and esperanto ?

Easterner   Tuesday, September 07, 2004, 08:17 GMT
As far as Esperanto is concerned, as I see it, it will never be a language universally used except for a group of devotees, for reasons I have already mentioned, but on the other hand it must be acknowledged that it is the first artificial language that is being used for meaningful communication between people (and quite a large amount of literature has also been translated into it), therefore it works from a certain point of view. So it may be looked at as the Ananova of languages: she also looks real enough and her talk can be understood but I don't think anybody in their right wits would fall in love with her. I hope you get the idea. :-)

And I do think Swedish is a candidate for the most pleasant-sounding Germanic language (and several millions of Swedes in Sweden and elsewhere plus thousands of East European immigrants to Sweden would make a "no one" large enough to be reckoned with)!
Easterner   Tuesday, September 07, 2004, 08:33 GMT
Just a little correction: "meaningful communication between *real* people".
Mxsmanic   Tuesday, September 07, 2004, 08:38 GMT
I don't know if one can really call Esperanto any more artificial than any other language--they are all inventions of human beings. The real difference of Esperanto is that it is the invention of one person, an optometrist with an agenda, whereas other "natural" languages evolve much more slowly over time and are the creations of thousands or millions of people with a complete society and culture surrounding them.

I've always found Esperanto to be a complete hodgepodge of features, manifestly picked by its inventor to make it more "democratic." Unfortunately, it makes it look a bit inconsistent as well, since it has features plucked from a number of very different languages.

There are a lot of defects in Esperanto. The requirement for diacritical marks is a serious drawback. A lot of the rules seem to be deliberately arbitrary. The vowels are simple but there are pesky affricates in the consonants. The list goes on and on.
Easterner   Tuesday, September 07, 2004, 09:14 GMT
Mxsmanic, I think there is a lot of truth in your first point. There are to a certain extent unwritten, arbitrary rules guiding the use of all languages. By the way, Sanskrit was also conceived as an artificial language, as its very name says, meaning "created" (in order to distance it from the prakrit or "vulgar" languages which were actually spoken), yet it has been one of the most influential - and best sounding - ones in history, at least in Asia.

On the other hand, I feel the grammar of Esperanto is consistent enough, but you can see an attempt in it to be "too neutral", and as far as vocabulary is concerned, doing justice to all languages of the world by picking arbitrary "loanwords" from most of them - while most of its core vocabulary comes from Romance and Germanic languages. However, I do think it can be used as a "tool language" used for getting to know other people you would not be able to otherwise communicate with - if for some reason you don't want to use English for this purpose. Not a very pragmatic point, but it can be a point in its own right for some people. So the beauty is maybe not in the language itself, but in the purpose for which it is used - though I think Esperanto does not sound bad at all.
maxmanseb   Wednesday, September 08, 2004, 22:04 GMT
> What a ridiculous elitiest idea to promote a language that nobody speaks, just in order not to offend the speakers of the languages that are not a lingua franca.

English is a elitiest language. It's ridiculous to oblige people to learn it telling them that they will communicate with a lot of people : the level of english of most people in france for example is so bad that most of the students totally can't speak with people from other countries, even after years of learning !

> One must ask whether it is better to be fluent in a language that nobody speaks, or just get by in a language spoken by a billion people.

If you can't use the language you learned because you don't speak it sufficiently well, it's stupid ! Because you won't speak with this billion people.

Then you learn esperanto, and it's spoken by million of people, and you can really enjoy it... So it's more interesting in fact !

> The pleasure of learning a language is to be able to meet with the people of that language, maybe visit that country.

And the pleasure to learn esperanto is to be able to meet people of the entire world, and to visit their country !

So we should learn german to go in germany, english to go in england, rusian to go in russia, spanish to go in spain, ... oups, it takes too much time and money to learn all these languages ! And if I want to take english to go in china for example, I know that my level won't be good...

Now I learn esperanto... For example in 2004, I could go in UK, Universala Kongreso (universal congress, each year in a new country, thousands of people), it's in china... I could meet people from China (of course ;) ), Rusia, Polland, France, England, Italia, ..., and I CAN FLUENTLY SPEAK WITH THEM ! After that I have some contacts with them, and I can discover their countries ! In 2005, it'll be in lithuania, and I'll meet others people !
In 2004, there was IJK, Internacia Junulara Kongreso (International Young Congress) in Rusia, ...

