esperanto-largeBonan matenon! Havu tason da kafo. Ni dancu!

“United in Diversity” is the official motto of the European Union. Despite being translated into all 23 official European languages (plus Latin), the official version of the motto is still in… English.

Increasingly (especially after the enlargement of the EU to include the former-Soviet countries of Eastern Europe), English is dominating the EU. The International Francophony Organisation has even warned that “the future of French will be decided in Brussels”, and fears that English might one day become the “single working language” of Europe.

Language has always been an intensely political issue. Dr L.L. Zamenhof knew this in the late 19th Century when he founded “Esperanto“, a constructed language that he hoped would act as a politically neutral lingua franca for the world. The number of speakers of Esperanto today is contested, but estimates vary from as few as 10,000 to up to 2 million globally. One 2001 estimate put the total number of active / fluent speakers at approximately 130,000 to 300,000 – with up to 150,000 of these being in the EU.

Last week, Debating Europe mentioned that the Financial Times was being very rude about Esperanto’s prospects in a world where English is so widely spoken. We received a couple of comments defending the language, and pointing out some problems with the FT’s argument.

Defending Esperanto, Bill argued that:

Of course there is widespread teaching of English throughout Europe, but the results of that investment of time and money are poor, in my view. I´ve lost count of the number of times [people] have told me something like “I learn English since nione years” but are unable to direct me to the station!

Teaching Europe’s 500 million citizens Esperanto would, so runs the logic, be more cost-effective and a better investment of time and money. Another Esperanto speaker, Brian, also defends Dr L.L. Zamenhof’s creation:

Obviously neither English nor Esperanto have reached a critical mass either in terms of competent fluency or in terms of universal acceptance.

There are two urban myths however which need to be exploded. Firstly that “everyone speaks English” and secondly “no-one speaks Esperanto” . Neither of these are true but need to be challenged.

The trouble is, however, that whilst it’s certainly not true that “everyone speaks English”, English is nevertheless understood by a larger chunk of the European population than any other language. Likewise, whilst it’s false to claim “no-one speaks Esperanto”, estimates of the number of speakers in the EU make for a sobering comparison.

Of course, perhaps Bill is right to argue that proper investment in the teaching of Esperanto and an agreement at the EU level for it to become “Europe’s language” would see the number of speakers shoot up (rising much faster than an equivalent effort spent on promoting English). The problem, of course, is that English has reached its current level of prominence without much need for “investment” or “agreement at EU level”. Citizens choose to learn English themselves, and national governments choose to invest in it without any need for a coordinated approach.

Earlier, we looked at the possibility of the EU forming its own “research academies” and making Erasmus compulsory for students. The EU, however, does not have competence in the field of education. This is an area of national competence (and will probably remain so). Coordinated investment in Esperanto is, therefore, unlikely to be forthcoming. The teaching and adoption of English, however, looks set to continue naturally.

This is, doubtless, a topic we will revisit. Language has always been an intensely political issue, and it would be good to bring policy-makers into this debate to hear their thoughts.

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642 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    The principal error in this reasoning is to suppose that time investments in language learning by the currently powerful members are somehow all that counts.
    What about those who are not visible as active participants in international affairs because they have not had sufficient years of education in English?
    And what about the convenience of generations of people who have not yet invested in either choice? If they can spend 100 hours in learning Esperanto instead of many hundreds of hours EACH learning English, doesn’t that count for a great deal?
    After 50 years of learning and using English, an Italian is still not on a truly equal linguistic footing with an English person.
    In Esperanto, they are equal from the outset.

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Hi Penelope,

      This may be true – but the practical barriers to Esperanto are larger than the theoretical barriers. Over 250 million people in Europe speak English to a greater or lesser extent – and governments and individuals choose to invest in English on their own. In the “free market” of languages, the most attractive languages are not always the easiest (English, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, etc.) but those that the languages that will enable you to communicate with the largest number of people.

    • avatar
      Lu Wunsch-Rolshoven

      Those, who are powerful, always argue for the “free market”. There they are able to oppress the smaller ones. So, for instance, the German Contest in Foreign Languages does not allow Esperanto, because it is a planned language. This discrimination of Esperanto lasts already for 30 years. And the German government still subsidizes that contest…

      This certainly is not the first discrimination of Esperanto. There is a long row of repression and persecution from the French government prohibiting it in schools in the 1920’s to the Romanian government dissolving Esperanto groups in the 1980’s going through more than a dozen countries, most of them from Europe. How about compensation? Promoting for instance that every child gets one lesson in school about Esperanto and its use today? So that the children know enough about Esperanto to make their own decision.

      You are right, about 250 million people in Europe speak English at least a little bit. This is just a wonderful basis for them to learn Esperanto; they don’t know it, but they already understand most of its words and they need only a minor effort to learn Esperanto. Three weekend courses will be enough in nearly every case for students to be able to participate in Esperanto conversations. (If you don’t believe that, just test it, at least for one hour!)

      It is normal that governments subsidize new inventions in an early phase to reach a better development. No one argues against the subsidies for solar power maintaining that individuals choose energy from oil “on their own”. So why do you argue against Esperanto that way?

    • avatar

      How, when the times come, that a would be newly born nation pass a law that Esperanto is their official national language. So, they will be now as their neighbor that have identity language like German,French etc. And they will take advantage of it as a superior race due to dominant language. Why the reason the Esperantist replace English because of not being politically neutral and only to the pride of a native English speaker countries. But, it would be looked like the same situation. So, why need to replace English that it is used to be.

    • avatar

      Was that English?

    • avatar
      Alex Escomu

      @Debating Europe You may change the article’s content and say we are at least 225,000 esperanto speakers more in 7 months through Duolingo’s course.
      n some months the same trend will happen with the Spanish speaking community worldwide
      I learned Esperanto 5 years ago, at home, for less than 6 months to a higher level than English. I feel more confident and happy when i speak in Esperanto. I can say what i really want without doubts.
      Everything about the history and future of Universal Languages is explained in these university lectures

    • avatar

      There never be such situation that 100% Europeans will be able speak and write English but with Esperanto it is possible.

  2. avatar
    Zlatko Tisljar


    1. A human being is a social being (a society is 2 people minimum, if they develop mutual trust and a common belief system)

    2. A human being satisfies his or her social desire in many societies simultaneously (groups), like families , circles of friends, interest associations, local communities, the village or town, the region, the nation, religion etc.

    Each of the groups develops a social (group) identity (shared purposes, elements of typical behaviour, shared ceremonies, artifacts from folklore and culture, komunajn celojn, elementojn de samtipa konduto, komunajn ceremoniojn, folkloraĵojn kaj kulturon, they elect their leaders…)

    3. An individual in his or her life leaves old groups and joins new ones (people leave the family they were born into and forms their own or several of their own, people leave one town and move to another and they change the locality to which they belong, or even their religion or country – sometimes because we move, sometimes because it is taken from us (for example after wars …)

    4. People don’t lose the characteristics of the group which they left (after founding one’s own family one doesn’t lose membership of the family of one’s birth, after leaving one’s homeland and a gradual acceptance of the new country one doesn’t forget the old country…) although the degree of belonging gets somewhat weaker.

    5. From this it follows that it is normal to add new identities to those already existing, as is for example European identity. When one takes a new identity one doesn’t wipe out the old ones (e.g. The identity of one’s homeland, or region, or religion etc)

    6. The main sign of one’s identity is language (if we accept that each variation of a language or dialect is a separate linguistic system). For example in a public place we would speak the national language, in our village we speak the regional or local dialect, in a street gang we speak the gang’s slang, in the family we speak the family’s variety of the local dialect, with a small child we speak a variety of a child’s language, with a handicapped child we speak a language adapted to the child’s ability to understand etc)

    7. A language has two equally important basic roles: that of communication and that of giving identity. When these two functions are in conflict, the role of identity is the more important (we often intentionally speak our minority language, even though we know that we are not understood, because the aim isn’t to communicate but to display our alligiance.

    8. A new identity inevitably makes an identifying language necessary, a language which is different from all other languages because it must be neutral. This language is the sign of belonging to the new (European) identity. This language must accept emotionally (not only rationally) those who belong to the new community as its own; they must have and emotional relationship with it. And that is possible only if for all members of the new community it is the same, but different from all other communities. In regard to the European langugage English cannot become the language of identity, even though works as a language of communication, and it cannot contribute to the development of a European identity, because the European identity language must be neutral in relation to all members (the English AND THE SCOTS AND THE WELSH and the Irish have no right of priviledge) and it must necessarily be different from the indentifying language of the USA, so that Europeans may be proud of their values, and that they can show their pride in their membership by speaking their own and not an American language. Of course, the language of identity will take on the job of the communication language.

    9. A neutral language can be acquired in three possible ways:

    a) choosing a national language which belongs to none of the peoples who have joined the new community, e.g. Arabic. This solution was chosen in ex-colonial countries, like English in India or Nigeria, French in some African countries etc.

    b) choosing one of the dead languages, which could be revived and on whose base European culture grew historically, like Latin or Ancient Greek. This solution was chosen by the Israelis when they renewed and “revived” the dead Hebrew language.

    c) choosing one of the new romance languages which were initiated by linguists or by Movements like Esperanto, (which has developed a unique culture and linguistic treasury during its history of over 120 years). This type of solution was chosen in Indonesia and in several other polynesian countries (Bahasa Indonesian is a language based on a Malaysian langiage whose grammar linguists developed in the middle of the 1950’s in a regular and planned way, and is now used by more than 200 million people ).

    The Soviet Union and Yugoslavia were unaware of the role of language in identity, and they tried to develop a Soviet Yugoslavian language using the language of the largest population; it did work as a language of communication but could not be accepted as a language of communal identity, because it wasn’t neutral. For this reason they failed to develop a communal identity. In a time of crisis this was decisive and fundamentally influenced the collapse of these multi-ethnic states. Without a solution to this problem the European Union will fall apart whenever the first large scale economic or political crisis occurs.

    Zlatko Tišljar
    Association for European Consciousness Maribor

    • avatar
      robert leleu

      About soviet case, I give a compendium of «Cacophonies d’empire» CNRS Éditions ISBN : 978-2-271-070031-9
      I’ve been able to read your english and hope that reading my french is easier for you than translating to english would be for me. To help I give first an esperanto version.

      La necesa progresigo de lokaj ĉiutagaj lingvoj videble efikis je la enanigo de la ne-Rusoj al la soveta sistemo. Tiujn lingvojn helpantajn decidojn ene de la Ŝtato, pere de rimedoj tiel dungitoj, sed ĉefe pere de amasaj edukaj programoj cele al instrui loĝantarojn per la lokaj lingvoj ebligis iom-post-ioman emerĝon de abocigata socio en tiuj Respublikoj laŭ loke tre malsimilaj formoj. Certe ĉiam la centraj institucioj malemis, ke la Respublikoj petu subtenon de siaj naciaj lingvoj, tamen ili submetiĝis al la necesoj de la nacieca politiko dum la jaroj 1920. La rusa lingvo, ĉieestanta je la interstata komuniko, kunekzistis lokajn lingvojn, kiuj superregis en certaj Respublikoj. Prioritatis la konstruo de dulingva elito, kiu eblas ruse servi la novan Ŝtaton, komuniki kun nerusparolantoj, kaj ne ofendeti la dum tiaj revoluciaj jaroj sentojn.
      Je la fino de la jaroj 1930 jam ŝanĝis la problemo de la inkludo de la ne-Rusoj. La ekzemplo de la armeo tipas pri la evoluo de la inkludformoj : la progresigo de lokaj lingvoj kaj la nacia teritoriigo antaŭiĝis la formado de space kuniĝita Stato. El tia referenco en 1938 decidis Staline, ke nepre lernejoj instruu la rusan. Armeo, denove, iĝis la loko, kie oni kreu la novan sovetan naci-Ŝtaton, reganto spacon, kie ĉiu, movante, eblus paroli al siaj kunŝtatanoj. La rusa lingvo relokiĝis centren de la ŝtata konstruo, kvankam dulingveco postekzistis en naciaj teritorioj, USSR nepris konstitigi space kaj lingve unuigitan spacon, multlingvan sed unulingvan ene de la kerna funkciado.

      L’impératif de promotion des langues vernaculaires eut des effets tangibles sur l’intégration des non-Russes au système soviétique. Des mesures soutenant ces langues dans la propagande d’État, par des ressources en termes de postes, mais surtout par des programmes éducatifs massifs pour instruire des populations dans les vernaculaires a permis l’émergence progressive d’une société alphabétisée dans ces Républiques selon des formes très différenciées géographiquement. Face aux demandes des Républiques de soutien des langues nationales, les institutions centrales furent certes toujours réticentes, mais elles furent néanmoins soumises aux impératifs de la politique des nationalités tout au cours des années 1920. Le russe omniprésent dans la communication interétatique coexistait avec les langues nationles dominantes dans certaines Républiques. L’édification d’une élite bilingue capable de servir le nouvel État en russe, de communiquer avec les populations non russophones et de ne pas froisser les sentiments nationaux exprimés dans les années révolutionnaires constituait une priorité.
      A la fin des années 1930, la problématique de l’inclusion des non-Russes s’était déplacée.L’exemple de l’armée est symptomatique de l’évolution des formes prises par leur intégration : la promotion des langues vernaculaires et la territorialisation nationale précédant la formation d’un État spatialement intégré. Ce fut en faisant référence à cette question que Staline décida en 1938 de rendre obligatoire le russe comme matière d’études à l’école. L’armée redevint le lieu de fabrication du nouvel Etat-nation soviétique, gouvernant un espace où chacun pouvait en se déplaçant parler à ses concitoyens. Le russe fut replacé au centre de l’édification étatique, si le bilinguisme subsista dans les territoires nationaux, l’URSS se devait de constituer un espace intégré spatialement et linguistiquement, multilingue mais monolingue dans son fonctionnement central.

    • avatar

      Great reasoning Zlatko,

      I hope the next incarnation of SFReJ (Soc Fed Rep esperantist Jug) will survive longer.

      Mi ŝatas Maribor
      Ex Yugoslav & egalitarian citizen

    • avatar

      Totalement d’accord avec Zlatko Tišljar. L’identité européenne, c’est ce qui distingue l’Europe de ce qu’il y a autour: Démocratie, tolérance et solidarité. Il faudrait que ces valeurs communes s’incarnent dans une langue commune telle que l’espéranto.

  3. avatar
    Tim Owen

    Alongside the two points that Brian mentions, I think that there’s a third misapprehension associated with Esperanto. If somebody called himself a Lojban-speaker, Klingon-speaker, Glosa-speaker and so on, my instant reaction would be that this individual could not possibly speak fluently in his language. This being the case, why should we expect people to think differently of Esperanto?

    The fact is that Esperanto is spoken fluently by tens of thousands of people, and not simply limited to those countries whose languages are closer to Zamenhof’s European reference languages. This is a message that we need to convey. Esperanto is not simply theoretical, a nice idea but unworkable in practice; I speak it fluently. So do Bill and Brian. So do hundreds of people that I’ve met. It works. And it’s not even unknown to use it in cross-national situations, such as the one we’re discussing; Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia and President Jonas of Austria, both supporters of the language, used it to talk to each other.

    Even if we were not to aim so high as asking the EU to adopt it, there would still be, in my opinion, a clear use for Esperanto-teaching in schools. The language is a wonderful introduction into language-learning. Because it’s relatively easy the learning reinforces itself, giving children a real sense of progress. No longer (in the UK, at any rate) would a child’s initial thoughts about learning languages be that it’s improbably difficult. And once the child has learnt how to learn a language it becomes easier to learn more. I’m a good case in point. My fiancée and I were recently on holiday in Kiev, a city where nearly everyone is bilingual in Russian and Ukrainian … and where there was scarcely a word of English understood. We were wholly reliant on our very limited Russian, which we learnt with relatively little effort because we’re both schooled mentally in how to learn a language. How commendable to give children such a start, so that they too can go on to learn other languages without the countless challenges that language-learning throws at them when they start with a national one! I remember (and I’m relatively gifted for languages) struggling with the concept of grammatical gender, and our lessons on individual French verbs taking 50 minutes each. It’s no wonder that most of my contemporaries will be monolingual now.

    Should it be the language of Europe? I think that anybody with a sense of fairness would have to acknowledge that using principally a single nation’s language is not ideal and runs counter to the EU’s egalitarian motives regarding, for example, funds for redevelopment. I’d certainly like to see Esperanto introduced to more schools (it’s already taught in several primary schools in the UK) for the benefits that I outlined above; and then, who knows, at a time when some schooling in Esperanto is the norm we can look at the descendants of Tito and Jonas following in their footsteps, using Esperanto according to its purpose; as a neutral common tongue. There’s already a common currency and harmonisation in legislation, so it’s really not such an outlandish aspiration after all.

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Hi Tim,

      Many thanks for a thoughtful comment!

      Esperanto is not simply theoretical, a nice idea but unworkable in practice; I speak it fluently. So do Bill and Brian. So do hundreds of people that I’ve met. It works.

      Whether or not one can speak a language fluently after only a short period of instruction is not a good test of “workability”. The best test is always to see how many people currently speak a given language and, on that basis, Esperanto falls short. Perhaps after a sustained and coordinated campaign of state-sponsored education this might change (as happened to promote the “French language” in 19th Century France) but this would not be politically possible (nor, arguably, even desirable).

      It’s true that having English as the “common language” of Europe might not be politically neutral – but does English as a language really belong to the English as a nation? Just as Latin survived the fall of the Roman Empire, English has survived the fall of the British Empire and lives on as common property.

    • avatar
      Tim Owen

      Thank you for your response, moderator.

      Whether or not one can speak a language fluently after only a short period of instruction is not a good test of “workability”. The best test is always to see how many people currently speak a given language and, on that basis, Esperanto falls short. Perhaps after a sustained and coordinated campaign of state-sponsored education this might change (as happened to promote the “French language” in 19th Century France) but this would not be politically possible (nor, arguably, even desirable).

      I wanted to challenge the (perfectly natural, in my opinion) reaction of the uninitiated to Esperanto that it isn’t a language which people could actually speak. A language which can’t actually be spoken is, of course, unworkable. My point is that Esperanto is fully workable, contingent on the conversation taking place between people who have actually learnt it.

      I think we share the same opinion about the current situation (where employees and officers of the EU overwhelmingly don’t speak the language), that implementing Esperanto tomorrow as the sole working language demonstrably won’t work anymore than would choosing Polish or Maltese on a whim. (Although the carnage would be quicker to dissipate, since functional Esperanto could be taught appropriately in a fraction of the time that the other two would require.)

      This is why I’m looking forward and wrote about schooling and the benefits that a short course of Esperanto could bring. A bi-product of using it in schools as a learning tool for developing skills in language-acquisition would be that a generation of people with some degree of familiarity happened to be the norm. In that future Esperanto becomes viable and, in my opinion, desirable because on top of its relative ease of learning and inherent neutrality there would also be the fact that there are swathes of people who could speak it (after a small bit of top-up studying).

      So my line of thought runs something like this: I’m aware that Esperanto works wonderfully for developing language-acquisition skills and so opine that a short course in it would be beneficial and ought to find itself on the teaching programmes at schools on that basis. That should be a goal in and of itself, so that pupils are given a chance of being able to learn other languages better.

      If that happens and the future sees people with a basic grounding in Esperanto as the norm, then it makes sense to me to adopt it as a working language over a national language. But I think that it becomes evident that step two won’t work without step one first.

      It’s true that having English as the “common language” of Europe might not be politically neutral – but does English as a language really belong to the English as a nation? Just as Latin survived the fall of the Roman Empire, English has survived the fall of the British Empire and lives on as common property.

