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Speaking in tongues

Are you experienced in Esperanto?

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Bruno Dantas is beaming. "See, there are no irregular verbs!"

"No irregular verbs!" he says again.

I smile back. I don't understand a thing he's saying, but Dantas, a fourth-year pathology resident at the Medical University of South Carolina, is a veritable popcorn popper of enthusiasm, and he's got me psyched.

"Show me how to write the alphabet again?" I ask, leaning across the table. This is exciting stuff.

This is Esperanto, the international language created by Ludvic Lazarus Zamenhof, a Polish physician who introduced Esperanto in the late 1800s. Zamenhof grew up in Bialystok, where four very different languages were spoken: Polish, German, Yiddish, and Russian. That, says Dantas, was the catalyst for devising Esperanto.

"Zamenhof noticed that when people from these different linguistic communities interacted, communication barriers would often give rise to frustration and sometimes even animosity." A situation, Dantas explains, that Zamenhof felt was a microcosm for problems in the world-at-large.

Wanting to promote international cooperation and peace, he devised a plan.

"He decided that people from every country needed to learn an 'international auxiliary language' in addition to their native language," Dantas says, adding with excitement, "It had to meet certain criteria."

One, the language had to be easy to learn, and two, it had to be politically and culturally neutral.

Zamenhof got the second part right. Esperanto is essentially a nonpartisan phraseology. But simple?

"It really is simple," Dantas maintains. This coming from a man who's no foreign language flunky. Dantas was born in Brazil and speaks five languages: Portuguese, English, French, Spanish, and Esperanto. He swears that Esperanto is not just a linguist's hobby. "I started learning the language in April and six months later I was fluent."

A MySpace for the phonetically gifted, Esperanto has allowed Dantas to make connections to people around the world. "I have friends all over the world who I communicate with through Esperanto," he says. That's a big part of why he became interested in parlance in the first place. "I knew I'd be here studying at MUSC and not be able to travel, but I still wanted to have all those cultural experiences." He currently communicates with people as far away as Finland and France and even writes to a priest in Africa.

An example of Esperanto

"Malamikeo de la nacios falu, falu, falu, sam tempo estas! La tuta homaro en familion unuigi devas." —Doktoro Zamenhof

Translation

"It's already time for animosity between nations to fall, fall, fall! All humanity should come together as a family." —Doktoro Zamenhof

Dantas says, "I think learning Esperanto was such a great experience for me is because of three things: the ideas that inspired the language's creation are beautiful, the language itself is gorgeous, and the cultural opportunities that open up with knowing Esperanto are very exciting."

Like a Mento in a Coke bottle, Dantas' passion is explosive. His gusto is contagious, and he's ready to share.

"If you have always wanted to learn another language, but have felt frustrated or intimidated before, try Esperanto. Not only is it fun and easy to learn, it quickly pays off by allowing you to exchange culture and ideas with people in virtually every country in the world who have also learned the language for that express purpose," he says with infomercial-like appeal. Ron Pompeil watch out.

For more information, or to join the Esperanto Club, please contact Bruno Dantas at Revemulo@yahoo.com.

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