William Shatner’s Bizarre Esperanto Movie

William Shatner’s Bizarre Esperanto Movie

Esperanto was a failed attempt at the turn of the last century to create a Universal language based on the commonalities of several major European and Latin-based languages. Several societies developed, and it was a nice, progressive idea, but only a few tens of thousands of people ever really spoke it (including billionaire financier George Soros).

And then, for some reason, The Outer Limits creator Leslie Stevens made a horror/sci-fi movie in 1965 called Incubus…which is entirely in Esperanto. A made-up foreign language certainly lends itself to horror and sci-fi. And William Shatner’s in it, who you’ll be happy to learn retains all of his Shatneresque pauses and acting quirks in another language.


Brian Boone

From the middle of nowhere in the Pacific Northwest, I contribute to the Retroist, write for trivia publications, and blog about music in a humorous fashion. I feel about "Back to the Future" the way you feel about "Star Wars." Also, I'm married and have a child (sorry ladies, orphans).

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Where did you receive the incorrect information that Esperanto has “failed” ?

    During a short period of 123 years Esperanto is now in the top 100 languages, out of 6,800 worldwide, according to the CIA World factbook. It is the 22nd most used language in Wikipedia, ahead of Danish and Arabic. It is a language choice of Google, Skype, Firefox and Facebook.

    Native Esperanto speakers, (people who have used the language from birth), include financier George Soros, World Chess Champion Susan Polger, Ulrich Brandenberg the new German Ambassador to NATO and Nobel Laureate Daniel Bovet.

    Your readers may be interested in the following video. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670

    The online course http://www.lernu.net now enjoys 123,000 hits per month – that can’t be bad :)

  2. “Esperanto was a failed attempt …”.

    You’ll forgive me, I hope, for saying that you are far too negative here. Esperanto has caught on. Indeed, the language has some remarkable practical benefits. Personally, I’ve made friends around the world through Esperanto that I would never have been able to communicate with otherwise. And then there’s the Pasporta Servo, which provides free lodging and local information to Esperanto-speaking travellers in over 90 countries. Over recent years I have had guided tours of Berlin, Douala and Milan in this planned language. I have discussed philosophy with a Slovene poet, humour on television with a Bulgarian TV producer. I’ve discussed what life was like in East Berlin before the wall came down, how to cook perfect spaghetti, the advantages and disadvantages of monarchy, and so on. I recommend it, not just as an ideal but as a very practical way to overcome language barriers.

  3. Granda artikolo, Brian.
    Ja, Esperanto estas ankoraux en uzi hodiaux.

  4. Bill — I like your positivity. Esperanto was never something I was exposed to as a kid (I dont think I learned about it until I was a teen). By then the hopes of learning it and the metric system were long gone. :(

  5. Great vid artifact, and the most informative comments I’ve yet read on the site! Very cool stuff – thanks.

  6. It never quite caught on in that it didn’t reach its stated goal of being an absolutely universal, widely spoken language. Cultural identities are far too tied in with language to ever be fully replaced. True, it’s spoken by a lot of people, but mainly by hobbyists, linguists, and for historical interest.

  7. Hi Brian,

    I can understand how, to most people, Esperanto looks like a failure. After all, about all they can see is official and mass-media interest in the language, which seems to have peaked a few decades back, more or fewer depending on the part of the world in which you live, with little mention since then, with the exception of singularities like Soros or Incubus that everyone seems to have heard of. What remains largely hidden from view, especially in the English-speaking world, is the quiet, steady growth Esperanto has always been experiencing, driven, not by governments or the media, but by the individuals who discover it, then decide to learn it. By little more than word of mouth, Esperanto has grown to, by the most scientific estimate of recent years, a couple of million speakers. True, it’s not the whole world, but it’s not bad, either, when you consider that 124 years ago, there was just one speaker. Growth has picked up considerably over the last decade, especially on the Internet, but also in places you might not expect, such as China and Brazil. It may not be everyone’s second language yet – the goal is not to replace, but to supplement as an easy-to-learn bridging language – but it’s slowly but surely heading in that direction, and is used that way by a solidly-established community. It’s a work in progress, and I do mean progress :-).

    Chad mentions that Esperanto is spoken mainly by hobbyists and linguists or out of historical interest. I would have to disagree with that statement. I don’t know anyone who learned Esperanto out of historical interest, and precious few linguists have learned it (believe me, for the positive publicity it would give Esperanto, we Esperanto speakers want as many linguists to learn it as possible). As for hobbyists, that part of the statement is true only in that what sets Esperanto apart as a singular exception among languages is that people learn it, not because they have to in some way, but only because they want to. Apart from that, the word “hobbyist” implies either that Esperanto is learned as an end, not as a means, or that it is not taken all that seriously by those who learn it. While some Esperanto speakers could be so characterized, there are at least as many for whom Esperanto is a way to communicate with other people – a means, not an end – and who do much more than just putter around with it.

    You mention the metric system. Did you know that it took hundreds of years for it even to start to spread, let alone become universal? Yet, (almost) universal it did become. In 124 years, Esperanto has come much farther in terms of usage than the metric system did, and it continues to grow. There are people out there you can use it with, in all the ways illustrated by Bill, and more. As Brian suggests, http://www.lernu.net has excellent learning resources, including free online self-study courses of varying levels (try starting with Ana Pana, then moving on to Gerda Malaperis). If you take a peek, you’ll find that the face of Esperanto, still largely invisible outside the worldwide Esperanto community, has changed from when you last saw it.

  8. Sorry, one question:

    Where in the Pacific Northwest do you live? If you’re interested, there are Esperanto groups in and/or near Seattle, Olympia, Spokane and Portland OR (see http://esperanto-usa.org/node/450 for contact info).

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