The Esperanto Twitter storm

My friends on Twitter @keikomushi and @IronMan1176 were having a conversation and languages came up. IronMan said he was studying a bit of Spanish before bed. Keiko said: “I tried to learn Esperanto a few times, but I have always had trouble with languages.”

I opened my virtual mouth and caused a bit of upset. (Yeah, it happens quite often.)

You see, I’ve always been mildly amused by Esperanto. Essentially it’s a language invented as an attempt at a global standard. Here’s some of the Wikipedia entry:

Its name derives from Doktoro Esperanto, the pseudonym under which L. L. Zamenhof published the first book detailing Esperanto, the Unua Libro, in 1887. The word esperanto means “one who hopes” in the language itself. Zamenhof’s goal was to create an easy and flexible language that would serve as a universal second language to foster peace and international understanding.

Now that’s a fairly noble ideal. But it never took off. Why would it? There are already enough languages around. The idea that everyone would learn their own language and Esperanto and then communicate across borders in Esperanto and use their own language at home is a very romantic notion, but completely untenable. Communications develop organically, following the growth of empires and global politics. The language spoken by your neighbours is learned so that you can understand each other. People travel and take their languages with them. There’s cross-pollination and the most widely used (or most strictly enforced) languages rise to the top. That’s why the real international language, whether people like it or not, is English.

English speakers are notoriously lazy at learning other languages because of this. A lot of people for whom English is not their first language are understandably pissed about it. Why should they have to learn a second language (English) while native English speakers just talk loudly and slowly everywhere they go until someone understands them? It’s a reasonable position to be hold, but it’s just the way it is.

I think everyone should learn other languages, to help them better empathise with people that have to learn English as a second language. It also helps to understand other cultures and it can be a lot of fun. Personally, I speak a little French, Polish and Cantonese. French because it was compulsory in my early school years in the UK, Polish because my wife is Polish and Cantonese because I study and teach a martial art that came from the Guangzhou (Canton) region of China. I speak all of them very poorly, but I enjoy languages and always have a stab when the opportunity arises to use them.

And they’re useful because other people already speak them. This is where the Esperanto concept falls down. It would be great if everyone learned it, but they won’t because no one uses it. Meanwhile, the unofficial global language is English. Everybody that needs to (world leaders, business leaders, religious leaders and so on) learn English if possible to help them communicate globally. Why would they also learn Esperanto in the hope that it some day becomes useful? It’s had more than 120 years and hasn’t caught on yet. And they can’t afford to learn Esperanto instead, in some ideological push to get Esperanto global, because everyone else is learning English.

So, as you can imagine, I got myself in trouble on Twitter. When Keiko said:

I tried to learn Esperanto a few times, but I have always had trouble with languages.

I said: Esperanto turned out to be a real misfire though, eh!

I was referring to the fact that it was designed to be the new global language but never took off. Of course, the Esperanto lovers, with an almost religious fervour for their chosen hobby language, got straight onto me. The first was a Twitter user actually called @esperanto

So… if someone can not learn X after several attempts, then X is a “misfire”? Your logic is very poor. 😛

meNo, that’s not what I said. Whether you can learn it or not, who speaks Esperanto anywhere? A hobby language at best. = Misfire.

esperantoLet’s see what my followers say about it.

I thought, Oh dear, here we go. Turns out he doesn’t have many followers. (I know, I know, but let’s not be mean!)

Subsequently he reposts my words: Whether you can learn it or not, who speaks Esperanto anywhere? A hobby language at best. = Misfire.

In an attempt to clarify my position I said:

It was supposed to be the new int’l language. A tiny % of people know it. Misfire. I’m not having a go, just an observation. 🙂

esperantoInnovations like Esperanto take time, especially if people and media keeps misinforming and spreading prejudices about them.

meIt’s had 120 years! How much time does it need?

Then a new Esperanto fan stepped in. His name is @omgitsbrandonn – his Twitter bio describes him as: 15-years old, musician, gay, Esperantist, artist, and so much more. So, he’s only 15 and we should forgive him his naiveté. He said (over several Tweets):

I speak Esperanto, and I know many others who do too. It might not have caused perfect global harmony but it’s brought millions of people together in a way not many other languages have. It’s even used by Iranians to communicate without being caught by their oppressive government. If that hasn’t created peace and a sense of internationality, I don’t know what has. And it’s growing very rapidly. There have been around 9 positive articles about it by mainstream media in the last month. plus, more people speak Esperanto than welsh :b

meWorld population: 6 billion. Wales population: 2.9 million. Hardly a good comparison!

omgitsbrandonnit just provides a comparison to a more commonly known language. No comment on the previous tweets?

meEverything has its niche followers. In more than 120 years Esperanto hasn’t become global. It’s not going to.

omgwell in 120 years Esperanto has increased its number of speakers by 200000000% if I’m correct. Are you going to be around for the next 120?

meTwo hundred billion percent?! [Typo on my part there, his figure was two hundred million, and I’m still not sure of the maths there!] What does that even mean? English is the int’l language.

esperantoThe metric system originated in the 17th century and there are still countries that have not adopted it! (Myanmar, Liberia, USA)

meNo, but all their world leaders speak English. 🙂

omgand think about this. Since the inception of modern english, how much time did it take it to become the de facto international language? Way, way more than 120 years.

meHow long have we been an international community? Way, way less than 120 years.

Then I said to them both: You know, you’re both big esperanto fans. Fair enough. No problem with that. But you’re not going to convince me that there’s any chance of esperanto becoming a global language. But let’s wait and see. 🙂

I went on to talk about the organic development of English as the international language. They argued that that was geopolitical in nature. I said, Same difference! It was a natural development along with geopolitical power.

Then I asked:

How many world leaders, business leaders or religious leaders speak Esperanto? Your answer lies there.

esperantoNot enough… yet. How many leaders would speak in Esperanto if people spread the idea instead of saying that its useles because only few uses it?\

meNone. Why would they learn it? They already learn English from childhood in most countries. Why learn another language as well? It’s not like people will be able to do without English in the meantime.

Then a new Esperanto fan jumped in:

@Babilfrenzoat least one business leader speaks Eo: George Soros world’s 29th richest man. The Pope makes X-mas and Easter greeting in Eo.

omgMany world leaders speak no English either. The point is to -get- them to speak Esperanto. The biggest deterrent is the pessimists *coughcough*.

me to BabilfrenzoOne business leader out of millions, and the Pope twice a year. Compare that to how many speak English.

me to omgNo, the biggest deterrent is that hardly anyone speaks it.;)

I could see that arguing the point further would be like arguing with a fundamentalist Christian about the literal truth of the Bible, so I said:

This argument is circular, I’m done with it. You guys really want Eo to grow global but you’re in a tiny minority. It never will. But if you ever manage to prove me wrong, well done!

The thing is, I don’t think they ever will prove me wrong. The number of Esperanto speakers is probably not that much more than the number of Klingon speakers, and both are tiny in comparison with the other big global languages (particularly English, but also Spanish, French, Chinese, etc.) Esperanto is certainly an interesting idea and probably a fun hobby, but outside the niche group of other Esperanto fans it’s pretty useless.

In fact, I went to check on that previous statement before posting and this had me laughing out loud: While web searching around I came across this article in the National Review Online talking about the rise in numbers of Klingon speakers. What had me laughing? This part:

Indeed, the hip culture says that traditional stuff is worse than old-fashioned, it’s boring. And boredom will drive people to do all sorts of strange things (“like write this stupid column,” my couch just yelled).

And that’s why people are fabricating their own ethnicities. How else do you explain the fact that Esperanto and, you guessed it, Klingon are growing in popularity around the globe? Despite the fact that the linguist Mark Okrand created Klingon only about a decade and half ago, many experts estimate that more people speak Klingon today than Esperanto, which was launched over a century ago.

Oh my goodness, how I laughed.

What do you think? Am I being unkind? Is Esperanto ever likely to become the global language? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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119 thoughts on “The Esperanto Twitter storm

  1. I’ve never heard of Esperanto. Does that tell you anything?

    English is the most dominant language because English-speaking countries have been the dominant imperialist powers during capitalism.

  2. Ben – exactly. Whether people like it or not, that’s just how it is. Interesting that you’ve never even heard of Esperanto though!

  3. I suppose then you could have the argument that changing a language will do little to change the world and make it more peaceful. The more dominant language is a reflection of geopolitical relations, but doesn’t have an effect on it.

  4. You make a lot of good points. I’m not trying to sell you on Esperanto, but I do happen to like it. 🙂

    I started learning Esperanto in March on a whim after watching a video that said it was very easy and you could get a basic working knowledge in a few months. I thought, “Why not?” My little boy (8) thought it sounded fun, so we’ve been learning together. We’ve been treating it as a sort of secret language, but there were other benefits. One was that by learning Esperanto, it helps to get an appreciation of other languages. I’ve always been *terrible* at other languages, and this is the first time I’ve actually done fairly well. And not hated it. Because it’s been so pleasant, it’s got me interested in maybe learning other languages when I feel more advanced in this one. But even if not, that’s okay, and I feel like it’s helped me understand language in general better.

    I love Science Fiction, and I actually had heard of Esperanto before from watching “Red Dwarf” and reading Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat series. I had forgotten about it being in the Harrison books though, and when I was reading one to my little boy and we came across the Esperanto, it was like an extra little thrill. We play games, but we’re also learning a love of other languages…something I never had before because it always seemed too difficult and intimidating. I just like Esperanto’s logic, no exceptions to the rule, just a smattering of simple rules and learning how to create words.

