German. And Japanese–the same choices I had all those years ago with the single addition of Japanese. While this is a start, thinking back to my experiences both at the library and as a sometimes-tutor of ELL students, I realize that no one ever approached me with an attempt to speak French. Or German. Or Japanese. Spanish, yes. But otherwise, people from these countries either aren’t here or had access to enough English education before their arrival that communication is not an issue for them.

What I observe is that here in America (or at least in King County), there is a HUGE disconnect in languages we deem worthy of study by our children (mostly those spoken by white Europeans), and those that surround us everyday (those spoken by nearly everybody else). Is this racist? Or merely a reflection of the frustration I myself felt in never being able to learn such a stew of complicated and sometimes obscure languages? I hope that it’s the latter. But then the question becomes, what can we do to address this issue of multiple languages being employed in the same setting? How will we ever learn to communicate when it is impossible for any one person to learn them all? Do we stomp our feet and stubbornly insist that “If you plan to come to America, you’d better damn well learn the English language!” (as difficult and irrational as English can be)? How’s that working out so far? Consider southern California before you answer.

This is exactly the reason why an easily learned, mutual second language (such as Esperanto) is so desirable. Yet I can understand why so many people haven’t thought about it in these terms. I grew up in Oregon, where the only foreign language we ever heard in the streets was Spanish. If you wanted to communicate with people of other cultures in your neighborhood, you studied Spanish; problem solved. Now, however, both here in Washington and on my visits home to Oregon, there are people among us from dozens of other countries. And if it’s happening here, it’s happening across the country as a whole. So, is Esperanto a quaint novelty that will never catch on? Or is it a possible solution whose time may have finally come?

Tiu Jaro, Mi Lernos Esperanton

That’s right, baby. This year I have resolved to learn Esperanto. Why, you ask. Why? Trust me, there are more reasons than you have time to read. The first, however, was that we had a dinner table discussion last month about obscure languages. My husband posited that he would rather learn Klingon than Esperanto because at least he could use Klingon to impress people at Star Trek conventions (although not to pick up chicks, I reminded him, as speaking Klingon in public is the next best thing to the joining the priesthood to ensure a lifetime of celibacy). While he considered that, my daughter wanted to know all about Esperanto. I couldn’t tell her much, other than that it is an artificial language created in the late 1800’s with the Utopian goal of being the official second language of everyone on Earth (so that we could all finally communicate on an equal footing). I also knew that it was created for ease of learning, with literally no irregular forms or arbitrary exceptions to grammatical rules. My daughter, currently enrolled in first year Japanese, recognized these attributes as being highly desirable (or “freaking cool” in the parlance of her peers). After dinner, she and I researched Esperanto quite a bit further and decided it was too freaking awesome to not at least attempt to learn. Dude. Why not? Seriously.

In other news (there’s been news?), I placed an order today for Adobe Dreamweaver. And, if you recognize that as the premiere web design software on the market today, you’ll know what that portends. Yes, I will be building my own website again in the near future. But here’s the tragedy: My old domain name (XXXX has been co-opted by a domain squatter and is no longer available. That means I’m going to have to come up with something new. And, as you may have noticed, I’m a bit Amish when it comes to embracing change. It’s a good thing the software won’t be arriving for a week or so because I’m going to need some time to think about this.