The Zamenhof Day Celebration in Taiwan
Last year's Zamenhof Day (in Esperanto: Zamenhofa Tago), also known as Esperanto Book Day, was held in southern Taiwan as most Esperanto speakers (Esperantists) in Taiwan live in Pingtung. Last year's event was held in nearby Tainan City.
The History of Zamenhof Day
L. L. Zamenhof, the creator Esperanto, was born on December 15th. This date has become the most widely celebrated day in Esperanto culture. Esperantists from around the world organize gatherings locally or regionally to promote literature in Esperanto, which also offers a reason for Esperantists to get together during the holiday season.
The history of celebrating Zamenhof Day can be traced back to 1878 when L. L. Zamenhof presented his “Lingwe Uniwersala” to his friends on his 19th birthday. Lingwe Uniwersala is the first version of his international language that evolved into what is now known as Esperanto when he published the “Unua Libro” in 1887. The date of publication, July 26th, is also widely celebrated today.
The Celebration in Taiwan
The trip started early in the morning. The members of Taiwan's Esperanto Association left Pingtung at 8 o’clock by a tour bus to Taiwan High-Speed Railway Tainan station to welcome the other participants who traveled from other cities.
After that, the trip continued to Taijiang National Park (台江國家公園), which is the first urban national park and the eighth national park of Taiwan. Its Chinese name means "river of Taiwan". The participants toured around for about 30 minutes before watching a video about the national park in its mini theater.
The next trip took about 30 minutes to Anping Tree House (安平樹屋). The “treehouse” actually refers to the living banyan branches that cover the former warehouse in Anping district that store granulated sugar and camphor before they were exported. Anping was one of the harbors in Taiwan after the Qing government signed the Treaty of Tientsin in 1858.
Approaching the lunchtime, participants walked about 15 minutes away to the Canal Museum (運河博物館), formerly known as the Canal Customs Office of Anping (原台南運河安平海關). The participants had lunch there and I joined them after lunch. I traveled by the high-speed train from Taoyuan City (桃園市) which is located in northern Taiwan.
Presentations Were Conducted in Chinese and Esperanto
The core activities of Zamenhof Day 2018 in Taiwan officially started after lunch. It was full of presentations, information and cultural sessions. Among the participants, there were some beginners who had a basic level and those who had not yet begun learning Esperanto. Due to this reason, the presentations were conducted bilingually in Chinese and Esperanto, with more emphasis in the Esperanto language.
Ingrid from Taiwan and Benjamin from Canada began the presentation by introducing the Esperanto language. They mainly talked about Esperanto language structure and history. After that, I was interviewed by Reza from Iran about my experience learning languages.
Abengo from Taiwan, who is a retired professor and experienced Esperantist, presented the early development of Tainan and Taiwan Esperanto Movement during the Japanese government. Then, we had a short break to interact among participants. There was also “libro servo (book service)” selling Esperanto books and magazines from various countries.
After the break, Kim Hanbin from South Korea presented the difference between Korean and Taiwanese culture. He is a new Esperantist, so I helped to interpret it to the Esperanto language during his Chinese presentation. At the closing of our event, we had a short tour in the Canal Museum to learn more about its history, such as its function as a canal customs office during the colonial era.
Why Such Language Events Matter
This was my second time joining the Esperanto Day event. I became more interested after taking part, not just as a participant but also as a co-organizer, to hold the Esperanto Day 2017 in Taoyuan City. It was a great success for Taiwan Esperanto and a big achievement for me because we were featured in a local English newspaper.
Esperanto community is an inclusive community, I find Esperantists to be nice and friendly people, welcoming anyone that wants to learn or know more about the Esperanto language. Esperantists tend to be more aware of cultural differences since there are so many international activities in the Esperantujo (Esperanto world). The culture of Esperanto is created based on these differences that Esperantists possess.
Joining an event where it is almost entirely or only conducted in the target language like Esperanto gatherings is a good way to improve your language skill. It lets you use the language actively in a spoken manner with real people. You may get corrections for the mistakes you make, don’t be embarrassed, that’s actually a sign of improvement. Once you associate your mistakes with a memory of a situation, that will stick into your brain and you will remember how to say it right next time.
I learned Esperanto by myself on the internet, mostly through passive learning, long before I joined my first Esperanto Day event. I was quite confident with my language skill on that day but I realized that when it was my turn to talk in front of many people and when my brain needed to think fast, I felt uncomfortable. I lacked practical conversation for some daily life situations because most of my practice was done reading news and chatting online.
You can usually get the information about language meetups easily online. There are websites like Meetups and Couchsurfing where members get together for, not just to practice languages, but also for various kinds of activities. Facebook is another useful social media site that has a lot of information about meetups. Try searching it in your native or target language.
There are meetups for language practice, where participants are grouped into different language tables and converse only in the target language; meetups where participants socialize freely in any languages, and meetups for public speaking in foreign languages, such as the Toastmasters for the English language. Choose any that fits your learning style.
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