    You are right that not many speak it around the Globe compared to English, and that English is the unofficial Universal language right now. But not completely. What’s nice about Esperanto is that even though there aren’t many, the Esperantists are spread throughout most of the world. I like that the language is so easy to pick up, and it’s nice that I now have penpals from countries that I probably wouldn’t have communicated once with or at least as well because of the language barrier.

    So basically, yeah, you have plenty of good points, but Esperanto does too. I don’t pretend to know if it will ever become more widely spoken, but certainly the increase of popularity of the Internet probably helps. I know that’s how my son and I started. But basically, it’s just fun. We really enjoy it. We’ve had plenty of conversations and tickle fights, done Esperanto crosswords, and even made up silly names to call each other. So, if you don’t want to learn Esperanto, there’s no actual NEED to, but it is a lot of fun. At least I think so. 🙂

  5. Oh, one more thing. I had actually come across you originally because I *was* following @esperanto on twitter. I just didn’t bother to comment. lol

    I guess I just don’t have enough “religious fervor.” 🙂

  6. Hi ganymeder – thanks for your comments.

    What I think you confirm, however, is that Esperanto is a lot like Klingon. It’s fun to learn, it has a niche following and opens up fun possibilities. All of which is great, and very positive. It’s wonderful that you and your son have this to share. Of course, it’s a big leap from there to a language of global unity.

    Personally I think the best thing that ever came from Esperanto was the riffing on it in Red Dwarf – I was going to mention that in my post but was already rambling too much! However, as you’ve mentioned it:

    Esperanto Woman: Mi esporas ke kiam vi venos la vetero estos milda.

    Rimmer: Wait a minute, I know this one, don’t tell me, don’t tell me, don’t tell me!

    Lister: I hope when you come the weather will be clement.

    Esperanto Woman: I hope when you come the weather will be clement.

    Rimmer: Lister, don’t tell me. I could’ve got that.

    Esperanto Woman: Bonvolu direkti min al kvinsela hotela?

    Rimmer: Ah… I remember this from last time…

    Lister: Please could you direct me to a five-star hotel?

    Rimmer: Wrong, actually. Totally, utterly, and completely wrong.

    Esperanto Woman: Please could you direct me to a five-star hotel?

    Esperanto Woman: La mango estis bonega! Dlej korajin gratulonjn’ al la kuristo.

    Rimmer: I would like to purchase that orange inflatable beach ball and that small bucket and spade.

    Esperanto Woman: The meal was splendid! My heartiest congratulations to the chef.

    Rimmer: What? Pause!

    Lister: Rimmer, you’ve been doing Esperanto for eight years. How come you’re so utterly useless?

    And who can forget:

    Rimmer: Holly, as the Esperantinos would say, “Bonvolu alsendi la pordiston? Lausajne estas rano en mia bideo!” And I think we all know what that means.

    Holly: Yeah, it means, “Could you send for the hall porter? There appears to be a frog in my bidet.”

    (With thanks to http://tvsothertenpercent.tripod.com/reddwarf/kryten.html.)

  7. Klingon is totally awesome! Well, not really, but I did want to add something to the debate. Obviously, my interest in Esperanto was always to do more with hobby with use, as I don’t know any people in my region that speak the language. When learning any language, one of the best ways to improve is to have somebody to practice with, something that will always be a deterrent for anybody wanting to use it for voice conversations.

  8. The first thought that came to mind was klingon…great minds…

    It’s kind of like the growth of Jedi as a religion, or an untreated fungus between the toes – not that I know anything about either of those examples…, but either may slowly increase in mass, but neither will take over everything.

  9. Probably should have edited that last post before hitting send. LOL Hopefully you guys got the gist of what I was trying to say…

  10. Dianne – Your comment is quite clear. You’re right that to learn a language you need to use it. Ganymede learning with her son is great. My Polish and Cantonese improve exponentially every time I visit Poland or China.

    BT – Now I have a mental image of an untreated toe fungus spreading out from a dead man’s foot, taking over his house, his suburb and eventually the world.

    I’m reminded of Red Dwarf again when Holly tells Lister that he wiped out humanity because he left a couple of sausages on his kitchen table. In the three million years that he’d been gone the sausages had gone mouldy and the mould had engulfed the planet.

    Maybe Esperanto just needs 3 million years! 🙂

  11. I’m not sure that the point has been made that the language has some remarkable practical benefits – now. You don’t have to wait for other people to learn it.

    Wherever I travel, whether for work or on holiday,I contact local Esperanto speakers.Therer are a number of networks for doing this.

    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 Berlin, Douala and Milan in the 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.

  12. Hi Bill – thanks for your comment. What you say is very interesting. It’s cool that you’ve been able to do those things.

    However, (and I’m not deliberately being an arse here!) I can’t help but think that you’d have been able to do all those things in all those places in English too, without having to seek out the local Esperanto network. The only difference really is that the way you did it plays into your hobby and your interest in Esperanto, adding another dimension to your travels.

    I’ve travelled a lot. I’ve had many guided tours in many countries and discussed all kinds of subjects with all kinds of people of many nationalities, all in English. I try to learn a bit of their language too – for example, I’ll never arrive in a country without at least knowing how to say, “Thank you” in their language. But I’ve never needed Esperanto. 😉

  13. One thing Ive learned in life is to not get into arguements with kids… They always think they know it all and cant be convinced of anything. All their opinions are based on their own passionate perceptions rather than any form of critical thought… I remember…I was an opinionated brat once too…

  14. Just a point here, whether or not it’s related I’m not sure. But it’s funny how white people can go from country to country and expect people to speak English to them, but here in Australia if someone comes from another country they’re expected to learn our language.

  15. Gordon, that’s a bit ageist of you. Kids can have just as valid an opinion as adults and I’ve heard some adults say some pretty dumb things.

    I hated as a teenager, no one taking me seriously. That I was “just a kid” and “I’d learn eventually” that my elders were right. And now that I’m older, guess what? I still disagree with them.

  16. Gordon – I hear ya. But it’s fun nonetheless.

    Ben – You’re right, but it’s set by precedent. If geopolitical history had been different, we might all be speaking Spanish and expecting everyone that comes here to learn Spanish.

    Besides, visiting a country is one thing, but if you move to a country to live, then you absolutely should learn their language. It’s the height of arrogance not to, and, sadly, a lot of English speakers don’t.

    The English themselves can be the worst offenders. I’ve been to Spain often (my Spanish wasn’t bad once, but I’ve forgotten most of it now). One time an English ex-pat was in a shop and I was behind him in the queue. He was talking loudly and angrily to the shopkeeper (in English) and finally got what he wanted from the the bemused man. As he turned to leave the shop he rolled his eyes at me and said, “Ten years I’ve been living here and that bastard still hasn’t learned English!”

    True story.

    As he was striding out of the shop I called out, “You’re in Spain! You should be learning Spanish!” and he just flipped me the bird over his shoulder as he went out the door.

    Terrible.

  17. I agree to a point. I think some people can actually get by within their communities speaking their own language but for the most part, I don’t think people not learning English is for a lack of trying.

    Funding English language classes have constantly been cut year after year, in Australia.

    I love your story. Really highlights the hypocrisy.

  18. Hey! How long did you think it’d be before I commented? ;D

    I just wanted to point out about Pasporta Servo…it’s true that there are English equivalents (CouchSurfing, for one), but honestly, how could you stay in a random English-speaker’s home without worrying about the distinct possibility of waking up dead? Not that this couldn’t happen with an Esperantist, obviously…but it’s far less likely. After all, one of the motives for learning the language is peace. I would stay in an Esperanto speaker’s home any day without ever doubting my safety — something I couldn’t do if I only knew “major” world languages.

  19. And sorry if I seem to be instigating the argument any more, but I have one more point to make: If Esperanto has very little support, which you didn’t explicitly say but is definitely the way you talk, would such a mini-controversy have ensued? Especially from people who weren’t even following you. Would such a debate have been born if you had badmouthed Volapuk, Klingon, Ido, Interlingua, Lojban, etc.? I think not. 😉

  20. The point is not: Has Esperanto succeeded or will it succeed in my lifetime. The point is: Is Esperanto neccessary, would we wish to have a neutral common language? And the answer to this question is a clear Yes.

    Just a small example. Non-native english speaker looses a whole year of education, just to learn English. This is a huge advantage for native speakers and a huge disadvantage for any other culture.

  21. The idea that Klingon has as many speakers as Esperanto is rooted in an article published in _the Onion_. The linguist Arika Okrent in her book “In the Land of Invented Languages” puts the number of fluent Klingon speakers at less than 100. That’s _a little_ less than the most generous guess for Esperanto of 2 million. Don’t get me wrong, 2 million is less than 1% of the entire world. When Klingon has had as much time as Esperanto had, maybe it will surpass it, but for now it has less.

  22. Danny – LOL. 🙂

    Brandon – Ah, young Brandon. You really think you’d be safe in an Esperantist’s house just because he speaks Esperanto? You ever heard Islam referred to as the religion of peace? That’s apparently what it is. The “All Esperantist’s are safe and peaceful” position sounds like a great way to coax young people into your home for axe-murdering if you ask me. Your first point is extremely naive.

    As for your second point, I dare you to bad-mouth Klingon on Twitter and see what happens! A dozen comments from people basically agreeing with me while nevertheless defending Esperanto does not a controversy make, even a mini one!

  23. juh – No, the point is that there is already a global language developing and it’s English. Everyone would lose a year learning Esperanto and that would do no one any good. It’s a long stretch to suggest that any great advantage is achieved by not spending a year learning English. I know plenty of native English speakers that haven’t got half the education of someone for whom English is a second language.

