Esperanto Estas La Plej Facila Lingvo En La Mondo

In the course of my Chinese adventures, all other languages started to seem a lot easier. So needless to say that Esperanto, one of the easiest of them all, looks like just a walk in the park now. In particular, I’m interested in what the glossophiles here think about it, i.e. yalensis and Lazy Glossophiliac. Here are my rambling thoughts on it:

* It is easy. VERY easy. I have been studying it for three days, and I can already say many phrases: e.g. the one in the title (“Esperanto is the easiest language in the world”). Its vocabulary is about 60% Latinic, 30% Anglic-Germanic and 10% Slavic; its grammar is simplified Latinic; its morphology and semantics are largely Slavonic. Being a natural language, everything is very logical, it is entirely phonetic and there are no exceptions. Root words can be easily transformed from verbs (add in “i) to adjectives (add an “e), an adjective (add an “a), a place where it is done (add “ej”), a professional who does it (add “ist”), a female version (add “ino”), a diminished version (add “et”), a magnified version (add “eg”), etc. For people with some familiarity with European languages, the vocabulary is a piece of cake. It will be a lot tougher for Asians, but nonetheless even for them it will still be an order of magnitude easier than starting from a natural language.

* Despite its easiness, I’m discovering Esperanto is very flexible. In a sense, even more so than languages like English or Chinese, which are largely bound by the Subject-Verb-Object structure. Though I may change my mind as I get more advanced, so far it seems to me to be as flexible as Russian, which is amazing considering its grammar is orders of magnitude simpler. Quite frankly, of the languages I’ve looked at it in any detail, it is my favorite by far (the full rankings: Esperanto; Spanish; Russian; Latin; Chinese; English; French; German).

* Why learn it? First, there are studies showing that students who spent a year learning Esperanto were able to assimilate French and other languages quicker thereafter, eventually overtaking the control groups that didn’t study Esperanto. Only about one year max is needed for Esperanto fluency. But there are accounts of some people accomplishing it in days. There are monthly meetings of Esperantists in the Bay Area. I’m planning to attend the next one, and I already feel I won’t be embarrassed to open my mouth. By then I will probably be far better at it than at Chinese, which I’m studying for the fourth month now; a depressing thought, that.

This brings us to the second reason why Esperanto is awesome – it would make for an excellent global lingua franca. That was the original intention of Zamenhof, its late 19th century inventor, who growing up as a Jew in Russian Poland envisioned language uniting people. Knowing Polish, Russian, German, French, Hebrew, Yiddish, English, Latin, Ancient Greek and a few others, he was eminently qualified for the advancing his vision, and Esperanto today is by far the most popular “artificial” language. It is also the only one with a truly global culture, with strong communities throughout East-Central Europe, and in Russia, China, Japan, and California.

Third, the members of this community are almost invariably going to be more interesting than the average person (them having taken the trouble to study an artificial language for what are mostly intellectual or idealistic purposes). It has strong historical associations with movements for world peace, socialism, environmentalism, anti-imperialism, civil rights, and other progressive causes. And most of the maniacs of the 20th century like Hitler, Stalin, and imperial Japan hated it, which I guess is also a recommendation of sorts.

In today’s world, it would behove the Rest to adopt it to undermine the ideological hegemony of the West, which seeks to dictate its values to the rest of mankind. For instance, consider India, where English is kind of like French was in 18th century Russia. A way for the Indian comprador elites to rub in their social dominance by association with a “superior” foreign culture into the faces of the peasants and workers. The solution is people’s struggle and an end to linguistic imperialism, which can be achieved by making Hindi the sole official language, providing support for local languages, and teaching Esperanto as a medium for communication with the outside world.

* There are many criticisms of Esperanto. Many of them are unwarranted. For instance, some people say that its grammar is still too hard. I disagree. If you make it simpler, the language will begin to lose a lot of its current expressiveness and flexibility. It will make it even simpler for learners, thought it’s already extremely simple, but at what I perceive to be great linguistic expense.

I will focus on two valid criticisms. First, the number of speakers is very low. Of those who are truly fluent, there are no more than one million in the world; perhaps another ten million can speak it somewhat (whom I joined in the past week). There are several reasons for this. The biggest one is that nationalism has always fatally gotten in the way of its widespread adaptation.

Back in the 1920’s, the French vetoed a League of Nations initiative to make Esperanto the international language of diplomacy. Their logic was that French was a uniquely perfect language and good enough for everybody. Then it got displaced by English after 1945, and no doubt the French are now ruing their choice. Is anyone in any doubt whatsoever that the French would much rather now be speaking Esperanto than English?

But the Americans now have the same attitude of linguistic chauvinism. They assume they will be at the top forever, and so will their language. China will beg to differ. And if the gap between them gets big enough, Chinese will become the new lingua franca, despite its difficulty. And then it will be the Anglo-Saxons seething at the cosmic injustice of it all.

