Esperanto 2.0? The Quest For a World Language

Big Thinking History Language Modernism

Wednesday's post about the lack of international/intercultural communication on the Internet got my wheels turning. I think there's more to this topic.

Cultural insularity is the world's status quo, and there is currently no momentum at all towards a global language. Sure, the Esperanto organization still runs annual conferences, but we all know Esperanto was a well-intentioned dud. It was founded in 1887 with the publication of a book called Lingvo Internacia by Lazar Zamenhov, a Polish Jew. The movement was a hit, but the language never took root, and by the time Zamenhov died in 1917 Europe was in its worst depths of violence. The Great War provided insurmountable proof that Zamenhov's ideas about global peace through global communication were naive. (His children were then persecuted and murdered during World War II for being Jewish, being Baha'i, and being related to Lazar Zamenhov).

But even if the planet Earth had been more hospitable to Zamenhov's idealistic dream, Esperanto would have had to fail. This approach to language was too top-down, too rigid. Committees and congresses cannot create languages. Esperanto was a clean and rule-based specification, but the language lacked warmth, and lacked the quirky edges you could hang poetry (or jokes, or love songs) on. We learned through the bad example of Esperanto that languages must evolve organically, and artistically. Snoop Dogg turns out to have introduced far more enduring linguistic variations to the world than Lazar Zamenhov ever did.

Esperanto's image was also doomed by its political affiliation. Some of these historical connections are not widely understood today, but naturally Esperanto was a part of the broad intellectual movement known as Modernism, which was often (though not always) allied with Marxism or Communism throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. There should be no doubt where Esperanto was positioned politically; it was a left-wing movement, along with farm collectivization, socialist realist artwork, Brutalist concrete architecture, the Helvetica font (yes, the Helvetica font) and collarless jackets. This is one major reason why the Esperanto movement is nowhere today (for what it's worth, they are holding their next conference this July in Havana).

Beyond the tiresome left-wing/right-wing politics that haunt the Esperanto movement, there seems to be little broad support for a one-language movement. Some fear that the monumental and beautiful native languages of the world would become extinct. But this objection doesn't really hold up to examination: there is no reason why the civilizations of the world could not and would not retain their native languages. Still, the idea of a global language is never mentioned in polite company; to venture the thought is to be laughed at.

Some may believe that the world should remain a tower of Babel forever, and it's tough to figure out where many opinions might fall on this question. Words Without Borders, the acclaimed website for international literature, obviously represents a globalist sensibility, but Words Without Borders also represents the vibrant worldwide community of literary translators, who (as experts in the intricacies of their chosen languages) might be appalled at the idea of a global language. Other excellent organizations like Open Letter Books, PEN and the National Endowment for the Arts could be expected to be similarly lukewarm about the idea.

No person of good conscience could wish for the richness of the world's separate languages to go away. And yet, there is no contradiction between the preservation of separate languages and the gradual emergence of a global language. The closer we look, the more it seems obvious that a world language would be a good idea -- if it could possibly be achieved, and if it did not displace existing languages. The harder question, it turns out, is how to make it happen.

Nobody wants Esperanto 2.0. If a world language emerges, it will happen from the ground up. But it's worth bringing the whole topic, which was once so popular and seemed so full of promise, back into the light. The ability to communicate easily, naturally and widely between the cultures of the world is vital for our future. The potential benefits of a linguistically integrated world are beyond measure. It's a no-brainer, really.

Many centuries ago, respected Christian intellectuals argued that it was a sacrilege to translate the Bible into common languages. Current objections that it would be a sacrilege to bridge the languages of the world should be taken in a similar spirit.

But how can a new movement for a global language possibly take root, after such terrible previous starts? Where would it even begin? The 2010 Esperanto conference in Havana is probably not the answer.

I have no idea what the answer is. But I do think the question deserves some serious thought.

34 Responses to "Esperanto 2.0? The Quest For a World Language"

Esperanto technically is a 2.0 language, since it took the position of the formerly popular Volapük, but since then there really hasn't been much attention at all paid to IALs so I think it may be about time for a 3.0 to emerge. What we will need for that IMO is a linguistic deadlock, a situation where languages like Spanish and Chinese increase in strength and it becomes clear that English is not destined to be the world's second language. There was a bit of a deadlock between English and French (and German to a certain extent) at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th which may have been what brought so much attention to the idea of languages like Esperanto and Ido at the time.