    Otto – Fair comment, I haven’t researched it very deeply. Thanks for clarifying.

  24. It’s really something that only an Esperantist would understand :p I know that sounds incredibly stupid but really, ask some Esperantists about Pasporta Servo and whether they think it’s classified ads for axe murder victims.

    And if there’s no controversy, what is this blog post about? You made a point on Twitter and everyone agreed? Doesn’t sound like a very interesting blog post at all.

  25. Brandon – Only an Esperantist would understand? Sounds like something an axe-murderer might exploit. 😉 This blog post is something exploring my thoughts on a subject and an interesting discussion has developed here and on Twitter. That’s not a controversy however much you might like it to be.

  26. You can’t compare a year of learning English (which is still far from enough to master it) to a year of learning Esperanto. At a school language course pace, it takes a few months at most for a speaker of a Romance or Germanic language to become fluent.

  27. I don’t know if it will ever take off as an international language in the future, probably not but you never know. I actually hadn’t heard of Esperanto until several months ago when someone I was following on twitter mentioned that she had decided to pick it up with some friends. Likewise, most of my friends first heard of it when I mentioned it on twitter and plurk several days later. So I think with social media sites like twitter and facebook, Esperanto has been getting a lot more exposure than it’s ever gotten.

    I personally haven’t started learning it because I already have my plate full learning three languages, but I certainly plan to in the near future. Regardless of whether it takes off someday or not, I think it’s pretty fascinating.

  28. I’m not expecting this to be covered by CNN Politics, but this can be referred to as a controversy. Regardless, (let’s throw Klingon out of the mix because yes, it has supporters, but it has nothing to do with the topic because its intentions are the opposite of Esperanto’s) would Lojban speakers have any arguments for their language? What about Interlingua? The fact that this debate is two-sided is pretty amazing for a constructed language. Nobody’s saying that Esperanto is a major world language. But it has broken down language barriers for millions. Have not Zamenhof’s intentions been fulfilled, if to a smaller extent than universally?

  29. Rachel – Fair comment. The modern era of social networks will probably do wonders for Esperanto, but I think it will always be a niche interest.

    Brandon – Of course Lojban speakers would defend there chosen interest area, the same as you’re defending yours. But now you’re changing your argument. Don’t make me ban you! 🙂

  30. Well of course all 3 speakers would defend their right to speak it, but would have no arguments whatsoever regarding its status, or lack thereof, as a language that can be used internationally. I changed the argument to show that Esperanto has comparatively a lot of support.

    If you did that we’d just have to take it back to Twitter 😀 funny how this suddenly changed locations. I feel like I’m in some sort of TV-style rolling-around fight that goes from the floor to the garden to the tops of moving cars xD

  31. Alan, Rachel : Coming from a non-english speaking country, Social media and internet as a hole probably had the same effect (only x1000) on the establishing of English as the language of the international community.

    I understood english english probably at the age of 7 or 8 just so I could watch my favorite cartoons on british television (BBC or SKY) at 10 I could speak and write it more or less. Basic school education has of course a major impact on language manifestation, but things like media (online or on TV) have way more impact on acception. And why the H@#$ would Esperanto be so much more useful than English, anyway? One of the reasons English is well established is that the grammar and structure is pretty simple with no é’s ö’s and å’s.

  32. the problem is, if you are non a mothertongue english speaker, (I am not), that to learn english is very difficult because of its pronunciation and spelling. I’ve studied english for 20 years and still I can’t talk in english, (I can read and write it, but to speak…or understand what is said!).

    In the end I resigned, (I gave up? I’m not sure of the right word), and decided to try learn esperanto; I studied it for tree yrs, well, I cant say I speak it as my mothertongue but I can speak it without problem (I use it every day on the Net, and at least one time per week with my friends, as in my town there are 26 esperanto-speakers out of 30.000 inhabitants. (nearly 300 others learned esperanto in the last ten yrs in my town but never used it and forgot by now). At least 4/5 times a year I meet with esperanto-speakers of other countries. Of course i know: you have to learn english nowdays, but you see? you can’t really learn it… so in the end you can’t be too surprised if a lot of people even don’t start learn it!

  33. Probably fuelling a different fire, I don’t think Welsh would ever be considered for a global language, even by the Welsh. Having said that the current Welsh nationalist movement means that Welsh is being taught to every child in every school in Wales. Just thought you should know in case we all have to give up our vowels in the near future.

    Check out babel fish or google translate and, given that it is supposed to be easy and international, Esperanto is not in the list of available languages to translate.

    If it’s based on a numbers game, then Joss Whedon probably had a fairly accurate view of the future in Firefly where English and Chinese were the two dominant languages.

    English speaking countries are pretty lazy when it comes to language, especially implementing it into the education system. Most European countries are given a firm foundation in at least one, usually two languages other than their own. The exception, of course, is the UK, where we understand that the universal way to communicate is to talk loud and slow;)

    If Esperanto isn’t integrated into the global education system, then it will always be a language that people only learn by choice. Fantastic in that it could be a gateway to other languages – ganymeder above said she had problems learning other languages, but got to grips with Esperanto and is now positive about her ability to learn others. Also learning any other language (Klingon or otherwise) is a positive thing. Any additional language knowledge gives a deeper understanding of communication as a whole.

    While I agree that Esperanto has some value and I applaud anyone who takes the time to learn it, will it ever be the language of global unity? No, not a chance.

  34. For those interested there’s been a recent book by the linguist Arika Okrent (no relation to the Klingon inventor) about invented languages and the eccentric personalities behind them. It’s called “In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language”.
    Haven’t read it yet but she has a great interview you can listen to:
    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1577
    Here’s a text interview: http://www.slate.com/id/2217815/

    Esperanto is interesting in that it does have a wide community who are very active, hold conferences in Esp., publish books in Esp., there were even universities that taught all their courses in it and there are many native speakers.

    The fact that it hasn’t become the international language doesn’t mean much. Stranger things have happened, for instance the world domination of what was once the tribal language of an illiterate people that was also grammatically difficult to learn.

    Will Esperanto be much bigger than it is now in 100 or 1000 yrs? I doubt it, and I’d bet money against it. But it’s not as implausible as it might seem. And it will do better than the 50% of languages set to die out in the next generation or so, that’s for sure.

  35. Thanks for the comments all – this has become a very interesting discussion.

    Danny – your point about the net spreading English is a very good one. It means that the growth of Esperanto will remain similar, at best, to the growth of English. Which only further reduces its chances of ever becoming a global standard.

    Tiquliano – Your point is true – English is a very hard language to learn. But you still used it right there and made yourself very clearly understood. If you’d posted in Esperanto, only a couple of commenters would have understood a single word of it!

    Graham – I agree about the Whedon comment. I think that could prove to be quite prophetic!

    Michael – Many things have a community and will survive. You’re right that Esperanto is one of them. But as you also point out, that won’t make it a global standard.

    It seems that the general consensus here is that there’s nothing wrong with Esperanto – it can be fun, interesting and useful – but it will never become a global standard. Unless you happen to speak Esperanto already, when it seems you hold out hope regardless. 🙂

  36. Wow! Who would have thought that a simple discussion about the learning of languages would turn into this mammoth debate. So many good points have been made, thus helping to make sense of the facts, figures and various trends.

  37. Esperanto is still a young, but living language.

    Its a pity that most people do not know this.
    However after a short period of 122 years Esperanto is now in the top 100 languages, out of 6,800 worldwide, according to the CIA World factbook. It is the 17th most used language in Wikipedia, and a language choice of Google, Skype, Firefox and Facebook.

    Native Esperanto speakers,(people who have used the language from birth), include World Chess Champion Susan Polger, Ulrich Brandenberg the new German Ambassador to NATO and Nobel Laureate Daniel Bovet.

    Your readers may be interested in the following video 🙂 http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670 A glimpse of the language can be seen at http://www.lernu.net 🙂

  38. Lol. 🙂

    I have truly enjoyed this discussion. I don’t know if it came through, but my original point was simply that there are lots of reasons to learn Esperanto other than World peace, etc. But what hooked me was the ease and simplicity of the language. The fact that it can be picked up fairly easily with minimal effort compared to English, which has tons of exceptions to the rules, etc.

    Maybe later I will learn Klingon, so that I can read Shakespeare as it was truly meant to be enjoyed. *LOL*
    Or maybe I’ll learn French…

  39. Alas, Klingon was specifically designed to be as unintuitive as possible so good luck learning! For instance whilst English word order is SVO (I eat fruit), Klingon’s the exact opposite with OVS (fruit eat I).

  40. Oh boy, hope you can handle the length… 🙂

    Esperanto could, can and, in my opinion, one day will become a widely used international auxiliary language.

    Consider the following:

    * Esperanto has evolved into a complete living, natural language (soon after its publication, it was released to the community to be used in every situation imaginable, working out the wrinkles and filling in the gaps in the process).

    * In spite of its free evolution, Esperanto has remained easy to learn, several times easier than English (the latter being easy to learn poorly, but very difficult to learn well due largely to its complex phonetics, irregular spelling and huge and lexically irregular idiom-riddled vocabularly).

    * At most 20% of the world’s population already speaks English, most of them poorly.