      I think it’s possible to answer that in either way quite justifiably! As much as I agree with you on common-sense grounds, I hold my hands up and admit that there’s a certain protectionism that arises in me when I occasionally here something like “How do you say X in American?” It’s daft, but there you go :)

      Thank you for the polite answer and opportunity to debate.

    • avatar
      Lu Wunsch-Rolshoven

      You wrote that the time needed for learning to speak fluently…

      … is not a good test of “workability”. The best test is always to see how many people currently speak a given language and, on that basis, Esperanto falls short.

      Why do you think so? Are electric cars not “workable” because there are not many people using them now?

      To understand the perspectives of Esperanto, I think we should look at the way Esperanto already took since 1887 when the first textbook was published. At that time there were only about five people speaking the language and so Esperanto had one of the smallest language communities in the world, out of about 7000 languages. Now the Chinese governement publishes news in Esperanto every day, together with only nine other languages. Esperanto has become one out of the fifty languages that are most used in international communication. There are over 150 000 articles in the Esperanto Wikipedia. It seems that no other language ever made a similar progress in only one century.

      Esperanto is attractive for itself, for the ideas of international understanding it conveys and because it is relatively easy to learn. I admit the Esperanto organizations are not very powerful at the moment and they did not succeed up to now to inform many people. Most people just don’t know a lot about Esperanto or even nothing – how can they decide to learn it? The question of Esperanto is mainly a question of marketing.

    • avatar
      Alex Escomu

      So Esperanto to pass a “workability” test should probably have conquered half the world and imposed the language to the people that lived there (or killed them) like Latin, English, Spanish, French did (and Chinese in its area).
      No, I don’t buy that. If you want an international language to become global, fair, neutral, you have to start from one speaker to thousands and millions with no imposition (we can see still ethnic bridge languages are being imposed through nations investing money and lobbying for their own language. Of course, the more powerful a nation is, the more learners their language gets).
      What happens in 7 months when you give people the chance to learn a language like Esperanto still with not great benefits in the laboral market? well… you get 225000 more speakers.

  4. avatar
    Brian Barker

    Bearing in mind that Esperanto already enjoys consultative relations both with the Council of Europe and with the United Nations – see – it cannot be doubted that Esperanto has long-term potential.

    In the short-term the way forward should be for one Government to vote for Esperanto as a co-official language of the European Parliament and for the European national Esperanto Associations to pay for the translation costs. Co-official status would then put Esperanto on a par with Welsh which already enjoys that status.

    Not too far-fetched as the Sejm of the Polish Parliament has previously voted unanimously in favour of Esperanto and I see no reason why such support should not be repeated with regard to the European Union.

    It’s up to the Esperanto people now to make it happen.

  5. avatar
    David Curtis

    A very common mistake is to compare Esperanto with English as an international language for all. English at present is favoured by those employed in international commerce, industry or politics, and students make tremendous efforts to learn it, if it is not their native language. Those fields of activity are not yet ready for Esperanto, but when it is widely taught the situation could radically change. As many more students would be able to speak it, Esperanto would gradually become more useful in commerce, industry and politics. In the meantime, great efforts should be made by governments to have Esperanto taught in schools as an introduction to the learning of national languages. This is vital, as the language has no country and will not be learnt naturally, except in the small number of cases in which parents teach their children Esperanto from birth. Once it has been generally established in the education systems of member-states, its advantage over English will be obvious. Available to all, at low cost.

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Thanks for your comment, David!

      When it is widely taught the situation could radically change… In the meantime, great efforts should be made by governments to have Esperanto taught in schools as an introduction to the learning of national languages… Once it has been generally established in the education systems of member-states, its advantage over English will be obvious.

      This, however, is exactly the problem. Governments and individuals choose freely to promote and learn English. Is there any way for Esperanto to become widespread without coordinated government intervention? If not, then how viable is it as an international language? Governments don’t seem likely to choose Esperanto of their own volition. Forcing governments at the EU level to educate their citizens in Esperanto is unworkable as it would be completely undemocratic.

    • avatar
      Lu Wunsch-Rolshoven

      Some governments and parliaments already promote Esperanto or at least give it an equal treatment – even without an international coordination:

      – In Hungary you can choose Esperanto as one of the foreign languages needed to finish university studies, see [origo] and EsperantoLand; last year 2310 hungarian students succeeded in their Esperanto examination.

      – In China there are Esperanto courses in about 20 universities and they maintain some sites in Esperanto, as Ĉina Radio Internacia and the news site “El Popola Ĉinio”.

      – In the Brazilian Parliament there is a law project for Esperanto as an optional subject in schools; it has already been voted by the Brazilian Senate.

      While it is certainly unworkable to force “governments at the EU level to educate their citizens in Esperanto” – I agree – maybe some more governments will give Esperanto an equal treatment with other languages in the future. Currently there is an initiative in France to admit Esperanto in the french baccalauréat (A levels). Vive l’égalité (avec les autres langues)!

      Esperanto became much more visible in the last decade because of the internet. Lots of popular programmes (Firefox) and sites (Google) exist in Esperanto, so people just get aware of the language. There are special sites to learn Esperanto on the internet as, so it is much easier than before to study it.

      Probably all that will help Esperanto to become more widespread in the future.

  6. avatar
    Tony Harris

    On the subject of “everyone speaks English anyway”, I can say my experience is that may be true in the tourist areas, but not so much outside of them. My wife and I recently visited Belgium, and as is our habit we avoided the big, touristy urban center of Brussels and stayed in a smaller city, and spent time in the stores, restaurants, and attractions where the locals go. I was very glad I speak decent French (we were in Wallonia, not Flanders), as most people in those areas knew only a smattering of English, if any. Personally I have no problem with this, as I see no reason to require others to learn my language when I am, after all, visiting their country. But if we all learned a shared, neutral, easy-to-learn language like Esperanto, it would certainly make such communication easier, and allow my wife (who doesn’t have the language-learning skills that I do) to also participate.

  7. avatar
    Maxx Eastick

    Having a single natural language is not good. A non natural speaker of English is at a disadvantage within English speakers, but a natural speaker of English is at a disadvantage within other languages. Using a language like English as a universal language will create even bigger barriers. One culture is forced to learn it, while another is not.
    If everyone is to learn another language, that in itself is equality.

  8. avatar

    Esperanto is a great idea in principle. However, it might be worth linking to an excellent resource on why NOT to speak Esperanto:

    Even on its own merits, as an artificial language, it has flaws.

    • avatar

      Maybe you think that other languages don’t have flaws …

    • avatar
      Jeri Urso

      justin b. rye is somebody in scotland who works in computers. his entire knowledge of esperanto is based on getting at least halfway through the teach yourself esperanto textbook. he ia just abysmally ignorant about esperanto and seriously misunderstands quite basic features of the language. He is equallyignorant of linguistics. His basic tactic is to describe a basic feature of Esperanto then claim it is some horrible defect without giving any real logically defensible reason. His rant is basically just drivel and a waste of time. Please do not bring him up as an authority on anything..

    • avatar

      Au moins, il s’est donné la peine d’étudier la langue à fond, alors que la plupart des adversaires de l’espéranto n’ont jamais consacré ne serait-ce qu’une heure à s’informer sur la question.
      Il prouve une chose, c’est que le langage n’est pas une science exacte. Mais ça, ce n’est pas un scoop. On le savait déjà.

  9. avatar

    Esperanto would need to be a more popular language before it was ‘adopted’ as a language for Europe. You can’t expect anyone to agree to this when virtually nobody speaks it (percentage wise).

    I would like to see the EU encourage the learning of the language by giving Esperanto books to every library and school in Europe (as well as internet based learning resources). Maybe then the percentage of speakers will be higher and it could be considered as the language of Europe.

  10. avatar
    Carl Chadwick

    Ultimately, Esperanto is a 19th Century language unsuited to the realities of the 21st Century. Like others, I agree it’s a fantastic idea in principle – but it’s simply not viable in practice. This is doubly so when we consider how the internet is changing the way we communicate.

    Within a couple of decades, machine translation may very well have replaced the need for Esperanto.

    • avatar

      “Ultimately, Esperanto is a 19th Century language unsuited to the realities of the 21st Century. Like others, I agree it’s a fantastic idea in principle – but it’s simply not viable in practice.”

      I do not understand this statement. I speak Esperanto fluently and it works very well in practice, and I talk without problem in Esperanto about “realities of the 21st century”, like computer stuff.

  11. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Hi Carl,
    What unsuitabilities do you speak of?
    I use the language every day, professionally and personally, and have not encountered any.
    Esperanto evolves and grows the same as English.

  12. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    And Carl, I have a google translator on nearly every page of my Mondeto site- they are mostly useful for giving people a cause to make contact- to tell me how useless they are!! :-)

  13. avatar
    Brian Barker

    Carl. Please check your facts before leaping into print :(

    During a short period of 123 years and despite persecution by both Hitler and Stalin, Esperanto is now in the top 100 languages, out of 6,800 worldwide. It is the 22nd most used language in Wikipedia, ahead of Danish and Arabic. It is a language choice of Google, Skype, Firefox, Ubuntu and Facebook.

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

    Esperanto not viable! Have you tried explaining that to a native Esperanto speaker?

  14. avatar

    You are what you speak: there is a cultural, human identity behind each and every natural language on earth.

    There is nothing behind Esperanto, bar wishful thinking and arguably, good intentions.

    • avatar

      IMO, Esperanto is not cultural. It is a tool. Each of us would have a native language and Esperanto would merely be a tool.

  15. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Rapella, you are so right that “You are what you speak”

    That’s why I am an English-speaker (for my ancestors) and an Esperanto-speaker, for my identity as a citizen of the world.

    My cultural and human identity is a combination of what I was dealt, and what I choose- to be fair, effective and efficient.

    Behind my English heritage is a lot I could be ashamed of – we invaded lots of countries and took stuff that wasn’t ours.

    There is nothing behind Esperanto to regret.

    (I’m learning Indonesian but I’ll never be Indonesian, will I?)

  16. avatar


    About the “excellent resource” you are talking about:

    The author of that article is well known in the Esperanto world for being the author of that article… and nothing more ;)

    A true recognized expert in Esperanto, the linguist and psychologist Claude Piron (you can google it), debunked that article years ago:

  17. avatar
    Michael Leibman

    I think the purpose of an international language is to enable speakers of different national language to communicate as effectively as possible. The question shouldn’t be “how widespread is this or that language today ?”, but how many people could potentially speak it thirty years down the road having learned it as a second language? This is the only question that makes any sense to me. And the answer is equally simple. I am a native speaker of both French and English. In addition I have studied Latin, Greek, Russian and I have dealt with serious business matters in Spanish, Italian and German. Today I teach English in a middle school in semi-rural France and I chanced to learn Esperanto starting five years ago.
    Foreign language teaching often seems a farce. The average individual whose native language has an important number of features different from those of English has next to no chance of really learning our language given the time allotted to instruction in school. Transforming English into an international tool of mass communication would require an enormous change of scale in the exposure to English. While this may sound like a good business proposition in a country which is running out of oil and hasn’t got much of anything else to sell, as a French taxpayer I find the prospect less than totally attractive.
    So as far as I am concerned a re-engineered language like Esperanto, which is significantly easier to learn, may not be the solution but it will give us a far better run for the money than our wonderfully pleasant and baroque native tongue.

  18. avatar
    Istvan Ertl

    Leon, Esperanto IS cultural. It is about reaching out to other cultures through a shared medium.

    Istvan Ertl
    editor of Beletra Almanako

  19. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Hi Debating Europe

    Your concern about “barriers” tempts us off topic to some extent. The question is “Should Esperanto…..?” not
    “Will Esperanto….(with no act of leadership).”

    So, should babies be fed? Yes. And no talk of inconveniences changes the answer. Ethical questions are like that.

    Not that Esperanto is impractical. It only looks that way if you squint your eyes so that you only see the extreme short term, and the people currently favoured – like us :-)

    If you count the people less privileged, and those too young to have invested yet, and you will find the “practicality” of cumbersome English impossible to argue, even if it hadn’t already failed the “should” test, on other grounds.

  20. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Debating Europe,

    1. There is a wonderful SBS series available on video, Melvyn Bragg’s “The Adventure of English”. It is fascinating stuff, and provides some very valuable perspective on what doldrums can come before apparent linguistic victory.
    2. Can you see that statements like:
    “The best test is always to see how many people currently speak a given language” and “English …. as common property” are more convenient status quo holders, than true-from-any-point-of-view?
    Italians would probably generously let you share their language, and we could do everything in Italian, but would you want to?

  21. avatar
    Ian Green

    That’s interesting about the “United in Diversity” motto of the EU! It’s almost identical to the Republic of Indonesia’s motto, in Old Javanese “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika”, translated to English it means “Unity in Diversity”! Indonesia is an archipelago with hundreds of languages, but the native languages of most of the people of Indonesia are from the island of Java; Javanese and Sundanese! Yet, when the independence movement began the Indonesians decided on an interlanguage that could unite all of the people of the soon to be Indonesia, then the Dutch East Indies. It was the trade language of Malay, which they established in a standardised form, with regular spelling and a relatively simple grammar and called the Indonesian language. Many people call it “Bahasa” these days, but every language is a bahasa, because that is just the part of the name that means “language”! ;) I am writing in Bahasa Inggris right now, but sometimes I write in Bahasa Esperanto. It should not be too surprising that some people in Indonesia see the sense in learning Esperanto as the world interlanguage, but certainly it makes sense for it to be one for the European Union.

  22. avatar
    Harry Barron

    I am coming to this argument as a one-time teacher of English as a Foreign Language to Adults and also as a polyglot and linguist and I would like to add my opinions to the argument.

    Promoting English (or indeed any National Language) puts its native speakers at an incredible advantage over those who learn it as their second language. The effort and time (not to mention money) needed to learn and teach English at an acceptable (not to mention proficient/competent) level is astronomical and in a sensible world should be considered economically and temporally non-viable, especially compared to promoting Esperanto, the mastery of which would take a fraction of the time it would take to learn English to the equivalent level and would lessen financial burdens. Would not the promotion of Esperanto be a more effective and practical solution to second language acquisition?

    But this is not a sensible world and at present, the English speaking nations are continuing to invest vast amounts of money propping up the Anglo-American culture and language across the globe and they are probably (and rightly) reluctant to see their investment go down the pan. I know that in some countries, for instance the Nordic Countries, many people have an excellent command of English and no doubt this gives the impression that these are English speaking nations and that there are probably equally competent English speakers in every other country on the planet; but the reality is otherwise. I have travelled the world quite extensively and I have lived in various far flung reaches of the world, such as France, the Philippines and China and know that it is actually quite rare to find competent English speakers in quite a number of places of the globe – sure, some people have enough English for tourists’ needs, but when you see the English language being murdered with invitations such as “Come for walk on water with us” (Lithuania) instead of “Come for a boat trip with us” (which was presumably the intended meaning) you have to wonder about what kind of (non?)success people are achieving in learning and teaching English. And there are numerous examples I can quote of strange English idioms. Despite English being quoted as having an easier grammar, especially in comparison to other languages, such as French, German or Russian, it is by no means an easy language to learn and some would say it is actually quite tough to learn English. Some would say that the Chinese continuum of languages have an even simpler grammar and language structure, but you could hardly say that they are easy languages to learn either! So easy grammar does not equate ease of acquisition. In my experience, Esperanto has a sufficiently uncomplicated grammar and the time for proficient acquisition is speedy. That to me is a double plus.

    But it should be said, that in these aforementioned Nordic countries, the exposure to English in media (such as films and television programmes being subtitled rather than dubbed) begins at an early age and no doubt this helps to its acquisition and assimilation, but that does not mean that it a fair system by any means, especially since the English Speaking world rarely watches foreign language films, although dubbed films sometimes do pop up in cinemas and on TV, but rarely if ever are subtitled programs seen (although there are notable exceptions). Is the English Speaking world totally disinterested in what is happening in other countries? Or do these countries have to become English speaking nations first for us to take note?

    Despite the relatively low numbers of Esperanto speakers in comparison with English, nevertheless, it is a language where you can find speakers in just about every nation on the Earth and it has been shown to function admirably at international conventions and it does promote international understanding of different cultures…

    We are all in favour of “Fair Trade”, “Equality of the Sexes” “Basic Human Rights for All” and so forth, right? What happened to “Linguistic Equality” and “Language Rights”? Or did we trample on those rights with our own particular brands English imperialism already?

    • avatar

      And of course “por promenado sur aqvo” or whatever it is in your cur language would not be “a murder” or make a sense.

      English native at its best.

    • avatar
      robert leleu

      Ĉu vi klarigu ? Mi ne komprenas.

    • avatar

      It’s me who ne comprenas.

      (a) write in norrmal language, and (b) do you agree that only idiots can claim the language is difficult basing solely on foreigners calqueing their own expressions when speaking in it?

  23. avatar
    Paul Humblet

    Esperanto could become a language spoken in Europe if people could consider it as a convenient way to speak with people whose mother tongues are different without preponderance of any ethnical language like English, French (my language), German, Russian, Spanish e.g.

  24. avatar
    David Curtis

    I very much admire nearly all of the contributors to this debate, and have made up my mind to get on with campaigning for the teaching of Esperanto in as many primary schools as possible, for that is the solution to the problem of a truly neutral language for Europe.
    Mi admiregas preskaux cxiujn kontribuintojn al cxi-tiu debato, kaj decidis kampanjadi por Esperanto-instruado en tiom multe da elementaj lernejoj kiom eble, cxar tio estas la solvo de la problemo de vere neuxtrala lingvo por Euxropo.

    • avatar

      Yes Esperanto is a neutral language now. How, when the times come when there’s a new born nation in Europe and pass a law that Esperanto is their national language. They are now like their neighbors have identity language like German, French, etc. So, the would be Esperanto speaker new born country will claim it so that they seem ahead in race as a nation because of such choosen language. Why English is wanted to replace because of not being neutral language.

  25. avatar
    Neil Blonstein

    Esperanto is a very useful language after a few months study. Since the a large part of the world is delusional, in thinking that English is a long-term solution beneficial for all, I will present my argument that history repeats itself, that every 50 or hundred years a preferred dominant culture comes along, only to be pushed aside immediately after the dominant nation loses war. In my article called Lost German Culture I argue that few people, even Esperantists, remember how German as a Second Language dominated American and European cultural and scientific circles until the loss of World War II by Germany. An individual above says English spreads with “no investment”. War, colonization and military investment (by English speaking countries) is huge and beyond most people’s imagination. Sadly it determines the winds of change and cultural preferances and final domination. We, Esperantists, will fight better for Esperanto when we can show how much of humanity is making poor choices in second language study, that are part of a problem, not the solution. To be continued.

  26. avatar
    Neil Blonstein


    Particularly, younger people have no idea how prevalent German was in the United States prior to World War II.

    As a life-long advocate of Esperanto and a retired English teacher, I note that even many English teachers (EFL, ESL/ESOL), UN and diplomatic translaters speak in and advocate for Esperanto.
    No doubt this group will grow.

  27. avatar
    Seán Ó Buaidhe

    It seems to me that we are in a kind of “Prisoner’s Dilemma” situation. If all or most governments set aside their own natural languages as candidates, we all win. If a government goes it alone, they look foolish – and in addition to international leg-pulling, a government is comprised of elected individuals, who, as a rule, hope to be re-elected, so there are voters to take into account as well. I think we can rule out any action by the “big players”: Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Spain. What we need at the most basic level is a reciprocal relationship between two countries with minority languages to come to an educational agreement and get the ball rolling.