> culture = that if one is unwilling to learn the language, then presumably one is not truly motivated enough to learn the culture
We come to the point... More and more people are saying : the language that everybody should speak is english, and after you'll see if you have enough time to learn others languages... But culture = language so... Should I understand that english is the more important culture to learn, and that the others are worth knowing if I can find enough time ? What a shame !
To really learn and discover a culture, comprehension is really needed. During this summer, I learned some things about the rusian culture (songs, history, card games, description about the country, ...), about the italian culture, the romanian, ... It was wonderful... thanks to esperanto ! And no one culture was said to be more interesting thant the others ! And the english woman who was there was at the same point thant the others. If we had spoken english, it would have been very easy for her to speak and give her opinion, but not for the others. With a neutral language as gate language, the differences of levels between people of different countries are less important and everybody can really give his point of view !

> i think that the international cusiine example is actually the best analogy.if we were to mix mexican, thai, and italian into one dish, then it would end up tasting absolutely nothing like mexican, thai, or italian, and we would thereby have some sort of tasteless, undistinguishable mystery-meat of a dish.

That's right... But you made a small mistake : esperanto isn't a mix of cuisine, it's a big cook-book : when you've got it, you can choose the chapter you want to read, and you can access all cultures. This cook-book was made for this goal. The first chapter will be about esperanto, because esperanto has a culture, an history, ... This chapter is easy, and tells you : "This chapter exists to give you an easier access to the others !"
But if you use english, you have a cook-book that you can't really understand (for most people I mean), and you often stop at the first chapter : english culture... And you don't learn the others ! Moreover this cook-book is far more expensive than the esperanto one !

> We should all learn at least 3 languages
What a lucky man you are if have sufficient time and money to do it ! When I see my level of english after 10 years... argh... Of course I'm learning english and german for the pleasure, and I would like to learn italian and maybe spanish, but the efficiency takes a lot of time !!! To discover cultures and to meet people of the entire world, esperanto is for me the good choice ! :)

> why would someone want to invent an international language?
To improve the contacts between people ?

> the rules and motions of a language are most interesting when they have evolved naturally
And esperanto is evolving :) New vocabulary bound to the time, history, culture, ...

> sports would not be as interesting if athletes were superhuman, and life would not be as rewarding if it did not stand in the face of death
And so we shouldn't improve learning or put childrens in schools, it's more interesting when some people can't read or count... Languages and knowledge are very different from sport I think ;)

> language learning is essentially a hobbie, so why should one contrive and make artificial that which is better organic and therefore enjoyable?
The problem is that we need a gate language... but english is difficult ! In france almost everybody have to learn english and the result is very bad I think, I'm hearing more and more youngs who are saying that they hate english ! What a shame ! It's a beautiful language ! But... isn't sufficiently easy and logical to be interesting to communicate fast with millions of people !

> why neutralize and compromise when we can simply make an effort to share and to understand one another?
So come back when you'll know at least 10 languages ;)

I really would like to be now at my next congress : I'll be in december in germany for a youth meeting (IS : Internacia Seminario, international seminary) : last year ~350 youngs were there ! And it's really interesting to discover other cultures and countries ! Moreover, the people of the different countries will celebrate the happy new Year one country after the other, according to their culture ;) And all that in esperanto, and I'll can take part because I'll can communicate with them ! :)
Mxsmanic   Wednesday, September 08, 2004, 23:58 GMT
If you see language as a key to a social club, then I suppose Esperanto has its advantages. if you want to communicate with the largest possible number of people, English is the logical choice.

French people can't speak English because they are too lazy to expend the effort required to learn it. Indeed, they are too lazy to expend the effort required to learn any other language, which is why they tend to be so monolingual. Most of Southern Europe has this problem. It has nothing to do with English being difficult or elitist (it is neither).