    Let’s plug in some numbers. Say Esperanto is just five times easier to learn than English (its easier than that, but for argument’s sake…); if, to reach some arbitrary level “L”, H hours are required on average in Esperanto, then 5H hours would be required in English. Let P be the world’s population. The total worldwide investment in teaching everyone English to level “L” would be 0.8P (omitting the 20% who speak it already, even if poorly for the most part) X 5H = 4PH man-hours. To teach everyone Esperanto would require P (we’ll include the couple of million who already speak it to simplify things) X H = PH man-hours – just 25% of the investment required to teach everyone English.

    From a strictly cost-of-entry and information-vehicle standpoint, Esperanto is suitable as an international auxiliary language.

    Now consider this:

    * Esperanto can be mastered in just a few months of serious study.

    * Esperanto is easy enough to be effectively self-taught, and teachers require no special qualifications other than teaching skills and the ability to speak Esperanto.

    * Good Esperanto pedagogical and self-study material is easily and freely avaialable.

    Finding enough teachers for Esperanto won’t be a problem, given a ramp-up period of a few years.

    Also consider this:

    * Esperanto mastery is sufficiently within reach of the average speaker and sufficiently flexible that translations into Esperanto are done by natives of the source (not target) language, and translations the other other way are often done by non-professional translators.

    * Historically, Esperanto speakers have been avid translators of all kinds of writing, including many literary masterpieces.

    Getting quality translations of future writings shouldn’t be a problem, either (yes, getting the mass of existing material translated would be a problem, for a while at least).

    The above points show how Esperanto could conceivably act effectively as a common second language for the world, and do so more economically than English without sacrificing quality, even if it means all those who have already learned English learning yet another language.

    The largest remaining hurdles are the relatively small community and prejudice. Alan, you ask, “It’s had 120 years! How much time does it need?” Consider Arabic numerals. Much better suited to calculation than Roman numerals, they took hundreds of years to catch on and finally replace the latter in the West. Why? Prejudice. Roman numerals were associated by the Christian West with “pagan” Islam and thus long avoided. That widespread prejudice against Esperanto is holding it back is obvious for anyone who speaks it and has any involvement in the community; the number of misconceptions expressed just in this blog entry and its responses is surprising, and every person who has expressed them has made it clear that those misconceptions are, to a large degree, why they reject Esperanto.

    The small community size is indeed a valid concern for those who would want to be able to speak it in certain venues currently widely handled by English and thus a considerable obstacle to Esperanto. However, I do not see that as a permanent state of affairs. Esperanto is not spoken by “no one”, but by an existing community that is growing, almost certainly faster year-to-year percentagewise than the world’s population (the former in the neighborhood of 3% to 4% per year, the latter at around 1.2% per year with a projected peak of about 10 billion in about 40 years). As long as present trends continue, the Esperanto community will only become larger as a percentage of the world’s population. If nothing else happened, the Esperanto community, with a current size of a bout 2,000,000 speakers, would take some 100 to 150 years to grow to a respectable 200,000,000. However, I believe that eventually, a critical mass will be reached where several things will start to happen to pick up the pace. For example, people will realize they have not only heard of Esperanto, but that they know very normal people who speak and use it. Or, an international business or governmental group will realize that a number of them not only speak Esperanto but that they speak it better than English, and decide to use Esperanto as the working language of the group, providing interpretation (if short term) or instruction (if long term) for those who do not yet speak it.

    That is how Esperanto could, can and, in my opinion, one day will become a widely used international auxiliary language.

    However, we live in the present. Alan, you say: “I think everyone should learn other languages, to help them better empathise with people that have to learn English as a second language. It also helps to understand other cultures and it can be a lot of fun. Personally, I speak a little …, … and … very poorly, but I enjoy languages and always have a stab when the opportunity arises to use them.” You then go on to say: “And they’re useful because other people already speak them. This is where the Esperanto concept falls down. It would be great if everyone learned it, but they won’t because no one uses it.” That’s where you’re wrong. The Esperanto community, however small, not only exists, but flourishes. People do use Esperanto, every day, for everything you use English for, and certainly for everything you’d be able to do in the three languages you get by in. The great values you rightly ascribe to language-learning of developing empathy and understanding other cultures applies equally well to Esperanto as to other languages. Critics of Esperanto often say it has no culture, but that is simply false. First, Esperanto has a native culture, interesting and worth learning in its own right. In addition, most of a people’s culture resides, not in the language they speak, but in the people themselves and the things they produce, the language being, for the most part, a vehicle. Being many times easier to learn than any national language, Esperanto puts other cultures and their people within relatively easy reach of the average Joe. You can get to know other people and learn about their culture just as well in Esperanto as in their native language.

  41. If you speak English, or one of many other languages for that matter (including Russian of all things), many of the words you use are French derivatives – Philosphy/Philosophique, Naturally/Naturelment, Community/Communité as three random examples.

    Perhaps we’ll all be speaking French long before we’ve finished discussing the complexities of English!

    PS apologies to any French speakers for my probably abysmal spelling of the above words:)

  42. I have just one or two points that I don’t think have been covered. As a preface – I am an Esperantist, but I don’t believe it’s suddenly going to replace English and we’re all going to start holding hands and listening to Enya (God forbid).

    English can be seen as a cultural bulldozer. It’s global prominence is undoubtedly an imperialist hangover. I live in Wales, and the Welsh language was supressed and beaten down by English for a long time. It has still not recovered. Protection of one of the last truly living celtic languages is now seen as a good thing. All schoolchildren in Wales must learn Welsh from a young age, but it was taught so badly where I grew up that in a classroom at age 15 no-one could conjugate the verb “to be”. For some reason we were told off for that and no-one was fired. I’ve finally reached my first point: Esperanto protects native tongues by providing a neutral go-between. No language will ever be overrun by another when there is a neutral, functional, mutual means of communication. Protecting languages goes some way to protecting cultures. I can feel myself on thin ice here, so I’ll move on..

    With Esperanto being spoken by people of many different native tongues, with the internet you can have immediate access to translators for tons of languages. This obviously doesn’t work for literature, but for non-fiction this could be very useful.

    I had another point, but I rambled so much I forgot it.

  43. Michjo – You win for longest comment ever at The Word! Very interesting points and numbers, but I wonder if Esperanto will ever reach the kind of critical mass you’re suggesting. In many ways it would be kinda cool if it did, but I still doubt that.

    Graham – Everyone speaking French? Wash your mouth out! 🙂

    Hauxkins – I’d rather speak French than have everyone listening to Enya!

    🙂

  44. What an interesting discussion, Alan! I’d never heard of Esperanto, either, but given a choice, I’d rather learn Klingon because of the alien mind-set that goes with it. 🙂

  45. That was probably way too harsh, coming from someone who also supports more language diversity.

  46. I will chime in here a little bit. =)

    Some of this is pulled directly from my BLog pages on Esperanto.

    Esperanto is Successful

    Esperanto has been very successful. It has not achieved Zamenhoff’s ultimate dream for it… yet, but the language has grown from 1 speaker up to about 2 million, and that is even despite severe persecution (being killed for knowing it) by the Nazi’s, Stalin, and the Chinese at various times during history (if I remember correctly).

    No one uses it?

    As you can see above… people do use it. Why don’t more people learn it? Well, partially because very few people have ever heard of it. The people that speak it usually seek it out or they just fell into it (family or a local club). I just learned about Esperanto last year. How could people want to speak a language that they do not even know exists? If more people actually knew about it then more people would definitely want to speak it.

    Drupal’s interface: is available in Esperanto (an open source content management system)
    Google’s Inerface is available as a language and you can specifically search Esperanto only sites.
    Wikipedia: is available in Esperanto (an online encyclopedia)
    Wordpress’ interface: is available in Esperanto (an open source content management system)

    Surely that must say something if Google is willing to index and keep track of, as well as translate their interface into Esperanto?

    Current Notes
    Esperanto was nominated for a Nobel prize last year (2008), I think it was, and is being considered as a language for the EU.

    The Bahai Faith is using Esperanto to an extent as well: The Yale Globalist – The Baha’i Answer to Babel
    Why Learn?

    There have been quite a few studies done on the the advantages of learning Esperanto as a gateway language.

    Wikipedia note on propaedeutic value of Esperanto

    By spending 1 year learning Esperanto you can reduce the time to learn another foreign language by 1 – 3 years. In this 1 year’s time you can gain a strong conversational level and border-line fluency in it, whereas conversely in any other natural language you have to spend 3 – 8 years to gain a confident conversational level.

    It is being taught in Australia and Britain in some primary schools as the first second language to prime them for learning more.

    Springboard to Languages (Britain)
    Mondeto (Australia)

    Countries around the world are starting to scale back in teaching English and are moving to other languages.

    International Language

    One Language for the World and how to achieve it by Dr. Mario Pei does a considerably more thorough and longer job than I have done if you feel so inclined.

    Throughout history there has always been an language that has always been the de facto standard for international relations. Usually this language comes to the forefront due to a specific country’s political or economic power, or via scientific relevance (latin). The international language is usually the most powerful country’s native tongue, and of course, throughout history, as countries jockey for this position and times change, so does the language that is used for international relations. Currently English is the accepted international standard due to the United States economic and military supremacy, but this can change, and then another language will be chosen… Hindi or Mandarin anyone?

    Throughout Europe’s history German, French, Latin, and now English has been, at various times and reasons, the international language, but it was not through mutual concensus. It was by virtue of political or economic relevance that this language was used as the goto language to get things done internationally. Every country vies for this revered and esteemed position in the world so as to have pride and the linguistic upper-hand in relations with entities from other countries that have had to learn and are speaking their native language.

