Exploring Wales… in Esperanto!

Wales is a real paradise when it comes to fascinating linguistic adventures. As I moved into my Chester apartment last summer, I was sure that my one-year stay at the edge of North Wales would bring loads of such adventures my way. Little did I know however, that there’ll be more to this than a fascinating insight into the lives of Welsh-speakers…

In October 2017, I found myself in the beautiful Welsh town of Conwy, right by the walls of its famous mediaeval castle, conversing in Esperanto with a group of fellow speakers. That’s right, it was in the heart of North Wales that I had my first real Esperanto-speaking experience!

And for such a special occasion, the venue was rather fitting! Conwy’s first Esperanto Day was organised by none other than the Mayor of Conwy himself. Cllr. Bill Chapman and his wife Pat welcomed dozens of fluent Esperanto speakers, as well as locals with little or no knowledge of the universal language, to the town’s prestigious Guildhall.

So it began! As the group split into two, I was invited to join either the introductory (i.e. absolute beginners’) club, or a community of fluent speakers who debated topics as varied as multiculturalism and Brexit – all in Esperanto. Some of you may remember from my previous blog that Esperanto was a great interest of mine around the age of 12-13, and so I had spent quite a bit of time back then acquiring the basics of the language. Well, a lot of time had passed since then and so I felt the beginners’ class would be more suited to my level. But one amazing thing about learning languages is that the knowledge you think you have forgotten may make a sudden reappearance once you’re exposed to the language. So as soon as I regained my confidence and remembered a few things, off I went to the debating hall. And although I rarely contributed to the discussion, it felt incredible to be able to understand almost every word of a heated political debate in Esperanto.

To my surprise, Esperanto is rather popular across Wales! In April, Aberystwyth will host Britain’s largest Esperanto conference. The five-day event will combine the 99th British and the 3rd Pan-Celtic Esperanto conference – with group meals and a trip to a stunning Welsh waterfall. If only I had the time!

Looking back, the Esperanto-Tago (Esperanto Day) in Conwy was a very pleasant, but rather surreal experience – not something I’d have expected to find in Nord-Kimrio (North Wales). But the experience of meeting like-minded Esperantists, the warm welcome by Bill and Pat, and the magical atmosphere of Conwy have definitely encouraged me to oil the cogs once in a while. Who knows when that little knowledge of Esperanto might come in handy…

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Happy New Year to you all,

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