At least Esperanto is based on European languages, so it makes all the more sense for the West to promote its use.

The second reason for the low numbers of speakers constitutes a classic chicken and egg problem. You can’t have many people who want to learn it before you have a large number of speakers. The only way for this to be resolved is for the government of a large and important country to expend substantial resources on teaching Esperanto, but why bother when no-one else has? In this respect, it’s like global action on climate change – benefits are magnified only when everybody else does it. But just like cutting carbon emissions which leads to greater energy efficiency and less dependence on oil supplies, however, teaching Esperanto also provides net benefits – as mentioned above, it makes the acquisition of other languages easier, as students who master Esperanto feel more confident and linguistically aware. Once a critical mass of Esperanto speakers is reached, its spread should become self-perpetuating – for instance, if just two of the BRIC’s countries, like Brazil and India, were to implement it, many people elsewhere would learn it just for the business and travel opportunities. Recently, a plan to free schools to teach Esperanto was passed in the Brazilian parliament.

Third third reason is that there have been a number of “dissident” minorities from Esperanto who have pushed through their own reforms. One of them resulted in the language Ido, with a simplified grammar. But these movements are not sustainable, because they in turn will beget their own sectarians, resulting in numerous warring factions that negate the entire purpose of having a World Language in the first place. The lesson is that for international success, petty grievances and annoyances with the language as it currently exist must not be allowed to undermine the united front of the Esperanto movement. In other words, Esperantists who regard their language as something greater than just their personal intellectual plaything must act on the basis of democratic centralism – they can feel free to debate policy and direction, but they must respect the majority will. This isn’t my own ideological quirk. J.R.R. Tolkien, a conservative, recognized the same thing back in 1932.

* The second big problem as I see it is that the default gender of a noun is masculine, which although uncontroversial in Zamenhof’s days even among progressives, is becoming increasingly politically incorrect today. For instance, a “patro” is a father, unless specified to be a mother by making the word into “patrino”.

One stopgap solution is to just treat the current masculine gender as a neutral, and have the reader specify its sex from the context. But this is too awkward. One suggestion for reform, implemented in places but as yet unsupported by the central Esperanto authorities, is to reclassify all nouns ending in -o as neutral, while designating -oĉo as a masculine suffix in line with -ino as the feminine. There are several other possible solutions, but I prefer this one the most. My own addition would be to also add female-specific words for common terms like mother (“patrino” to “matro”) and sister (“fratrino” to “sororo”).

Implemented under democratic centralism, I do not see this becoming a divisive issue. All languages evolve in tandem with social progress, leaving behind “archaic” remanents. Why should Esperanto be any different?

* In Chinese, Esperanto is literally “World Language” (世界语).

* Books I use include Esperanto – Learning and Using the International Language, by David RICHARDSON, and I am soon getting Being Colloquial in Esperanto: A Reference Guide by David K. JORDON. Practice can be acquired through meetups with local Esperantists. This is a good dictionary.

* Because it is still a fairly marginal language, there are few original novels or films in Esperanto. It is up to Esperantists to maintain hope – that is, after all, what the very name of the language is derived from – and to work to change this state of affairs.

Comments

  1. Hi Anatoly

    I don’t know if you’re interested but the Esperanto-Asocio de Britio will have an Esperanto stand at the London Language Show at the end of October.
    If you know of any Esperanto beginners there’s a taster course on Saturday afternoon as well.
    Tickets to the show are free, but you need to book using this link http://www.thelanguageshow.co.uk/page.cfm/link=7
    Amike salutas
    Brian

  2. georgesdelatour says:

    One of the biggest factors in language acquisition is motivation. I have a friend who’s learned Russian really well in his 30s. He fell head over heels in love with a Russian woman, and that’s an excellent motivator. Another friend got transferred to the Beijing office of her company, and basically started a whole new life there. Again, that’s motivated her to learn Mandarin far more than some purely abstract part-time interest in Daoism would have. And another Italian friend learned English because she’s an obsessive David Bowie fan who wanted to understand his lyrics. She even read the complete works of Jean Genet purely because of the song Jean Genie.

    The problem with Esperanto is not that it’s a made up language – modern Hebrew is just as artificially created. But it’s no one’s first language. That’s always going to limit its reach. Even if the Brazilian government forces all Brazilian school kids to learn Esperanto, the fact is, if I emigrate to Brazil, I’m going feel motivated to learn Portuguese rather than Esperanto. If I really want to look into the inner lives of Brazilians and get to know them, Esperanto isn’t the language for that.

    English may have come to India through colonial domination, but it has stayed around because of practical benefits. The upper echelons of Indonesian society used to speak Dutch. But Dutch is a language with very limited reach, so the motivation to continue learning it disappeared with the Dutch imperial connection. In India today there’s a lot of business to be done and money to be made out of English. The call centre business is just one example. It would be utterly nihilistic for the Indian government to try and drive out English. I’m sure they would if they could. The whole fashion for re-naming Indian cities is largely to purge them of residual connection to the Raj.