    People whose profession depends on speaking with those that do not speak their native tongue find it difficult which can create hesitation, misunderstandings, frustrations, and also limit the number of people that could be dealt with to either converse or sell products or services to.

    There has always been an international language but it has never specifically be chosen by concensus, only by world power and influence was the associated country’s native tongue been used, which, of course, brings about a certain amount of disdain and desire to change, because others countries want their language to be the de facto international language. This thought is always in the back of their mind and seeds a level of inferiority or superiority depending on where you are in the chain.

    It would be better to finally have a mutually aggreed upon language as the IAL so that it does not have to change as the world’s conditions change. Retraining diplomats, rewriting forms and signs to the new IAL takes time and money that could be spent on other things to have to do it again in who knows how many years. With an IAL selected tourists, businesses, politicians, and diplomats would know definitely what language to focus their time on, and this would be accepted all over the world increasing communication and understanding throughout the world.

    Emerging World Powers

    Currently, English is the lingua franca, but prior to World War II French was. Now that China and India are up and coming economic powers how long will it be before either of them become so prominent that everyone will need to learn those languages in order to remain competitive in the international market place to access their markets. Not-so-often there seems to be a change in which country holds dominance in the world. Why should the language always change, as it will whenever a country obtains the dominant position in the world. Why should we keep learning languages which have so many problems and puts the peoples who language is the lingua franca at an advantage. Choosing a more neutral and easier to learn lanuage is to the world’s advantage in every way.

    I think I have babbled enough… O_o

    Thanks

  47. Like I said before, I’d thought about it, but Klingon would be WAY too much effort for a language that’s really never going to be used. Esperanto, I think, has lots of potential and it’s WAAAAAaaaaaaaaaay easier.

    On the subject of obnoxious English speakers abroad, when I lived in Germany I never did become fluent. Don’t get me wrong! I DID try, but I just didn’t get it. I had trouble pronouncing it, remembering words, the grammar confused me. I would go out and try to speak it and Germans would hear my terrible accent and then either speak to me in English or try to help me out on how to say something in German. I kept my book with me and I was awful, but I think they knew I made an effort. But some of the other Americans I knew of were so OBNOXIOUS. Also, my parents came to visit and they expected everyone to speak either English or Spanish. I have NO IDEA why. My poor German landlady looked so confused as my father tried to speak Spanish to her. LOL

    Maybe he would have better luck with Esperanto! 😀

  48. Yes, everybody would.
    But they don’t know.
    Learn it and come back here to comment.
    (it’ll be soon)
    Otherwise learn Klingon (we’ll never here from you thank God! )

  49. Another question not handled here.
    Why do Esperantists speak several languages? Is it because Esperanto doesn’t work, or is there another reason?

  50. Hey, just wanted to chime in. I find it interesting that you comment about Esperanto not having made much progress in 120 years. Historically it’s always grown except during the world wars.

    Also, during WWII, Esperanto speakers were persecuted by Hitler and Stalin respectively. Hitler called it the “language of the jewish diaspora” and Stalin referred to it as “the language of spies”. Before WWII, Germany and Russia had the most active Esperanto communities. Now, you can imagine what would happen if the most active speakers are sought out and murdered…

    For more details about the history of the persecution of Esperanto speakers worldwide, you can read the book Die Gefährliche Sprache or its Esperanto translation La Danĝera Lingvo.

  51. So I guess, like many who have posted before me, I should announce that I am one of these crazy Esperantists. Now that that is out of the way, here are my two cents.

    Many are going under the assumption that all Esperantists are clinging to this language as if it is a godsend, and the ONLY language that will solve the Language Problem. For me at least, this is not the case. I, and I would venture to guess many Esperantists, support Esperanto because of the concept. The idea/ideal that there could easily be a common language for international communication that would be neutral and not handicap a none native speaker.

    Does this have to be Esperanto? No, it doesn’t. I’ll be the first to admit that Esperanto has it’s faults. It’s inventor was not a linguist but an eye doctor, so of course there is room for improvement. But would this language have to be artificial in some way? Yes, it would. As soon as you pick a national/natural language you have given someone the upper hand.

    If the world were to just accept English as the lingua franca. Automatically The UK, USA, Australia, etc would spend no money on interpreters, translators, language classes, specialized language tutors. Those costs would be transfered unilaterally to all non English speaking countries. Has this happened to a certain extent? Yes. Is it unfair? Many of us think so.

    Also using a national language as an international language comes with it the problem of being temporary. English would continue being the international language as long as Countries that speak it are in power/popular. China is surly coming up strong, and in a few generations the debate we are having may still be here, but our great grandchildren may be arguing that Esperantists should just shut up and learn Mandarin.

    Esperantists have played this scenario out in their heads and have come to the conclusion that the easiest way to solve this inevitable Language Problem is using a constructed/invented language. Esperanto to this day is the only constructed language to achieve any sort of popularity, and out live it’s creator.

    There are currently 116,579 wikipedia articles in Esperanto. About as much as Hebrew and Tagalog combined. There are 188 translators working on translating Facebook into Esperanto and are about 70% done. The few odd letters required for Esperanto (ĉĝŝĵĥŭ) have been accepted in the Unicode standards even though they are used for no other language. For someone to say that no one speaks it, or to compare it to Klingon in popularity, is admitting they are grossly misinformed.

    So for some it’s just a hobby, sure. But for others it’s a stance on how the Language Problem can be solved. If some day the world realizes this, and another non biased language is chosen, and becomes more popular than Esperanto, I’d jump on that band wagon, because for me it’s the goal to provide the world with a working common language that is important.

  52. Oh and To Danny:
    To emphasize why Esperanto would be better than English is simply because everyone would have to learn it. No one would have it as a national language there by giving them an advantage over another by having learned it naturally since birth.

    (and I’m not saying this to insult your English in anyway, and my English is far from perfect)

    But even though you have been learning English since you were 7 or 8. You have clearly made second language learner mistakes in your post. Are you still understandable? Of course. Are you easily picked out as a non native speaker, and can that be used to judge/oppress you? Yes.

    Now many of you may think that this could also happen in Esperanto. Someone could judge someone else because they are not using Esperanto correctly. This however is not entirely the case due to the flexibility built in to Esperanto. Esperanto allows you to keep much of the Grammar and sentence structure you use in your native language, while still being completely intelligible to any Esperanto speaker.

  53. Michjo — you’re right that Esperanto is much easier to learn, but there’s no evidence that mass language adoption has anything to do with how easy a language is to learn. Most of the languages in Europe, the Middle East and South Asia are derived from Indo European which was NOT an easy language to learn. As for what will happen in 100-200 years, that’s an eternity in modern language terms so I guess anything could happen.

    But my question would be: why should the international language be Esperanto over other constructed languages that might be easier to learn?

    Also, when Alan said no-one uses Esperanto, I assume he meant no-one rhetorically, in that 2M speakers is a drop in the ocean at the moment.

  54. FreeXenon – lots of interesting info there, thanks!

    ganymeder – I often try to use my Cantonese in Chinatown. Quite often I get a dirty look and they answer me in English. 🙂 Some people don’t appreciate the effort.

    Remus – Esperantists need at least their home language as well. If all they knew was Esperanto they’d be pretty lonely, even in their home town.

    Chuck – It’s interesting to hear about the persecution. But that’s delayed things at most and was a long time ago now. In between wars it’s grown very slowly.

    Pasquin – Interesting point, and quite possibly true. Can you cite other examples of failed intellectual movements?

    Nuno – Yours is an interesting position. I think the concept of a constructed language that everyone has to learn is very noble, but I just think it’s largely untenable. And what about the poor and dispossessed? How would they even know about this global requirement?

    Michael – You’re right about my use of no-one.

  55. Failed intellectual movements…Communism comes to mind readily. From the killing fields, to the Berlin wall, to China’s one child rule: top down management of this ideological kind is rife with failure.

    Eugenics is another. It was all the rage in the thirties and totally discredited within twenty years.

  56. Brian – What is the difference? It seems that most people commenting here in defence of Esperanto have referred to themselves as Esperantists.

  57. Esperanto is a living language. As with any other language, if you don’t understand it, if you don’t speak it, you will never know how useful it could be.

    Don’t compare Esperanto with English. They are two different languages. Which one of them to learn? I learned both. English took me many, many years. I started using Esperanto a few weeks after my first view of the language. This happened 50 years ago. Since that time I have always used Esperanto. I also use English and Spanish … every day. I cannot use English or Spanish when I use Esperanto. I cannot use Esperanto when I am using any of my other languages.

    Many people think that everybody speaks English.
    That is not true even on the streets of New York or Los Angeles. Many of the people that don’t understand English came from other countries. But there are lots of natives that cannot cope with the language, spoken or written.

    If everybody could understand English, why there are so many translators working all around the world? Why did lawyers invented their own language, almost impossible to understand for most of us?

    — When they spoke English to me, it was
    — because they wanted to sell me something.
    — When they spoke Esperanto to me, it was
    — because they wanted to be my friends.

    Enrique
    Fremont, California, USA

  58. Enrique – No one is comparing Esperanto with English. It’s the number of speakers and spread of Esperanto that’s the issue.

  59. Alan said: “It’s the number of speakers and spread of Esperanto that’s the issue.”

    The number of Esperanto speakers is not important, because we can find Esperanto speakers in any country that we want to visit. This shows that Esperanto is spread all around the globe, because we find speakers where we need them.

    There is another benefit to learning Esperanto. It takes less time to learn Esperanto and another language, that learning only the other language.
    If you don’t believe this … try it.

    I will help you learn Esperanto, and I will get you contacts in the country that speaks the language that you want to learn. These people will help you practice their language.