    On the subject of the suitability of Esperanto, as an Esperanto speaker, I can honestly say that it isn’t perfect (name a language which is – after linguistic perfection has been defined, that is) but that it definitely works. Only someone who has never been at an international gathering of Esperantists could doubt its efffectivity.

    I have my own fears and concerns about the changes to the world that having a widespread international language would have, but that would go for any language so adopted.

    • avatar
      Tim Owen

      All of those are excellent points that I fully agree with, Seán. There must be countries out there that resent the imposition of somebody else’s languages for international affairs; I personally know of several hundred individuals, and their solution was to learn Esperanto. If some forward-thinking small states were to undertake measures to give themselves the means of using Esperanto then they would not only avoid submitting to the status quo, which elevates the language of a minority above all others, but also make that important first step that demonstrates that Esperanto is fully functional and fit for the task and which will make it easier for others to follow suit.

      As with so many things, you need someone to make the first step. Small states who must use someone else’s language for international dealings are in the best position to be able to do so.

    • avatar
      Lu Wunsch-Rolshoven

      It seems that there are already several states which make the first steps: Hungary with its official examinations in Esperanto and 2310 students taking this exam last year. China with three big websites and some 20 universities where Esperanto is taught. Brazil where there is a law project for Esperanto as an optional subject in schools; this has already been accepted by the Brazilian Senate.

      And we should not forget the small german town Herzberg am Harz which decided to call itself “Esperanto town” (la Esperanto-urbo).

      So I can’t see the prisoner’s dilemma – every country and every town is free to support Esperanto just a little bit. Maybe this would look a bit strange when they would support Esperanto as the only foreign language – but together with some twenty other foreign languages this is a rather natural step to do, just the way to give equal rights to Esperanto and its speakers. (If they don’t want to discriminate Esperanto actively.)

    • avatar

      How, when the times come and so happen that there’s a newly born nation in Europe and would pass a law that Esperanto is their official national language. So, they will have their own identity as a Esperanto speaker and take advantage of it that appear they are ahead in race with their neighbor countries that have an identity language. Because they claim the Esperanto language as their own official natinal language. Why Esperantist wanted to replace English as a dominant language because of not being politically neutral and only the pride of a native English speaker. Isn’t it?

    • avatar
      Betty Chatterjee

      We do not know how many people actually speak our language; as far as I know, there has never been any kind of reliable survey.

      Nowadays many people seem to learn and use the language on-line without joining any Esperanto organisations. As an active user of Facebook, Twitter and Skype I find the language extremely useful in discussing all kinds of topics, both serious and trivial, without any trouble whatsoever with people from all over the world. When in need of information we consult the Esperanto Vikepedia.

      My fellow esperantists have already provided excellent reasons for taking the language seriously, so I will conclude my contribution by simply saying: it works and it could also work as the language for Europe.

  28. avatar
    David Curtis

    If all contributors to this debate would visit their local schools and advocate Esperanto-teaching to the staff, backing up their argument with information about Springboard to Languages (which is on the web), or Esperanto-en-lernejojn (also on the web) that would start a process which could eventually affect language strategy in secondary schools and universities. I respect debaters, but practical action brings quicker results than endless discussion, in this case. One must expect to be ignored, for there is a taboo, particularly in Britain, where even educated people assume that the world would be a better place if only everyone would speak English.

    • avatar
      Lu Wunsch-Rolshoven

      I don’t want to urge people to learn Esperanto. I just would like they took two hours to get information about Esperanto. And I would like every school to give their pupils just two hours of instruction _about_ Esperanto. After that they could decide, if they wanted to learn it. About 0,1 to 1 % would probably do so.

  29. avatar
    David Curtis

    A language for Europe should clearly be Esperanto, not a national language; in fact, Esperanto should be the second language of every country in the world. Australia, as an English-speaking nation, is as misguided as Britain in assuming that there is no need for it to have a second language. Just as Springboard to Languages has been produced by the Esperanto Association of Britain, and Esperanto-en-lernejojn (Esperanto into schools) has been produced by the Budapest-based International Working Group for the Promotion of Esperanto Teaching in Schools, consisting of teachers throughout Europe, there is in Australia a project based on a resource-book, “Talking to the Whole Wide World” (on the web), which has been brilliantly devised to enable the generalist primary-school teacher to provide pupils with a second language, Esperanto, without prior training.
    Throughout the world, the provision of a second, national, language is made unsustainably expensive to the tax payer by the cost of training a primary-school teacher to attain the necessary level of fluency in the chosen national language. Like “Springboard to Languages” and “Esperanto-into-Schools”, “Talking to the Whole Wide World” solves this problem. The primary-school teacher learns Esperanto in his or her own classroom while teaching it in brief lessons during the school day. The language is so well-designed for easy learning that the teacher soon becomes an expert Esperanto-teacher who is still an expert primary-school teacher, with all the skills that that implies.

  30. avatar
    Lu Wunsch-Rolshoven

    On top of this page we can read:
    “Discuss YOUR ideas with Europe’s leaders.”

    Is there anyone of Europe’s leaders who discusses on this page with the Esperanto speakers who informed about Esperanto? Or someone from “Debating Europe”? Does “Debating Europe” intend to accept the ideas of those who speak Esperanto for decades? Or does “Debating Europe” think they know everything better than those who actually speak the language?

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Hi Lu!

      Just to reassure you – we are indeed getting in touch with experts and policy-makers in the field of languages to hear their reactions. We hope to publish a follow-up article with the viewpoints of several people. We’ll let you know when it’s published!

    • avatar
      Louis v. Wunsch-Rolshoven

      Thank you, Debating Europe!

      Maybe there will be a little problem with the so-called ‘experts’ and policy-makers in the field of languages…

      The ‘experts’ usually earn their living while teaching, translating, interpreting, researching languages like English, French, Spanish and others. If they hear the word “Esperanto”, what will be their first idea? “Oh, wonderful, we should introduce Esperanto. Then I will have the nice opportunity of learning a new language.”

      Or are they going to think, “oh my god, if they really adopt that (…) language, I will have to learn enormously and in the worst case, I am going to loose my job and my income.” (Because, no doubt, with Esperanto as the language of Europe, there will be a lot less translators and interpreters needed. And as Esperanto is much easier to learn, we’ll need only a third of the actual teachers. And as Esperanto can be learned in every country where there is an Esperanto teacher and, perhaps, an Esperanto meeting, England (and Malta and others) will loose a lot of language students and general tourism…)

      But, maybe, then the policy-makers will give a fair-minded view? Well, I suppose, most of them do speak English at a high level. They invested years to study English and other European languages. They got their job because of their language proficiencies. Now they are asked what to think about Esperanto. What will they answer? (If they want to survive the next meeting with their colleagues, husband, wife, children…)

      So, is there any hope to get an impartial reaction from these “experts and policy-makers in the field of languages”? I don’t think so.

      As they are highly skilled, they won’t say, “it’s against my own interests and those of my chums”. They will say that there are only a maximum of two million people speaking Esperanto. That this means, Esperanto is not accepted by the people. That we already have English. That some Esperanto consonants sound too slavic. And so on.

      They won’t mention that the German Language Contest for pupils actually excludes Esperanto, , “Nicht erlaubt sind Kunst- oder Plansprachen.” (Not allowed are artificial or planned languages.) Or that in France you have more than fifty languages allowed for baccalaureate, but not Esperanto… That the colleagues from the Foreign Language Lobby have done a good job in denigrating Esperanto. (See e.g. the article in the world famous “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”, “Nachruf aufs Esperanto”, obituary for Esperanto; the author rejoiced too early :-)

      So the problem lays in the search of really impartial “experts and policy-makers in the field of languages”. People who won’t have any advantage or disadvantage, if English or Esperanto will be the language of Europe. It will be hard to find such people to reach an independent view on the question… :-(

    • avatar
      Louis v. Wunsch-Rolshoven

      Thank you, Debating Europe, even if you posted some time ago…

      It seems there is a little problem with the so-called ‘experts’ and policy-makers in the field of languages…

      The ‘experts’ usually earn their living while teaching, translating, interpreting, researching languages like English, French, Spanish and others. If they hear the word “Esperanto”, what will be their first idea? “Oh, wonderful, we should introduce Esperanto. Then I will have the nice opportunity of learning a new language.”

      Or are they going to think, “oh my god, if they really adopt that (…) language, I will have to learn enormously and in the worst case, I am going to loose my job and my income.” (Because, no doubt, with Esperanto as the language of Europe, there will be a lot less translators and interpreters needed. And as Esperanto is much easier to learn, we’ll need only a third of the actual teachers. And as Esperanto can be learned in every country where there is an Esperanto teacher and, perhaps, an Esperanto meeting, England (and Malta and others) will loose a lot of language students and general tourism…)

      But, maybe, then the policy-makers will give a fair-minded view? Well, I suppose, most of them do speak English at a high level. They used years to study English and other European languages. They got their job because of their language proficiencies. Now they are asked what to think about Esperanto. What will they answer? (If they want to survive the next meeting with their colleagues, husband, wife, children…)

      So, is there any hope to get an impartial reaction from these “experts and policy-makers in the field of languages”? I don’t think so.

      As they are highly skilled, they won’t say, “it’s against my own interests and those of my chums”. They will say that there are only a maximum of two million people speaking Esperanto. That this means, Esperanto is not accepted by the population. That we already have English. That we don’t have to ‘invent’ a new language. That there is no culture behind Esperanto. (False, but a lot of people don’t know that.) That some Esperanto consonants sound too slavic. And so on.

      They won’t mention that the German Language Contest for pupils actually excludes Esperanto, , “Nicht erlaubt sind Kunst- oder Plansprachen.” (Not allowed are artificial or planned languages.) Or that in France you have more than fifty languages allowed for baccalaureate, but not Esperanto… That the colleagues from the Foreign Language Lobby have done a good job in denigrating Esperanto. (See e.g. the article in the world famous “Neue Zürcher Zeitung”, “Nachruf aufs Esperanto”, obituary for Esperanto; the author rejoiced too early :-)

      So the problem lays in the search of really impartial “experts and policy-makers in the field of languages”. People who won’t have any advantage or disadvantage, if English or Esperanto will be the language of Europe. It will be hard to find such people to reach an independent view on the question… :-(

  31. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Eeerrrmmm…no!! Just bury this language…!! Why do we have to debate on such stupid issues like that? Who speaks esperanto anyway..?? is there anywhere i could go and learn it..?? Give it up..!!

    English..that is the emerging language of Europe, either some like it or not…We should be having English as a second official language in Europe, or if the Brits leave the EU and give us some peace, then German or French..

    A second official language for Europe, that all will speak apart from their native..The national language will be the first official language, and citizens that speak it will have more opportunities in the state..For example if i as a Greek want to move to Hungary, and I do not speak Hungarian, i could move there by just speaking English and get a job anywhere..Apart from Government or Public Sector Jobs, Army/Defense or Police forces…Perhaps customer service jobs as well…

    In that way, native Hungarians or Hungarian speakers have an advantage, until i learn their language and get the same opportunities as them..That will give me the initiative to learn the language, in order to have more career opportunities..People will be able to move freely and get a job or settle anywhere, without the language restrictions..Fair?

    Could we decide on this and go ahead with it..?? Most of us speak English anyway..So where is the problem?

  32. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Christos, the question is what SHOULD be…
    SHOULD is about what is “best”. What do you think “best” means in this case?
    How about “The best solution is the one that enables the most people to participate for the least effort and expense”?
    Is that a reasonable interpretation of “best”?
    If so, no other language will allow everyone to participate for an investment of just 100 hours, as Esperanto does.

  33. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Penelope can you support your idea with some facts please..How did you come to this conclusion..? How can you say that no other language than Esperanto will allow everyone to participate..(blah blah blah…)…Isn’t Esperanto a language that i will have to learn? What makes you think that i will learn it easier than english? Please elaborate?

  34. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Sorry to ruin your fantasies my dear Esperantists…But I do not see how a language spoken only by a few, can have any advantages …especially when some people in Europe are not even aware of it…!!

  35. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Hi Christos,

    Good questions.
    You can get a really thorough answer with good illustrations from this site for a day or two.
    Otherwise, a shorter answer to part of your question is that different languages vary enormously in difficulty and Esperanto is unlike any other language in being designed to be user-friendly, easy to learn.
    This table gives you an idea of relative times for English-speakers:

    Chinese or Japanese in 2200 hours,

    Arabic in 1500 hours,

    Russian in 1100 hours,

    Greek in 800 hours,

    French, Italian, Spanish, Portugese,

    Dutch, German or Scandinavian in 600 hours
    Esperanto in 100 hours

    The main thing is that for most Europeans, most of the choices take 600 hours, but Esperanto takes 100.

    Some of the design features of Esperanto which account for this are described in the presentation to which I gave you the link.

  36. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Has anyone put this to practice…?? How do we know these things for sure..? Perhaps we should experimentally teach this “Language” in voluntary classes, in schools or institutions, see how a group of young kids will cope with it, and then see and study the results…see if there is a real benefit at all..

    and of course i will remind you that we will have to put such thing in a referendum, if we either want to have a second official language (as i suggested) or the use of esperanto (as you suggest) to the people and let them decide…i do not think that people will just accept it…most people that i know are not even aware that this language even exists, never mind that is being discussed by a few to have it as their official or second official language…!! how do you think they will react if they suddenly have to learn it?

    • avatar
      Dominikos CHRYSIDIS

      Hey Christos. I do understand why a non-esperanto speaker doupts how esperanto is that effective! Πριν αρχίσω να μαθαίνω εσπεράντο, είχα ακριβώς τους ιδιες ανυσηχίες και ερωτηματικα! Μετα από τρεις μηνες μαθημάτων, οφειλω να σου πω οτι μπορω να εκφράσω βασικά πραγματα της καθημερινότητας μου, της δουλειας και του κοσμου γυρω μου! ΜΟΝΟΝ ΣΕ ΤΡΕΙΣ ΜΗΝΕΣ! Το καλοκαιρι, εχουμε το Παγκόσμιο Συνέδριο στη Γερμανία, οπου μπορεις να συμμετέχεις! Esperanto is beyond culture! It is a great tool and way of life! Mi esperas ĉi helpos vin pli bone kompreni kial ni esperantists amas la Esperanta lingvon!

  37. avatar
    Brian Barker

    I do wish people would check their facts out :( Several British schools have already introduced Esperanto in order to test its propaedeutic value.

    You can see details on

    Interestingly, on the occasion of the European Day of Languages on the 26th September, the Council of Europe has also provided some phrases and expressions in Esperanto, which you can see here

  38. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Hi Christos,

    As Brian says, it has been well studied in the past. You can find a well-referenced paper summarizing some of the findings here:

    At present, I am aware of 55 primary schools, 64 middle schools and 46 high schools and universities currently teaching Esperanto successfully and effectively.

    I have, myself, taught Esperanto to children for 9 years, in three different schools, as a normal part of the schol curriculum, plus summer schools and specialist classes.

    As I said before, it is a great deal easier for young kids, teenagers and adults of all ages to “cope with” than any other language because other languages were not designed to be easy to learn, they were not designed at all.

    I’m sure that people would be dismayed to “suddenly” learn that they “had to” learn any language. If there is any way that this could happen (which I rather doubt) I imagine that they would be relieved if the language chosen was the world’s easiest, rather than another that is 6-22 times more burdensome, don’t you?

  39. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    And what do you suggest we do with our national languages then Penelope..?? Just ditch them? Because I am not willing to..If Esperanto becomes what English is now for most of us, then I do not have a problem..If we are talking about replacing our own national languages with this new fabricated language, then I am for sure out..Each language represents the soul of each nation, and it also enriches the World heritage..The more languages, the richer Europe is..Greek is being spoken for milenia, do you think we should just forget about it?

    But we need to be starting teaching esperanto soon, if we want people to get to know it and use it…If we want it as a second official language then start teaching it soon, and give initiatives for people to get to know it and learn it..But as I said, only if Esperanto becomes the common tool for communication, not the only one..

    Brian, as i mentioned, most people are unaware of this “language”..Just because a few fanatics are so keen to push it and promote in on all of us, for God knows what reason, it does not mean that their cause is justified and right…I only found out about esperanto a couple of years ago, while blogging…I haven’t read it anywhere, i do not know anyone who speaks it, i do not know any schools or people who are keen to teach it, in fact most people i know do not even know it exists…If we tell them that they are gonna have to start learning some new fabricated language from scrap, you know what reception it will have, don’t you..?? Instead of snubbing anyone who disagrees with you, try to understand where they are coming from..Ok? Not all of us are passionate about this language, or see its use…If you want to win the argument over, then try to understand where the doubts are coming from…

    I am only one of the sceptics..There are millions out there too..How are you gonna deal with them..By just shoving a link into their face and say “i wish some people were more knowledgeable”? It ain’t gonna work…Not all of us are weird academics,obsessed with creating a new language and pushing it onto everyone in this life you know..Some us have a life and a different opinion…

  40. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Hi again Christos,

    What I suggest we do with our national languages is keep learning them well and use them every day, except for those times when you want to include foreigners in the conversation, in which case you can shift to Esperanto.

    Thee would actually be more time for Greek if Greek children learned Esperanto, rather than English. I’m sure that you are very well aware that learning English took you a lot longer than 100 hours!

    I agree with you that each language is special and valuable and I know a lot of people who are sad that their languages are not getting taught as well as they were because of pressure to learn English or French. I’d like to help by letting people know that Esperanto is less of a time hog!

    I also agree do that “we need to be starting teaching Esperanto soon, if we want people to get to know it and use it…If we want it as a second official language then start teaching it soon”.

    It’s a good idea to “give initiatives for people to get to know it and learn it” Who do you think can do this?

    “..But as I said, only if Esperanto becomes the common tool for communication, not the only one..”- absolutely!

  41. avatar
    Brian Barker

    Certainly the insult “fanatics” is a curious way of ignoring the arguments of those who want to give facts about the need for an international language.

    This insult however cannot apply to current study by Manchester University.

    Five British schools have introduced Esperanto in order to test its propaedeutic values. The pilot project is being monitored by the University of Manchester and the initial encouraging results can be seen at,%20S2L%20Phase%201.pdf

  42. avatar
    Debating Europe

    Dear all,

    We’re following the continuing debate with great interest, and have some really interesting interviews lined up (including with the education minister of a European member-state). We’ll be asking for their reaction on all the comments in this thread, and will post an update soon.

    In the meantime, however, I want to remind everybody to keep the discussion civil. Please don’t resort to ad hominem attacks and keep the debate focused on the ideas.

  43. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Then Penelope and Brian, under those conditions I agree to have Esperanto as second official language of Europe, the lingua franca, to replace English…But you got to understand your selling point has a flaw…The argument that “it takes less to learn Esperanto than English”, I do not think it will sell to the ordinary citizen (aka me, my friends and family)..

    Think for example, in the current crisis, that we will decide to start teaching esperanto into our schools..My poor sister in Greece, that sees her salary being cut and is gonna face a harsh winter , even perhaps will have to stop my niece’s dance classes because she won’t be able to afford them anymore- though my niece loves dancing….they are going to see their taxes being spent in order to print books, hire teachers to teach this new language, train them, educate them…Millions or billions of euros will be spent in order to establish this new language lesson in our schools…How do you convince the people that this is something necessary and good for them and their kids..??

