[This is an annotated transcript of (part of) 'Tales from the Country' 2008 Episode 4, broadcast 20 March 2008 in the ITV London region. It covers a feature filmed at the Esperanto summer festival in August 2007 at Barlaston. 'Tales from the Country' is produced by produced by Kingfisher Television Productions Ltd.]
[Scene: Selina to camera]
Selina: Saluton, kaj bonvenon al Barlaston, la hejmo de la Esperanto-Asocio de Britio. ["Hello, and welcome to Barlaston, the home of the Esperanto Association of Britain."] Roughly translated, that means "Call an ambulance, my uncle's ear-trumpet has been struck by lightening". And you though Esperanto was dead? Not is North Staffordshire, it isn't!
[As you can see from the actual translation, Selina's "rough translation" was in jest.][Opening credits for "Tales from the country"]
[Scene: Selina at a breakfast table, to camera]
Selina: It's breakfast time in Barlaston. But you're not allowed to order "Eggs and Bacon". If you can't translate that into Esperanto, then you'll probably die of starvation! So whilst I look it up in the dictionary, I'll let Tony tell you about the rest of the programme.
[Selina is joking here, too. As she and her film crew had already discovered for themselves at the self-service breakfast buffet, although Esperanto is spoken at mealtimes during Esperanto week, you don't actually go hungry if you don't know the Esperanto words.][Other programme items, before returning to:]
Selina: Saluton, mia nomo estas Selina. ["Hello, my name is Selina"]. Well, they do have a very distinctive accent in the potteries, although I have to admit that it sounds nothing like that!
[Scene: shots of Barlaston countryside and Esperantists; voice-over by Selina]
Selina: The village of Barlaston in Staffordshire, you might be surprised to hear, has become the focal point for a language which was designed to replace Russian, Chinese, English, Urdu and the rest, so that we could all understand one another. Do you remember what that language was called? Yes, 'Esperanto', ...
[Selina over-simplifies here! Esperanto was not developed to replace national languages in the countries where they are spoken, but to provide an alternative for international communication between speakers of different national languages. Most Esperantists have a strong respect for national languages and linguistic diversity, and find any suggestion that they would want to "replace" a regional language by imposing another to be deeply offensive.]Selina: ... 'Esperanto', a brilliant invention which, I was surprised to find, still has a large following today. This is Esperanto week, during which no-one's allowed to speak English, including me.
[That's an exaggeration; people attend the event for the purpose of speaking Esperanto so naturally that's the language that they want to use and hear in that setting, and so that's the language which they are encouraged to speak.][Scene: classroom; Paul Gubbins teaching a group of learners, including Selina]
Paul: Tre bone, kaj kiu estas via nomo? ["Very good, and what is your name?"]
Selina: Mia estas nomo Selina. ["My is name Selina."]
Paul: [correcting her] Mia nomo estas Selina.
Selina: Mia nomo estas Selina. ["My name is Selina."]
Paul: Perfekte! ["Perfect."]
[Scene: shots of the Esperanto week event; voice-over by Selina]
Selina: Esperanto week is held at the Wedgwood Memorial College in Barlaston, which is home to this curious breed of linguists. Why Barlaston, when it was invented in Poland?
[Scene: Selina (off-camera) interviews Paul Gubbins, the organiser of this Esperanto week.]
Paul: [For] 47 summers, Esperantists have been coming here from all over the world to this place here, so we're continuing the tradition. Then of course in the year 2001 the Esperanto Association [of Britain] moved its headquarters from London to Barlaston - very pleasant surroundings obviously.
[Paul's mention of EAB's "headquarters" is accompanied by a shot of Barlaston Hall, a grand Staffordshire mansion. EAB's actual headquarters is a far more modest building!][Scene: shots of Barlaston village and canal; voice-over by Selina]
Selina: I'd always imagined The Potteries to be smoky and run down, but how wrong can you be! I wonder whether Josiah Wedgwood himself ever spoke Esperanto? It would have been useful in the Export business - a neutral language encouraging communication between people of different nationalities.
[Josiah Wedgwood died 92 years before Esperanto was first published - so no, he didn't speak it.][Tony Francis (off-camera) interviews Lydia Erofeyeva, a visitor from Russia]
Lydia: Why? Why did I learn Esperanto? I think first of all it's a good hobby. Because it was in the soviet times, and I had a lot of time, and so I decided to - because I like languages in general.
[Scene: the classroom]
Paul: Bonan matenon! ["Good morning!"]
Selina: Bonan matenon!
Paul: Bonan matenon. Do - mia nomo estas Paŭlo. ["Good morning. So - my name is Paul."]
[Scene: another classroom; voice-over by Selina]
Selina: I was in the beginner's class. That's the brainy lot, in there. What do they find to talk about?
[Scene: Tony Francis (off camera) interviews Tim Owen]
Tony: Do you think the rest of the world perceives you as saddos, a bit?
Tim: I think the rest of the world doesn't actually know about Esperanto is more to the point, and those that do - I think, yeah, probably would imagine some kind of weird cult full of - if you go by any TV reporting or anything, and even just pop along to one of our meetings - old people, possibly people with sandals, I think they probably do, yes.
[Scene: Selina examines a table of second-hand books]
Selina: I had no idea - did you? - that there were so many books and publications in Esperanto. I mean, look at this one - this is a translation, obviously, of Reĝo Lear, tragedio de William Shakespear. Or how about this one here? Simple, really - guess! Mahatmo Gandi. All we need in here is the new book by Hari Pota, as in P-O-T-A, that's Esperanto for 'Harry Potter', and we're away.