    Enrique
    from Fremont, California, USA
    http://www.esperantofre.com/edu/lernua.htm

  60. Enrique – This whole discussion is about the chances of Esperanto becoming the global standard for communicaiton, so of course the number of speakers is important. It’s fundamental.

  61. Up to now no language is suited to “become the global standard for communicaiton” (communication). English is too difficult and even natives make errors when writing it. It brings lots of misunderstandings, and naturally, when these problems occur, the non-native is the one to suffer more. I know, I learned English as my third language. (after Spanish and Esperanto)

    If more people could see the advantages of learning Esperanto, the number of users would improve much more. Its improvement is limited by the people that speak against Esperanto, without knowing what Esperanto is, including many members of the media.

    During the last few days, the world press reported much better about Esperanto.

    Enrique

  62. Michael says:

    There’s no evidence that mass language adoption has anything to do with how easy a language is to learn. Most of the languages in Europe, the Middle East and South Asia are derived from Indo European which was NOT an easy language to learn. As for what will happen in 100-200 years, that’s an eternity in modern language terms so I guess anything could happen.

    You’re absolutlely right. However, Esperanto and the context in which it arose and continues to rise are, in terms of world history, recent phenomonena that seem to buck historical trends and defy the odds. For instance, Esperanto…

    * is the first and, so far, only constructed language to gain a significant speakership;
    * has evolved and matured into a complete, living, natural language;
    * has resisted fracturing into serious competitor dialects and losing its ease of learning;
    * has developed a culture all its own;
    * has grown steadily, and continues to grow, apparently faster (percentagewise) than the world’s population;
    * has spread worldwide into a linguistically, culturally and geographically diverse population;
    * has spread by little more than word-of-mouth, with almost no official support;
    * has weathered large-scale official opposition ranging from smear campaigns to persecution of speakers.

    While not (yet) used as a second language by a large percentage of the world’s population, the important things to note are that, predictions notwithstanding, a) it is moving steadily (if slowly) in that direction, and b) it has already gone a good part of the way to get there by already filling that role, if on a smaller scale.

    With regard to the context, never before…

    * has personal time been at such a premium;
    * has education been so vital personally and professionally;
    * has international communication been so important;
    * has consciousness about concepts like social justice been so high (yeah, I know, we’ve got a LONG way to go in the implementation);

    and so on.

    Combine all those, and you get a problem asking, possibly for the first time in history, for a solution like Esperanto, available for the first time in history. Whether trends will be bucked again by having the two come together remains to be seen, but for now, things seem to be (slowly) headed in that direction.

    But my question would be: why should the international language be Esperanto over other constructed languages that might be easier to learn?

    For me, the short answer would be: it works. Have you read Eric Steven Raymond’s The Cathedral and the Bazaar? One of the points that he makes is that for something to catch on, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the best in a narrow category, but rather good enough in enough categories. Esperanto may not be the best constructed IAL out there, but it’s good enough. It may not be the easiest or most flexible, but it’s easy and flexible enough. It may not be the most aesthetic or elegant, but it’s aesthetic and elegant enough. It may not be the richest or most neutral, but it’s rich and neutral enough. It may not be the most stable or adaptable, but it’s both stable enough and adaptable enough. How do we know? Because it’s managed to garner the sustained support of a significant and very diverse world-spanning community who, of their own free will, have not only tried and tested it, but have been using it for the very purpose for which it was designed – where none of the other hundreds of conlangs have (yet) succeeded in doing so, not even really getting off the ground while Esperanto has sustained flight for over 120 years. Yeah, I realize this gets us to the “isn’t 120 years enough” argument, and yes, given enough time, another conlang might come along that is even better in enough categories to sway the world. But he also talks about the importance of community and intertia, and Esperanto has both of those on its side, too.

  63. >Alan said: (Tiquliano) – Your point is true – >English is a very hard language to learn. But you >still used it right there and made yourself very >clearly understood. If you’d posted in Esperanto, >only a couple of commenters would have understood >a single word of it!

    Alan! This is an English language forum!
    Had you posted in English in an Esperanto language forum, very few would have understood you.

    An the fact that Tiquliano can write understandable English doesn’t meant that he can manage a conversation in English. Maybe he and his dictionary needed one hour to complete a sentence.

  64. I’m prepared to bet that more people on an Esperanto site would understand English, than English people would understand Esperanto anywhere. And that is the fundamental point of this discussion.

  65. Alan, I think you are missing the point of the discussion from the Esperanto speaker’s point of view. There is no rational Esperanto speaker who thinks that there are more Esperanto speakers than English speakers. Esperanto speakers don’t walk into an English pub shouting in Esperanto wondering why no one understands them.

    Yes more people right now at this time speak English, and you would probably be right in assuming many Esperanto speakers also speak a fair amount of English. Yet there is a fundamental difference between an Esperanto speaker learning English, and someone learning English because everyone else is speaking it. The Esperanto speaker is taking steps to solve the Language Problem, and the English speaker has continued the Problem.

  66. That’s only assuming that English as an international language is a problem. At the moment, international speakers tend to need English. Therefore learning Esperanto as well is the problem. I’m not saying that’s how it should be, simply that that’s how it is at the moment. It’s a tricky problem.

  67. Alan – what exactly about everyone learning Esperanto is untenable? I started learning on my own in March, and I now have a very solid foundation. I can hold my own in some very fast-paced chatrooms. If more people were learning it, I would no doubt be learning it even faster, and would have been able to practice speaking too!

    Also, as for most Esperantists understanding English: the last time I was logged into lernu.net (international Eo learning resource) I looked at the list of logged-in users. I was the only person from an English-speaking country logged in.

    The world is seeded with speakers of Esperanto. The foundation is most certainly laid.

  68. “Alan: Esperantists need at least their home language as well.”
    Indeed Allan, they need much more than that, because they travel not only to The States, but to many different countries to meet their friends. They are more conscious of the language problems than most people are. Believe me: English , and French and German and Esperanto are not enough. I just came back from Poland and only used English in the Holiday Inn. I did better with my broken Polish than with any other languages I know. This is the current deplorable situation and it is not likely to change unless we accept another model. What we need is a paradigm shift.

    “Allan: It’s the number of speakers and spread of Esperanto that’s the issue.”
    You probably meant; “the density is the issue”. The spread is wide enough. Eo is not limited geographically, it is not restricted to Star Trek fans, nor only used by dreamers.
    The absolute number of speakers is less important than the diversity of speakers who ate the pudding and proved it tasty.
    The 2000 from 61 countries, who met recently in Białystok are not an insignificant quantity. No doubt there are many more, in very exotic locations… and easy to find when you know the language

  69. “You probably meant; “the density is the issue”.”

    That’s why I said the number and spread. That’s what density is. From Dictionary.com – “The number of individuals, such as inhabitants or housing units, per unit of area.”

    It’s obviously not enough currently to be more than an entertaining hobby. If that number and spread (i.e. density) grows, then certainly things could change. But that growth appears to be very slow and currently not making much headway.

    For example, I could get you 2000 Star Trek fans from 61 countries at a big convention. It doesn’t mean that Star Trek will take over as everyone’s favourite TV show and be watched globally.

  70. That’s why I said the number and spread. That’s what density is.

    Nice you just remembered that there was a word for it. That’s the trouble with languages. They all have nice words, but no one remembers them when needed. Try Esperanto! … and remove “spread” in your “sentence”; “number” is enough.

    >
    > For example, I could get you 2000 Star Trek fans from 61 countries at a big convention. It doesn’t mean that Star Trek will take over as everyone’s favourite TV show and be watched globally.
    With “could’s” and “would’s” one can put Paris in a bottle and use the Eiffel tower as a stopper.
    If you are a talented organizer there could be more than 2000. What budget do you have? What’s on the program?
    Please note once and for all that Esperanto is not everyone’s favourite language, and will never be. The second position is quite satisfactory (after the “mother” language).
    BTW. do you know which one is everyone’s favorite TV show or for that matter everyones’s favourite …whatever…

  71. Just a point I am not “crazy” and I am not an Esperantist.

    Would you, for example expain define the following Esperanto speaker either an “Esperantist” or someone who learnt Esperanto as a “hobby” 🙂

  72. Remush – No, number is not enough. If ten million people all spoke Esperanto but they were all in one place, it would be just the same as any other locality specific language in the world today. There are over 237,000,000 people in Indonesia, most of whom will speak Indonesian, but it certainly won’t become a global auxilliary language.

    Brian – I took the link out of your comment as it seemed to be dead. What were you trying to link to?

  73. “At the moment” is key. Assuming English has no special magical power, it too will fall away and make room for the next language based on who’s ever in power. By learning Esperanto you are essentially saying, “This isn’t working, this hasn’t worked, and Esperanto is a viable solution”.

    Sure many of us Esperanto speakers would love to see this paradigm shift happen within our lifetime. But I think many of us are willing to accept it might not.

    My question to you now is, since you’ve admitted there
    is a language problem, can you give me a solution? Assuming that English is no more special than the languages that came before it, and it will eventually drop out of use to make room for the next language of power, what is the answer? Learning English may be working now, but what about for our children, or their children? Have you really solved the problem? Or are you just passing it on to the next generation?

  74. Well, therein lies the real point. It’s not up to me to solve the problem – this is the attitude that prevents a lot of human progress! As a speculative fiction writer I take my lead from those that have postulated before me. As mentioned earlier, Joss Whedon imagines a strange mishmash of English and Mandarin as the future language of all. In Blade Runner there’s Cityspeak, “Gutter talk, a mishmash of Japanese, Spanish, German, what have you.” These kind of hybrid pidgin languages are common in speculative fiction. I think it’s far more likely that a language like that develops than a specific language (like Esperanto) is chosen.