My favourites along with Ido are Occidental and Lingua Franca Nova. LFN is the newest successful IAL and has a nice creole-like quality to it that has given it a lot of appeal, even to Esperantists (who usually don't like the idea of dividing their support among other smaller IALs).

by Bill Chapman on

You wrote, "we all know Esperanto was a well-intentioned dud." No, we don't. The story of Esperanto is a remarkable success story. It is very much in use outside large gatherings, built on grass-roots support.

I have used Esperanto in some fifteen countries over the years, talking about all sorts of topics, visiting people in therir homes and having local customs and history explainmed to me. This grass-roots movement not only maintains high-quality literary magazines such as Almanako and Literatura Foiro, but alsooffers a supreb service called Pasporta Servo, whereby Esperanto-speaking people on their travels receive free accommodation.

Wander around the net and you'll soon discover how lively the Esperanto-speaking community is. I don't know whether the estimate of two million speaker I have seen is right, but there is certainly a respectable speaker population for a language which lacks any state apparatus.

Esperanto deserves more support from anyone interested in the wider world.

I think that the word "Esperantist" is aimed to be an insult. So why use it as a derogartory word !

By the way, ten British MP's have nominated Esperanto for the Nobel Peace Prize 2010 See http://www.esperantolobby.net

How do you explain this ?

Levi: "the language lacked warmth, and lacked the quirky edges you could hang poetry (or jokes, or love songs) on" - wrong! Quite a lot of high quality poetry (and jokes) has been created in Esperanto.

Brian: "By the way, ten British MP's have nominated Esperanto for the Nobel Peace Prize 2010" - not quite true. They have nominated the Universal Esperanto Association, not Esperanto (only physical persons or organizations can get this prize, not languages or ideas).

by Levi Asher on

I'm glad to see I've struck a nerve here. Well, with two million speakers in the world I suppose Esperanto could be called some kind of success, but it seems to be the opposite of the success the original founders must have hoped for. The goal was to create a universal language to stand aside from all the proprietary languages of the world -- they ended up creating another proprietary language, known to few, unknown to many.

When I say the language lacks "quirky edges" I am partly referring to some statistics I've found stating that Esperanto has fewer "irregularities" -- exceptions to its own rules of grammar and spelling -- than any other language in the world. It occurred to me that irregularities probably add to a language's appeal. The samples I've seen of Esperanto writings seem consistent with this. But, I have not studied this in depth, and I appreciate the responses from people who know more about it than I do.

I first learned about Esperanto from one of my childhood heroes, the late Forrest J. Ackerman, world's foremost science fiction fan and editor of Famous Monsters magazine. Ackerman's web site is no longer active, but here's a mention of his interest in Esperanto.

Mithridates, I find your use of Ecclesiastes to learn other languages very interesting!

by Gene Keyes on

Esperanto is intended to be the world's SECOND language, not a global replacement for all the others. It therefore aims at preserving even the more obscure and endangered ones, to say nothing of one's own mother tongue.

Esperanto has also emphasized political neutrality from the get-go. It is not a left or right wing movement (although Hitler and Stalin each tried to stamp it out).

As for the notion that Esperanto "lacked warmth, and lacked the quirky edges you could hang poetry (or jokes, or love songs) on": not at all! Just take one example, a funny poem by the late William Auld (and Nobel Prize for Literature nominee), "Ebrio" ["Drunk"], available online, each with text and audio, in two versions:

http://www.esperanto.org/literaturo/mp3/ebrio.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hwHfjZQPAo

And may I call your attention to the English edition of Zamenhof's original 1887 proposal, online in HTML:

http://www.genekeyes.com/Dr_Esperanto.html

PS: The correct link for the Universal Esperanto Association is http://www.uea.org/info/angle/an_ghisdatigo.html
The one you gave is good, but is for TEJO, Esperanto's international youth group.

Levi, there is a universal or global language today, at least in the business world: English. Young students all over the world are required to learn English in school, and then ESL teachers such as myself help them perferct their grammar and vocabulary. Take the example of France. When in France, with colleagues or friends, one speaks French. However, French companies have meetings with other companies in Italy, Spain, Germany, the UK, the US, and China. THe language spoken at these meetings is English. I know this. I have spent countless hours with French business men and women tweaking their powerpoint presentations so they sound more English.