    Don’t forget, as well, that, in the south of India, the local languages are not closely related to Hindi. Languages like Tamil and Malayalam have far more native speakers than most European languages. There’s an active Tamil movie business…

    • But it’s no one’s first language.

      Strictly speaking, that’s not true. There are a few children of couples who met at Esperanto meetings and thus ended up speaking it as their first language. Granted they’re very rare, but nonetheless, Esperanto does have the unique distinction of being the only artificial language with native speakers.

      In India today there’s a lot of business to be done and money to be made out of English. The call centre business is just one example.

      So the former colony continues spitting on its own culture just to continue serving its former imperial masters. But if they like it that way, it’s fine by me. I am not Indian, who am I to judge on their sovereign affairs?

      • georgesdelatour says:

        Anatoly

        There’s been a dramatic drop in Russian fluency in some of the former Warsaw Pact countries. It was Soviet imperialism which forced Russian onto those countries after 1945, so it’s understandable that Russian came to feel tainted after 1989. But I still think they’ve been wrong to be so Russophobic. Russian is one of the world’s most important languages. And there could be real benefits in maintaining the fluency. What’s your attitude to the Russian-speaking minority in Estonia? Do you think they should all stop complaining and learn Estonian? Personally I think the Estonians should be more forgiving and understanding.

        • Georges – study of Russian is now increasing in some of the former Warsaw Pact countries. I discovered this when writing an article on the subject last year. In Czech schools for instance, Russian study reached absolute bottom around 1997, and has grown c. 5 times since then.

          As for Estonia and the other Baltics, the younger Russophones tend to grow up bilingual nowadays. Russophones in general are not opposed to learning the local language; however, it’s often hard for them to learn it to a reasonable level, esp. if they live in a city like Narva (95% Russian-speaking).

  3. With respect Esperanto has no “problem”
    Evidence of this can be seen here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mu0NUEiEv_g

  4. “making Hindi the sole official language, providing support for local languages” – sorry to repeat my Facebook comment, but this will never fly in India. Above all, the Dravidian-speakers of the South, whose languages are totally unrelated to Hindi, will never go for it.

    By the way, Hindi and its Pakistani variant Urdu are also in a way “imperialist.” Their modern versions are created out of a mix of Persian (court language of the Mughal Empire) and local dialects. The term Urdu actually means “camp language,” i.e. the language used in military encampments, which was created to be understood by soldiers of varying linguistic backgrounds.

    In any case, a lingua franca is always a natural language. Esperanto, the most successful artificial lingo ever, has only c. 1 million speakers.

    • India is hardly unique in this. France also had plenty of regional languages, so does Spain (Basques), China (a whole bunch of minority languages in the south-east).

      Nonetheless, they all realized that promoting a national “standard” tongue spoken by a substantial proportion of their population would help consolidate the state and develop national self-confidence. The typical solution is to teach a standard national language in the schools (say, in China, Mandarin) while maintaining support for the national minority tongues (Wu, Hakka, Yue, etc). Then on top of that teach whatever happens to be the global lingua franca, which is now English.

      What seems to be happening in India is that the well-off get taught in English, while the poor only get taught their own regional languages. What you get is a splintered country divided between a rootless cosmopolitan English-speaking elite whose loyalties to India stop at the level of their ethnic group and the rest of the Anglophone world, i.e. foreigners, while those who know only a regional Indian language are marked as being socially inferior.

      Promoting Hindi will create a populace with a unity of civilizational loyalty to India, in the process creating a true nation-state as opposed to the jumble that it is today. Local ties can be preserved by support for minority languages. English can continue to be taught as a lingua franca, but if the Indian government was truly progressive it would be preceded by a year of Esperanto. Not only would it help students master English more effectively – something many of them seem to have great need of; just look at the Indian comments to this thread – but it would also encourage more foreigners to take up Esperanto to communicate with India’s increasing numbers of Esperanto speakers in a virtuous upward anti-imperialist spiral.

      • A few points on English in India:

        1. Though you describe it as an “elite” language spoken by “rootless cosmopolitans,” the fact is that millions of non-elite Indians can speak it to some extent. Vast numbers of Indians (at least in the cities) speak a kind of rough “street English,” and any educated Indian will have some use of it.

        2. You can call English “imperialistic” all you want; but the fact is, it’s been around long enough and has become domesticated enough to be perceived as another Indian language (in fact Indian PM Singh made that point in a speech a few years ago). There is now a distinctive Indian English just as there is a distinctive American English. (And no, I’m not thinking of the goofily-written comments on that thread.) India has its own Eng. lang. mass media, and there is a distinct strain of Indian literature in English.