  75. About the best constructed language, read http://remush.be/rebuttal/index.html#032 and the following entries.
    You should avoid the pitfalls described by Afrika Okrent in “in the land of invented languages” ISBN 978-0-385-52788-0

    About the difference between “Esperanto speaker” and “Esperantist”, I have the impression that the English word would be translated in Esperanto by “Espervangelisto”. In Esperanto “Esperantisto” is a synonym of “Esperanto-parolanto” (speaker of Esperanto).

    I assume that Esperantist could also mean “completely crazy fiction addict” in the mind of some apparently sane people.

  76. I have seen the word “hobby” too many times in a discussion that is not about hobbies. So, I am going to describe my hobby … when I was a child.

    I was able to read when I was 5 years young. My first language was Spanish, which is much easier to read than English. My father had some books to learn English. Since about 5 years young, my hobby was to learn English using those books.

    That was a good hobby, because more than 20 years later it became very useful for me.

    I was 21 when I discovered Esperanto. I learned it for practical reasons, not as a hobby.

    At that time all my Esperanto contacts in other countries were by paper mail. I always could speak
    Esperanto with friends right in my town … friends I made through the use of Esperanto. I didn’t have any English contacts. I didn’t know anybody that would speak English.

    During all this time studying English, I couldn’t understand most of it. After learning Esperanto, English became a little easier.

    Many people, without knowing enough, say that learning Esperanto is losing time. Learning Esperanto and another language takes _less_ time that learning only the other language. So, learning Esperanto _saves_ time … and you can always use Esperanto.

    I do use Esperanto every day. I also use Spanish and English every day.

    Repeat: Learning Esperanto _saves_ time when learning other languages.

    You can use Esperanto in most countries. Other languages have limited reach. People (like I) which learned English as a second language, have a big disadvantage when talking to natives. Of course, natives feel very happy about that … but is not always in their favor.

    If I visit England or Australia, it will be much easier to make friends, get invited to their houses, using Esperanto than using English. Even in the USA it will be easier for me to find people willing to spend time with me, using Esperanto, and not just using English.

    For English speaking people, I am one more person. I believe it will not help me the fact that I speak Spanish. But For people that live in USA and speak Esperanto, I would be one more friend.

    Please read this article

    http://esperantofre.com/book/index.htm#piron

    Best wishes,

    Enrique
    California, USA

  77. Enrique,

    I am certainly glad to have you as a fellow Esperantist! I don’t mean to offend you, but I do take issue with one of your statements. You said, “People (like I) which learned English as a second language, have a big disadvantage when talking to natives. Of course, natives feel very happy about that …” I am a native English speaker, and I know from my own experience (and being around other native speakers) that all I want to do when speaking with someone who doesn’t speak fluent English is to be able to understand them. I’m sorry that you feel looked down upon, but I suggest that perhaps it’s not the English speaker being happy about an unfair language advantage.

    I think any misunderstanding like this just further illustrates how Esperanto, if it was more widely accepted, would be so much better as an accepted international language.

    I also very much enjoyed the link. Thank you for posting it. 🙂

    Amike,
    ganymeder 🙂

  78. Alan: “Well, therein lies the real point. It’s not up to me to solve the problem..”

    Yep here would be the problem 😉 I’m not saying it’s up to me to solve either. But I have seen a possible solution in Esperanto, and have decided to support that. Some have chosen to do nothing 😉 Keep in mind, the only ones who can really sit back and do nothing are the ones who happen to be native speakers of the dominant language. Everyone else has to make a choice to put in the effort or not to learn the dominant world language.

    As for a Pidgin or Creole developing. They don’t really turn out like the ones you see in sci-fi. It takes a generation or two of a mish mash of basic language that can only communicate basic needs. Then only after a new generation is raised in this language soup does a full language emerge. Then maybe a few more generations for the vocabulary to standardize and grammar to clean itself up.

    The “Language Problem” won’t be solved this way. We need a language where people from developed countries can communicate with each other about complex topics with little misunderstanding. The sci-fi pidgin languages are cute, but impossible in our current economic model.

  79. I believe that the objection to the label “Esperantist” is based on the notion that an “esperantist” is one of those blithely annoying people, who will talk endlessly about the wonders of the perfect, world’s auxiliary/second language, and how it will bring world peace, cure cancer and solve the global warming problem, but somehow they never get around to actually learning to speak Esperanto (or at least, not properly) themselves.

    An “Esperanto-speaker” however (at least if I understand this objection correctly) actually knows — rather than merely “knows about” — Esperanto and uses it at least occasionally for some actual purpose, practical or otherwise.

    In this context, the Esperanto conferences with thousands of attendees are of particular interest, precisely because these conferences actually are conducted entirely in, rather than merely about, Esperanto.

    (Klingon fans wish they could say the same, but by their own admission, all the fluent Klingon-speakers could probably fit around a single large restaurant table. (You might be interested to know that the “inventor” of Klingon was (and for all I know may still be) an Esperanto-speaker, himself). But then, in all fairness, the raison-d’etre of Klingon is quite different than that of Esperanto.)

  80. Language history is complicated. History is complicated. Regional and World languages come and go. Aramaic, Greek, Latin, French, German, Russian have all had their ups and downs with political and cultural empires. Alan and the majority of the world: I don’t care if Esperanto is not the dominant second language of the world: I want it to spread non-violantly, to learn about other groups of people in every country of the world who believe in non-violence. Esperanto has given this to me. Alan, your pessimism in understanding how Esperanto is truly different than English, not a replacement of English as the dominant second language (and culture) is easily understood by the sad fact: we repeat history, with different nations convinced of its superiority. I will have no part of that.

  81. Bernardo,

    I’d never realized that the term “Esperantist” was objectionable or under any kind of debate. I’m a beginner, trying to read and learning to speak, but I’ve been referring to myself as a beginning Esperantist on Esperanto pages, etc. Now, I’m not sure if I made a faux-pas…?

    OTOH, I do not speak Klingon at all, though I actually have made GAH. The Earth Version of GAH is a certain combo of noodles and sauce according to the Star Trek cookbook…seriously. 🙂

  82. The word Esperantist could be used in different ways, or, the new generation tries to give a different connotation.
    Traditionally, Esperantist is anybody that speaks Esperanto. The newcomers, mainly the English speaking newcomers, relate this word to words like
    communist, espiritist or evangelist. They don’t think about dentist, artist or many other words that use -ist-.

    People curious about how Esperanto sounds, how it works, could watch these videos:

    Almost 3 hours of animations:
    http://esperantofre.com/edu/kino01a.htm

    More than 7 hours of video, with actors from more than 12 countries:
    http://esperantofre.com/edu/kino02e.htm

    To learn Esperanto:
    http://esperantofre.com/edu/lernua.htm

    Best wishes,

    Enrique, from California, USA

  83. I don’t think that most Esperantists object to the term.

    I was merely suggesting that the distinction might matter a lot to someone concerned to distinguish between Esperanto as some fantastical Utopian scheme, and Esperanto as a real language, in practical use by housewives, poets, professionals, Nobel Laureates (eg. Reinhard Selton has written books on Game Theory in Esperanto), some UNOs (as a “working language”), shortwave radio broadcasters, and so on.

    The usual reaction (at least in the english-speaking world) is to dismiss Esperanto as “not a real language”, not even comparable in numbers and practical utility to Klingon, and without the saving grace of being clearly understood by its practitioners to be in fact a mere “game”. Sad to say, this response is almost as common among professional linguists and professors of linguistics as among the general public — they, at least should know better.

    In this respect, I especially like the story about when famous linguist/semioticist (also a famous novelist) Umberto Eco gave a guest lecture series at the University of Paris (Sorbonne) on the topic The Search for the Perfect Language (Available in print in several languages). He was mostly addressing the “philosophical” perfect languages, but gave some attention to the “less interesting” question of international auxiliary languages. If I recall correctly, he originally planned to give Esperanto at most perhaps one half of a lecture-period, but as he researched the subject, that expanded to about two or three lecture periods. He acknowledged that he had gone into the topic with the usual erroneous preconceptions of Esperanto as a failed attempt to create a real language. And he now is known as a supporter of Esperanto.

    Anyways, the famous story about this lecture series is that Umberto Eco discussed his new appreciation for the practical utility of Esperanto as a genuine language, but joked that of course, no one could ever make love in Esperanto. In the next lecture he revised this evaluation, noting that he had since received a note from a young woman attending the previous lecture, stating that it was in fact quite possible to make love in Esperanto — as she knew from personal experience.

  84. Responding to Remus: I, as most Esperantists, speak many languages ( ex. Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese) because we get to travel the world for free, are much more confidant in languages because at a young age you get to SUCCEED in communicating, and meeting people who don’t want your money in order to have international friendships. It is an addictive feeling for most of us. Most Esperantists love language learning and know that most attempts of language learning for most Americans is a failure. We are trying to share our unique vantage point. I personally have dedicated 15 years of my life full-time in the study of Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic. Only after living 11 years in Israel (with many Hebrew-speaking and Esperanto-speaking friends) did I master Hebrew. Average people will never be able to dedicate this much time to language learning. Esperanto is the answer.

  85. Perhaps you are joking, but I think it’s a little rude to write in Esperanto on this particular board. The moderator does not speak it and it’s an English board, even though this particular post happens to be about Esperanto.