    Because it takes less hours to learn esperanto…? Do you think that this will convince them? Will they care , while we have other more dire issues to solve? Will a new fabricated language make their lives and the lives of their children better? Think how are you going to sell your idea to the ordinary citizens…I am one of them..And right now, I am not 100% convinced…

    Yes i totally agree that we need a second official language in Europe, but instead of spending millions to establish it in our education systems in all countries, we could do it with less by using an existing language that is being taught…Your idea sounds brilliant, but will appeal to the voters…?? I am just one of them..You have almost another 500 million to convince..You got to try harder…Sorry…

    • avatar

      From a financial point, I think it would cost more money to teach English and yield worse results. English does have an advantage that it has been kind of adopted as the lingua franca of Europe and pretty much most of the world, but even though it has been given full financial opportunities, the results for that effort have been kind of “meh”.

      Are we happy at the number and level/ability of these foreign English speakers and do we still want to inject time, money and effort into this venture?

  44. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Hi Christos,

    It’s true that any change to something entrenched, no matter how desirable, can have impact on those currently employed- outdated power-stations, whaling ships and unsustainable forestry come to mind.
    Fortunately, people like your sister (is she an English teacher?) would do fine if Esperanto was adopted as the common language of Europe because:
    1. She could use her language learning and teaching skills to teach Esperanto instead of English (She’d learn it quicker than 100 hours because of her experience).
    2. She would get a lot more job satisfaction out of teaching Esperanto because she would see her students actually finish mastering the language she taught them from scratch.
    3. Mastery of Esperanto early in life increases capacity and motivation to learn other languages later. This is a surprise to many people but it is true. Benny the Irish Polyglot explains it here
    4. Your sister could actually start teaching Esperanto effectively tomorrow using the resources I made, based on my own experience. It is designed to teach the teacher as she teaches, saving even the trouble of investing 100 hours before starting. The resource is called “Talking to the Whole Wide World” and you can find it at

    As for….”they are going to see their taxes being spent in order to print books, hire teachers to teach this new language, train them, educate them…”
    Greece would not need to print books if it started by using English-speaking teachers to teach Esperanto, afterwards I’m sure that entrepreneurs would be glad to fill the market niche. Hiring teachers can’t be a bad thing after what you said about your sister can it? Besides, you can use the teachers you have. Training and educating-already covered too.

    “Millions or billions of euros will be spent in order to establish this new language lesson in our schools”…
    It will have costs- introducing any change, including the choice of an existing language as Europe’s own, will have costs. However, the on-going costs of this plan, for ever and ever, are very much lower than for any other language. And, of course, the most expensive choice is no choice- it costs the European Union billions every single year to produce all documents in so many languages.

    How do you convince the people that this is something necessary and good for them and their kids..??

    Good question, and it depends on the people concerned, what they find convincing. Do look at my website, it explores many more angles than I can present here for you now.

    In short, it is necessary because it is fair, affordable and effective and Europe needs to be all of these things.

    As for being good for them, how many Greeks spend years learning English and would still be unable to participate in this discussion, or would be embarrassed because their English was not good enough? They don’t deserve the pressure and humiliation. Any European who invests 100 hours in Esperanto learning is as at home and masterful as any other European who does the same.

    It isn’t fair that Greek scientists have to publish in English- they are scientists not linguists- why should the world ignore them if they don’t do the mighty job of mastering English as well as whatever other wonders they are up to? English scientists can ignore language and focus on the job, how is that fair? Wouldn’t you want a fairer world for your children?

    Thanks for the “brilliant” bit. We do our best.

  45. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Leon, look at the table above….we will need to educate only 49% of the European population in English, and 99.98% in Esperanto…Will the Europeans warm up to the Esperanto, will they like it, will they like learning it, will they like how it sounds…?? You assume that since it is easier to learn they will prefer it…Haven’t you ever met people who refuse to learn German, French or other languages simply because they do not like them? They do not like the way it sounds, or to speak it..?? There are other factors in this venture than this single argument of “being easier”……

    • avatar

      It would be interesting to see that table over the last decade. Would we see a trend that English is becoming more, less or plateauing as a second language?
      If it looks like it has plateaued, would we be satisfied with the current percentage of speakers that are happy to learn it?

      For now, I am quite happy with the progress of Esperanto (growing in popularity) and have no wish for it to be pushed onto the general public — I have the same opinion for any other language.

    • avatar

      Esperanto is used by ~2mn people & majority in EU. It’s hard to count exactly, censuses usually don’t include EO. Just now, there’s >641k new Duolingo speakers , 1/3 more (fastest growing %). The 0.02% should be more like 0.2% if not more.
      World 4.86% native EN & 10.14% total, with varying competence levels.
      51% looks suspicious as many would like to show that can speak EN to raise their prospects for jobs in EU.
      With Brexit, the % will drop dramatically, as closed borders will reduce the interest. Any new members will also drop the %.
      Also, see Zlatko Tisljar’s reasoning that European identity language must be neutral in relation to all members.

      Ne ekzistas pli bona alternativo al Esperanto por EU.

  46. avatar
    Brian Barker

    @Leon. And the results, in terms of efficiency, in teaching English worldwide, have been useless. Consider the following for example

    I live in London and if anyone says to me “everyone speaks English” my answer is “Listen and look around you”. If people in London do not speak English then the whole question English of a global language is completely open.

  47. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    You guys, so because people do not speak perfectly English, we should replace English with Esperanto? Will they speak perfectly Esperanto straight away? In time and practice people do get the knack of any language…

    • avatar

      Nope, I (for one) am debating whether it is a viable language for the masses to learn effectively in people’s spare time. IMO, it’s current popularity is only due to massive media influx from America and the UK — films, music, internet etc… — which has huge financial backing from those industries.

      I feel sorry for my in-laws. They can hardly speak a word of English to me, even though they have been on course for over a year, paid for by their workplace. It makes me wonder what they could achieve in the same time learning Esperanto.

  48. avatar
    Brian Barker

    I think that the reason why Esperanto wins over English as an international language, especially in terms of efficiency is because Esperanto is designed to be an international language, whereas English is not.

    Consider also how many people have died as a result of the use of English in air traffic control. In the following document I count a total of 2,360 deaths in 14 air crashes which are directly related to the fact that English is commonly used in air traffic control.

    Although English is recommended for use in air traffic control, it is not compulsory. In talking about deaths here we are not only talking about the failure of English but about a phenomenon little acknowledged and wantonly ignored.

    Irresponsible also to tell pilots to be more proficient – especially as no compulsion to learn English is involved.

    • avatar

      retejo ligilon mortigita per la mafio

  49. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Dear Christos

    When people say that they will not learn German because they don’t like the sound, that is usually only part of the truth. The other part is that they don’t need German. If they really did, they’d get used to the sound.

    Esperanto has few sounds likely to offend. You can hear some here:

    Certainly I do not believe that “because people do not speak perfectly English, we should replace English with Esperanto?”
    My concern is for those who do not speak English at all, including those who have tried and failed, those who refuse to try, and those who are too young (even unborn yet) for whom English should be a choice, not an imposition.

    Esperanto is a small effort for everyone, whereas English is a huge effort for all Europeans except the English.

    “Will they speak perfectly Esperanto straight away?”
    No- but the yes/no format of the question is misleading:
    Any new language will be faulty before it is perfect, but the awkward period can be six times shorter, or not.
    Also, this period of “beginnerness” can be something only imposed on non-English-speakers, or it can be something experienced and accepted by all Europeans on an equal basis.

    Should the difficult time be long or short?
    Should it be something for everyone, or should the English keep their position of privilege?

    “In time and practice people do get the knack of any language…” Yes, but is it right that some should have to learn my huge and difficult language while I make no effort at all?

    And spare a thought for those less fortunate: the already elderly, the dyslexic, the overworked and exploited, those with shattered self-esteem… they don’t learn new difficult languages do they? Esperanto would lower the bar and give them a chance to be involved.

    In time and practice people do get the knack of any language…

  50. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Hhhhmmmmm…Let me think…So we have an allegedly easy language to learn, that has some vision of a united world behind it, it has been trying this goal of becoming the second official language of the world for about a century, but still it hasn’t managed it.. Who are the people that promote this new language and why? Academics? Intellectuals..?? Librarians? Linguists? Leftists? Who is in your lobby exactly?

    To do that, we will have to spend a lot of money, to educate teachers to speak it from scrap, so that they can teach it to our kids, print books, never mind winning the consent and support of the 99.98% of the european population..There a few thousand speakers all over the world, but the majority of the people still are either unaware of it, or have little contact with it…

    The benefits? A global new language that is easy to use and learn…The benefits of this…?? Hhhhmmm…world peace..? No, don’t think so…The vision of a man, has become a cult for some..Fair enough it is a noble pursue to try to unite humanity…can humanity be united by one language? even with esperanto there will be poor countries and rich countries that will try to bully the poorer ones…using esperanto instead of english…same difference..

    i am a realist…i do not think that majority of people will be interested in this..if they did, after a century the world would already have adopted esperanto..should we spend billions in promoting this new language..?? i think we have to ask the tax payers first…sit down, do the maths…how much will it cost to promote this new language, and how much to promote already existing languages like english, french or german..italian even is one of the easiest to learn..if it is financially viable or beneficial, then i say go for it..if not, then i am sorry, i prefer to spend those money in creating more dancing schools so that my niece can continue her dreams and interests (or the collective dreams and interests of all youth in my country and the whole continent of Europe), not materialize the dreams and interests of a small academic elitist club and their lobby…

    • avatar

      Well, Penelope has pretty much said what I wanted to, but I just wanted to add…
      Esperanto is a language that isn’t backed by any national populous and has had competition from similar minded constructed languages invented around the same time.
      Regardless though, has done tremendously well over the last 100 years and is finding new, speedier growth thanks to the internet.

    • avatar
      Penelope Vos

      The relative ease of learning Esperanto is is a fact: 28 letters with no variation in sound, no gender for nouns, no irregular verbs, one constant form of pluralisation, familiar European and Latin roots, affixes with constant meaning and universal applicability to multiply a given vocabulary ten-fold. Nothing alleged about it, Christos.
      If there is a name for the lobby, it would be rationalists. They aren’t a common type, and tend to be bust, hence the slowness of the lobbying effect.
      Benefits, again your guesses are just that. I speak English and Esperanto and , were I inclined to bully the vulnerable, I’d favour English. Second language speakers will never be my equal in English but Esperanto puts us on an even footing. If you know the rules, you know them and will not spend te rest of your life tripping over the exceptions. I co-manage a charity in Congo in Esperanto.
      How do you ask taxpayers about something they do not understand? With enough money you could perhaps televise the facts that could lead to an informed decision, but where would that money come from. You might note that the Brexit decision came from asking people a question that they were not adequately informed to answer.
      Esperanto is six times quicker to learn, from English, than Italian. So it is financially viable and beneficial. Also it need not interfere with your daughter’s dancing lessons because there are plenty of opportunities to learn it for free. Start with Duolingo.
      I doubt that you will because you are too lazy. Prove me wrong.

  51. avatar
    Penelope Vos


    I’m not sure you are listening any more but still…

    Do you know how long it has taken English to get where it has got? About 1500 years. 100 years is not a long time for languages. It would make sense to guess that the first 100 years are the slowest, don’t you think?

    The lobby is people like you and me who choose to engage in debate to shape the future for the fair welfare of all.

    We’re not powerful, except that we have thought this through well, and try to “speak our truth quietly and clearly and listen to others” (I’m not sure if that quote will be familiar to you, but a lot of English speakers know those words). We have persuaded several million people that it is worth 100 hours to be part of this global movement and that is kind of impressive in the absence of an advertising budget, much less the military might that forced much of the world to speak English.

    It is true that changing a language doesn’t change human nature. But nothing does. Does that mean that nothing is worth changing? It is a fact that making non-English-speakers learn English in order to compete with English people is in itself a form of bullying and it can be stopped. That is a positive thing in itself. It is as big an achievement as most goals societies strive for.

    About realism, remarkable things do happen. Most of the world adopted the metric system because it is a better idea. The Israeli’s recreated Hebrew almost from scratch (not scrap) and made it the official language of an entire country just 100 years after it was nearly completely abandoned. There are others, we don’t have to take the path that the status quo favors. I’m sure that plenty of “realists” said that the consequences and costs were too huge, acceptance too unlikely, and yet here we are. This is reality and I know it so I guess I’m a realist too.
    There is an excellent (but enormous!) book by the futurist Dr Peter Ellyard, called “Designing 2050” which shows that there are clear trends in today’s reality favoring justice, democracy, globalism and tribalism (like protecting Greek language and culture). Adoption of Esperanto by Europe would fit well with this zeitgeist.

    Regarding expense, I’m pretty sure that it would cost a lot more to persuade Europe to accept Italian as its language than Esperanto because 1. It requires six times the investment of time from every citizen (got 600 hours to spare? English-speakers sure don’t) and 2. It’s not fair. Why should they win? They are a minority. It isn’t a diplomatic language… I don’t even want to get into all that. The cheapest solution to promote is the fairest.

    And just think, your niece, and all Europeans, could save the time and $expense of at least 500 hours of English instruction, to spend on dance, if she could achieve full international literacy in 100 hours instead of 600 or more.

  52. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Hi Leon,

    Don’t you wish that they could do a course for a month, like this one: on the Chinese island of Hai Nan Dao- and then be competent in their new language?

    Of course no-one needs to travel so far to learn, but it is a fun option to escape the European winter for a bit and come back bilingual, or more as the case may be:-)

    The BEK course is in its third year and has been very successful.You certainly couldn’t do that with English!

  53. avatar
    Brian Barker

    Who is in the Esperanto Lobby? Many, including British politicians. See

    The British Government now employs Esperanto translators. I don’t know whether is has been a result of political pressure but it confirms that there certainly is a demand for it.

  54. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Well you guys we will agree to disagree…Until there is a research not from a Esperantist lobby, but from our Governments and other NGOs, to say that to establish Esperanto as a common European/World language can be done in a beneficial way, it won’t cost or it will cover the costs in the long run..I can not say that I am convinced…I have nothing against the language of Esperanto or those who use it…But to invest so much money for something that a small group of people suggest it is for the betterment of the world..Well I do not know..

    Today I got stopped by two Hare Krishna’s or whatever they were trying to convince me to join them in being vegetarian and spread loving kindness to the world, be more spiritual and stuff like that…To me the esperanto movement is something similar..It is great in theory and I admit that the idea behind it is great and has some points…But in the real lives of the real people that they care more for jobs, opportunities for growth, wealth, stability..That they have to think about a better education, health care and housing for them and the children…Well a language that might promote peace in the world and allow them to communicate with others i do not think it will catch their attention…

    How do you convince somebody that has no job, having spent 5-7 years in studies, has no money so he can not travel to meet with people of other nationalities and speak this new language…That the Government will spend billions while trying to introduce it…Many people do not even feel that learning English is of any use to them, since they do not have any plans in moving, traveling or working abroad…Others will oppose any second official language that will allow more foreigners to enter and settle in their country..Not everyone has the same ideas like you and me, and you got to understand this…Your idea will pass, only if people see that is necessary, that it will better their lives…

    Good luck with your efforts….

  55. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Thanks, Christos

    It is certainly easier to shrug and turn away than to accept that any innovation has to be understood by a few, before it can be understood by many. I know most people don’t want to be pioneers, or advocates, or early adopters- that is life.

    And Christos, maybe this is hard for you because you have already paid the price of learning English. It makes sense that many Europeans in your position will feel that:
    1. a third language burden on you (no matter how light) is just too much.
    2. that you would rather not know that there was an easier way available all along.
    3. That if you could learn English, anyone can.

    I hope that you can understand , starting from the bottom, that not everyone can do what you did. English is beyond the means of many, for one reason or another.

    And that discovering Esperanto late, is better than not discovering it at all, especially when your concern extends beyond yourself to your niece and her generation and the next…

    There should come a day when your niece can spend as many hours dancing as mine, because mine doesn’t have to find time to learn Greek.

    The native English-speakers in favour of Esperanto for Europe are a bit like Warren Buffet protesting against a the system that advantages him unfairly, at the expense of others. Any wonder there are few of them!

    Those with most to gain from the initiative are, of course, absent because this discussion is in English.

    Europe cannot function efficiently as a union without a common language.

    Keeping English as the dominant language makes less sense than Europe adopting imperial measures or pounds stirling, for England’s convenience.

    The symbol of Europe is equal stars in a circle, equidistant from the centre. I think that it is supposed to show equal respect for all members.

    Freeing them all from an obligation to spend more than 100 hours and whatever that costs, for English education, would show that the symbol means something.

  56. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    True..I already speak English, Greek and German..I invested in learning those languages…I personally find English the easiest language to learn, together with Italian…And most people I know do speak English at least, some even know a third or a fourth language..I have a friend back in Greece that speaks Greek, English, French and now he is learning Spanish…The level of each language might not be the same, but he could easily travel and work in half of Europe with the languages he speaks…

    It is not the fact that I do not want to discover Esperanto, but simply if i do it i will do it for my own hobby or pleasure..I won’t promote it to others…If our Governments decide to chose esperanto as our second official language, i won’t oppose it, but i would like to know how they came to this decision..i do not want them to waste my money just because some lobbyists sold them an idea…it has to be for my and my children’s benefit…it has to be viable, with potential and a decision taken seriously…

  57. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Hi Christos,

    You are right that the decision should be for the benefit of the people, and demonstrably so.
    By now, I think you could you list several ways that it would be to the benefit of your children (and the children of other Europeans who may or may not speak English) if European leaders did choose Esperanto. Couldn’t you?

  58. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Well I support the idea of a second official language in Europe for all anyway…My idea was this language to be English, or German or French if the British left the EU or did not want to be part of any further integration etc..
    I will support esperanto only if i am presented with evidence that it will be cheaper, easier, viable, and the people will support it and accept it..
    If the people do not, then there is nothing that you or I can do about it…And the evidence must come from an EU body or our Governments..Not your lobby..You made your suggestion, you did your part…Now let’s hear it from the decision makers..And wait..

  59. avatar

    Christos, Penelope, Brian, and Leon, and others, what a great discussion. I’ve really enjoyed reading it.
    I decided to investigate esperanto a few years ago when I was ill. I couldn’t move much and couldn’t afford classes or tutors so the free esperanto courses on seemed like a good idea to give me something to exercise my brain during recovery. It was so easy to learn and communication in esperanto started almost immediately. Now I enjoy regular conversations in esperanto with people around the world. I read books from other cultures that I would never have be able to before. My kids have picked up quite a bit and I don’t even speak esperanto to them. – All for free, in a short span of time, in the comfort of my home. What other language could give me that?
    I wish I had learned esperanto in school; I firmly believe it would have increased my ability to learn other languages. I learned French for years and took an immersion course as well but I cannot speak it or write it past the basic level. Interestingly, learning Esperanto seems to have re-awaken those latent French lessons and I have noticed that my understanding of written French has improved significantly in the last year or two.
    Cheers to all. Can’t wait for the continuation of the conversation.

  60. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Hi Regan,
    Thanks for sharing your inspiring story.
    I’d like to talk with you about telling it in another forum. If you are willing, please send me a message through the Mondeto website and we can take it from there.

  61. avatar
    Börje Eriksson

    Today is the European Day of Languages, so let’s remeber it here also and hope that one day it will be possible to communicate in a common neutral language in Europe, as well as outside Europe

  62. avatar
    Brian Barker

    It was good to see Stephen Fry taking Esperanto seriously on his programme “Planet Word”. Unfortunately the representative from the United Nations – who claimed she was an expert on the subject – knew absolutely nothing about the language.

    Not only did she not know that Esperanto intends to be an auxiliary language for all but did not know either that the World Esperanto Association enjoys consultative relations with the United Nations and is using that position to defend the rights of all minority languages. Confirmation is here

  63. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Borje, to me the European Day of Languages represents the diversity and the wealth of the European linguistic heritage..It is a celebration of multilingualism..Not “monolingualism”..!!