        3. France and Spain are not really good examples. Spain is officially multilingual, like India. It has several officially recognized languages (Castilian, Catalan, Basque, Galician); the predominance of the first-named is mainly a function of weight of numbers and international usefulness. France was a compact, highly-centralizing state which used forceful methods to diminish the local languages (most of them Romance dialects already close to French). An Indian gov’t that tried to ban the use of Tamil, Bengali, Telugu, Oriya etc. in education and force-feed Hindi to the rest of the country would soon find itself with riots on its hands.

        • Riots can be quelled. And I’m not talking of banning minority languages, just teaching them along others that actually have an organic connection to Indian civilization.

          But if Hindi is so controversial, why not go the Jewish route, and revive Sanskrit as THE official language of India? Obviously, a simplified version, with the classics taught in the original. Just like ordinary Chinese learn the Simplified characters, while those who wish to read deeper into the past have the option of studying Traditional characters and the peculiarities of Classical Chinese.

          • georgesdelatour says:

            Anatoly

            You set great store by the ability of the state to control the linguistic expression of citizens. I’m not so sure it can.

            Back in the 1980s the Académie française fought off the importation of borrowed English words into French. Hence “ordinateur” rather than “computer”. They decreed a “walkman” should be a “baladeur”, and email should be “courriel”. But spoken French simply ignored their injunctions. The Academie has started to soften their stance on English loan words, fearing that if they didn’t, there’d be a dead official French language no one spoke, and a living street language no one wrote.

            Since political correctness went mainstream in the Anglosphere, people have rushed to re-acquire the politically incorrect word. Rappers started using the “n” word as a compliment; gay rights groups started using “queer” as a compliment, and the word “gay” has changed meaning.

      • “Nonetheless, they all realized that promoting a national “standard” tongue spoken by a substantial proportion of their population would help consolidate the state and develop national self-confidence.”

        It would be really, really difficult to consolidate the Indian state or to develop Indian national self-confidence. As per Luigi Cavalli-Sforza, one of the biggest authorities on human genetics, the number of endogamous Indian groups is in the tens of thousands. It’s not just that the Brahmins aren’t breeding with the Kshatrias, who aren’t breeding with the Vaishyas, etc. The southern Brahmins aren’t breeding with the northern Brahmins, different groups of the same status in the same region aren’t breeding with each other, etc.

        While France was consolidating into a single nation (which was in centuries past of course, because it’s now dissolving itself again through immigration), only a small proportion of its population (the aristocracy) was refusing to breed with other Frenchmen. And even that obstacle mostly fell away during the second half of the 19th century. I doubt that the aristocracy ever accounted for 10% of the country.

        In India almost 100% of the population seems to belong to groups that have been endogamous for many centuries. At no point in European history was the aristocracy’s endogamy as strict as Indian caste endogamy. Even Indians whose ancestors converted to Islam and Christianity long ago maintain the caste mindset. I’ve read on many occasions in many places that there are caste-like groups within Indian Muslim and Christian communities, even though officially both Islam and Christianity are universalist.

        The language issue is a minor hindrance compared to all that. Different castes speaking the same language don’t behave as if they belong to the same people.

        And I don’t even blame them for their clannishness. Why should all that diversity be thrown away? Why should all of these thousands of distinct, unique peoples be destroyed forever through homogenization? It’s evil to wish that on anybody.

        I’ve had a lot of Indian co-workers over the years and a couple of Indian bosses. One of the things I’ve noticed is that when they get a chance to hire fellow Indians, it always ends up being their own specific kind of Indians. There’s very little to the Indian identity. When they talk about their movies, they know exactly to which castes and sub-castes each movie star belongs. When they talk about non-Indians, the first thing they want to know is ethnic affiliation. A person doesn’t make sense by himself, only as a representative of a caste-like group.

        All of this is a long way of saying that I don’t expect India to be consolidated in any way in the foreseeable future. I don’t know of any social forces that are so strong as to be able to accomplish such an enormous task. And yes, educated Indians identify with their castes and caste-like groups. Nor do I think that they or anybody else should want this task to be accomplished.

        • The unification of France into the land of the French happened in the second half of the 19th century. A time of massive immigration.

  5. Bill Chapman says:

    You wrote that “it (=Esperanto) would make for an excellent global lingua franca.” Esperanto works! It is already functional as a lingua franca. I learned it in my late teens, and I’ve used it in speech and writing in a dozen countries over recent years. As a planned auxiliary language, it is easier to learn and use than national tongues.

    You’re right that the number of speakers is relatively small, but those speakers are distributed all over the globe in a way that makes the language usablke. Personally, I’ve made friends around the world through Esperanto that I would never have been able to communicate with otherwise. And then there’s the Pasporta Servo, which provides free lodging and local information to Esperanto-speaking travellers in over 90 countries. Over recent years I have had guided tours of Toulouse, Berlin, Douala and Milan in this planned language. I have discussed philosophy with a Slovene poet, humour on television with a Bulgarian TV producer. I’ve discussed what life was like in East Berlin before the wall came down, how to cook perfect spaghetti, the advantages and disadvantages of monarchy, and so on. I recommend it, not just as an ideal but as a very practical way to overcome language barriers.