    I do love this language, but not everyone does, as has been illustrated in some of the above posts. If you want to post comments in Esperanto, you can post on mine… 🙂
    http://www.ganymeder.com/esperanto LOL

    Have a happy day.

  86. Thanks ganymeder. And yes, I agree – I would prefer you not to post here in Esperanto just for the politeness of inclusion. I would also point out that this isn’t a messageboard or forum. This is my blog, on my website, and this just happens to be one blog post where the comments have gone crazy!

  87. These were private messages. Use http://traduku.net/de_esperanto.php for approximate translation if you feel like it. Otherwise ignore them; in fact they are not meant to you particularly. So it makes no difference if you read them or not, understand them or not.
    If I reply to an Esperantist, I find it quite polite to write in Esperanto.

    (this message should have been written in Esperanto, to avoid giving the false impression that you won’t understand anything else than English… pardonu … eble venontan fojon)
    BTW the EU is promoting multilingualism, so it’s time that we see more different languages in one forum. See http://forums.ec.europa.eu/multilingualism/ for an example of such a multilingual forum. There is nothing wrong with that.

  88. Remush, I’ll remind you again that this is not a forum but my website. In my house I’d appreciate you playing by my rules. That means using the language of the site, which is English. If you want to trade private messages in Esperanto I suggest you find an Esperanto site to do it on.

    In truth, this entire discussion has pretty much run its course. I appreciate the debate and I hope we’ve all learned some things here.

  89. >”I suggest you find an Esperanto site to do it on.”

    Thank you: I have plenty already, and I have more fun there.
    I don’t like English fora that much, after all… too similar to the French attitude when French was the dominant language everybody had to learn to look smart. All the arguments seen here-above were already answered in French so long ago there was no Internet yet at the time. Mutatis mutandis they are also similar to what Joachim du Bellay wrote to defend French against Latin (http://www.tlfq.ulaval.ca/axl/francophonie/Du_Bellay.htm if you read French).
    Those who like to stay in an endless circle should now learn Chinese, that’s where the business is.
    Remuŝ

    Inter ni, kiam oni ludas la rolon de la advokato de la diablo, oni ne plendu ricevi varmajn rebatojn.
    Diru al mi kion via edzino pensas pri http://remush.be/memoru/pola/ private ĉe http://remush.be/sendu.php. Mi laciĝas skribi angle.

  90. O.o Alan, you just fell into his trap. He’s now shown that if need be you could understand Esperanto. Just understanding Esperanto without being able to speak it would cut interpreting/translating costs by millions.

    😉

  91. Not at all. I just used an online translator that gave me a rough interpretation of what he said – it took about 5 seconds and I didn’t have to learn anything. I could do the same with any language.

  92. Oddly enough, Esperanto has a word for this sort of inconsiderate behavior, “gaviali” (to speak Esperanto when another language would be more appropriate); this is related to “krokodili” (crocodile) to speak one’s native language when Esperanto would be more appropriate.

    Please don’t consider such rude behavior typical of the Esperanto community.

    Note:

    “krokodili is perhaps the original instance of Esperanto slang, presumably (no one knows for sure, now) an allusion to “crocodile tears”.

    In time, variations like “gavioli”, (The gavial is a relative of the crocodile), have appeared to represent other types of inappropriate language behavior in multi-linguistic social situations. Other members of the crocodile family have been co-opted in this manner: for example, “aligatori” (alligator) is to converse, in an Esperanto environment, via a national language which only some of those present understand, and “kajmani” (caiman) means to converse, in an Esperanto environment, via a national language which is native to none of the participants.

  93. I heard a long time ago that krokodili was chosen because it was an animal with a small brain and a big mouth. I’ve never heard that from anyone since and Wikipedia doesn’t support it, but I still think it’s cute. 🙂

    Also, isn’t this comment thread supposed to die at some point. It’s already 19 days after the original post! hah

  94. Even if it died it would probably come back as a zombie thread.

    I like that definition of krokodili, and it’s not unusual for some words to have new definitions after they’ve been in use for a while.

  95. You are dead wrong by saying: “It never will [grow global]”

    You, just like me, can’t predict the future. So if you want to have a real conversation, based on solid arguments, you can’t say that bullshit.

    You are also wrong when you say that most (all?) global leaders know English. This is a myth. Most leaders are helped by translators everytime they need to communicate with other countries. Why would they do that? Let me answer that for you. Because either they don’t know it well, or they are afraid of making stupid mistakes. Then they leave language problems to professionals, who even dedicating their lives to translation, sometimes just can’t express what the speaker really intended with the same nuances.

    When people in a company need to make an important decision, what do they do? They research the subject throughooiurosfoutly (I can’t remeber how to spell that fucking word. That would not happen with Esperanto). But what do they do when interlinguistic communication is the subject? They just use the status quo (I don’t know if my Latin is right, but you get the idea), without ever rationalizing, comparing, studying the subject. If two people who know nothing but their native tongues need to communicate, the logic answer is Esperanto, not English, because Esperanto is much easier, logical and fairer (more fair?). But since English has so much political power, in the end it becames more likely to find someone who already speaks the language than Esperanto (fair point, we all know that Esperanto is not the most used international language, tho it is the most used **constructed** international language!).

    But the natural tendency is not always the best one, and this is what esperantists are trying to do: show that a better option exists for our future (unfortunately nowadays English is dominating and I hope Mandarim never will). Someone has to fight for the future, right? And this is where the all too common pessimism that you show really does not help. It’s like saying: “Women will never have the right to vote, get over it”. But people have fought and won. We, esperantists, are still fighting, so we would appreciate that, if you can’t help us, at least don’t stand in our way.

    PS.: If i made too many English mistakes, this only proves that English is not fair to the rest of the world.

  96. Oh, and of course: maybe someone mentioned it (I haven’t read the whole thread yet), but i doubt Klingon has as much as 100 speakers. Esperanto is orders of magnitude larger (>100.000 or >1.000.000). Don’t believe everything you read.

  97. Wow, this thread has been dormant for seven months, yet it lives again.

    I don’t know if English is your first language or not, but your IP comes through Montevideo, so I’ll assume English is not your first language. Correct me if I’m wrong. Still, lets look at your points:

    “You are dead wrong by saying: “It never will [grow global]””

    I’m almost certainly not. As you can’t predict the future you have no place saying something like that. We’ll have to wait and see. But I’m happy to bet you that I’m right.

    “if you want to have a real conversation, based on solid arguments, you can’t say that bullshit”

    My prediction is based on far more solid arguments than your desire to see Esperanto rise.

    “I can’t remeber how to spell that fucking word. That would not happen with Esperanto”

    Why not? Surely poor spelling is universal.

    “If two people who know nothing but their native tongues need to communicate, the logic answer is Esperanto”

    No, it’s not. This is your bias. The logical answer is English because it’s already becoming a global standard. How many TV shows and movies are there in Esperanto? Most non-English speaking people learn a lot from English language TV and movies. It’s just the way it is. So the logical answer is to further something already in their homes regularly, not start over learning something new.

    “this is what esperantists are trying to do: show that a better option exists for our future (unfortunately nowadays English is dominating and I hope Mandarim never will)”

    Why is Esperanto better? Why start over when a language is already well advanced globally? (That language being English.) And why do you hope Mandarin will never become a global language? Already many students are studying Mandarin because it’s likely to be a very useful language of business and commerce as China grows economically. I think Joss Whedon was pretty accurate with his prediction that in the future the common language will be a mashup of primarily English and Mandarin. Esperanto will never be a part of that.

    “Someone has to fight for the future, right?”

    Fight for what? You’re just fighting for YOUR preference.

    “And this is where the all too common pessimism that you show really does not help.”

    It’s not pessimism – it’s realism. It’s not pessimistic to say that Esperanto will never become a global standard. You only think it’s pessimistic because Esperanto is your hobby.

    “It’s like saying: “Women will never have the right to vote, get over it”.”

    It’s absolutely nothing like that whatsoever. In fact, that’s a fucking ridiculous comparison to draw and only shows the depth of your bias.

    “if you can’t help us, at least don’t stand in our way.”

    Who’s standing in your way? I’m not actively campaigning against Esperanto. I’m just pointing out that it’s a hobby language that a lot of people like yourself are really into but that it is extremely unlikely to ever become a global standard. That’s just how it is. Don’t blame me.

  98. >Wow, this thread has been dormant for seven months, yet it lives again.<

    LOL This tickled me, as the first thing I thought was 'zombie thread.'

    I think the basic advantage that Esperanto has over English to non native speakers is that its incredibly easy to learn. It certainly has a Western bias, but I've had Esperantist penpals from China also that said that Esperanto is still much easier to learn than English. The downside is that its not spoken by as many people, but the actual distribution of the people that speak it seems to be less concentrated in certain areas and more wide spread.

    One nice thing about Esperanto though is that it's what got me following Alan's blog in the first place. He's a great author and has lots of interesting things to say. 🙂

    Now…die, thread, die! LOL

  99. This dialogue will not end in the near future.
    You mention Indonesian: perfect example—it was essentially spoken by nobody–it was a planned language, like Esperanto, mixing local dialects to create a regional language. NOW, it is spoken by over 200,000,000 people as a first or second language, after Dutch linguists did the initial work decades ago. NOTE: Universal Esperanto Association is headquartered in Rotterdam, Holland–perhaps an good OMEN.

  100. Another Excellent dialogue on subject is at the New York Times blog, following Arika Okrent’s second article/discussion/Q&A on the subject.

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