  64. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Hi Christos,
    Monolingualism is when you ONLY have one language. It’s common in English-speaking countries partly because English is such a big and complex language that we spend about 2 hours a day for the first 9 years of formal education and another hour a day for another 6, not counting the practice effect of studying all our other subjects in English, and being surrounded by it in the media and daily interaction, in order to master our own language as well as we do. It is a common belief among English-speakers that this leaves no time for other language learning.
    If Europe chooses this great Hummer of a language as its common tongue, the days of other languages are numbered as more people decide to invest limited resources in English instead of in their own tongues.
    If Europe chooses the light and efficient Esperanto, there will be plenty of time left to celebrate your roots and maintain your heritage- and even learn a bit of what the neighbours speak at home.
    I think that earns it a place in the Day of Languages.

  65. avatar
    Börje Eriksson

    @Christos Yes of course, I also like the diversity of languages and it would be good if we could use all of them here too! But I think it is quite clear that we also need a common languge , why are we using English here otherwise? Really I don’t want monolingualism.

  66. avatar

    In my opinion we should have one common language that all people living in Europe should have it as an official one. Just like the United States have their American-English language.

    But Esperanto… Maybe YES because it is neutral and maybe NO because it is unknown to most of us.

  67. avatar
    robert leleu

    We, Europeans, have a challenge. We do want that our common language doesn’t harm our native ones. Every previous similar situation shows that between 2 natives the balance isn’t stable and may induce local irredentisms (a french word ? ), potentially growing to terrorism.

  68. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    I have been reading “The English Language” by C.L. Wrenn, first published in 1949. The author clearly adores English and has spent a lifetime learning about other languages in order to throw more light on his subject. His scholarship is impressive.
    So, I found this quote interesting:
    “Two kinds of difficulty have been encountered by the advocates of English as a world language:-first its vast and complex vocabulary, and second, the lack of relationship between its spelling and pronunciation.”
    It is interesting to see a different perspective on what constitutes “the problem” of English for intercultural use.
    Esperanto is not his subject so it is reasonable that his judgement there is less informed. He believed that Esperanto, like other designed languages before and since, would tend to become static due to lack of “natural growth”.
    Dum mi verkas kaj Esperante kaj komputilete, mi devas malkonsenti. (While I compose both in Esperanto and on my laptop I must disagree) :-)

  69. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    This debate has been quiet for a while and I was wondering what conclusions each of you have reached.

    1. Do you think that Europe *should* have a common language (as well as those existing)?
    2. Do you think it *should* be Esperanto? Or English? Or something else?
    3. What is your main reason for thinking that it * should* be so?

    • avatar

      1. Yes, but they should just give support to the notion (make it official) without actually investing money into it. I don’t believe Esperanto needs any financial backing to be successful (and this makes people overly attached to money happy).
      2. Yes, Esperanto (See answer 3.)
      3. The only way Europe can can achieve this, is to create something that isn’t buyest ( <- spelling?) to a particular country or culture. A common second language will never be agreed upon, unless it is neutral. Esperanto wins on merit, because throughout its (for a conlang) long history it has had such a positive, accepted following without being dictating to its learners or having financial backing.

      I quite like this for a slogan: "Esperanto, the unofficial second language of Europe". It suggests what it should be, but without dictating what people should do.

    • avatar
      robert leleu

      Leon pravas. Tamen, sen trudi ĝin, almenaŭ instruu ĝin en lernejoj.

      Léon a raison. Toutefois, sans l’imposer, au moins l’enseigner à l’école.

      Leon is right. However not imponing it just teach it at school.

    • avatar
      Larry D.

      @ Leon. I think you mean “biased”.
      Thank you everyone for the debate and Penelope congratulations for your patience in explaining and repeating your arguments.

  70. avatar
    Börje Eriksson

    Jes a common language for Europe is needed. That shows the use of English, e.g. here.
    It should be a neutral language as Esperanto. I think there is no better possibility or choise .
    We have to work on this goal, use the language as much as possible, without truding it to other people, anyhow telling to other people about this possibility and hope…..

  71. avatar
    Talis Briedis

    One dominant language is always best. And if it is English, so be it. The EU could save an enormous amount of money not having to translate everything into all languages. I think that is a mindboggling expense that is not cost-efficient. Oh, and the french have ALWAYS been sore loosers…

  72. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Hi Talis, welcome to the discussion.
    So, you are in favour of Europe having a common language, me too.
    Would you be a gracious loser if the choice was French?
    I would find it pretty hard, myself.
    People do confuse linguistic competence with intelligence and it can be uncomfortable to be judged that way. Have you had that experience?

  73. avatar

    The graph equals 109.02%. How exactly did you all get these percentages?

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Hi Tomias,

      Because a person can speak more than one language. ;-)

      The figures are taken from Eurobarometer here.

  74. avatar
    Emmanuel Richard-Pereire

    I just came across your discussion forum, and I am very happy to see that there seems to be a future for Esperanto in Europe. Let’s all of us new Europeans put our shoulders to the task and make it happen.

  75. avatar

    I’ve always wondered how much has been spent by governments around the world to teach their children English, and how much is that compared to Greek or Japanese public debt and whether their investments were paying off or not.

    One of the ways for Esperantists to further their cause is to examine the costs of spreading English to the world in recent years (say 1990 onwards), giving facts and figures on how much each country spends in teaching its kids English and the success rate, altogether in relation to relevant economic indicators such as GDP, national debts and whatnot, not to mention some future projections on the consequences of keeping with the old course on the world economy. If they can convince/prove to the world with adequate research that English as a lingua franca will be economically unsustainable in the foreseeable future then they have their first step.

    • avatar

      Noone cares how much is spent for a language teaching. The only thing that matters is how useful is the language being taught. The Esperanto, unlike English, is absolutely useless, so you will not be able to ‘convince’ anyone about ‘English as lingua franca being unsustainable,’ given evident proofs of the contrary.

    • avatar
      John D

      Of course people care about the cost of language instruction. They also care about translation expenses. I’m not sure on the cost of the first, but the EU is spending $1 billion a year on translation. If they switched to using just Esperanto, there would be pretty quick cost savings (not immediate, as there would be some period of switching over).

      I’m not sure what you mean by Esperanto being “absolutely useless.” Last time I used it, it seemed pretty useful. There I was communicating with someone who spoke no English, but we both knew Esperanto. Handy. And, obviously, if the EU adopted Esperanto, Esperanto would rapidly become widespread and important.

      (By the way, speaking of English, am I right in assuming it’s not your native language? You made a couple errors that don’t strike me at the mistakes made by native speakers.)

  76. avatar
    Penny Vos

    Elhana, before the world adopted Arabic numerals, someone no doubt said:

    Noone cares how awkward Roman numerals are. The only thing that matters is how useful are the numbers being taught. Arabic numerals, unlike the Roman, are absolutely useless, so you will not be able to ‘convince’ anyone about ‘Arabic Numerals,’ given evident proofs of the contrary.

    Later, someone else said:
    “Noone cares how much is spent for converting between different weights and measures. The only thing that matters is how useful is the measurement being taught. The Metric system, unlike Imperial, is absolutely useless, so you will not be able to ‘convince’ anyone about ‘the metric system being better,’ given evident proofs of the contrary.

    And yet change does happen, because some people see beyond the initial inconvenience and choose to make the future they want to create rather than take the future they’d get by default.

    • avatar
      Manuel P. Pinto Ricardo

      Hear, hear! You said it all Penny, and beautifully too.

    • avatar
      Penny Vos

      Thank you, Manuel :-)

    • avatar

      gosh… wonder when will we be seeing ‘green’ cars, green this green that in the mainstream market, as the world will soon run out of unrenewable fossil fuel reserves. :( i think today’s society is pretty much blind to reality

    • avatar

      oh ya, i’m from Asia if you’re asking

  77. avatar

    Esperanto estas bela kaj facila lingvo. La angla ankaux estas bela lingvo, tamen mi ne bone parolas gxin.

    Vivu la esperanta kulturo!!! Vivu la Demokratio! ;-)

  78. avatar
    Remy SPROELANTS, Civ Eng

    This world – and the EU particularly – is in very dire need of a common, easy, neutral second language for all in order to tear down the walls erected by the Babel syndrome. is a strong candidate to fulfil this role.
    Unfortunately (?), the English language does not meet the essential criteria to play the role of an universal auxiliary language: too complex, erratic pronunciation and spelling, too ‘idiomatic’, not phonetic at all, too many (about 30) variants …

  79. avatar

    As nice an idea as it sounds I think what is being over looked is that exposure to English in the real world is much higher than most other languages thanks to television, cinema and literature.

    Reading some of the comments above you’d think that the British Army was marching into foreign homes and forcing a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary on people at bayonet point (we’ve not don’t that in decades!). People are choosing English. You have to deal with the world the way you find it.

    And as for neutrality well, Esperanto hardly looks neutral to me, fabricated or not. I think people will just vote with their feet regardless of what governments want.

  80. avatar
    Michael Leibman

    I am not sure that “you have to deal with the world the way you find it” is a meaningful statement. Doesn’t everybody deal with the world “as they find it”. The question is how is how much knowledge do they really have about the world and what changes do they wish to bring to it. For instance, I think that the notion that one of my mother-tongues (namely English) will continue to rise until it becomes, forever, the universally recognized international language is fanciful. For that trend to persist, English would, it seems to me, require some very far-reaching “reingeneering”. Esperanto, is definitely a more efficient response. Many people have difficulty with the notion of radical departures from the system in which they function. So much so, that they expose humanity to unecessary cost and suffering. A perfect example of that is what is happening to the climate. Almost everybody agrees about how the world is, but nothing flows directly from the facts. Moreover, satisfaction with the world as it is, Further inaction will not mean a perpetuation of that world, but catastrophic changes. In conclusion, we have to think about (not just look at) the world as it is , as we would like it to be, and as it is going to go, if we sit around repeating our mantra about “that’s just the way it is”.
    And as post-scriptum, the notion that people are “forced” to learn English is no more or less fanciful than the notion that they “choose” to learn English. I think there may be a little more to it than that.

    • avatar

      Lots of people choose to learn English, you can’t really dispute that. And as an ‘International’ language Esperanto isn’t exactly unbiased culturally speaking either. Its unashamedly European.

      It makes more sense to put limited money towards teaching a language the rest of the world is going to speak as well. Even if Esperanto is easier and quicker it’s pointless if no-one else (outside of majority Esperantist Europe) speaks it.

  81. avatar
    Michael Leibman

    Of course lots of people choose to learn English! So what? Lots of people choose not to learn it, or not to put the effort into it that is required, and you can’t dispute that either!
    The next question, which many people choose to ignore, is why do lots of people choose to learn English? Could it be for money rather than for love? Moreover, is the marriage a happy one or a rocky one?
    Please, get it out of your head that “the rest of the world is going to “speak English”. That is as illusory as believing that the earth is the center of the universe. People are all going to speak one or two native languages. And a minority of these people will also learn English to communicate internationally. My only claim as a former teacher of English and a regular user of Esperanto is that it would be more effective to use Esperanto, at least in the long run. It is easier to learn, therefore more people would actually be able to use it, and more people could become effective communicators. I don’t consider that belief, I consider that fact. As factual as the assertion that there is a lot more material available in English and that more people use it today as an international communication language than Esperanto.
    Other than that, the “Europeanness” of Esperanto is irrelevant. If the UN sets up a commission of linguists and they come up with a less European language that is as easy, or easier, to learn, why not go for that?
    At some point, people may get logical about these things. Twenty years ago some intellectuals argued that the “end of history” had come and that the whole world would now develop under the undisputed leadership of the United States. That claim has crumbled for the simple reason that the world is big and that people have no good reason to be guided by a universal master. For the same reasons, the current leadership of English will some day collapse. Other languages will reassert their presence, and people will bring into being another linguistic system than the current unbalanced one. What role Esperanto will play is unpredictable. But at the very least, in the meanwhile, Esperanto teaches a whole lot about language and it is, for some of us, a fun way to communicate with people around the world. I suspect that the crux of the matter is there: is this mostly fun or is mostly a chore? For me languages are fun and Esperanto is the most fun of all. For most people foreign languages are only a chore. The teacher in me says: they need help! They need Esperanto!

  82. avatar
    Penny Vos

    This forum asks “Should Esperanto be the language of Europe?”
    To which IgnoRantJack replies, “Its unashamedly European.”
    Well, it’s a good choice then, isn’t it?
    What other language is as unashamedly, proudly, inclusively European?
    Or would you prefer something less European, or more ashamed, to be the language of Europe?

    • avatar

      The answers evolved into Esperanto as a language of the world, see above.

    • avatar

      That sounded more snarkey than I meant it too! Sorry :)

  83. avatar
    Penny Vos

    IgnoRantJack, I like your expression about “dealing with the world the way we find it”. I’m a big-time believer in that.
    But we need to get something straight- by “dealing with” you don’t mean “uncritically surrender to”, do you?
    What would be the point of life if we all felt so powerless that there was no point in us understanding the world because everything- good and bad, easily changeable or not, had to stay the same anyway?
    “Dealing with” our world means finding out what is and why, what could be and why (and why not) change can help, sharing perspectives, refining strategies, implementing them and reappraising the situation, don’t you think?

    • avatar

      No doubt, but can we really say that an Esperanto speaking Europe wouldn’t still have to deal with the rest of the world in English or Globish or Mandarin Chinese? For now as we can all agree English is the dominant language and as Michael correctly pointed out this is because it is the language of money. Whether that is a good or bad thing well I’m no judge but I do take the point that it’s not an easy language to learn, especially when compared to Esperanto. However, that’s not going to change over night either. Sure English won’t be top of the pile forever, though I think it’ll leave an indelible mark akin to Latin. But the example given earlier about the decline of Latin took hundreds of years and lets face it, America isn’t going anywhere just yet, and if the only other alternative is learning Mandarin Chinese I don’t think there will be massive shifts. Besides, despite China’s quickly growing economy they still have a long way to go to catch up with the US and that growth will slow because of the law of diminishing returns.

      I take Penny’s point though (and thanks for pointing me back on topic!) that Esperanto could be an ideal choice for inter-European communication. And Michael is right about it being a good introductory language for children, perhaps making it easier to go on and learn whatever international language happens to be out there. So don’t get me wrong I like the idea of Esperanto, and I do one day plan to have a crack at it when I’m content with my Spanish. But I guess my realism is getting in the way of my idealism, a sad thing to be sure!

  84. avatar

    Ĉu IgnoRant klarigu «snarkey» ? Ĉu samas la vortaĉo «snarky» ? Kiam oni uzas iun nacian lingvon, kiel internacia komunikilo pli bone estus ne uzi nacispecifajn vortojn.

    • avatar

      Welcome to the internet, you must be new here! :)

  85. avatar

    Why do some Esperanto-speakers insist on writing on an English-language board exclusively in Esperanto? And this when asking questions to non-Esperanto-speakers! Have they know comprehension of how badly they come across and how negative a picture they create of a cause they’re championing? All the good work created by the clever and educated arguments raised by Penny Vos and others in this thread can be undone by this sort of conduct from just one or two others. If you can’t make a useful contribution, why not stay away and simply read? (Since those few will no doubt think I’m asking a question here, let me be clear that I don’t wish to get involved in a debate and cause the topic to deviate, I’m simply making an observation.)

    Kial kelkaj Esperantistoj daŭre afiŝas ĉe anglalingva mesaĝejo ne-Esperantista sole en Esperanto? Kaj tiel kiam farante demandojn al ne-Esperanto-parolantoj! Ĉu ili tute ne kapablas kompreni, ke tiel ili negative bildigas Esperanton al la ekstera mondo? Ĉion bonan faritan per lerta kaj inteligenta argumentoj de Penny Vos kaj aliaj en tiu fadeno tiuj malmultaj malfaras per tiu konduto. Se vi ne kapablas fari utilan kontribuon kial ne simple ne afiŝi kaj nur legi, anstataŭ damaĝigi la strebojn de aliaj? (Ĉar tiuj kelkaj sendube kredos, ke mi faras demandon, mi klarigas, ke mi ne deziras debati aŭ devojigi la temon, mi simple komentas pri observitaĵo miaflanka.)

  86. avatar

    I doubt that an english only discussion could lead to a truly international conclusion. That’s a «Faites ce que je dis, mais pas ce que je fais» situation.

  87. avatar

    So why write exclusively in Esperanto in your response to IgnoRant? It wasn’t even anything important, in no way contributed to the debate and couldn’t be excused as adding something to a “truly international conclusion”.

    It doesn’t matter whether you like it or not – the discussion is on an English-language board and writing a post exclusively in Esperanto (or Finnish, Italian or any other language) is rude, excluding the many non-Esperanto-speakers who are reading it. It makes all of us (I’m also an Esperanto-speaker) look like people who don’t understand generally accepted (and obvious) norms of behaviour.

    I wouldn’t go to a French-language board and respond exclusively in Esperanto or even in English. If I didn’t speak French I simply wouldn’t post. I wouldn’t complain about any conclusion on that board not being “truly international” without my comments anyway, especially when so many good contributions have been made by others. People like Lu, a German, make excellent points in English. The same is true of Penny, who is from the other side of the world.

    (Do kial afiŝi sole en Esperanto en via respondo al IgnoRant? Ĝi eĉ ne temis pri grava punkto, nenial kontribuis al la debato kaj ne ĝin oni ne povus pravigi per la komento “ĝi aldonas iun al vere internacia konkludo”.

    Ne gravas ĉu tio plaĉas al vi – la diskutado okazas ĉe anglalingva retejo kaj afiŝante sole en Esperanto (aŭ la finna, la itala aŭ ajna alia lingvo) estas malĝentila, neinkluzivante la multajn ne-Esperanto-parolantojn kiuj legas. Tio ŝajnigas nin ĉiujn homoj kiuj ne komprenas ĝenerale akceptitaj kondutonormoj.

    Mi ne vizitos franc-lingvan mesaĝejon kaj respondi sole en Esperanto aŭ eĉ en la angla. Se la francan mi ne parolus mi simple ne afiŝus. Mi ne plendus, ke ia konkludo ne estus “vere internacia” sen miaj komentoj ĉiuokaze, aparte kiam tiom da bonaj kontribuoj faris aliaj. Homoj kiel Lu, germano, faras brilajn punktojn. Same Penny, kiu loĝas ĉe la alia flanko de la mondo.)

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      Why would the majority of the world, who ‘also’ speak English, which is the language of the internet, want to now be forced to learn an inefficient language, which cannot be properly expressed without the injection of English anyway. This is resentment taken to extreme.

      English is an expressive and complete modern language. devolved over centuries. It is constructed of Latin, Greek, French and German. And possibly many others. Who in their right mnd would despise such a gift?

      And a gift is what it is. The worlds literature, arts, etc., are opened to all when they speak English. No other language can offer such abilities.

      Esperanto is ludicrous in comparison. We would all be better off learning the deaf signing method. And besides, only approximately two milion people speak it world wide.

    • avatar

      English in not a gift. It is a burden. The gift is Esperanto.

  88. avatar
    Francis Lee

    Why is the need for a common neutral international language “ludicrous”
    I await your considered response.

    • avatar

      I think Catherine’s point that English comes from many sources is a good one. Having French, German, Spanish, Latin, Greek, Scandinavian and Hindi influences to name just some of the one’s I’m aware of hardly makes for a biased language.

  89. avatar

    Specifically to Tim… and IgnoRant

    The motto of “debating Europe” does not state that it is a «English only». May I recall that multilinguism is an official European suggestion ? So I actually thought that a bit of it to be allowed here.
    Moreover the specific introduction to this discussion ha a specific motto in Esperanto.
    So I thought that some internationality would be welcome.