The same is true in University. If you want to have an above average career you need to know English, and if you study the sciences, most of the important texts are in English.

So English has become the defacto world langauge for many things. Esperanto is just not robust enough to do the job.

I've been reading articles recently about 'Globish,' the simplified form of English that's being used in a very natural way all over the world to communicate in almost all circumstances.

I kind of agree with Levi about Esperanto. I simply wouldn't be interested. It strikes me more the way learning a program language does. I'd rather keep up my French and mix it with English and see what happens.

And, Bill (Ectric, I mean!), I went some years ago to see a restored version of Metropolis at the Egyptian Theater and Forrest J. Ackerman was there and he spoke for a while before the movie started. He talked about how he knew Lang and was with him to talk about a correct version of the film at some point. I was leaning over to tell my date about how Ackerman was my hero as a boy because he did the Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. That didn't score me many points, I must say.

by hepcat on

"But how can a new movement for a global language possibly take root, after such terrible previous starts? Where would it even begin? The 2010 Esperanto conference in Havana is probably not the answer.

I have no idea what the answer is. But I do think the question deserves some serious thought."

Michael has this right. English is already the lingua franca of the world. It's spoken (not necessarily as a native tongue) by more people than any other language in the world.

I've worked around the world for years as a TESL teacher. The best thing about this job is that there are markets for English teachers anywhere. Name a country and I guarantee you I could make a living there teaching English. The common denominator is that better jobs require English skills. Sorry Esperanto.

I live in London and if anyone says to me “everyone speaks English” my answer is “Listen and look around you”. If people in London do not speak English then the whole question of a global language is completely open.

The promulgation of English as the world’s “lingua franca” is impractical and linguistically undemocratic. I say this as a native English speaker!

Impractical because communication should be for all and not only for an educational or political elite. That is how English is used internationally at the moment.

Undemocratic because minority languages are under attack worldwide due to the encroachment of majority ethnic languages. Even Mandarin Chinese is attempting to dominate as well. The long-term solution must be found and a non-national language, which places all ethnic languages on an equal footing is essential.

As a native English speaker, my vote is for Esperanto :)

Your readers may be interested in seeing http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU Professor Piron was a former translator with the United Nations

A glimpse of the global language,Esperanto, can be seen at http://www.lernu.net

by mtmynd on

English is the universal language of ATC (Air Traffic Control), which is a good thing for those who fly internationally on a regular basis knowing that a common language will be universally accepted for safety's sake.

It is understandable why any one language is or even should be considered the 'Universal Language' but there comes a time in our communications with others when a UL becomes a no-brainer. Why anyone would offer up another such UL as Esperanto in these times when English is globally acceptable and even preferable for our technologies and sciences seems a rather futile battle.

by Levi Asher on

I really don't know if it's correct that English is becoming the global language. I believe this is more true in certain regions of the world (like Europe) than others (like Asia). I read that 12% of the population in India can read English.

Levi - in Asia, too, there is a huge emphasis on English. I teach from time to time at an English language school in Chicago, and the largest percentage of students are Asian - Korean, followed by Japanese, Thai and Chinese, as well as other Asian countries.
If you look at ads for ESL teachers, you will see tons of ads for teachers to teach in Korea and China. It is primarily for students that will go into business, but it is a huge movement nonetheless.

by C. Godot on

"Some fear that the monumental and beautiful native languages of the world would become extinct. But this objection doesn't really hold up to examination: there is no reason why the civilizations of the world could not and would not retain their native languages."

I'm not sure what "reason" (an individual trait) has to do with what appears to be the social evolution of language. It is not as if people make a conscious decision to no longer speak an ethnic/native tongue; it simply evolves that way, either through the natural dominance of a language (usually brought on by population changes) or the forced adoption of a non-native tongue. Consider the fate of the Irish language, which was once spoken across the island but is now confined to a small selection of "natural" speakers and kept alive through a national education effort. The "reason" for the demise of Irish is the British mounted an aggressive campaign to eliminate the language from use; the "reason" it has yet to return is perhaps the same "reason" few Americans bother to learn any language other than English: for the most part, once you know English, any other language is impractical.