  6. The suggestion that Esperanto is not “natural” is totally insulting to all native Esperanto speakers – those who have grown up using Esperanto from birth !

    Confirmation that Esperanto is a natural language can be seen here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0ErKbLL5WQ

  7. @anatoly: congratulations on joining Esperanto culture! Esperanto is a wonderful idea, I fully support the concept, and plan to learn this language myself. Some commenters above miss the point that Esperanto is not supposed to replace people’s mother tongues or be spoken by children inside their home, but rather to be an additional language to learn, a lingua franca, a way for people from any country in the world to be able to communicate with any other person they encounter. To remove obstacles to adoption and accumulate more speakers, for starters they could make it an official language at UN and start teaching it in schools that train diplomats. Other minor problems, like the gender issue, can be resolved by scholars and specialist committees within the Esperanto movement.

  8. Oh yes, Esperanto says:

    This brings us to the second reason why Esperanto is awesome – it would make for an excellent global lingua franca.

    From time to time I can’t help but think that if the EU plutocrats had any brains they’d establish Esperanto as the official language of the EU. A common language is a great unifier and Esperanto fits this role better than other languages due its artificial and thus relatively neutral nature, among other things.

    • Yes, certainly. What are there, 30 official languages? The load on interpreters is immense. And it is bizarre that its lingua franca is English, hailing from a country that has not much more than 10% of the EU’s population and is one of its most unenthusiastic participants.

  9. “…it would make for an excellent global lingua franca. ”

    Since Zamenhof’s passing English mostly beat his creation to it. Languages become lingua francas for two reasons – economic might and cultural prestige. Ease of learning and the perception of neutrality have never been big factors in their success. Latin was Western Europe’s lingua franca for centuries even though its grammar was more difficult than the grammars of the main spoken languages of that place and time. It had cultural prestige. And if anything, a perception of neutrality hurts. People will trip over each other to stand as close to the winners as possible. What’s the point of standing close to a neutral?

    “Third, the members of this community are almost invariably going to be more interesting than the average person…”

    I’m a nerd, so to me nerds are always interesting.

    “And most of the maniacs of the 20th century like Hitler, Stalin, and imperial Japan hated it, which I guess is also a recommendation of sorts.”

    Soros, one of the best-known maniacs of today, loved it, or at least grew up speaking it.

    “…anti-imperialism…”

    Well, almost all of Esperanto’s vocabulary is European. A hundred years ago the idea that any non-European-derived culture could ever again be of any importance whatsoever would have come as a shock to almost anyone, leftist or rightist, European or not. The nature of Zamenhof’s creation implies that it would have been an utter shock to him.

    “A way for the Indian comprador elites to rub in their social dominance by association with a “superior” foreign culture into the faces of the peasants and workers.”

    Before these particular elites were acquainted with English, they used Sanskrit and Persian for the same purpose. Language is just a tool, the desire for social jockeying is a universal and permanent feature of humanity. And again you use those quotes (“superior”). Some cultures are objectively more complex than others, some are objectively more successful than others at feeding themselves, at advancing science and technology and at other important things.

    “In today’s world, it would behove the Rest to adopt it to undermine the ideological hegemony of the West, which seeks to dictate its values to the rest of mankind.”

    I don’t really think of the stuff that’s being pushed everywhere as Western values as actually representing Western values. Buggery isn’t any more deeply rooted in Western culture than in any other. Neither are secularism, hedonism, feminism or multiculturalism. They are all declinist, decadent values. Any society can be in decline.

    “The solution is people’s struggle and an end to linguistic imperialism, which can be achieved by making Hindi the sole official language…”

    To south Indians this will look like north Indian imperialism. And at least the Brits used to have an objectively more refined culture, something to emulate. For example, there are lots of Indian P.G. Wodehouse fans on the Net. To some that might seem bizarre – the differences in sensibilities are so extreme. But I have nothing in common with any of Wodehouse’s characters either, and yet I love his stuff to death too. How can one not? In contrast, I’m pretty sure that south Indians do not look up to north Indian culture on either the elite or the popular level. The north to them is nothing more than a power-hungry rival. Plus, English can be useful to them all over the world, not just in India.

  10. Eduardo Iriarte says:

    Hi, great article, only a “but”:

    About this: “The second big problem as I see it is that the default gender of a noun is masculine [...]“.

    In fact, Esperanto hasn’t grammatical gender. It works more or less the same way as in English. For example “teacher” in Esperanto is “instruisto” (whether the teacher is male or female, just like in English). “Instruistino” is no more than a short way of saying “female teacher”. For saying “male teacher” you could say “vira instruisto” or, if you want, “virinstruisto”. There is not such a thing as a “default gender” in Esperanto.