    Although I understand English (I’m a monthly reader of National Geographic and of Early Music, a publication of OUP) far better than most Europeans, I didn’t understand «snarkey», even with this cockney spelling. So I just seized the opportunity to show to IgnoRant what it is to not understand, and to stress out the danger for native speakers to use idiomatic expressions that blur the «international» communication.

    If the present blog follows using only English is it justified to label it «European» ?

    • avatar
      Debating Europe

      Hi all,

      Just to say that comments in any language are welcome on Debating Europe. For the time being, however, our posts are only in English.

  90. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Hi Jack and Catherine,
    Both English and Esperanto contain elements of other languages, which is cited as a credential for internationality.
    What may not be so apparent from the outside is that simply “mixing languages” can make a language very much more difficult to learn- which reduces it’s suitability as a second, international, language.
    Consider the way that English words of French origin are generally spelt “ei” where the same sound is otherwise spelt “ie” and that words imported from Greek often have “ph” where otherwise we’d use “F”. Mixing of many languages also complicates word-building and introduces many homophones, homonyms and synonyms, which greatly increase the work-load of a would-be learner an give native-speakers a permanent and unearned sense of superiority.
    Esperanto consists of root words adapted from other languages in accordance with a consistent spelling system, where one sound has one symbol and the emphasis is on the second-last syllable. Esperanto has no homophones and only a handful of homonyms and prefixes and suffixes are applicable wherever they make sense. (Unlike English where unhot is not a normal thing to say).
    It is sentimentally appealing for an international language to contain elements of your native tongue, but that is not enough. Esperanto offers a more significant sign of respect for learners- a system which integrates those inputs into a coherent and predictable whole, thus saving the time of the learner and offering language equality in a fraction of the time.

    • avatar
      Remy SPROELANTS, Civ Eng

      @ Penelope, Jach & Catherine
      Please allow me a brief intervention in your dialogues.
      I absolutely agree with the above words of Penelope, especially the last paragraph.
      Congratulations to Penelope for her clear and candid observations … she’s a real defender of the Internacia Lingvo. As an esperantist of a rather late vocation, I try to do the same!

  91. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Hi Catherine,
    Would you like to cite the source of your assertion that ” the world, …‘also’ speak English”?
    It is an easy mistake to make because those who don’t are excluded from our circles, such as this forum.
    Esperanto gives me access to a cross-section of the non-English-speaking global majority and so I know that they have good reasons for not speaking English. Some of them could afford to, but choose to spend their time and money on the same things that I spend mine on, rather than on learning my language (which is fair enough, I’m not spending my time and money learning theirs). Others just don’t have the choice: the time needs to be spent feeding the family, and the money and/or the teachers don’t exist. For some, English is less useful than other languages locally and for some the need to protect their own language and culture is uppermost.
    Without Esperanto I would be blind and deaf to such perspectives.
    There’s something we can do right now- find someone who does not speak English and invite them to participate in this discussion using Google translate. I look forward to their perspectives :-)

    • avatar
      catherine benning


      It is hard to take your post seriously. You say you speak Esperanto to the world.

      There are 9 billion people in the world and only 10,000 to approximately 2 million speak Esperanto. Where is this world you are speaking to in this inadequate language that grows by word usuage?

      English is spoken, very well, throughout this planet of ours. And although you are obviously struggling with it, most of India have no trouble, Africa, South and North America and many of the European people who come to this forum seem to have a wonderful grasp. Not to mention Borneo and many, many others. Read it up for yourself.

      And in future, if you doubt what I write, as I have not been inclined to provide a link, believing most people have a basic knowledge of the subject I am addressing on the popularity of English, it should be unecessary, so please find your own links. I am not here to work for you. I am here for reasoned debate with like intelligence and informed knowledge.

    • avatar
      Louis v. Wunsch-Rolshoven

      There are several questions: Would it be better to have Esperanto or English as the language of Europe? Would the way from English to Esperanto be feasible? How long would it take? Is it worth learning Esperanto, if you already speak English? (There may be one more: Would the Esperanto community grow further and to what extent, if everyone knew at the age of 14 what Esperanto is and how it is used?)

      You, Catherine, put the question of numbers of speakers of English and Esperanto – I can’t see why this would really matter to me. I am able to speak English and Esperanto, so no doubt I have more opportunities than speaking only English. (By the way, I probably won’t speak with millions of people during my lifetime, but rather with some thousand.)

      No doubt that English has a lot of speakers – but no doubt the percentage of people in the world with English as their mother tongue is decreasing. In 1950 they were about 10 % of world population, now it is about 5 %. And the economic influence of the English speaking world is decreasing as well, slowly, but decreasing, see

      “most of India have no trouble”: Maybe they haven’t, but I have :-) No easy to understand e.g. “Howeryou” or “India ku ragalara”…

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      Hi Penelope,

      What reason would you have to ask me for back up? It is very easy to find if you dispute the content of my post…

      Esperanto is spoken by between 10,000 to 2 million people max.

      Whereas English is a world language that most people are able to manage without too much difficulty.

      However, when I don’t provide links, I would ask you to please do your own research if you doubt my statistics or knowledge. I am often strapped for time.

  92. avatar

    Hi Penelope,

    I understand your point, English is an eccentric language at best. I believe it is precisely because of it’s international nature that this has happened though. With native speakers begging, borrowing, and more often than not, stealing words as they see fit. However I think the reverse is also true with non-native speakers adapting the language to their own needs. Both ordinary native and non-native speakers do this naturally with little to no regard for homophones, homonyms or suffixes. If a word is needed foreign, potentially non-standard, words will be happily pressed into service and correct me if I am wrong but Esperanto has a much smaller vocabulary than most real languages?

    So that makes me wonder how long it would take for all of the eccentricities of a real living, breathing language to creep into Esperanto. Sure it’s been around for awhile but it’s mainly only learned and spoken by enthusiasts and I imagine they’re quite keen to keep it ‘pure’. But increase the total number of speakers from 2 million to 1.5 billion speakers many who don’t really care or understand grammar and I bet you’d end up with just as many weird inconsistencies and contradictory rules, especially given enough time.

    It’s very difficult to stem the tide, just ask L’Académie Française ;)

  93. avatar

    L’Académie Française does not stem, it gathers the fruits. Thinking that it stems is a common error, even in France.

    Esperanto, due to the combination of roots is able to coin new words, and in an international language one doesn’t need as many words as in a bunch of national languages sharing a large enough basis, which is the case of Englishes, Frenches and Castilians.

    Chinese has few bases symbols, but combination allows it to fulfill the needs of its speakers..

  94. avatar

    Why doesn’t an international language need as many words? Surely for it to be of any day to day use it needs to be usable in as many situations as possible? And you can only get that with a large vocabulary. If Esperanto had as many speakers as English it would be just as messy and complicated as any real language and whatever dominant culture at the time happened to adopt it would shape it and and make it its own. Anglicised Esperanto then ;) … or how about Angloranto!

    • avatar

      It needs words for international discussions, which do not arise on a day-to-day basis. At least it’s my opinion. There are others among Esperanto users.

  95. avatar

    And what international discussions would these be? Perhaps business deals between car parts manufacturers from France and Germany? Lectures about late 18th Century European History in Poland? Adverts for fishing equipment in Scotland? Chats about learning foreign languages like English or Romanian? Arguments over political discourse and theory in Greece and Italy? Or how about detailed macro economic debate on how best to save the Euro-zone in Brussels? Or what about writing an essay about the Spanish Civil War? How about discussions between top scientists at CERN over the minutiae of particle physics?

    If a language can’t handle all that, and a million other situations, without the speakers having to stray into other languages for much of the time, then its not really fit for purpose. English might not be perfect but it certainly is flexible. And if Esperanto was ever to match that flexibility then it would most likely have lost its grammatical purity for the reasons I mentioned above.

    • avatar

      Esperanto is as flexible as we need it. It evolves and at the same time it keeps its grammatical purity. Some of the translations are exceptional, wonderful. For example, the one on El Quijote. That shows how flexible it can be.

    • avatar

      It keeps it purity because it only has 2 million speakers many of whom are enthusiastic linguists. Having 320 million speakers with various native languages, cultures and ideas over what constitutes correct grammatical structure (if they care at all) is an altogether different proposition.

    • avatar
      Penny Vos

      Hi Jack,
      I can discuss those things in Esperanto, as much as I can in English anyway, so flexibility is not a problem. Esperanto was designed to grow.
      As for grammatical purity, language users tend to treat languages as though they are logical and consistent, even when they aren’t and that creates errors which may settle into dialects or remain as confusion. So, for example, English is becoming more consistent in some ways, like the past tense -t endings fading out in favour of -ed endings that are more generally applicable and the decline of the accusative in “whom”).
      Keeping English ‘pure’ is hard work because people have to remember to respect so many different idiosyncracies and it is tempting to take shortcuts, but Esperanto is designed to take the path of least resistance already, so not much goes wrong if you’re lazy. (I predict that it will lose the accusative over time, as English did, but that’s a different story).
      If you can’t remember how something goes in Esperanto, choose what is logical and simple and you will be right more often than you would in English. That’s a sustainable sort of purity, isn’t it?

  96. avatar
    Francis Lee

    It is often argued, rightly I think, that Esperanto is a richer language than English because of Esperanto’s word building construction. The Esperanto word “krokodili” for example does not exist in English.

    I am sure also that the erroneous statement that Esperanto is not a real language, would be hotly disputed by those married couples who have fallen in love with no other language than this language as the common tongue.

    If in doubt about this fact please see

  97. avatar

    “krokodili” What’s this word? Crocodilian? At least that’s what Google Translate tells me.

    As for the realness of it, well a constructed language is a constructed language. I’d argue that a real language is one that is the collective and collaborative result of hundreds of generations and countless numbers of individuals. But we’re just arguing semantics then and that’s not really the point.

    Now going back to Penny,

    Sustainable purity sounds like a nice idea, but what happens when two groups of people hundreds if not thousands of miles apart see things differently? Granted in a digital age those groups stand more of a chance of being more connected but there’s also a risk that the ‘path of least resistance’ isn’t the one that will be chosen, and the illogical option is the one that ends up spreading. The number of people who support Manchester United over Manchester City has proved this if you ask me! :)

    As a layman I still worry about the potential flexibility of Esperanto as a language, unfortunately neither being a speaker of Esperanto and a Particle Physicist at CERN (or some other equally complicated career) I can’t really comment much further than my ‘guess’.

    That said, I’m willing to reach an agreement, as an inter-European language I’ve decided to endorse teaching it to young children (earlier the better, I wish we started much earlier in the UK) as an introduction to language learning. Provided that pupils can then go on to learn English, French, Spanish, German etc afterwards. If it’s as easy to teach as people say then it shouldn’t gobble up too much time.

    But globally speaking I still think English will remain the most important since the US, and US exceptionalism, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Someone tell Dave, Angela, Francois, Herman and Jose I’ve made a decision ;)

  98. avatar
    Penny Vos

    Hi Jack,
    It’s nice talking to you :-)
    About flexibility: one way to understand why the Esperanto to English part of the dictionary is fatter than the English to Esperanto part ( yet both are complete) is to imagine a toybox with a toy house, car, rocket, boat, tree, train, castle and bridge and another toybox, half as big, with enough Lego to make any of those things. Esperanto is modular like Lego, so the same learning can be reused in many contexts and less memes do cover the whole territory.
    Krokodili means to talk in your native language in front of Esperantists who don’t know your language. It’s bad manners, of course. I wish they’d given it a name which doesn’t suggest a crocodile because in-group jargon creates, as well as a cosy feeling for insiders, an out-group left head-scratching like you- and Esperanto should not be doing that.
    Anyway, I love your conclusion!
    (I’m not sure that Americans believing that they are above the rest of us guarantees that it will be so, but we’ll see) :-)

  99. avatar
    Brian Barker

    The addition of Esperanto to Google Translate may yet be an acknowledgement of Esperanto as a living language.
    Ultimately however machine translation -on a person to person basis – does not work. The phrase “Out of sight, out of mind” has previously been translated to “Invisible Idiot”
    So I agree with Jack that It is rubbish to suggest that machine translation will solve the problem of a new global language, worldwide. People in some parts of Africa cannot even afford to buy food, let alone to buy a computer, as well.

    I do however think that there is a worldwide language problem, which demands a solution.

  100. avatar
    catherine benning

    Try this in Esperanto.

    Or, are we all supposed to leave the language of the masters behind and become a culture of half understood undereducated morons for the future.

    Add a few words to assist this little sonnet to your vocabulary in Esperanto without deleting the understanding of its beauty.

    Only a simpleton doesn’t understand the need for the exceptional in order to be fully human and expressive.

    • avatar
      Penelope Vos

      Esperanto estas plene bela lingvo en sia propra rajto. Kvankam poezio originala preskaŭ cxiam pli belas ol en traduko, ni havas bonegajn tradukojn de Ŝekspiro kaj aliaj krom nian propran. Cxu vi vere kredas ke vi pruvas ion ajn per la insisto ke aliaj laboru senpage por vi? Prenu viajn insultulojn kaj enmetu ilin kie la suno ne helas.

  101. avatar
    Brian Barker

    Hi Catherine. I agree. The description, language of the masters, can applied to any language.
    Many wish to denigrate Esperanto with the claim that Esperanto intends to replace ethnic languages. It does not.
    Esperanto intends be an auxiliary – and therefore neutral – language for all.
    As you say. Only a simpleton would dispute this

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      Well, your post is a sample of ignorance being bliss.

      Well done.

    • avatar
      Brian Barker

      Many ill-informed people Esperanto think “never took off” – other ignorant people say that if human beings were meant to fly, God would have given them wings.
      You are right Catherine – the word “ignorant” means lack of knowledge.
      As a living language Esperanto has taken off, and indeed has wings. As in

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      It is another con for people who are stupid enough to be paying out of their pockets for such a ludicrous scheme.

      How many of those coming here to this blog are trying to sell this nonsense. Most likely they are in some kind of pyramid system to make money for themselves by trying to convince us all this is the way to spend out tax money. And in the hope the gullible Euro commissioners will listen to the cry for ‘Esperanto’ is the way to a worldwide language….. Pleeeeeese give me a break. Only a half wit would trust such a loser..

      Get off that old chestnut and realise you are not dealing with the bottom trenche of the planets IQ.

    • avatar
      Brian Barker

      Many of your defensive arguments do smack of insulting behaviour. Insults usually accrue when the argument is lost.
      Your implication that a common language in Europe would save taxpayers money is neverthess apt.
      A report by the Swiss Professor François Grin accessible in French at, by the Swiss Professor François Grin attacks the language imperialism of English.

      The most startling conclusion of the report is that, due to the current dominant position of the English language, the United Kingdom gains € 17-18 thousand million each year, which is more than three times the famous British rebate, or 1% of its GNP. In other words, each of the 394 million non-English-speaking citizens of the EU, including those from the poorest new Member States, are subsidising the British economy!
      The report poses the question “What would be the optimum choice for working languages in the European Union?
      A more equitable system would save the EU at least € 25 thousand million annually!
      Professor Grin is not an Esperanto speaker and without doubt can be seen as unbiased

    • avatar
      M. D.

      @Catherine Benning
      (I know I’m two years late, but maybe someone will read this.)
      I’m a little shocked by your accusations. “another con for people who are stupid enough to be paying out of their pockets for such a ludicrous scheme”? “Pyramid system”?

      Esperanto is a language. That’s it. You can learn Esperanto without spending a single cent. That’s what I did. And if it’s a pyramid scheme, it must work very badly because all the Esperanto speakers I know are still waiting for their money.

  102. avatar
    Penny Vos

    Catherine, it is not nice or helpful to call names. This discussion has been running for years on very polite terms and it seems a shame to spoil it now.

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      Obviously it’s been running too long and cannot take off as you wish. Time to face facts. And the tax payer should not be in the business of funding advertising for a rip off idea, which this forum is doing when it supports nonsense. . And it is a rip off.

      You have one piece of audacious cheek pretending I am rude to you. It was you and your over blown ego who demanded I do research for you because of your inadequate knowledge of statistics.

      Grow up, this is a place to discuss serious politics, not the local kindergarten playing to your vanity.

    • avatar
      Emmanuel Richard-Pereire

      Wow! I have been away from this discussion forum for a while but with you, Catherine, the level of interaction has joined the fishmongers’.

  103. avatar
    Penny Vos

    All of the other languages of Europe have their history and their literature. I’m not sure who would be qualified to say that the most beautiful French or Hungarian or Basque(or any of the dozens of other European languages) poetry is less beautiful than Shakespeare.
    And even if we were to discover that Estonian actually is the most beautiful language for poetry, would that make it the best language for all Europeans to learn?
    I’m considering starting a research project on what English-speakers do with the time that non-English-speakers spend learning languages. At home we probably waste it on TV and Facebook but I think that we have time to teach a broader curriculum in school and university because of not having to use 600-3000 hours learning languages. Probably the whole world could benefit from a broader curriculum, and maybe a deeper one in some areas (science comes to mind).
    In fact science is an area of particular inequity. English speaking science students can use all their time for science and maths, they usually avoid language learning. All other scientists will be severely handicapped if they don’t learn and use a majority language, preferably English. It’s bad for the individual and bad for the world, which misses out on great science that could be done by a mind inclined and trained for science, not linguistics.

  104. avatar
    Penny Vos

    While we are discussing what common language Europe should adopt, is it fair to assume that we are interested in serving all Europeans as equally as possible?
    or is it ok for us to judge as ‘best’ a solution that gives an elite everything they desire, and leaves others out in the cold?
    I do enjoy the sonnet that Catherine cited but I studied literature at uni and was raised in a literary English-speaking family and I observe that even less-educated native-English-speakers are generally less enthusiastic, as there is a lot of nuance to miss.
    So it is almost certain that the majority of non-English-speaking Europeans with one or two hundred hours to invest in English or Esperanto would experience more positive emotion and satisfaction from Esperanto’s “La Espero”, than from any work by Shakespeare, in the original English.
    If Jeremy Bentham is correct in judging that ‘it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong’, then Esperanto offers effective intercultural communication to the most people at the least cost and is, therefore, the right choice.

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      And how much are you wanting all of them to invest? Mmm? And when they make their investment in this lunacy, how much of a cut are you going to get?

      And if you come from an English speaking family I’m a Russian. Your syntax and sentences are not natural to the English way of speaking or writing. . You are struggling with it. And not fooling anyone.

  105. avatar

    Oh yeah, about the complexity of English, my mom keeps asking me how to spell English words all the time. Even one word she’s asked several times. So that’s what they call the ‘crazy spelling system’. So much for efficiency. French is also known for such orthography with silent letters and all, but I think it’s far less crazy even though I’ve only learnt a gist of it.

    I also did some research on how Latin and French fell from their respective positions as linguae francae. I attempted to learn Latin on-line but it’s so hard. It used to be the bridge language of Medieval scholars but eventually made way for vernaculars because Latin had the baggage that its descendants don’t even have – . The idea of seven grammatical cases divided into five noun/adjective classes (compared to Esperanto where only one case conjugation is used – the ‘-n’ for direct object), four verb classes encompassing six tenses… Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese have all shed all those so it may be tricky for speakers of these modern tongues to master the language of their ancient ancestors.

    Meanwhile, French became the lingua franca of European diplomacy since the time of the French Revolution till WWI. Most non-French royals and aristocrats preferred to speak in French amongst themselves, apparently creating a sense of disconnect between them and the common folk. Some common folk also saw French as a gateway to success and power but French classes might have been unaffordable and inaccessible to the masses. So overall, after WWI French began to lose its lustre as leaders heed their subjects’ call to re-embrace their local lingos.