English itself was of course synthesized by a variety of this very phenomenon, starting in roughly 1066, when Norman French, which would be unintelligible to a modern French speaker, mated with Old English (unintelligible to modern English speakers). No one speaks Norman French, Old English, or even the resulting Middle English; while certain cultural practices were absorbed into great Anglo-French culture, a number were lost entirely. We English-speakers are comfortable with that today, but we aren't comfortable with it happening again (or else we wouldn't be so mono-linguistic in English-speaking countries).

Once your language begins to go, your culture goes right along with it. Again, a fact of history that global language enthusiasts seem to ignore. It's true that merely learning another language doesn't damage your culture, and even enhances your understanding of culture, but being dominated by another language results in being dominated by another culture. As English usage begins to broaden in usage in a country, the desire for English-content grows; the majority of that content is produced in American and the UK, and it exemplifies American/UK culture. Whether it newspapers, books, or TV shows, once this begins the inevitable route appears to be the demise of the ethnic language and culture.

Even without the force of economic, political or military might behind it, if a language evolves to natural dominance, it will eventually replace any ethnic/native tongues in daily, common use - that is, after all, pretty much the definition of "dominant." Only a concerted effort by academics will hold any hope of preserving that language. This has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout history. The quest for a "global" tongue worries many who speak languages that seem vulnerable to this phenomenon - no one who speaks English is worried about this, because it's clear English is not threatened. But in a number of small nations (France in the "developed" world is a prime example) have devoted themselves to a concerted effort in hopes of delaying or preventing this. It remains to be seen if France's pro-active efforts to stave off the demise of their language will have better results than Ireland's attempts at resurrection.

I see a great deal of cultural arrogance resulting from secure privilege in the efforts of English-speakers to promote a global language - even those who do not push English as that language exhibit this, sadly. I'm certain they mean well and do not have even an unconscious desire to see any language or culture disappear. But the manner in which they pooh-pooh these concerns suggests an indifference to the concerns. Also, a peculiar observance and perhaps not one supported by statistics: the "global language" proponents I've met, for the most part, do not speak any language other than English with fluency.

Pursuing a "common tongue" which would allow everyone on Earth to speak clearly to one another seems a fine goal. But those who advocate it overlook a number of historical and sociological facts. It is likely that, should we survive our stupidity and self-destructive nature, Earth-humans will speak a common language (and Mars-Humans, because that's how long it will be, will have their own dialect); when this happens, 90% of the languages now enjoying a vibrant existence will be relegated to books and academic study. The exciting cultures of which they were once an integral part will be absorbed into the mono-culture (again, this is a phenomenon that is observable and evident), and the tapestry of human culture will be less rich and colorful.

Some of the people in other countries who visit Litkicks might very well be American. I correspond with a writer who works for an oil company in China. He and his wife live there. I send him links to Litkicks whenever I think he might be interested in the topic.

by Subterranean Soul on

In Asia English is seen as a key to success and at times more free than the native tongues but it not necessarily the case.

Also I don't know that English is "attacking" other languages. Many choose it purely because it is so universally applied in science and business. Can you discuss the intricacies of quantum mechanics in Malay: absolutely. But can you discuss it with a German physicist and a Nigerian neurosurgeon: not in three different languages!

It has it's benefits but it should never be used to deliberately replace a local language unless the locals themselves are embracing it. There are far too many beautiful concepts and definitions peculiar to each language to want to lose them.

All in all though, people will use what is most useful to them and, just as importantly, what's most entertaining. That's why Snoop Dogg and Quentin Tarantino do more than Chomsky for everyday people evolving speech patterns. And why a villager in the remote hills of Nepal has very little use for English or your website.

Godot, you are right on with the cultural aspects of language. France, to use an example that I am most familiar with, has an incredibly rich culture formed over centuries. But it is not until your learn the language and speak it with native French people that you really start to learn and appreciate this. The food and wine culture, for example, has a specific vocabulary, that, once you learn it, brings a new dimension to the enjoyment of these things. Some things in French can be expressed in a single word, where English would require several. But the same is also true of English. What I would like to see for English is that it remains a sort of common language, but that the Anglo/Saxon culture does not become dominant to exclusion of all other cultures.