    And, just like in English, there are two separate words for “father” and “mother”: “patro” and “patrino”, and you will find both of them in the dictionary. The fact that “mother” is “patr/in/o” is basically a question of “mnemonics”. That happens, as in English, basically with words about “kinship” and about “nobility” (son, daughter, uncle, aunt, king, queen, prince, princess, etc. = filo, filino, onklo, onklino, reĝo, reĝino, princo, princino, etc.)

    For more details about this (in Esperanto):

    http://bertilow.com/pmeg/gramatiko/o-vortoj/seksa_signifo.html

    (By the way, about the article with criticisms, which you linked, a good response was written by a *truly* expert in Esperanto, Claude Piron: http://claudepiron.free.fr/articlesenanglais/why.htm )

    Ĝis, kaj bonan ŝancon! :-)

  11. There are two urban myths about English and Esperanto.

    Firstly that “everyone speaks English” This incorrect comment especially applies to Europe where a common lingua franca is also urgently needed.

    Secondly that “no-one speaks Esperanto.”

    Both statements are untrue and both need to be challenged.

    The failure of English in air traffic control also needs to be noted. The biggest air crash in history, in Tenerife with 583 deaths, was the result of the misuse of English
    See confirmation of that failure here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWDEIvjwaFU&feature=player_embedded

  12. 3 points about Esperanto not yet mentioned:

    Georgesdelatour said:
    >if I emigrate to Brazil, I’m going feel motivated to learn
    >Portuguese rather than Esperanto. If I really want to look
    >into the inner lives of Brazilians and get to know them,
    >Esperanto isn’t the language for that.

    If you emigrate to Brazil, by all means learn Portuguese …
    Hint: (1) For most people, it will take _less_ time to learn
    Esperanto and Portuguese, than just to learn Portuguese.

    If you want to look into the inner lives of Brazilians …
    Esperanto will allow you to be invited by Esperanto speaking
    Brazilians to stay at their houses and spend time with them.
    Speaking Portuguese will not get all the local people wanting
    to be with you. You can use Esperanto while learning
    Portuguese. Your Esperanto friends will help you learn and
    practice Portuguese.

    (2) People that learned Esperanto did so to be able to
    communicate with people from other cultures. They _want_
    to speak with you.

    I visited Japan, Korea, and China. Learning those 3 languages
    would take all my life … if I had started when I was young.
    (3) While visiting those countries, I spent most of my time in
    company of local Esperanto speakers, visiting some of their
    houses, and staying overnight in some.

    And remember that learning Esperanto require a few weeks
    learning time, not a major undertaking. I estimate 20 hours
    to learn the basics, and 100 hours to get some fluency.

    • georgesdelatour says:

      Hi Enrique

      Maybe I’m being too negative. You make a very good sales pitch for Esperanto, so maybe I’ll relent and give it a go!

      I think I’m fascinated by languages BECAUSE they’re culturally loaded – because I’m in love with culture. This is not a quality I want to fillet out of language. If we really want a non-cultural language we should start from the mathematical symbols of Gottlob Frege, I guess.

    • Mi kredas, ke vi estas 100% prava.

  13. Georgesdelatour said:

    >so maybe I’ll relent and give it a go!

    I help to learn Esperanto to students all around the world,
    using Spanish or English. I will be happy to help you. (or any
    other reader)
    Please start at http://esperantofre.com/edu/lernua.htm

  14. Enrique is quite right about the fact that Esperanto s a good first step in learning any language.
    Two sites worth reading on this are from Professor Renato Corsetti of the University of Rome (http://apprenticeshiplanguagelearning.weebly.com/index.html) and Benny the Irish Polyglot (http://www.fluentin3months.com/2-weeks-of-esperanto/).
    If you are a teacher, or a parent, you might like to see how “Talking to the Whole Wide World” (www.mondeto.com) gives school children their first fluent foreign language in 100 hours of study (Italian needs 600, Chinese 2200, to the same standard), a broad intercultural perspective and a “leg-up” to their third language.

  15. This is a wonderfully perceptive article about Esperanto. There are a one or two linguistic details that one might quibble with – for instance, the structure of Esperanto has a lot in common with Oriental languages, rather than flexional European languages, so it’s ‘Oriental in Western clothing’!

    But the main point is contained in the statement: “In today’s world, it would behove the Rest to adopt it to undermine the ideological hegemony of the West, which seeks to dictate its values to the rest of mankind.” Yes, indeed. You later state: “But the Americans now have the same attitude of linguistic chauvinism. They assume they will be at the top forever, and so will their language.” Exactly. The Brits are the same.

    However, what would you expect to follow from that? If you look at the methods employed in asserting “the ideological hegemony of the West” and apply those to language, then what does that suggest?

    You stated: “The second reason for the low numbers of speakers constitutes a classic chicken and egg problem. You can’t have many people who want to learn it before you have a large number of speakers.”

