I was in Reykjavik for the first time this week to participate and give a series of talks in the 98th World Congress of Esperanto. This was the third time to participate in the World Congress of Esperanto. In my second participation two years ago in Copenhagen I noticed a few things I had not noticed four years before in Bialystok. And actually my talks were on one of these things - problems of intercultural communication in Esperanto.
The main claim of my talks was very simple - it is not enough to share a common language in order to communicate with people from other countries without misunderstanding each other; the problems can be more severe in Esperanto ironically because it is culturally neutral and every Esperantist can use his or her cultural norm.
But this time I realized that there are at least two problems that are more fundamental than these in communication between Esperantists. The common denominator between the two is that for many Esperantists intercultural communication in Esperanto does not even constitute problems for very ridiculous reasons. First, in order to experience problems of communication, one has to communicate first. I have seen that many people participate in the World Congress of Esperanto only nominally and do not take the trouble of coming to the congress venue even once; instead, they are busy sightseeing in the city where the congress takes place and/or its vicinities, and many of them continue to speak their native language with those from the same country. Second, there seem to be quite a few, even among participants in the World Congress, who do not know Esperanto to communicate in Esperanto with speakers of other ethnic languages. They will definitely experience no problems of intercultural communication simply because they cannot communicate.
Not everything was negative. I have also had two new positive experiences. The first is that having participated as a new member of the Academy of Esperanto in its public session, I was so instigated by witnessing the depth and breadth of the linguistic knowledge of some of the more experienced members of the academy. This has made me realize that now I have a new responsibility and I have to improve my language more and more to live up to it. The second is that for the first time in my life as an Esperantist I had a conversation that was not superficial with two Japanese Esperantists, except for two fellow sociolinguists of mine in Japan.
I have also realized how deeply I have been affected by the study of the Talmud in the way I think and speak. I cannot fully enjoy anymore shmoozing with those who have never studied the Talmud in a traditional manner, so think and speak differently than we. In this respect it was a great relief to be interrupted and questioned when I shmoozed with a few friends trained in the Talmud upon my return to Israel.