Saturday, May 31, 2008

Addressing Esperanto

There's nothing wrong with English, but I would like to argue the case for Esperanto as the international language. It is a planned language which belongs to no one country or group of states. Take a look at

Esperanto works! I've used it in speech and writing in a dozen countries over recent years.
Indeed, the language has some remarkable practical benefits. 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.

Maybe Eurovision would be more interesting if the participants sang in their own language - or even in Espertanto!

This comment was left on my post about Eurovision Normally, I do not adress comments really, I read them and move on leaving them where they are for others to read or not as they so chose, however I felt like addressing this comment. Why? Well...Let me just start by saying that There's nothing wrong with Esperanto, but I would like to argue the case for English.

Back home in America we were told that we should all learn Spanish because so many people speak spanish. I decided to take French. In French class we learned that a lot of countries speak French. I took French because I thought it would be more of a challenge and after I started taking it, I decided the usufulness of knowing it in a european setting outweighed the usefulness of knowing spanish in my opinion. What does this have to do with English? Well even though both Spanish and French teachers were quoting statistics to me about the usefulness of knowing either of those languages, I heard other rumblings about how English is becoming an international language. Now, it's not that I don't trust my country's news, but coming straight from home, things are going to be a bit prejudice. So I figured, yeah, English is becoming an international language and some people are learning to speak it. I never realized that English is already an international language. I just didn't realize it until I got here.

I can't tell you how it became an international language. Will have to watch the BBC's Story of English and then tell you. But I can definitely say for sure and not just because I'm a native speaker, that English is a world language. I have seen it countless times here. Not just because Eurovision was broadcast in it either. For example, remember when I had to go to Korea? Well something interesting that I didn't tell you was this. I had to arrange with a travel agent to get my tickets set up. She was helping me find a hotel. So this Russian speaking travel agent calls to the Korean Speaking Hotel and what does she say? "Hello, I am calling from Russia and would like to know how much one night at your hotel would cost." And no, I'm not translating that from Russian. She was speaking English. And the Korean people were answering In English! It's not just that that proves my point either. It's the fact that all airlines use English. It's the fact that international airports give announcements and post flight listings in both the native language and English. It's the fact that the kids here start learning English in preschool. My seven-year old host brother knows more words in English than my 19 year old friends back home know in Russian. I mean for pete's sake the kid can sing "The Alphabet Song" complete with British accent. (It's adorable actually because it's like this Psudo brussian accent but I digress.) It's the fact that the kids here don't swear in their native language because swearing in English is cooler. It's the fact that they listen to American singers, and writing on clothes and back packs is done in English. I mean if you step outside the U.S. and take a look around, it's an English world out there.

Oh and another thing, The English education doesn't stop with high school. The kids who go on to college take special English classes with vocabulary related to their fields. i.e. Doctors learn "English for Physicians" Future Economists learn "English for Economists" and yeah, most of them are probably never going to use what they learn but it's just the fact that they have to learn it in the first place.

The good news is that I've actually heard of Esperanto before this comment was left for me. If you ask, a lot of people probably don't even know what it is. Not that I'm trying to bash Esperanto, it's just personally, I don't know anyone who speaks it. Or reads it, or basically knows it. I guess that's what my point is, it might have been started as an international language, but it doesn't have nearly the range as English. It's not nearly as available. How many of you have heard a famous Esperanto rapper on the radio? Or seen t-shirts with things written in Esperanto across them? My point exactly.

So I guess that about wraps up, what I think may have turned into a rant (Forgive me if it did.) Sorry if I insulted any of you Esperanto speakers out there, but take a look around. Maybe you should try English.

Oh and for the record many countries in the Eurvision Final did sing in their Native Language. Such as the Armenian group, The Turkish guy and the Guy from Isreal. Not one person sang in Esperanto. Funny though, how quite a few groups chose to sing in English...

If you'd like to learn more about Esperanto, the history, word base and that sort of thing you can do so at Good Old Wiki


Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone choose to sing in English! They have to sing in English.
But if anyone choose to sing in Esperanto they do that by free will and not as they have to.
Like learning languages, being a Swede I had to learn English, whether I like it or not but I could, by my own dezire, learn Esperanto, if I want to.

Brian Barker said...

Who speaks Esperanto and who does not? I'm one of the growing number who do although I never mention it to the many I come in contact with on a daily basis. So many people who know me don't know I use it.

Yes, use it! So I wonder if someone you know speaks the language and hasn't told you.

For me that's not important, but I do know the language is gaining acceptance and part of the reason is due to the "linguist imperialism" of English and the growing use of Chinese, in opposition to English.

Interestingly therefore that eight British MP's have nominated Esperanto for the Nobel Peace Prize 2008, and the Olympics Committee in Beijing have appointed their first-ever Esperanto translator!

Richard Hall said...

The weakness of English as a truly international language is that it belongs to existing nations. Those of other nations must in a sense become subservient to enter this international conversation, setting aside their own native language in favour of another's. And it is fiendishly difficult to learn, so that few non-native speakers ever achieve a real mastery of it.
Esperanto, on the other hand, belongs to everyone who uses it. It puts everyone on an equal footing. And it is much easier to learn than any of the national languages.

Just as an example, I'm only a beginning Esperantist but the other day was able to take part in an online conversation with a Chinese young woman, a Brazilian student and a German engineer. The only language we had in common was Esperanto. Yesterday I began an email conversation with a Congolese man who is living in a refugee camp in Tanzania. It works!

Remush said...

Nice true story. I heard something like that 50 years ago, but with the word "French" replacing "English".
I wonder which word will replace "English" in 50 years.
Nor French nor English have intrinsic qualities to become an international language. The fall is quite sudden, and for reasons that are not well understood.
Think to what happened to Latin and before it to Greek.
I learned Greek, Latin, French, English and ... Esperanto, because I think it's the next one, or the one after the next...

mankso said...

Perhaps you should take a look at the 7 points of the Prague Manifesto:
Although my initial interest in Esperanto as a teenager was purely linguistic, these 7 points are now what keep me interested in the language after 58 years of almost daily use. Esperanto can be as useful as you like to make it! Speaking English abroad never got me invited into any private homes - speaking Esperanto however certainly did and gave me a totally different 'take' on some countries. Besides, do you really feel comfortable insisting that people always speak to you in YOUR language? Why not at least try to meet them halfway?

Brian Barker said...

The Eurovision Song Contest now has derisory comments. Including from Terry Wogan.

The linguistic imperialism of English, albeit done gently, does not help either.

The arrogance of English-speakers, that eveyone, in Europe and throughout the World, should only use English speaks volumes.

Thank god, therefore that common sense has now begun to kick in.

Did you know, for example, that eight British MP's have nominated Esperanto for the Nobel Peace Prize 2008?

Probably not

Jody Robinson said...

Hey, i read your russian blog because im going to italy this fall. im jody from CS and i think your blog is really intersting to read. (plus you update alot!)
i just wanted to say that i agree with what you said and all those other people can suck it :D (though some of their points are valid, i still think you have a better argument. before i read what you posted, i had never heard of esperanto or whatever before... and i live in a city of 1.5 million+ (honolulu.) )