Enkomputiligis Don HARLOW

Esperanto-English/English-Esperanto Dictionary & Phrasebook

by Joseph F. Conroy

New York: Hippocrene Books, 1999. 223p.

reviewed by Don Harlow

Conroy apparently has developed a good working relationship with Hippocrene Books; according to something I read at amazon.com, he (and Esperanto) were key ingredients in the development of this language-oriented publisher's recent Basque-English and English-Basque dictionaries. Earlier, he gave us his textbook Beginner's Esperanto. Now he has produced the dictionary/phrasebook mentioned above. Unlike the textbook, this one is of a cross-section to fit in your shirt pocket; but it's tall enough that if you keep it there, you are probably going to rub your chin raw...

The book comes in four parts: a prolog; an introduction to Esperanto's grammar and structure (pp. 3-13); a dictionary (Esperanto-English pp. 15-61; English-Esperanto pp. 63-109); and a phrasebook, divided into categories of phrases. This last part takes up the lion's share of the book, and ordinarily I'd say that was largely a waste of space -- Esperanto phrasebooks have not been particularly successful in the past -- but, in this case...

I will dispose of the dictionary quickly: satisfy yourself with Wells (or, if you can find it, McLinen). These two dictionary parts contain relatively few words, and omit some fairly important ones; I'll mention a couple of these in a moment. While I didn't peruse them exhaustively, it quickly became apparent that they could have used some copyediting; as a for-instance, the Esperanto word for "bean (broad)" is fabo, not *febo (which, I believe, is the Esperantization of the name of a Greek deity). The same problem appears elsewhere, incidentally, most notably in the Esperanto header on the page "Basic Numbers" (shown as Bazaj Numbroj rather than Bazaj Numeroj).

In the grammatical overview Conroy advises us that "When looking up an Esperanto verb in the dictionary, it is important to note whether it is transitive ... or intransitive ..." (p. 7). Seek in Conroy's dictionary, then, any indication as to whether any Esperanto verb is transitive or intransitive -- in vain. Generally, this isn't much of a problem, inasmuch as Conroy has omitted some of the most common words that cause problems for English speakers (bruli, droni, ĉesi, daŭri, for example); but a few still remain, e.g. komenci, to begin, with no indication whether this means *"to experience a beginning" or "to cause a beginning".

On the other hand, I'm ready to recommend the phrasebook. Not only is it up to date (with two pages of Internet terminology and four pages of terms specific to the Esperanto "culture"), but it also includes a number of pages with phrases giving the proper use of the "K-" correlatives; by the time you get through these you should have no more troubles with -AM vs. -OM or -EL vs. -AL (-ES is omitted, or at least I couldn't find it). Look at the phrases as valuable practice sentences rather than as useful in themselves (I don't expect ever to encounter someone at an airport who requests, in Esperanto, "Sinjoro, vian pasporton, mi petas" -- p. 154), and you will enjoy them.

A couple of additional pages give contact information for national Esperanto organizations in English-speaking countries, and some "where to learn it" info, including the URL of the home page of the English-language version of the on-line free ten-lesson course.

Minor gripe -- with Esperanto, not with Conroy: the word for "garbanzo" (chickpea) really ought to be *cicero rather than kikero (pp. 35 and 78), because of the relationship -- in both etymology and appearance -- with cico (nipple). Unfortunately, PIV claims that cicero is already in use for some sort of type font...

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