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My father has a diary from the early 80s to the early 90s that I would like to translate. I am pretty sure it’s Esperanto. Is there any way I can get some or all of it translated, as he passed away in 2019 of Alzheimer’s disease?

  • Please attach a picture of a page so that we can confirm that it is Esperanto or not. – Karlomanio Mar 16 at 14:58
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Probably the best option would be to just manually type it into a Word document and then copy-and-paste it into Google Translate. The automatic translation isn’t always great but it will give you an idea of what your father was writing about.

Alternatively if you are not worried about the privacy concerns, you could scan and post some pages here and I’m sure some people would be happy to help. This was done for example for a letter in another question.

Otherwise you could try contacting some Esperantists privately and ask for help. A good place to contact them could be via Telegram in the English-Esperanto group.

I also wouldn’t mind trying to translate a couple of pages if you wanted to send some photos privately.

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My father has a diary from the early 80s to the early 90s that I would like to translate. I am pretty sure it’s Esperanto.

There are several ways to find out whether it's written in Esperanto. Which one you should choose depends on whether you're willing to reveal the diary's content to others and if so, to whom. Because a diary can contain personal and sometimes even delicate stuff, also consider what your late father would have wanted regarding this.

The easiest and quickest way is to type some portion of it into Google Translate and set the source language there to "Detect Language". With a long enough excerpt from the text, the detected language should be sufficiently accurate, even though the resulting translation might not necessarily be accurate. This will reveal the entered part of the content of the diary to Google, to Google's algorithms, and possibly to some of their employees, and possibly linked to your person or identity, even if you're not logged in with a Google account.

Another option is to show the diary (or photos or scans of its content) to someone who knows Esperanto. They'll usually be able to tell whether it is or isn't Esperanto quite quickly. Obviously, this reveals the diary's content (or at least the part you show them) to them.

If you're willing to share some part of the diary's content with the public you could even scan it or take a picture and upload that to a new question here on Esperanto Stack Exchange as Neil suggested in his answer.

You can also —without too much effort— learn enough about Esperanto yourself to be able to identify it with some reasonable accuracy. This would allow you to keep the diary's content confident. Here's some hints on what heuristics you could use:

  • Esperanto has a distinct alphabet. Compared to the English alphabet, it's missing the letters q, w, x, and y, but has the diacritics ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, ŝ, and ŭ. (ĥ is kinda rare, but does occur in some words.)

    This distinct alphabet can help to distinguish Esperanto from Ido, a similar language that in contrast uses the unmodified English alphabet.

  • Just like in English, almost every Esperanto sentence contains a conjugated verb. All conjugated verbs end in -is (past indicative), -as (present indicative), -os (future indicate), -u (volative / imperative) or -us (conditional / irrealis - same for all tenses).

    Infinite verbs end in -i. The most common verbs are esti (e.g., mi estas) and havi (e.g., mi havas).

  • All nouns end in -o, -on, -oj or -ojn (-j indicates plural, -n accusative)
  • There's a limited number of personal pronouns (mi, vi, li / ŝi / (ri), ni, vi (again), ili) and corresponding possessive pronouns (mia, via, lia / ŝia / (ria), nia, via (again), ilia). All of them can also take the accusative indicator -n and the possessive pronouns can take the plural indicator -j (or both, e.g. miajn).

    In a diary, I'd expect the first person pronouns (mi, min, mia, miaj, mian, miajn, ni, nin, nia, niaj, nian, niajn) to occur a lot.

  • In Esperanto, only the beginning of sentences and proper nouns (e.g. names of persons, places and products) are capitalized. Everything else is lowercase.

    The diacritical marks aren't omitted for diacritic uppercase letters: Ĉ, Ĝ, Ĥ, Ĵ, Ŝ and Ŭ. (Uppercase Ŭ almost never occurs, though, as ŭ almost only occurs in the two diphthongs and .)

  • You can look for individual words in Esperanto dictionaries.

    Be aware though, that Esperanto allows to build new words from existing ones and most of these combinations won't occur in regular dictionaries. http://www.simplavortaro.org/ can split many such combined words into their parts.

The obvious final option (of the ones I'll mention; There might be other options, that I've omitted here) is to learn Esperanto yourself. While this might seem daunting and at the same time overkill, "just" for being able to read a diary, it can pay off, as Esperanto is designed to be easy to learn and easy to use.

So you probably won't even need to spend that much time, to be able to understand parts of the diary, or maybe even most or all of it.

Is there any way I can get some or all of it translated

More than one, and again the choice should depend on whether you're willing to reveal the diary's content to others and if so, to whom. Another important factor is the quality of translation you aim for.

Some options just correspond to the ones above for identifying the language:

  1. Type the part(s) to be translated into Google Translate.
    • While the resulting translations can be surprisingly good for some sentences, they can also be quite poor for others, to even outright wrong, e.g., when Google doesn't know a word and simply assumes you've mistyped some other, similar-looking word.
  2. Let someone who knows Esperanto translate the diary.
  3. Learn enough Esperanto yourself to be able to read and maybe even translate the diary.

It's worth noting though that different kinds of people may be considered for the "let someone translate it for you" option:

  • People who might help you for free
    • friends, relatives and acquaintances (if any of them know Esperanto)
    • Esperanto clubs, associations, or meetups
    • people and groups you can approach online, as the ones mentioned in Neil's answer
  • Professional translators (or translation services / translation agencies), who'd you pay for a translation
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