[Not least for copyright and licensing reasons, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling is not (yet) available in Esperanto. But there are many original and translated works which are available in Esperanto - including Tolkein's La mastro de l'ringoj - The Lord of the Rings.][Scene: Esperantists walk alongside the local canal; voice-over by Selina]
Selina: But it's the lunch break. You're allowed out of the grounds, on the condition that you don't revert to English at the first available opportunity. There are another 51 weeks in the year for that!
[Selina is joking again, suggesting that the "encouragement" to use Esperanto is something far more strict.][Scene: Tony Francis (off camera) interviews Tim Owen. The context of what Tim is describing has been cut.]
Tim: [On an occasion when I met a group of linguists] I was intrigued because I'd learned all these irregular languages, and I thought I'd be really really cocky with them and say "go on, speak it then", and we did, and that was the challenge. The next step was they said "have a chat with this guy, signing copies of his book", and it was an elderly gentleman who spoke fifty languages, and I thought I'd be quite provocative with him and say "which one's the best, then?". And he said, without even thinking, "Esperanto". He gave me a little booklet, and I enjoyed doing it, and that was it - it's a hobby.
[Scene: a picture of L. L. Zamenhof]
Selina: Here's the maestro who started it all: Dr Ludwig Zamenhof. He was tired of hearing Poles, Byelorussians and Yiddish-speaking Jews quarrel interminably, and believed a neutral language would help to iron things out.
[Zamenhof's motivation wasn't so much the quarrelling as the mistrust and suspicion that arose between these different communities, because the language barrier prevented them from communicating with each other.][Scene: shots of the Esperanto library, the Esperanto House signboard, the Esperanto garden]
Selina: No, this isn't a practical joke, this really is Esperanto House, and there's an Esperanto garden with a monument bearing the trademark green star. The mother tongue is banned, apart from when they answer my questions, that is.
[She's joking again - and this joke about Esperantists being 'anti-English' is wearing a bit thin by now...][Scene: Selina interviews Paul Gubbins]
Selina: Paul, you are a talented linguist - you speak other languages beside Esperanto, but you spend an inordinate amount of time with Esperanto. I mean ... why?
Paul: I love it! It's a rational solution to the language problem - the global language problem. If I learn German, for example, and speak German, I can speak to Germans, [but] I can't speak to French or Portuguese or Argentineans, anybody like that - but in theory [with Esperanto] I can speak to people all around the world - and I do.
Selina: But you can speak to more people in German, and more people in French, and more people in - whatever - Portuguese. But you can't speak to that many people in Esperanto.
Paul: I can speak to quite enough people in Esperanto! The Esperanto community may be small, but it's right across the world, and I can speak to people not only in Germany, but I can speak to people for example in China, Japan ... places which normally I wouldn't dream of going to.
[Scene: classroom; voice-over by Selina]
Selina: And yes, this easy-to-learn language - even I was getting to grips with it - is being introduced to four pilot schools in England.
[Scene: Tony Francis (off camera) interviews Angela Tellier]
Angela: So what we're aiming to do is to use Esperanto as a tool to raise language awareness.
Tony: The point being that it's easy to learn?
Angela: The point being that it's completely regular, the grammar is relatively easy, the vocabulary comes from a variety of European languages - also some Asian influences as well - so that if children learn this first, they get motivated, they feel [that] they succeed, and they get the idea "I can do this!"
[Scene: the classroom]
Paul: Iu frapas ĉe la pordo. ["Someone knocks on the door"]. Iu envenas. ["Someone comes in"]. Kaj li ne povas intervjui. ["And he's not able to do an interview."]
Selina: What is 'ĝin' ['it']? As in... [mimes taking a drink - class laughs!]
Paul: Ne, ne, certe ne. 'Vodko' estas 'vodka', 'viskio' estas 'whiskey'... ["No, no, certainly not. 'Vodko' is vodka, 'viskio' is 'whiskey'..."] Ne, 'gin' estas - vidu - ... ["No, 'it' is - look - ..."]
[Scene: Tony Francis (off camera) interviewing Angela Tellier]
Angela: It's like learning the recorder - you know, it helps them later, when they come to the study of music. They've got a little basis to which they can relate.
[Scene: Selina to camera]
Selina: And here's something else I'll bet you didn't know about Esperanto. Back in 1911, after the Xinhai revolution in China, the Chinese seriously thought about adopting Esperanto as their national language - it would have made them leap into the 20th century. Well here we are, in the 21st century, and they're still clinging on - there's even a radio station in China devoted entirely to Esperanto. Which reminds me, I've got a phone-in this afternoon, I'd better go.
[The word "entirely" here is a bit of an exaggeration! China Radio International - the official Chinese state radio station - broadcasts in 43 languages and dialects, including a daily broadcast in Esperanto. Radio Poland is another station with a daily Internet broadcast in the Esperanto.][Scene: Selina interviews Paul Gubbins]
Paul: With the Internet, I've got access to people the world over. And certainly, when I go back home, there will be a couple of hundred messages waiting for me in Esperanto - far more than there are in English.
[Scene: shots of Zamenhof memorabilia, Horace Barks, Esperanto way; voice-over by Selina]
Selina: Although it was Dr Zamenhof who created Esperanto, there is another strong Staffordshire connection few people are aware of. Horace Barks, the fun-loving mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, had a passion for the lingo too. The green star pub in Esperanto Way was his local.
[End of feature on Esperanto]
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