    Well, I spent the main part of a year doing full-time research into the membership decline of the Esperanto association in the UK, and guess what I found. Well, some people were trying to hound me out before I’d even started. That made me even more inquisitive.

    The membership was around 1000 for about ten years, when suddenly in 1992 it started to fall in a straight line. Immediately, that looked like controlled demolition! Further work revealed overwhelming evidence that active and positive members who were coming up with bright ideas and wanting support for them were being fobbed off. Eventually I followed the money, and found that for the entire period in which the Management Committee was telling the members that the association’s capital was being eaten up, so that they couldn’t spend on promotion, the accounts, once one had fathemed them out, told a different story. No wonder they hounded me out!

    However, five years later, this year to be precise, I did manage to persuade the editor of the association’s periodical to publish my chart (http://esperanto-gb.org/eab/eab_update/gxisdate53.pdf pages 12-13). The following issue the treasurer’s reply appeared (http://esperanto-gb.org/eab/eab_update/gxisdate54.pdf page 19). She accepted that my figures were correct, but instead of explaining, she again gave a misleading impression of the capital having been declining.

    I think you can see from that that the reason the membership was declining is not just a case of ‘chicken and egg’ as you suggested. It is similar to what you may have guessed might happen if you had followed the methods employed in asserting “the ideological hegemony of the West” and apply those to language.

    The last people to understand this will be the members themselves, who are sufferening from cognitive dissonance. If you can successfully explain it to them, I’ll be happy to buy you a beer (provided you pay for the air fare), because you will have made an enormous contribution to saving Esperanto from becoming just a language for minority hobbyists, like Klingon.

    Gratulon pro via artikolo!

  16. May I correct the assumption by Ian that Esperanto Associations are doing nothing to promote Esperanto. This is incorrect. There are many examples one of which can be seen below. http://www.thelanguageshow.co.uk/page.cfm/Action=Exhib/ExhibID=129/loadSearch=12601_2664

    • This is a distortion of what I described. There are many individuals who are positively motivated in promoting Esperanto, and there is also what is known as ‘window dressing’ by some of the people in charge. However, British Esperantists are overwhelmingly in denial with regard to what is going on in their own movement. The articles I linked to will show that, together with the accompanying correspondence and the editorial articles in the same issues.

      As regards the Language Show, I would like to point out that I was the one who initially put forward plans for that. My recommendation was that it would be worthwhile going for the Language Show if it was in support of some promotional activity, but if it was just a means of getting general publicity, then there would be more effective ways of spending the money. First you get your infrastructure sorted out. Even the tone of the answerphone at the office would have been enough to put people off at the time. The objective for the Language Show was to support a project aimed at reintroducing Esperanto into UK secondary schools, following changes in government legislation. The two projects were then separated, and used primarily to impress the members that the Management Committee was doing something, whilst in reality the Esperanto movement in the UK continued to collapse.

      Key people over the decades have been targeted. It has become impossible for me to directly promote Esperanto in the UK, as I had been doing since 1962, because of the constant vilification coming directly from the national Esperanto association itself. The first step in enabling others to effectively promote the cause is to recognise the problem, so that we can do something about it.

      After all, that’s what happened to the electric car in the 1990s. Eventually a film was produced, called ‘Who killed the electric car?’ (http://www.whokilledtheelectriccar.com/). Now the electric car is enjoying a revival, because the people concerned had the courage to face up to what was happening. Something similar is now happening in the environmental movement in the UK. I have just read that a seventh undercover police agent has been discovered. This started with the discovery that undercover cop Mark Kennedy had not only penetrated an environmental protest group, but that he had been acting as an agent provocateur in the group, and also in street demonstrations in Germany. You’ll find quite a bit about this in my newsletters (http://berkshire911truth.blogspot.com/).

      Esperanto supporters should now do the same. The evidence is now overwhelming, and enough of it is now in the public domain. The links I gave in my previous post show this quite clearly. I would like to encourage anyone who is interested in the Esperanto movement to come into it with their eyes open. Esperanto is a great idea, and it works in practice. The Esperanto movement provides a great environment for putting into practice what we preach. But the reasons it has remained small are now all too clear. It would not be difficult to get the Esperanto movement back on track if we could successfully tackle this Cognitive Dissonance which is the main barrier to the Esperantists in tacking back control of their own movement.

      If it hadn’t been for these interventions, I think Esperanto would have become a second language for the world many years ago. Let’s now make it happen.

  17. Mi konsentas Ian.

    Ni ĉiuj direktu la agadon eksteren :)

    • Translation:
      Mi konsentas Ian. = I agree, Ian.
      Ni ĉiuj direktu la agadon eksteren :) = We should all direct our activism to the outside world.

      Jes, bone, sed ni ankaux ordigu nian propran domon. La mondo jugxos favore al ni se ni diros al gxi la veron.

      [Yes, OK, but we should also put our own house in order. The world will judge us favorably if we tell the truth.]