By the way, young is an adjective, not a noun. Among my French students, I can tell how far they'll get in English by how many times they have to be corrected on this. Once or twice is fine. After a dozen corrections, though, you know that they'll never speak anything but French.
Mi5 Mick   Thursday, September 09, 2004, 02:49 GMT
I can speak 30 languages and people understand me fine when I'm bantering. The thing is, at "normal" times they only ever understand me in 2 of them.
Steve K   Thursday, September 09, 2004, 02:59 GMT
I regularly travel to the many countries where I speak the local language. I have made friends, chatted with people in bars, restaurants, on the dance floor, in buses, trains, planes etc. I have never met anyone who indicated that they spoke Esperanto, never! I'll stay with living languages. They are fun to learn and carry the reward of being able to meet all kinds of people, not just the kind that one would find at an Esperanto convention.
maxmanseb   Thursday, September 09, 2004, 17:29 GMT
I don't think that there's a "kind of people" for esperanto, everyone can learn it, and I already met a lot of kind of people thanks to it. But of course the learning of others languages is very interesting and important !

I remember the story of the family Robineau, they travelled all around the world some years ago, and discovered esperanto (in romania I think), they learned it, and after that found it very useful during their travel :) Maybe you'll meet in the future people speaking esperanto ;) I'ts not necessary to learn it of course, but it can be very useful to discover others countries !

Thank you for all these replies you've done, and excuse me for all my english mistakes (thank you Mxsmanic for your bemark about "young", I think that in the future I'll remember this mistake thanks to you ;) )

See you later for others discussions ;)

And remember : if you want to find penpals (in english or esperanto), you can have a look on my website :

even if the english translation isn't very good ;)

Some keys :

More than 33000 translated books (the Bible, Shakespeare, Maupassant, ...), an important original literature is available.

Newspapers are appearing everyday, national newspapers, international newspapers, ...

Movies : some movies undertexted in esperanto, or entirely in esperanto (Incubus for example, science-fiction movie entirely produced in esperanto !), or things for young people (for example "Big Muzzy" from the BBC was translated to esperanto -> "Mazi in Gondolando")

Radio : A lot of radios are emiting everyday in esperanto, including international ones : Radio Polland, international chinese radio, radio Vatican, Radio Havane Cuba, International Italian radio, Australia radio, Green radio (Kanada), Internet korean Radio, Radio ESPERANTO (Svedio), Suita Radio (Japan), Radio Tallin (Estony), ...

Music : you'll find everything you're looking for ! Techno, rap, ... Some things are on

OR, just have a look on : to have more information !

In esperanto, -o means it's a noun, -a an adjective, -i a verb, -e an adverb, -j for the plurial.
We are using some suffixes, example -in (female) , -uj (the thing that contain) , -ej (the place), -ist (the worker), -ad (something which takes some time) or suffixes : ge- (male and female), bo- (someone of the family but on the other side I don't know how to say it in english)
So :

if you know the roots patr- lern- kant- , you can build :

patro : father
bopatro : beau-père
patrino : mother
bopatrino : belle-mère
gepatroj : mother and father
patrujo : patrie (I don't know the word in english, the country)
patra : paternel (I don't know the word in english)
patre : paternellement (I don't know the word in english)

lerni : to learn
lernejo : the school
lernisto : the teacher
lernado : the study

kanti : to sing
kantisto : singer
kanto : the song
kantado : le chant (action which occurs during a long time, I don't know the word in english)
kantejo : where you sing

Moreover you can coin new words :

kunparolantino = a female who is taking part in a conversation or dialogue
kun (with) + parolanto (one who is speaking) + ino (female)

altrangulo = a big shot, a high-ranking person
alta (high) + rango (rank) + ulo (person)

informpetanto = someone who is requesting information
informo (information) + petanto (one who is requesting)

(-ant means "one who's doing" so petanto means "iu, kiu petas" -> one who is requesting)

Everyone who learned esperanto only some hours can understand and build a lot of words ! And so can have more interesting discussions.

Mi pensas, ke esperanto estas multe pli facila kaj bela lingvo ol la angla ! Mi pli bone povas paroli kaj kompreni, ...

Don Harlow:
Interestingly, while English was spoken by about 10 % of the world's population in 1900, and by about 11 % in 1950, it is today spoken by about 8.5 - 9 %. The corollary is that, for better than 90 % of the world's population, it is not the de facto means of international communication.

Konrad Hinsen:
Although many people all over the world study English and often think they speak it well, the number of people who can participate in a non-trivial conversation in English is very small outside English-speaking countries. Knowing English may be sufficient to survive as a tourist in many places, but not for more.