    I do think English is heading the way of French. In Japan, ‘eikaiwa’ classes pop everywhere but met little meaningful success; I see English websites of renowned Japanese corporations poorly updated. Thailand’s Speak English Year hit a snag midway as the government appointed a Mandarin-centric Education Minister; I read somewhere that Thais rather learn Chinese than English. Indonesia has dropped English from its primary school core curriculum. Levels of English proficiency in Hong Kong and the Philippines are reportedly on the decline.

    Even China, which had been reportedly going ga-ga about English in the past decade, is showing signs of pussyfooting around with the influence of English, fearing that it’ll cause a class division between those who are fluent and those who aren’t, thereby turning Chinese into a second-class language. Why? Because it still cannot afford to teach everyone English! And why? Because English is a complicated language to teach – to teach everyone to mastery you need high-quality resources like dedicated teachers, teaching material – and high-quality resources are scarce!

    In Brazil and Russia, English is still taught as a foreign language, as in not taken too seriously. Even if they wanted to make it a second language in schools they cannot make it mandatory for all their youngsters as … I think you know the answer.

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      Having just returned from Brazil, a friend who is not Portuguese and cannot speak that language, found, all those he dealt with business wise whilst there, were English or American and those around them spoke the same language.

      And I suppose you are suggesting the world ‘invests’ in Esperanto so that you and your chums here, all pushing for a large cut from it, if you sell the goods, should convince the Internet providers to learn that wonderful and complete farce to us all through that ponzi scheme you are pushing.

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      And exactly what are you getting at with that kind of statement?

      Are you suggesting I and others should not discuss this situation as a result of past lunacy carried out by extremists? Because if you are, then what you are really pushing for is censorship. And that is unhealthy for all of mankind. It is also emotional blackmail. Which you seem to use frequently in you effort at debate.

      Additionally, if you see an opinion regarding a ploy you put forward regarding a limited and ineffective language, as an insult, then I feel you are over sensitive for a person who wishes to be taken seriously as a political commentator.

      However, your tactics are common to you and used by those who cannot win a discussion intellectually and therefore resort to numerous games.

      And that is my last comment to you on this particular matter, as it has become artificial.

  106. avatar
    Brian Barker

    Perhaps Hitler and Stalin’s opinion that Esperanto was an effective tool for international communication led them to persecute Esperanto speakers in an attempt to stamp it out.
    Interestingly both of these individualls are now dead, but Esperanto lives on.

    • avatar
      Michael Leibman

      @Brian Hitler and Stalin didn’t need any particular reasons to persecute any group that wasn’t one hundred percent under their control. So, I don’t think that can be used as an argument for anything. More generally I think arguing about Esperanto is a waste of time. Either people can find the idea of learning Esperanto attractive and you’ve got to provide them with the tools to do that, or they think that it’s a waste of time for them, in which case they are probably right. If they also think that it’s a waste of time in general for anybody because it’s “ineffective and limited”, then they are plain stupid and there is no point in arguing with stupid people. I find that most people are not hostile but indifferent towards Esperanto because they find no immediate practical use for it. I use it for fun, to travel and to get to know people around the world with social networks. I also know it’s a great pedagogical tool. It is more effective to get people to learn it for those purposes than to preach about it to the world.

  107. avatar
    Brian Barker

    Hi Michael
    I am not “preaching” but defending those who are attacking Esperanto who have no knowledge about it.
    Without doubt both Hitler and Stalin have held back the progress of this international language.

    • avatar
      Larry D.

      @Catherine Benning. Just so you know, lots of people who are not Portuguese do speak Portuguese. As your friend probably told you Brazilians speak Portuguese, so the fact that she is not Portuguese has nothing to do as such with the fact that she does not speak Portuguese.

  108. avatar
    Michael Leibman

    Hi Brian, Since we are on the same side of the issue I don’t want to spend too much time arguing with you. I do mean to say, however, that the term “preaching” referred to a general practice or attitude and that I did not mean to offend, only to question the use of one’s time. I have never known anybody who had given a reasonable look at Esperanto argue that it was useless, stupid, limited, etc… People who have some acquanitance with it usually take a “why not?” or a “good idea, but…” attitude.
    About Stalin and Hitler, OK, throwing the suspected users of a language in a death camp, can’t do that language much good, but it’s been a while and there have been more important factors at work, particularly the British Empire and American hegemony.

  109. avatar
    Brian Barker

    Hi Michael
    I totally agree. Perhaps arguing with people who refuse to listen may be a waste of time.
    I should be in the World Conference in Iceland in 2013, and hope to see you there :)

  110. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    New infographic on the prevalence of English in the world:
    I don’t think that the question of what the language of Europe should be depends on this, but it could be helpful for anyone who can’t deal with the question because of a mistaken belief that it is a done deal.

  111. avatar

    Just one point to raise: Any natural language used for practical purposes by an appreciable number of people who share a common national, political, or ethnic identity becomes part of that self-identity., even when the language has been imposed by force a generation or more ago (such as in Africa with English, French, Zulu, Arabic and others; or Spanish and Portuguese in South America). Anyone as a learner can go to the places where they are widely spoken and be immersed in language and culture for months or years.Can that be said of Esperanto today? Is it faster to learn Esperanto via Internet and conferences, or to interact daily in a language spoken for everyday authentic purposes by a larger number of people living in the same geographic area?

  112. avatar
    Penelope Vos

    Hi Joel,
    Probably not, to any great extent.
    But then, if Europe were to choose a common language, would it be realistic to think that all Europeans would gain access to the language by travelling to a chosen country for an immersion experience?
    Several governments might be glad to be chosen to host such an influx, but it hardly seems fair to other countries, or to the less unfettered members of the community as a whole.
    Don’t you agree?

  113. avatar

    I am a native English speaker living in Canada and I can confidently say that, although many people say they speak English fluently, they do not. There are many Asian and African immigrants where I live who were educated in English immersion schools in their native countries and consider themselves fluent in English. Sadly, I can barely understand most of these people due to the many errors in basic pronunciation, syntax and grammar. These are intelligent, productive people but they will have a difficult time getting employed because of the language issue. Just a couple of months ago, I was told that I would be hired because the other candidates, who had studied in English for years, were unable to speak English properly. I wonder if I would have been the winning candidate if we had all been on an equal linguistic footing.

  114. avatar
    Brian Barker

    Well said Regan.
    The same applies to Europe as well. See

    Notwithstanding the fact that English is an “imperialist” language, Mr Oettinger gives yet more publicity to the fact that English is not a practical proposition, as an international language.

    To my mind this is yet another compelling reason to seriously consider Esperanto :)

  115. avatar

    My native language is not English, and I agree Esperanto would be a better candidate to serve as an international language.

  116. avatar
    Robb Kvasnak, Ed.D.

    There was a time when every small municipality had its own system of measures. Then, just prior to the French Revolution, several European scientists had the idea of a common system of measures – we know this system today as the metric system. I am sure that it took a while to catch on but it was a proactive measure to reach a goal for the common good. People did not say: well, since X city (say Paris) has the biggest population and most other people also want to undertake commerce with Paris, then we shall all invest in learning the measure system of Paris. To the contrary, the general feeling was: We need one single world system of measures so that we can understand each other globally. Today, only three countries do not use this system internally: Burma, Liberia, and the USA. But even they have to use it when dealing with the rest of the world. One cannot buy a pint of coke in the USA. We buy it in 2-liter bottles. Our military uses the metric system. I presume that air transportation also uses it. So the attitude about Esperanto should be: what can we do for the common (global) good – not what can we do for Europe or for England or so that most people can trade with English-speakng countries.
    I have taught (American) English abroad and have traveled extensively. Many people claim to speak English. Though I don’t want to insult them, I unfortunately do not often understand them. It has been my experience with Esperanto that those who do say that they speak it can indeed communicate with me freely. And many of them are in trades that do not demand academics.
    I find Esperanto a good idea for the common, global good – but that is my personal belief.

    • avatar
      Penelope Vos

      A very apt comparison!

  117. avatar
    John D

    Catherine raises an interesting question about the aims of the Esperantists. Hmmm… are they trying to profit by getting in early on this. Imagine the benefit when they have to come to you and beg you to teach them Esperanto at any price. There’s only one problem with this.

    Let me digress and explain my experiences. I’m a native English speaker and an Esperantist. I’m well travelled so I have encountered how people have butchered my native tongue in a variety of countries. The world may speak English, but they do so badly. It’s hard for me to judge the difficulty of English from the inside, but despite the American domination of global culture, non-native speakers don’t seem to profit from these pervasive examples. When smart people speak a language badly despite that language being almost inescapable, I can only assume the fault lies in the language.

    So, of course, the global hegemony of English is great news if you want to teach English as a Foreign Language. Everywhere I go (especially the developing world) I see schools for people who want to learn English. And, after years of study, people speak bad English. They miss the weird little subtleties of spelling and sentence structure. The very sounds they make mark them as foreign.

    I have long joked that if Esperanto were taught at a college level, teachers would have to figure what their students would be doing in the third semester. I remember learning new bits of grammar late in my second year of French. There are some constructions I certainly don’t know (and for the record, the time I spent on the passe simple was a total waste).

    If you gave someone the choice to each a third party either English or Esperanto and your pay was based on the speed to get there (say there was a pot of money which got smaller each day and what remained you got to keep), you’d be financially better off teaching Esperanto, even if you needed a little time to start learning the language yourself.

    Unlike English, where there will always be a need for instruction by native speakers, Esperanto is so easy that a common story for prominent Esperantists is that they picked up the language on their own and then sought of other people with whom to speak it. Who would profit from the EU adopting Esperanto? The tax payers, not the current Esperanto speakers.

    Who benefits from the current state of affairs? Native English speakers.

    17/10/2017 Felipe Santos Rodríguez, Director of the Cervantes Institute in Brussels, has responded to this comment.

    31/01/2018 Sneska Quaedvlieg-Mihailovic, Secretary General of Europa Nostra, has responded to this comment.

  118. avatar
    Tamás Heizler

    Esperanto is tipically a thing that was a very good idea, but it hasn’t become successful. There have been a lot of ideas in the world, that were really good ideas, but haven’t become successful. I think the reason in case of Esperanto was nothing else but English.
    English is unequivocally the major language in the world. There can be doubts about the second one: Spanish, French, Chinese? But English is the first one without doubts. So for this reason English speaking people aren’t motivated to learn Esperanto (and usually aren’t motivated to learn foreign languages at all), and non-English speaking people are also motivated to learn English rather than Esperanto which has very few speakers.

    So I think Esperanto would be a very good solution IF there were at least 3 world languages that would be spoken by approximately the same amount of people. In that case all the speakers of these 3 languages would be motivated to learn Esperanto rather than the other 2 languages.
    I think even in case of 2 big languages, the speakers of these two languages would rather have the motivation to learn each other’s languages than Esperanto. But now as we have one language that is much more used than all the others, I think it’s unequivocal that this language will prevail. I think in 100 years all the earth will speak English, or at least will be bi- or tri-lingual with English and their own languages.

    About Latin and Ancient Greek: I would support if the EU made laws about these two languages to become e.g. “official historical languages of the EU” or something, so that the EU constitution and some other important documents should be translated to these languages as well. But I think it would be a waste of money to make these languages official and translating everything that are now translated to 24 languages to two more languages. And it would also be a waste of efforts to try to teach people Latin instead of English, because it is much harder.

  119. avatar
    Cheng-Zhong Su

    We are talking about a language that learning less knowing more. I call it International Intelligent Language. In few months, the speaker could master a vocabulary larger than all the English have, (roughly over two million). To compare with Esperanto, this language is faster in thinking speed.
    We talk about it in auxlang:
    The article on:

  120. avatar
    Cheng-Zhong Su

    In my article:
    I will show you the Esperanto is a language although allow you easy to learn yet it sill steal your time when you use it. English is better in use, but the two million words threatened everybody. No one can say he is good in English, because this language can’t be learnt by human being. The best solution is IIL. A language enable you to master millions words. It is not a miracle, it is truth. If you appreciate your life, you had better change a way to collect information during life time.

  121. avatar
    Neil Gratton

    As quoted, it takes about 600 hours to fluently learn a Western European language, and about 1000 hours to master it.

    It only takes about 100 hours to learn Esperanto to fluency.

    BUT someone with 600 hours to ‘spend’ on languages in the education system who learns a simplified Auxiliary Language (Esperanto, Ido or Interlingua) for 100 hours and then spends the other 500 hours on a second language (say English, French or German) will speak the second language (English, French or German) BETTER than the person who spent 600 hours on it, because of the advantage of already having learnt a whole language to their subsequent language learning. There are various studies showing this effect.

    So, spending the same total amount of time learning an Auxiliary Language AND a foreign language, but getting better results than just learning the foreign language, is a hard benefit to deny.

    I’m using ‘Auxiliary Language’ here instead of ‘Esperanto’ because given (as a numeric proportion) Esperanto would be starting in Europe from practically nothing, there’s no particular reason to choose it over any other similar language. It does have some flaws – some of which are fixed in an offshoot language called ‘Ido’ (which also makes some arbitrary changes); and ‘Interlingua’ was designed from scratch taking an alternative approach but is also very easy. Any of the three could do the job.

    In fact, a language like this could help preserve the diversity of languages because minority languages in danger of being swallowed by larger neighbours (Welsh, Cornish, Galician, Frisian and so on) would be relieved of pressure to comply to the larger local language; they could stick in their own language and use a simple AuxLang to communicate with others when needed.

  122. avatar
    Quentin Bongard

    I think that the right question we need to ask to ourselves is : “should English be the language of Europe?”
    To me, it all depends on how we, as Europeans, see Europe’s destiny.
    If we consider Europe as a big, useful club which makes all sorts of contact between European nations easier, as the EU is today, then English is the perfect language and there is no reason nor chance that its being the European lingua franca ever change until it falls in worldwide desuetude.
    But if we hope that one day Europe will be more than that, if we ask for it to become a Major Patria, the homeland of fatherlands, in one word, a Confederation, which would all at once open ourselves and protect our interests, the land of Cockaigne that we’ve been so long seeking for (which will, of course, solve only a little part of the problems we’re currently in); then there is strictly not the smallest chance for English to be the necessary identity language of it.
    There are plenty of reasons for that, each of which would be sufficient. So here are some : English, as spoken today between people who don’t know each other’s language, is not a true language anymore, but a pidgin. Perfect to ask your way when you’re lost in an foreign city – which would be nowadays Europe main purpose – but totally unapt to build a nation. In the 51% you point out, what is the actual proportion of people truly speaking English? Uh. Hearing Italians trying to speak English is, in 95% of cases, an insult to both Italian and English languages, plus a blasphemy on both Shakespeare and Dante. What’s more, that sort of English already has its own identity (understand : the way people see it) : it’s 1) the language you speak with a foreigner; 2) the language of (nice but bothering) “Cousin” Sam. Again, completely unadapted to build a European identity. You cannot speak with your fellow citizens that same language you’d speak with a Chinese or Arabic person you just met, and European identity will never be American. Plus, an identity language has its own literature. European English-speaking literature will never be European literature : it’s English, Welsh, Scottish or Irish and that’s all. Finally, English is a minority language in Europe; imposing it (because, as a “confederational” language, it is illusional to think that it can impose itself by a “free-market language” logic) would be glaringly discriminatory.
    So, if English is definitely not this language, is Esperanto it? Well, it does look like the only option left, because it is simple and because it is neutral. And it should be easy, with a little bit of political will. But of course, I’m perfectly conscious of the fact that this vision of Europe is not to be accepted by every one tomorrow. It seems to be the future, though.

  123. avatar
    John P

    Reading the above comments, it seems this is a discussion between esperanto vs English. Esperanto may seem simple at the moment but unlike other national languages, it has not been used for legal or technical purposes such as drafting contracts or legislation, or for complex descriptions of chemistry, physics, etc. To be able to use esperanto for such purposes it will likely need to have a greatly expanded vocabulary and be able to be used to develop phrases to match that of English or French or German etc. It would also take years to develop such a vocabulary unless it borrows words and phrases from other languages. Who would determine new vocabulary, for criminal or civil law, for international finance, business transactions, or for explaining philosophical positions, etc? Would it develop naturally, by use, or by some language institute as currently happens in many European countries? If borrowed words or phrases are used, whose languages will be used, will it end up being esperanto-English or esperanto-German, or esperanto-Italian? Who decides, and will this raise nationalistic antagonisms?

    Frankly if Europe develops its esperanto, it would not save the need to learn English or other languages elsewhere in the world. English is the international business and travel language, and increasingly the language of higher education. In an increasingly globalised world surely it makes sense to go with the flow rather than try to impose esperanto on Europeans which would likely end up as complex and challenging to learn as any other language once it had to be able to undertake the same ability to articulate ideas, thoughts, laws, technology, etc.

    • avatar
      Quentin Bongard

      I really do not think that it would be so difficult to adapt Esperanto to legislation, chemistry, physics, and so forth. First because it was meant to be logical, and to easily create easily understandable neologisms, which are key elements in those fields; second because it already has been adapted for those needs by esperantist judges, lawyers, scientists and all. Of course using Esperanto at the European level would be another scale, but the main part of the job is already done. I think you underestimate the development of Esperanto. It currently has 2 millions of speakers, which of course is ridiculous when compared to English, German or French in Europe, but which also makes it the most successful constructed language. And most of those speakers are presumably of higher education. Renowned poets, novelists, scientists, philosophers, legislators, journalists, critics, etc have used Esperanto since the early XXth century.
      Of course Esperanto cannot replace English as an INTERNATIONAL language, but the question is about the EUROPEAN language.
      And about English… Uh, you’re saying : “increasingly the language of higher education”. I would add : “so far as economics, finance and all are concerned”. I have an example, and even though it might seem somewhat caricatural, I think it’s quite representative : I’m Parisian, and ever since I take the sub I’ve seen plenty of ads promoting English learning. They were all, without a single exception, from the same company : Wall Street Institute. And actually, it wasn’t exactly about learning English. The motto is quite clear : “Speak Wall Street English”.

    • avatar
      Bill Chapman

      I’m amazed how long this string of messages is becoming. John P’s comments need some response. Firstly, Esperanto’s vocabulary is well developed. It has been used for over a century to discuss scientific and legal matters. There really is no difficulty in expanding the vocabulary if that were found to be necessary. A list of specialist terms produced since 1980 can be found here:

      Esperanto has developed naturally over the decades, by usage. So the current firmly-established word for “computer” is “komputilo”, with other proposed forms long rejected and forgotten. Esperanto has its own academy which makes recommendations on linguistic matters, but speakers are free to accept them or not. See

      Finally, from my own experience I would reject the notion that “English is the international business and travel language”. Iyt is true that English is fairly widespread, and it is a long way short of universal.

      No one is trying “to impose Esperanto”. It remains the language of a voluntary speech community, as it has been since 1887. Declaring it the European language would give more people the opportunity to opt in and use it.

  124. avatar

    I support esperanto and wish that EU had an open and honest debate about languages, in place of “fait accompli” Policy.