  18. Hi Ian
    Hopefully putting the house in order does not mean getting rid of all existing Esperanto speakers ;)

    I was at the Language Show today http://www.thelanguageshow.co.uk/ and would recommend anyone in striking distance to pop in and have a look. Tickets are free but you need to register Ian, if you want to see what’s happening there :)

    • What?! – “Hopefully putting the house in order does not mean getting rid of all existing Esperanto speakers ;)”

      Esperanto Association of Britain has been taken over by crazy people, some of whom have been explicitly saying that they do not support the promotion of Esperanto for the purpose for which Zamenhof intended, and indeed, they have been making it difficult for others to do so, too. Now they are on the committee, and all discussion about the candidates at the AGM before the vote was verboten.

      The cyclist lobby in the UK was infiltrated by the British secret police (yes, the British secret police), which is just being uncovered this year by some of the few investigative journalists that we still have in the UK mainstream media. This is the 8th case since the outing of PC Mark Kennedy as an agent provocateur in the environmental movement earlier this year. Yet the cyclists aren’t making crazy statements about not getting rid of all existing cyclists. That’s what they are trying to avoid. See the Newsnight report (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/9620086.stm).

      I wish I’d read more of George Orwell in my youth. He stated that the Common Wealth Party was infiltrated and brought down by MI5, and that the Labour Party was being run by Fascists. He described himself as a ‘dissident socialist’. I regard myself in the UK as a dissident Esperantist, but that wasn’t my choice.

      People who are interested in cycling, politics, environmental work, anti-war groups, Esperanto etc, on realising what is going on, should be all the more determined to plough on, despite the opposition from within. If you’re interested in the Esperanto movement, or any other movement, go into it with your eyes open. You may even be interested in my Esperanto course ‘Esperanto Viva!’ (http://esperanto.org/espviva), produced when I thought the main problem was just lack of activity and material. Now I know better, but please enjoy the course.

      Or you may be interested in my Esperanto newsletter, produced in English, which led me to finding out a few things which ultimately led to my demise in the association (http://www.esperanto.org/uk/eabnetnews/). That now has some historical interest!

      Keep democracy alive! Kaj tenu Esperanton viva!

  19. Anonco: mi antaŭhieraŭ iris al mia unua konferenco de Esperanto en San Francisco. Estis tre interesa!

  20. You may be interested to know that I visited the Esperanto Museum in Vienna a couple of weeks ago. It is basically just one room, but I found it fascinating – full of Esperanto posters and publications, as well as video presentations and sound samples of other artificial languages, like Volapuk, Interlingua and Klingon. One thing which I plan to follow up on is that in the 19th century, a Czech linguist, Ignaz somebody (forgot his last name, starts with H), created a “Neo-Slavic” intended to regularize communication among Slavs in Austria-Hungary. Needless to say, it didn’t work.

    The museum also highlighted a book about the persecution of Esperantists by Hitler and Stalin, written by Ulrich Lins. Looks potentially interesting.

  21. Mi lernas Esperanto kun http://www.Lernu.net. Mi pensas unu problemo kun Esperanto estas Esperantulo parolas nur pri Esperanto! Ni devas havi aliajn aĵojn en Esperanto.

  22. Bill Chapman says:

    Ne, Patrick. Homoj kiuj parolas Esperanton uzas ĝin por multaj, multaj celoj. Ekzxemple oni uzas Esperanton por lerni pri scienco. Vidu kelkajn fakajn artikolojn je http://www.eventoj.hu/isae/scienca-revuo/index.html

  23. Ne forgesu ke http://www.lernu.net estas studo-kurso- kompreneble oni tie diskutas lerno-problemojn.

    Kiel gazeto mi alte taksas “monato” http://www.monato.net/ – pri Ĉina televido kaj radio bonvole vidu http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz746Yq0c4c&feature=related

  24. Mia ĉefa uzo de Esperanto estas diskutado pri mondaj aferoj. Vidu ekzemple: http://www.mas-eo.org/spip.php?article493http://www.gazetejo.org/system/files/gazetoj/monato04.pdf

  25. Kara Patrick,
    Cxu vi verdulas? Jen ebleco por vi uzu vian Esperanton :-)
    http://www.verduloj.org/

    Amike,
    Peni

  26. I agree with everything you said. Even i’ve started it just 2 days back and i am already able to read sentences quickly and able to understand talks in Esperanto. I really feel that this is a very easy language to learn and will surely benefit everyone if taught from childhood. I am India and i haven’ even heard the name of this language till 2 days back and then i started learning it. SO, still a long way to go, but lets hope it happens soon.
    To a world of Hope ……..

  27. I have started an online dictionary of Mercan English, using Esperanto as the interface language, in order that anyone can have access to it regardless of their native language. Because of the multitude of links that will be provided within it, I am calling it a “deep” dictionary.

    The dictionary is available at the following address:

    http://prof-vortaro-de-la-merk-angla.weebly.com/

    fyi.