One of the most interesting experiments in language is the novel "A Clockwork Orange," by Anthony Burgess. The language he invented shows the influence of Russian, as the fear of Russian domination was very prevalent at the time, as well as the drug culture - remember "malacho with knives"? And of course the the language was steeped in words that expressed the increasing violence of society.

by Subterranean Soul on

Michael Norris, I think you've inadvertently touched on what is happening in the minds of English speaking white supremacists where the ancestry of the English language is being misunderstood as being at odds with the modern English speakers.
Talk about Anglo-Saxon supremacy is just ridiculous though as they were thoroughly conquered quite some time ago, though the language did make the French infused comeback that now sees us where we are today.

by hepcat on

Levi, English is the second language of Asia. I've been teaching in Vietnam for five years, and before that in Indonesia and China. The demand for English teachers here is so bad that they're willing to hire nonnative speakers. There is a constant shortage of teachers in the whole region. Name a country and you could find work there. Hell, you can find ESL work in America, teaching immigrants.

I'm surprised there is this much debate over something I'd just taken for granted.

Levi, you quoted a statistic claiming that 12% of Indians could read English. That may be true, though the percentage of speakers I'm sure is higher. It takes education to learn the Roman alphabet, especially when it's totally different from your own script. It takes a lot less education to speak it.
Most of the population is rural and poor without the need for a second language. However, when you're a Bengali speaking businessman, and you need to talk to an Urdu speaking client, you speak English.

One interesting thing to see in India is the amount of English they've adopted into their native tongue. Sometimes you can catch the drift of a conversation in Hindi by the amount of English they use.

In Vietnam and China, and probably the rest of Asia, good jobs demand English skills. TOEFL (Test Of English as a Foreign Language) exams are often required for these jobs. In Saigon, language schools are like Starbucks in America. They're seriously everywhere.

For anyone with job security issues back home, rest assured you can always find a job elsewhere if you're feeling adventurous enough. I've met a lot of new American teachers in the past two years who are economic refugees. .

by Enrique on

mtmynd said:

>English is the universal language of ATC (Air Traffic
>Control), which is a good thing for those who fly
>internationally on a regular basis knowing that a
>common language will be universally accepted for
>safety's sake.

The worst airplane accident occurred in Canarias Islands, where two 747's collided on the tarmac. It looks that one of the best pilots in the world, who spoke "good" English, misinterpreted the meaning of the Control Tower advice, from somebody that also was a "good" English speaker. The same sentence intended to stop the plane where it was, was interpreted as "keep" going. More than 500 people died there.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Poland lost most of its dignitaries, including the President and his wife, because while the plane was flying in Russia airspace, the pilots were speaking in Polish and the control tower personnel were speaking in Russian. They all tried to speak in their broken English, but communication was no possible.

More than ten big aviation accidents happened because
lack of communication.

>Why anyone would offer up another such UL as Esperanto
>in these times when English is globally acceptable and
>even preferable for our technologies and sciences seems
>a rather futile battle.

There are many reasons to think about Esperanto. English is not globally acceptable. You speak only about those people that had enough time, money and intelligence to learn English to a communication level. Many more people started to learn English and could never get to that level. Still many more, never had the chance to try to learn English.

The Esperanto basic course takes less than 20 hours to complete. By then, it is possible to start using Esperanto, even with mistakes. After 50 - 100 hours of practice you will get some fluency.

Another interesting point about Esperanto, is that it will take less time to learn Esperanto and language #3, than just learning language #3. Twenty hours of Esperanto will be enough to communicate with people from other countries, (written communication) which could help to chose the next language, and later, the new friends will help with the other language ... even if your first language is not English, and you are trying to learn English.

C. Godot said:
>Also, a peculiar observance and perhaps not one
>supported by statistics: the "global language" proponents
>I've met, for the most part, do not speak any language
>other than English with fluency.

Very simple. You will never meet or speak with people that doesn't speak English. If you walk by people speaking other languages, you will not understand what they are speaking about, and you will ignore them. If they were speaking in Esperanto, you will never know which was the language. Believe me ... there are billions of people that don't understand English ... including many that have studied it during many years.

When I meet Esperanto speakers, most of them are very fluent. The others just started to learn Esperanto.