David Wolff:
English is a very difficult language to learn unless you've been immersed in it since birth. English spelling is said to be more difficult than any other language except Gaelic. English grammar, although it may be fairly simple, is riddled with exceptions. Verbs are very often irregular. Many people just aren't going to devote several years of effort to learn it!
English has gained its present stature because of the current economic and political power of English-speaking countries. In the past, every super-power has briefly seen its native tongue used internationally: France, Spain, Portugal, the Roman empire. In fact, one of the main reasons why Esperanto was never adopted by the League of Nations was that France blocked efforts to adopt it. At the time, French was "the international language", and France expected it to stay that way forever. They were proven wrong within twenty years.

Sylvan Zaft:
One Chinese Esperanto speaker described Esperanto as a linguistic handshake. When two people shake hands they both reach out halfway. When two people speak Esperanto they have both made the effort to learn a relatively easy, neutral language instead of one person making the huge effort to learn the other person's difficult national language and the other person making no effort at all except to correct his/her interlocutor's errors.
Dulcinea del Toboso   Thursday, September 09, 2004, 23:31 GMT
Maxmanseb, you can't use statistics to support sloppy logic. 25% of the world's population speak Chinese, but Chinese would be a terrible international language.

There is an excellent book, which should've been titled "Languages in Competition", but instead it is called "Words of the World" by Abram De Swaan. This book describes why people choose to learn certain languages and not others, why some languages offer benefits that others do not, and provides a method for evaluating the usefulness of one language over another.

Read that book and you will see why Esperanto, regardless of its clever design, will never be more than a footnote in the history of languages.
Xatufan   Friday, September 10, 2004, 00:58 GMT
Dulcinea Del Toboso: According to your book, is Spanish a useful language? Does it offer any benefit?
Easterner   Friday, September 10, 2004, 07:40 GMT

"If this be madness, yet there is method in't!" (exclamation of Polonius from Hamlet upon seeing your examples of word formation in Esperanto). I hope you can take this much irony. :-) Of course I personally don't think Zamenhof was mad, and I appreciate the efforts of all Esperantoists of the world. I'm not hostile to Esperanto, and your examples show to me that it tells a lot about word formation in "natural" languages as well (my personal favourite is "gepatroj", based on German examples like "Geschwister" or "Gebirge").

Taken in its own right, it seems to be an attempt to create an "ideal" language, taking the best from all "natural" tongues, but anything that is "ideal" risks losing its "natural" flavour. I personally would find Plato's "ideal" world boring after a while if I had to live there. :-) I mean, how would an "ideal" apple or banana taste??? It is much the same as "pure sound" without overtones - it can be synthesized using electronics, but it is the overtones that give the fun of it, distinguishing the sound of a trumpet from that of an oboe or an organ, for example. I hope you now see my problem with Esperanto, with all my appreciation of it.

>>Mi pensas, ke esperanto estas multe pli facila kaj bela lingvo ol la angla ! Mi pli bone povas paroli kaj kompreni, ...<<

I agree about the easy ("facila") part, and if you truly find it more beautiful, then here is a strong reason to go on learning it. The simple rational structure behind it can also be a source of pleasure, though I think coping with irregularities can be the most exciting part of learning a "natural" language, if you take it the right way... (I discovered this "pleasure" while learning Latin).
Easterner   Friday, September 10, 2004, 07:47 GMT

Any idea where this book can be ordered? (Though I am suspicious about the "usefulness of one language over another" - this brings distant reverberations of a "Lebensraum" or "Aryan" sentiment back to my mind, but I may be taking it wrong, so it would be good to check).
Dulcinea del Toboso   Friday, September 10, 2004, 23:06 GMT
Jo napot kivanok, Easterner,

Not only can you order the book from, but on Amazon you can even view the table of contents, the first few pages, and the index.

Here is the link:

By "usefulness", I intended no sinister meaning. I discovered De Swaan's book by reading the Language Miniatures web site, in particular this article:

and that will tell you quite a bit about what the book is about.
Dulcinea del Toboso   Friday, September 10, 2004, 23:22 GMT
Hmmm... I went back and read that article. I'm afraid it portrays De Swaan's book and his outlook on language to be harsh and mercenary, which is not the impression I got when I read the book.

Saying a language is "not worth the effort to learn" is something I don't think De Swaan ever says, so in that respect the article doesn't give an accurate portrayal of the book or De Swaan's attitude.

I know for a fact De Swaan mentioned "peripheral" languages are worthy of being learnt for cultural or personal reasons even though their value as a multinational communication tool is low.