Started conversation Apr 2, 2001
You suggest that everyone should learn Esperanto, in order that we may be able to converse with speakers of other languages. It seems to me that if everyone spoke Esperanto (I assume you mean literally everyone), there would be no need for other languages. Why bother trying to speak English to someone if you know they're guaranteed to understand Esperanto? So you envision a world with one common language? Granted, the world's languages are dying at an alarming rate (in 10 years time we will have only 600 of 6000 world languages left), but each language, no matter how "insignificant" has, and always will have, its fierce advocates, who refuse to let them die. Besides, if Esperanto were a viable mother tongue, it seems likely that in the 114 years since its inception it might have attracted somewhat more interest.
In short, if Esperanto were truly the easiest language to learn, and if it made so much sense for everyone to learn it, would it not by now have superseded English, or even Mandarin in both distribution and number of first-language speakers? English is our Esperanto (much as I dislike the thought). We should be promoting and celebrating diversity, not trying to kill it!
Posted May 14, 2001
Likewise, if good driving skills and education were viable commodities in my local state of Arizona, U.S. they might have attracted somewhat more interest.
Just because something's not in the majority currently doesn't rule it out for being the most (or even more) logical choice.
Posted May 14, 2001
Esperanto is a planned language; a second language; an auxiliary language. It is not meant to replace your primary language, 'mother tongue'. The two popular first languages you cite, English and Mandarin, are both notoriously difficult to learn. This puts indivuduals who are not native speakers at a disadvantage when attempting to communicate. They may have brilliant minds with theories and opinions to communicate; but by virtue of doing exactly those brilliant things instead of spending 5 years or so mastering the vagueries of English/Mandarin, those brilliant ideas get watered down and perhaps lost in the translation. Enabling easy communication between peoples seems to me to be the goal.
The most compelling arguments for Esperanto I have come across are by Don Harlow, see his international documents section here http://www.webcom.com/~donh/esperanto.html
On articles at his site, there is mention of the details of the translation costs for major international organisations; and they are incredibly high. The UN has 6 official languages, but it appears some are more 'official' than others; it seems to me that diplomatic issues related to 'language imperialism' impinge on implementing a workable soloution to the problem of allowing a meeting of minds across linguistic barriers.
see http://www.radicalparty.org/esperanto/annx_esp1.htm for more info including costs for the EU.
Esperanto is a neutral, workable soloution; and that's all that is required - not some heavily constructed panacea of an 'idealised constructed language'. It's here, it works, let's do it.
I found an article: http://acorn.net/doc/occti.esperanto
which examines this point of view much more succinctly than I can....
Posted Sep 4, 2002
While Esperanto was not intended to replace anyone's mother tongues, there are indeed people whose first language is Esperanto. These are the "denaskaj Esperantistoj" - Esperantists from birth - and they are generally the children of Esperantists who speak the language in the home instead of their native tongues (this would be "crocodiling" - picture it in your mind!). There are a few thousand "denaskaj Esperantistoj" dotted around the world, and although most of them also speak the native language of their birthplace, they often find it a lot easier to speak in Esperanto. I should know: I have met a family brought up with Esperanto who live in the UK, and I may have met a few more as well without knowing it.
On a slightly different note, there are hundreds of languages around the world that are dying out. There used to be one called Oubykh, which was spoken in the Crimea. In the 19th century, 50 000 people spoke it, but in 1982, only one person could - and he was 84 years old!
As to why Esperanto has not been adopted universally: there are a number of reasons, many of which are due to the politics at the time when the language started to take off (beginning of 20th century) - the French were originally trying to make *their* language the International Language, and certain dictatorships, including various communist governments, banned Esperanto for fear of dissent (some Esperantists were even put to death for speaking the language). Money is also a factor, as in order to get *everyone* to learn the language it would have to be taught in schools, and you'd need to train the teachers, buy textbooks and other teaching materials, persuade the governments to provide exams etc. (N.B. There was an Esperanto GCSE at one point, but this disappeared when the National Curriculum was introduced.) Amongst the English-speakers in the world, complacency about being understood is probably the other factor - you may ask: "What is the point of learning Esperanto if everyone speaks English?". Indeed, but they don't!