Your way of thinking will change the moment you start using Esperanto. You will find resources to learn and use Esperanto in this web page:

http://esperantofre.com/edu/iloj01a.htm

It is not possible to know the possibilities of Esperanto without having used it, or at least staying in an auditorium with more than 2000 Esperanto speakers from more than 50 countries, where everybody understand each other and not translators are needed.

Best wishes,

Enrique
http://esperantofre.com/edu/lernua.htm

by hepcat on

Enrique,

I think a good parallel here is when they tried to introduce the metric system in America. And that change (that never happened) actually made sense.

I think it's simply a matter of math and inertia. How many people speak Esperanto? How many people speak English? Thousands (millions?) learn to speak English every year. How many Esperanto converts can you claim?

by Enrique on

I think a good parallel here is when they tried to introduce the metric system in America. And that change (that never happened) actually made sense.

The metric system is widely used in USA. Medicine always used cubic centimeters and milligrams. Jewelry uses carats. Electricity uses Volts and Watts, Coca Cola is sold in 2 liter bottles. Atmospheric pressure is measured in millibars.

The high of the Empire State Building in measured in "football field lengths" ... Pardon ... this is a USA unit of measure.

by Neil Blonstein on

English, I agree is a powerful phenomena. And therefore, we understand it must be eternal. So lets not make waves.

I know about 20 English teachers in the USA, Brazil and Cuba who are activists for Esperanto. Would you like to join us? I have promised several, I would set up a blog including our names nationalities, cities and seniority as ESL/EFL teachers and how many years we also speak and advocate the just answer. Esperanto for all, as a second language. End English monolingualism, which is usally synonomous with "international illiteracy".
I blog at EsperantoFriends.blogspot.

by Joop Eggen on

English (for its literature and knowledge base) and Esperanto (for its power and my daily life) are my favourite second languages. English is the defacto world language (as French was), but only to some extent. Quantatively it is diminishing if you look at statistics. So with Esperanto one can communicate better, on par, and even the grand ma, child or unskilled may learn fast to use it actively. With English the communication goes to a certain level.

by Todd on

Esperanto indeed has fewer irregularities, making it easier to learn, but you are very mistaken concluding that Esperanto lacks quirkiness and wordplay. On the contrary, one of the things that attracts people to Esperanto, once they get past the misinformation (such as, regrettably, your essay), is its liberating expressiveness. I assume you know that Esperanto has attracted enough talented writers to generate its own small but interesting body of original literature.

Many people who learn and use Esperanto today, such as myself, do so not for the idealistic reasons for which Zamenhof created it, but because they are attracted to language and its culture (or subculture, if you prefer) in its own right. A big part of that attraction is, precisely, its quirkiness, which resides not so much in its structure as in what people do with it.

It's interesting to note that even though Esperanto has not been a success, in terms of becoming an important language in world affairs, it remains far more successful than its competitors, of which there have been many. Zamenhof was not a linguist, but he had a wonderful "ear for language", the result of which is that Esperanto is greater than the sum of its parts. So don't write it off as a complete dud yet! The fact that people are still speaking, writing books and recording music in Esperanto, 120+ years later, should tell you something.

by gerry on

As far as I know we already have a world language, it's the English language, it's not an official international language but I consider it this way. The trends for learning English have grown higher and higher in recent years, of course, the internet had a major influence on that. No wonder online English tutoring has become a priority for many people.

by JerryBear on

I have a masters Degree In Linguistics and 7 years experience in teaching English as a Foreign Language. I have studied Esperanto for a number of years and speak it fluently. I speak pretty good Spanish and some Mandarin. I have come to the conclusion that the coming world language will be pidgin English or some equivalent like that abomination Globish because the great majority of the worlds people will never attain a meaningful mastery of real English. The results of tremendous expenditure of time and money outside of Germanic language speaking countries are absolutely miserable. The rare people who can master English are an envied and privileged elite. English quite simply doesnt work as a genuine world language and that fact becomes more obvious year by year. Oh, it is easy to find people you can say "Hello" or "How are you?" but just try finding someone to carry a serious discussion on the world economic situation! It is this level of fluency we need to propagate world wide and it is this at which Esperanto so brilliantly excels.

