Thursday, January 19, 2012

SPOTLIGHT ON JIM HILLAKER: ESPERANTO EXPERT - A blog interview by Jeffrey Kosh


Today I want to introduce you a very peculiar person:
JIM HILLAKER from Burton (MI)

Jeff: First of all, welcome to my blog, Jim. I invited you here because you are one of the most amazing and intriguing guys on Facebook. You have a passion for Esperanto, a language designed in late 19th century for all of Humanity, and you have a large group of followers on that social network enjoying the same.
Now, please introduce yourself to our public –

Jim: Saluton! Mi estas Jim Hillaker, and I live in Burton, Michigan USA, and was born in the immediately adjacent (and far more famous) City of Flint. I have a BA (major in Spanish., minor in French) from University of Michigan-Flint and an MA in Spanish Linguistcs from Ohio State

And thanks, Jeff. I feel honored, and quite flattered, that you think I am “one of the most amazing and intriguing guys on Facebook.”  And yes, since about 1986, give or take, I have been able to speak the international language Esperanto. 

Jeff: Where does your passion for Esperanto stem from?

Jim: I’ve always been curious about foreign languages since I was a small child. Then when I was 12, I started reading Tolkien’s SILMARILLION, and not only discovered Tolkien, but also his Elvish languages. I began creating my own languages.

At age 15 I began studying Latin. I knew it was the language of the Church and had been a lingua-franca of Western Europe for centuries; Newton even wrote his great work PRINCIPIA in Latin. I thought perhaps it could be a lingua-franca again. At this time I was already starting to create my own worlds, I envisioned a future space-opera world in which Latin was used as the Terran language. I also envisioned a simplified Latin I called ”Traders’ Latin” as a commercial pidgin. Had I not discovered Esperanto soon after, I might have redundantly recreated Latino sine Inflexione or Interlingua (I still love that name and wish Esperanto could be called that), two early competitors to Esperanto of which Interlingua still has a small following (I think it looks like pidgin Italian).

Ironicly it was RPGs that led me to Esperanto. I was still in high school when a friend of mine (a real dungeon-head) had a copy of TSR’s game Top Secret, a modern espionage RPG. Looking thru it I noticed a list of languages a character could have, and one on the list was this mysterious Esperanto. So I was obsessed with finding out what it was. When I got a shoert description, I initially rejected the idea, thinking Latin fulfulled that role. But I came to realize the impracticality of Latin, by the time I started college, I managed to track down an address fo ELNA (Esperanto League for North America), took a little 10-lesson correspondance course, then studied  from the book TEACH YOURSELF ESPERANTO  which I ordered from ELNA,

Not only did I think Esperanto could work as a neutral lingua-franca, I was absolutely enamored with the simplicity, logic, precision, elegance, and beauty of the lamguage. Esperanto is the only language I have actually taught myself to speak without any formal classroom study. It has only 16 basic rules, and once you have those, it’s just a matter of vocabulary. and the vocabulary is quite recognizable, pulled from a variety of languages.

Jeff: Tell us something more about you -

Jim: I have been doing table-top, paper-&-pencil RPGs for over 20 years now, and running my own games for nearly 15 years. This has slowed down now, due mostly to incompatibility of schedules not allowing me to get together with friends. My favorite RPGs are GURPS, DragonStorm, Traveller, Space: 1889, and Prof. M.A.R. Barker’s Tékumel. I have also been working on a new RPG system for years. With the exception of a few DragonStorm games, all the games I have run as game master have been in my own system, and set in universes of my own devising, I have always wanted to be a writer, but I am much better at developing characters, settings, and whole societies, chronologies, and alien species, than I am at plot.

I am also something of a newcomer to Facebook, social networking, and the internet in general.I didn’t get onto Facebook until April 11, 2010. I was amazed by how much it facilitates communication, and even re-connection, with far-flung friends and family. Since that time, I have even created four Facebook pages: Lingojim (to promote my language-oriented services, but now I mostly just post langage-related articles), IPRM International Pro-Constituency Movement (a non-partison political page), Fans of the Valley of Guangi (which I created on a whim), Talkidu (a non-player character from my RPGs). I am also administrator now of the page Namor the Sub-mariner, which was set up by John Hurschel Runion, who got too busy with other things (and I think is one of those in the “Super-Interesting Facebook-User”.category). I also now have something like 465 Facebook friends, at least 150 are Esperantists I met on Facebook.

Jeff: I see you’ve a passion for languages. How many do you speak?

Jim: I am communicative in really only English, Spanish, and Esperanto. I do have a BA minor in French, and I used to translate Portuguese documents into English back when I did document translation. I would say I can read French, Portuguese, Old Castillian, and Latin. Latin I started studying when I was 15, and my grad work was basicly how the Latin of the Iberian peninsula evolved into Spanish. I have also formally studied thru classroom instruction German, Russian, Japanese, and Arabic. On my own I have studied some Classical Greek, Anglo-Saxon, Marc Okrand’s Klingon, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Quenya (High-Elvish), and even Prof. M.A.R. Barker’s Tsolyáni. I have also created languages of my own.

Jeff: What’s your actual job?

Jim:  When I actually am lucky enough to have work, I teach Spanish at the college level. Unfortunately, circumstances have kept me stuck in one of the worse ecomocially-depressed in the US.

Jeff: Do you like reading books? If so, what’s your favorite genre?

Jim: I don’t read as much as I used to; I just don’t seem to have the time. I still read short stories and non-fiction books. But I’d have to say my favorite genres are in Speculative Fiction, i.e., Science-Fiction and Fantasy.

Jeff: Besides ‘Feeding the Urge’, what’s your favorite book of ever?

Jim: If I had to pick just one from the fiction category, I’d have to say THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

Jeff: What’s your favorite author?

Jim: Well, I don’t know if I have a single most favorite, but the short list might be: Jonathan Swift, Samuel Clemens, J. R. R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, L. Sprague de Camp

Jeff: Is there anything more you would share with us?

Jim: Dr. Zamenhof's Illustrated Biography - By John Hornby and Colin Andrew
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBX-jAa5VYI&feature=share

Jeff: Thank you for sharing with us. My best.

Jim: Thank you for giving me this oportunity. I have reconstructed much of my own personal development in answering some of this questions. Ĝis la revido.



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