While the use of English worldwide is considerable, I would not call English our "Esperanto". Firstly, approximately 10% of the world's population speaks it well - 90% therefore do not! Secondly, of those who claim to speak it, the majority of those are not sufficiently fluent to be easily understood by other English speakers - hence only the 10% of the world population who are thought able to speak it. How many examples of badly used English can you think of? Thirdly, English is thought to be one of the hardest languages to learn *as a foreign language*, primarily because of its many exceptions to so-called grammatical rules - the only other language that is likely to be more difficult to learn is Finnish (with 16 cases!). While Esperanto is thought to be spoken only by about 2 million people, so is e.g. Welsh - the difference being is that while most Welsh speakers are in Wales, the Esperantists live in almost every country in the world. But you may be surprised to know that a large number of Esperantists come from China, where its official language (Mandarin Chinese) is spoken by more people than those who can speak English!
I apologise for arguing at length about this, but I did want to make those points! I hope this will be of interest.
Posted Sep 4, 2002
Sorry, additional point!
Esperanto has not been found to stifle linguistic diversity - as it purely acts as a lingua franca (second language) to its users, it firstly doesn't replace native languages, and secondly it actually encourages those people who speak minority languages to communicate more with the outside world. Communication is probably the only way a language can be allowed to survive - if we're not aware that a language exists or how to speak it, how *can* it survive/evolve/adapt?
Posted Dec 16, 2002
I, too, feel that the world would be a more "open" place if everyone spoke a common language (albeit Esperanto, English, Spanish, or Mandarin). However,I don't think I will live long enough to see that happen. There is way too much nationalism to have governments "officially" sponsor a second language. I'm sure they all feel that their native tongue should be the lingua franca of the world. In addition, I have heard from many oriental individuals that Esperanto has Latin roots, like most European languages, and is therefore, quite difficult for them to master.
I have studied Esperanto, on and off, for a couple years. The biggest problem I have found is the lack of persons to converse with. Even with the advent of e-mail, I can only read and write the language, not speak it.
Posted Feb 11, 2003
There is actually at least one country in the world that supports Esperanto as a usable language - Hungary. I believe there was a change in the law that gave Esperanto the same status as other foreign languages such as English and Russian. Not only could you get things like travel timetables and information brochures in Esperanto, but the status of the language means that it would be accepted for entry into university (Hungary demands that each student must be reasonably fluent in one or more foreign languages). This has somewhat increased the popularity of Esperanto, not just as a language of interest to linguists but also as a practical means to improve one's education and to aid communication with other nations - bearing in mind that Hungary will soon be joining the EU. (The problems with translation will be even more evident - although some "solutions" to only use e.g. English, French and German are vehemently opposed by most member states and rightly so!)
I do agree that the Latin-esque roots of Esperanto do make it more difficult for people who do not speak European-type languages. However, in practice a lot of people from Asia do manage to cope with the Latin-type words, which are probably more plentiful in e.g. English. There is probably some link between e.g. Chinese and Latin, even if it is fairly well hidden. While the vocab might be a bit tricky for non-Europeans, the flexibility of Esperanto grammar probably works in their favour - as an English speaker I sometimes find it difficult to say certain expressions in other languages due to the grammatical make-up. There is at least one aspect of the language that makes it relatively simple to learn for people around the world, although I agree Esperanto is not absolutely perfect!
The learning of a new alphabet (another criticism of Esperanto) also appears to be less of a problem than a lot of people believe, probably since each of the 28 Esperanto letters only represents a single sound - a single English letter might be said in several different ways - and there are relatively few symbols to learn! (I believe while you "only" need to know 500 characters in Chinese to read 95% of texts, there are up to 20 000 in existence.)
Depending on where you are, there are probably at least a few Esperantists that are within a reasonable distance that you could speak with. You could try contacting an Esperanto association (e.g. Esperanto League in North America) to ask if there are any Esperanto-speakers nearby. Persuading someone nearby to learn Esperanto with you might also work - although I admit it can be tricky to find someone willing to do that!
Posted Jul 17, 2003
Finnish, or any language with many cases, is not necessarily all that difficult to learn - it's the exceptions that are difficult, not the regularities. I don't know much about finnish, but I know that unlike some other languages it has very consistent spelling/pronounciation rules. I can pronounce most finnish words I can read well enough that my finnish colleague at work can understand it. I got top marks in english but I still occasionaly pronounce some words wrong, like wind (waind, not winnd) and scheme (skeeme, not sheeme)