How many of you who claim to speak other languages can carry on a serious discussion to a group of businessmen in that language about the political situation in your country? Esperanto is not primarily intended to help tourists stammer through ordering their breakfast but to carry on serious high level communication and it was designed from the ground up and developed by tens of thousands for that primary purpose. You can acquire basic conversational and literary fluency in one month but full master will take you 2 to 3 years of dediacted daily study and use.Still 2 or 3 years of study of Esperanto equals 10 to 15 years of study of any other language. I have seen sophististicated discussions carried on by individuals in Esperanto after only acouple of weeks study, to be sure with lots of errrors and usage peculiarities but still clear and understandable. This is just as true outside of Europe as in it. Asian anarchists widely use Esperanto as their medium of communication because it so much easier than trying to use Chinese, Korean or Japanese. One Chinese woman was required to study Esperanto by state authorities for propaganda purposes. She was resentful at first, but soon found herself astonished that she could speak Esperanto much more fluently after 9 months study than she did English after 9 years of study.

When you are monolingual you are really no more aware of your own language than a fish is of the water it swims in. If you English chauvinists were to acquire a decent mastery of Esperanto, you would become aware of just how unclear, vague and ambiguous English really is. So often the words do not honestly express the actual meaning which has to be learned separately. Esperanto itself has all the logical rigor and precision of the Classical languages; indeed the fundamental underlying grammatical structure of modern Esperanto very much resembles a highly regularized version of the underlying grammatical structure of Classical Greek. Ignore most propaganda you see on the net both pro and con. It deals with the international language project of a certain Dr. esperanto more than a 120 years ago. This "lingvo internacia" is a far cry from the rich and varied Esperanto language of today. The other competing constructed cannot be taken seriously, they are mere toys for conlang enthusiasts to play with. To turn any of them into a living genuine language would take at least 50 years, or more honestly the hundred years it took to fully polish mature and develop Esperanto. We dont have that long to wait, especially when we already have a splendid solution ready at hand.

The Emperor has no clothes my friends! English does not work as a genuine world language. All it is doing is creating a priveleged elite for global capitalism. We need a language for the rest of us. That language can only be Esperanto.

Sincere Via, JerryBear

P.S. I saw a Tshirt that said it best: "Latino estis, La angla estas, Esperanto estos!" Latin was, English is, Esperanto shall be!' Watch as an international culture slowly but steadily forms around Esperanto. We are kind of like little green atomic cockroaches that proliferate and spread and are impossible to kill, Esperanto is a linguistic pinocchio that has already magically become the real thing.

by Doc Kinne on

The problem, Michael, is that English is the international language NOW. The \"international language\" roughly corresponds to the dominant business or political power. Roughly.

In the 18th and 19th centuries the international language was French, and they liked it like that. Today, after WWII, the international language became English, and we liked it like that. Unfortunately, this will change. Want an above average business career in 50 years? Start learning Mandarin now.

by Neil Blonstein on

Vast numbers of Asians who study English for a decade can't say a sentence. Then for the English-sayers, do you count the third of the world that is ILLITERATE, particularly in former colonies of England, France and Portugal?

by Larry on

" I have spent countless hours with French business men and women tweaking their powerpoint presentations so they sound more English."

The fact that these French adults still need tutors to prepare business presentations highlights the inadequacy of English as a de facto world language. The goal of Esperanto is not to replace your native language, but to give two people who don't share a common language a way to communicate without one or the other having a power advantage (like in the case of the Frenchman doing business with the Englishman in English. The Englishman does not need to spend any amount of time checking his English with a third party, but this necessity is costing the Frenchman both time and money that could be better spent on business).

One of the reasons Esperanto has not caught on is because of arrogance and snobbery when it comes to world languages. Today, all "educated" people speak English (well, broken English). Before that, all "educated" people spoke French (more or less). ESL students often show both pride and embarrassment when speaking English outside the classroom (when creating new sentences in a language with so many irregularities, there is always uncertainty). The truth is, a year of college Esperanto would give the student a rather high level of speaking and comprehension, more than enough to get by in most social and business situations. The same cannot be said for any natural language.

by klausnick on

Everybody who had something to say here about world languages and Esperanto wrote in English, including the adepts of Esperanto. That's all there is to know about Esperanto.

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