  125. avatar
    Rien Slagter

    Jes, Jes,
    ĉar: okcidenta kaj orienta Eŭropo tro estas disigitaj de la okcidentaj angla.
    Oriento eŭropaj lingvoj estas malfacilaj por lerni.
    La okcidenta Angla estas komerca lingvo
    Komunikado kun unu lingvo estas pli bona por ĉiuj
    nun la orientaj landoj kunigi en bloko por doni la tri ĉefaj okcidentaj landoj. contrapeso
    Kunlaboros nur se vi parolas la saman lingvon – laŭvorte kaj figure
    alie, Eŭropo falas aparte

    omdat: west en oost europa teveel gescheiden zijn door het westerse Engels.
    Oost europese talen zijn voor het westen moeilijk te leren.
    Engels is een handels taal
    Communicatie met 1 taal is voor allen beter
    nu al verenigen de oostelijke landen zich in een blok om tegenwicht te geven aan de grote westerse drie landen. (FR-UK-DE)
    Samenwerken kan alleen als je dezelfde taal spreekt – letterlijk en figuurlijk,
    anders valt europa uit elkaar

    because: West and East Europe are to much separated by the western English.
    East European languages ​​are difficult to learn.
    The west English is a trade language
    Communication with one language is better for all
    Now the eastern countries unite in a block to give the three major Western countries. counterbalance.
    Cooperation is only possible if you speak the same language – literally and figuratively >> Otherwise, Europe is falling apart

  126. avatar
    Rien Slagter

    Nuntempe tiu saĝa homo en la potenco strukturoj de la Eŭropa Politiko estas en plimulto.
    At the moment that sensible people in the power structures of the European Politics are in a majority.
    Por komenci ie, se sufiĉe da homoj, komunaj civitanoj de Eŭropo pretas lerni Esperanton.
    To start somewhere, if enough people, common citizens of Europe are willing to learn Esperanto.

  127. avatar

    In any case, the choice of Esperanto would be a powerful symbol of peace, tolerance and unity. This could help the EU out of its present state of unpopularity.

    Why not try it on a small scale? Ten minutes of daily Esperanto on European TV channels? Or Esperanto courses in a few pilot universities?

    The only thing that needs Esperanto to succeed is to be presented as a credible solution among others by governments and the EU.

    • avatar
      Rien Slagter

      There are free of charge courses on for a lot of languages such as Polish, Bulgarian, Japanese to name a few. For the Netherlands there is separately a course on
      All free: I study them both now for 3 months. Parents can take their own opportunity / responsibility to learn, so the children can learn it to.
      No public money involved, just action by sufficient people who are already involved with teaching in middle school classes.
      If there is a WILL – there is a WAY.

  128. avatar

    The speakers of Esperanto are fewer than English speaking people, but did someone compare those figures ​​per million € of public money invested to teach the language?

    • avatar
      Rien Slagter

      It is a bit tricky to give an answer.
      But I shall try to do it so it could be clear where a lot of money is involved.
      example: France: how many people are lerning English, Chines, Bulgarian, Russian or name what-ever language in France on middel school and university.
      multiply this over the world with all the different languages.
      That is a lot of money.
      Think about the use of paper if someone is producing a product, technical or savety data sheets.
      Think about all the papers in the EU which has to be translated, printed, corrected. Information on paper is stil an attack on wood production.
      More important is communication.
      So you don’t need to have the figures, you know it is cheaper.
      Now I am corresponding with a Polish woman and an Hungarian guy. They don’t speak Dutch or English. And even after 3 months starting learning Esperanto I am able to express myself enough to make basic things clear to eachother.
      That makes live so beautifull. My English is not the best, but I hope (Espero)
      you can trigger the meaning.

  129. avatar
    Henri Masson

    “The closest thing to a universal human language today is English, he added, but English in many ways fails to live up to Zamenhof’s dream, which was to hehp create a more egalitarian world.“ (Jonathan Pool, “National Geographic“, 15-12-2009)

    “Kvazaŭa universala homa lingvo hodiaŭ estas la angla, sed la angla multrilate ne plenumas Zamenhofan revon, kiu celis helpon al estigo de pli egalrajteca mondo.“

  130. avatar

    If you want to watch videos about “How to promote Esperanto” to reach a million people a year, I advise you to have a look at
    All in Esperanto of course.

  131. avatar

    Esperanto works much much better than English.

    I believe I am quite fluent in English which I have started learning it 43 years ago when I started going to the secondary school. After that I studied and also got a master’s degree in a university where the educational language was English, and I have used it throughout my work life. I accept that I am very content that I have learned English.

    However. although it has been too many years using the language I still have difficulties when reading a novel, or reading some official article. Look at all those politicians who try to speak in English and think how many speakers of the language have spent hours to prepare and serve those speeches before the meeting !

    Two years ago I stumbled on Esperanto and I learned it on my own at the internet, reading books, novels, magazines, listening to radios etc. I have been addicted to Esperanto, it is by far my new hobby. I can say that nowadays I am at the same level with my English. Now think about learning Esperanto not at your fifties but much much younger at the primary school. By the time a student finishes the primary school he will certainly be a fluent Esperanto speaker.

    English may be the very easy of all other languages to learn however it is still a very difficult language to master.

    Think of the money we all pay to the Anglo-Saxon economy for learning the language and then afterwards the money we are paying for movies, books, trips etc to them. A true imperialistic way of getting money out of nothing !

    Esperanto nowadays is very popular in China, do you have an idea why? Because they have the ambition to be the new industrial power and leader country of the world, and they know very well that they cannot do it with their weird language(s).

    Nowadays we have a foreign visitor who once was a professional teacher and now being retired he is wandering around the world teaching Esperanto. My wife and some others who knew nothing about Esperanto in just four days of two hours teaching in each, and without a black board and pen and paper and learning a book, they have started understanding simple phrases and even creating simple sentences. I am thinking of how many months I had to be taught in English to reach that level. The teaching will go on for two weeks and I am expecting miracles.

    Think of how easy and how cheap would be the process of teaching everyone right at primary school the language and let them reach a high level of understanding and speaking of Esperanto.

    Esperanto is not an Artificial language. It is an international language. It is some masterpiece of art of some genius inventor.

    NOT WANTING TO HURT ANYBODY HERE, all those who argue against Esperanto, I am sure they are definitely members of the Anglo-Saxon world, who do not want to lose the advantages they have gained out of nothing so far. Nevertheless the Anglo-Saxon world’s power has come to an end. The world is rapidly changing and Europe has to choose the best for itself. And when saying Europe I do not include in it the UK. Everyone knows very well that they do not event think about themselves being Europeans.

  132. avatar

    The philosopher René Descartes argued that human beings have a theoretically infinite freedom, but a limited knowledge, and that unluckily true freedom resides only inside the narrow boundaries of knowledge. To make it simpler, he was simply exposing in a refined metaphysical way the common principle that, to make a free choice, one must have a good knowledge of all the available possibilities. When hardly anyone knows about the very existence of Esperanto, the “ad populum” argument that most people and governments “freely” choose to invest time and money in the learning of English rather than that of Esperanto, and therefore English is better than Esperanto as an international language, is completely flawed and nonsensical. If we applied the same “democratic” reasoning to the whole world the universal international language should be Mandarin Chinese but I guess that few of the enthusiastical proponents of English would be eager to spend the massive amount of time and money needed to understand, let alone master, such a difficult language.

  133. avatar

    “The problem, of course, is that English has reached its current level of prominence without much need for “investment” or “agreement at EU level”. Citizens choose to learn English themselves, and national governments choose to invest in it without any need for a coordinated approach.”

    I heavily disagree. I was forced to learn English by the German education system. They did not gave me the freedom of choice when it came to learning a second language. This is still the case and will continue for may years, I fear.

  134. avatar

    I live in Australia, well away from the majority of non-English speaking countries. However, many non-English speaking tourists come to Australia on holidays. On some days, the majority of places such as Bondi Beach are non-English speakers! I see the use of a universal language that is easy to learn as essential on a safety level, as well as useful for international communications. Too many times have I heard important notifications (such as GET AWAY FROM THIS AREA, IT IS DANGEROUS) being ignored simply because people cannot understand the language. THIS is dangerous. I believe that a second, universal language that is easy for ALL people to learn (including the elderly and the intellectually disabled) is more necessary than ever, due to globalisation, though I do not particularly care which language is chosen.

  135. avatar

    I personally feel that Esperanto could be beneficial for nations as a second language so that their is a choice for foreigners coming to the country to either use the native language or Esperanto. It would be beneficial if Esperanto was a language used to communicate between speakers of Non-English. It is also VERY beneficial as it can help support other languages.

    This will mean Esperanto would have to be taught as a language, so GCSE Esperanto. Nevertheless, making Esperanto the language of Europe would benefit people who are not aware of the language, as they could miss out on the opportunity to learn this language.

    • avatar
      Penelope Vos

      Because it currently wastes billions of dollars on translations between all the different European languages. If European Union documents were produced in Esperanto (so simple that anyone could do this after only a hundred hours of serious attention) then they would be immediately accessible to anyone else who had been willing to invest 100 hours.

  136. avatar
    Yavor Tashev

    Let’s just make an even easier version of English and study it. Let’s forget about the phrasal verbs, simplify tenses, grammar… and vocabulary. Let’s say No to the formula where you write one thing and then pronounce another :D

  137. avatar
    Julia Mikić

    European identity is based on diversity, not linguistic centralisation/dictatorship.

    Unity comes from the abundance of heritage, not replacing it with a single, artificial one.

  138. avatar
    Dimitris Stamiris

    Everyone have his own language and international is English …..

    Other why Greek is the mother of languages !!!!!!!

  139. avatar
    Dimitris Stamiris





  140. avatar
    Thomas Beavitt

    No reason why not to standardise on one language for some official functions at the EU level. But this language should probably be English, French, German or Spanish. English seems the strongest candidate, especially if the EU leaves the EU. Then it will be fair!

  141. avatar
    Andrew Camilleri

    The problem is that not all countries start teaching English to children from when they are young enough to learn it. In Malta, we start learning both Maltese and English at the age of 3, and not just Maltese. If all EU countries adopt that policy, EU countries would be all fluent in English in 15-20 years time.

  142. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    Why are people obsessed with single languages? What problem are you trying to solve? This practice of asking people about a solution without defining the problem has led us into the most ridiculous populist situations!
    STOP IT!

  143. avatar
    João Carlos de Sousa

    Perhaps English? Even at a global level it’s much more established. Why should the wheel be reinvented and years of “natural evolution” discarded? I’m Portuguese btw…

  144. avatar
    Jaime Martins

    Quem sabe esperanto na Europa?
    Primeiro ensinem como outra lngua da europa em todas as escolas, mais tarde voltem a fazer a mesma pergunta.

    Who knows Esperanto in Europe?
    First teach as another language of Europe in all schools, later re-ask the same question.

    • avatar

      As the UK leaves the EU it’s the perfect timing to support esperanto. Let’s say in each EU school children should learn 500 esperanto words. In restaurant menus (aside English) should be written also in esperanto. At the airports etc there should be esperanto signs and descriptions (aside English). There should be 1000 words esperanto exams for all who must serve tourists (taxi drivers, hotel receptions, police in large cities, etc). Step by step we will understand each other.

  145. avatar
    Davide Zoran Parenti

    Would be gorgeous if only this language would start to be teached because at this moment nobody knows it… including myself

  146. avatar
    Davide Zoran Parenti

    English not at all… even if english is largely the most known and spoken language, it’s a nonsense to adopt english as language of the EU assuming that UK, as everybody knows, is the most euroskeptic country, maybe leaving in the next years

  147. avatar
    Νίκος Βουλγαράκης

    ?? ??? ???????????? ???? ????? ??????? ????? ?? ????????, ?? ???????? ??? ???? ?? ???????…
    ????? ?????? ??? ??? ???????? ???? ? ?????? ?? ????? ?? ??????????? ??? ???????? ?????: ???? ?? ??????? ???? ?? ????????. ??????????? ??? ??? ??? ??? ?? ????? ?? ???? ?? ??????????? ????? ?? ??? ?????? ????? ????? ??? ? ???? ????????? ?? ?????? ?? ?????? ?????? ?? ???? ??????? ??? ???? ???? ?????? ?? ??????? ?????.
    ? ????????? ????? ??? ????? ??? ??????? ??????, ??? ??? ?????? (???????) ???????, ??? ?????????? ??? ??? ????????? ???????? ??????.. ?? ?????????? ?????????? ????? ?????? ??? ?? ?????????? ??? ?? ????????? ?? ????? ??? ???? ??? ?????? ??? ??????????????? ??? ??? ??????.

  148. avatar
    Arianit Bekteshi

    Soo according to one of the guys in this article… teaching europe a new language would be cheaper then teaching them better english , lol what a load of BS lol
    Whoever wrote this wants to take away some political domination from the UK and USA lol

    • avatar
      Larry D.

      For anyone who has studied English and Esperanto, for anyone who has taught English and taught Esperanto, it is obvious than teaching Esperanto costs much less time and efforts than teaching English.

      Have you learnt English and Esperanto ? Have you taught English and Esperanto ?

      I think the BS you are criticizing is only in your head and prevents you from reasoning correctly.

  149. avatar
    Cirstea Robert

    I think that all of us need to know a little bit of all european languages, but i think the most important is english.

    • avatar
      Penelope Vos

      At present, yes, in the time of Chaucer, it was French. In the future it might be something else. It will be a lot nicer for the global poor if it is Esperanto. It will be nicer for us if it is Esperanto and not Chinese.

  150. avatar
    Tony Kunnari

    Let people speak and form the language on its own. I’d say english will become the ‘default’ language nonetheless, but who knows. It is probable that latin may return too if it gets enough hype. :)

  151. avatar
    Jorge Qoqe

    Esperanto didn’t work because there is no a comunity of native speakers that keep the languaje living. Language is more than a code of comunication. Meanwhile, threre is languages spoken by several millions of people that are not official cause there is no a unique-official state language. Is really weird that Catalonian (spoken in Spain, France, the italian city of Alger and the inside fiscal paradise of Andorra) is not official. And, what about other populated languages spoken in EU but not ‘born’ in EU states? Do you know how many people, born and citizens in EU states speak russian and arab?

  152. avatar
    Ibrahim Uzun

    Today Most of the manoritys living under diferent countries are facing their languages being assimilate it from some fascist governments, why don’t you save them or put pressure on the governments to stop their dirty tricks against our values.

  153. avatar
    Nicola Catani

    Ma che ve siete bevuti??? :) european languages are others.. italian italian and italian.. maybe english :D

  154. avatar
    Paulo Pina da Silva

    Would love to learn more about this.

  155. avatar
    Ibrahim Uzun

    Pomak language is the best European language is centuries old language, and modern talkative language,
    1st Slavic language
    Great Alexander’s language
    And is my language.

  156. avatar
    Юлиан Начев

    “Pomak language (Greek: ???????? ??????, pomakiki glosa or ????????, pomakika, Bulgarian: ??????? ????, poma?ki ezik, Turkish: Pomaka) is a term used in Greece[1] and Turkey[2] to refer to some of the Rup dialects of the Bulgarian language spoken by the Pomaks in Western Thrace in Greece and Eastern Thrace in Turkey. These dialects are native also in Bulgaria, and are classified as part of the Smolyan subdialect.”… ahaha …???????? ???????? ???????, ?? ? ??????? ???? ?? ?? ;) …??? ?? ?? ????? ?? ?????? ?? ????? ?????

  157. avatar
    Ivan Charalambous

    I think the only really universal and fully encompassing language is the body language. smiles and hugs anyone?

    • avatar
      Christa H.

      Ne. Mi parolas ĝin :-) Kaj proksimume miliono da aliaj (iuj diras du milionoj). Ĝi estas plene uzebla lingvo, kaj evoluas laŭbezone.

      No, I speak it :-). And about a million other people (some say two million). It’s a fully useable language, which evolves as needed.

  158. avatar
    Claus Skøtt Christensen

    If esperanto was a reasonable choice for a paneuropean lingua franca, wouldn’t the Esperanto Facebook page be much bigger than the English one? Or the Wikipedia page?

  159. avatar
    David Müldner

    esperwhat? That language unfortunately turned out to be a complete failure and is obsolete today. German would be a more logic choice looking at the number of people speaking German as a first or seconde language in Europe. Internationally ofcourse, the only choice is English (or maybe Mandarin ;-) )

  160. avatar
    Antoine Che

    Only a neutral language not spoken by any specific nation would leave space for existing languages to coexist with the dominant common one:
    Esperanto… or any other creation or reshaping of an old language !!!

    English language is the language of the merchant Empire and carries its culture through Tv programs, movies, advertisements, trends, fashion etc…

  161. avatar
    Gent Sinani

    I think it would be beter to let this question te the time… Is the time that wold decide what language ore group of languages will be spoken…

  162. avatar
    Toni Muñiz

    Arab. At the rate we are going, that is what we will need so we can read the qur’an and be good muslims or be beheaded.

  163. avatar
    Stefano Ciarrocchi

    Why should we learn a language that actually doesn’t exist? I think that in the EU we all should be able to talk our national language and english.

  164. avatar
    Igor Krbavčić

    Why this page always attracts such amount of “great articulates”?
    Esperanto IS language of Europe, regardless of what everybody thinks.
    If EU considers to be union of European cultures (and not only corporation capital) Esperanto should be considered to be formal language along with others.
    This initiative is also considered in UN and is logical step concerning communication/translation costs, cultural neutrality etc…

  165. avatar
    Rado Kazakov

    My guess is that it is a bit difficult to accomplish because it is too far behind the other international languages.

  166. avatar
    Ivan Vikalo

    use English as the vehicular language as it already is done… we also want a language that everyone else would speak: Chinese, Indians, Brazilians, Russians etc. We don’t need Esperanto, otherwise we might as well use Latin as it would be more sense from a historical continuity perspective… The other EU languages must be protected of course because they are our biggest richness, and what makes Europe so beautiful. But for everyone’s sake, we live in the 21th century: can’t be that hard to understand that English should be used at all levels throughout Europe

    • avatar
      Chalks Corriette

      I agree with Ivan fully. Please choose something that is useful on a global level so that we place the effort in people once. i.e to have to larn Esperanto for Europe and then still have to speak English in the other regions, seems a very odd thing to do…

  167. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    NO , we should teach English an all schools , we should use the same language with US .

  168. avatar
    Aleksander Bucholski

    Haha, great, now imagine translating all the acquis into Esperanto :D Don’t you have more serious topics to debate right now, like, I don’t know, common EU foreign or military policy, which are basically non-existent?

    • avatar
      Dietrich Michael Weidmann

      Lieber Bucholski/Dear Bucholski/Kara Bucholski
      ohne gemeinsame Sprache lässt sich ein gemeinsames Haus Europa nicht wirklich umsetzen / without common language it will not really be possible to realize a common house of Europe / sen komuna lingvo ne vere eblos realigi komunan domon de Eŭropo …

  169. avatar
    Yannick Cornet

    No. English is fine, simple, and efficient enough. Unless you prefer French anyone? As a French speaker, I would not quite recommend it though.

    • avatar
      Dietrich Michael Weidmann

      vaffanculo (itale) = anusulo (esperante)

    • avatar

      forf**u! (apologies to the moderator: it is only for linguistic purposes)

  170. avatar
    Paul Spiteri

    Well I am of the view to transcript English into the letter sounds of each local language and each would retain the existing local letter sounds. Thereby all Europeans would speak English or French as vernacular spoken language without the need to write it through the laborious long grammatical and semantic instruction. Those who would wish so can always learn the Oxford and Sorbonne academics and would be free to do so. My method would be swift with a instant transcript reckoner and dubbing TV iPhone application where the spoken Oxford US French would be shown in phonetic version utilizing the inculcated local known letter sounds .. Thus speeding retention in understanding spoken un phonetic EN FR US in
    a much reduced time and achieving a wider knowledge and reconnaissance of the defused EN US FR languages … Mandarin Russian Arabic can follow suit.

    • avatar
      Penelope Vos

      Esperanto is easier than what you propose, and much more elegant.

    • avatar

      The purpose of esperanto is to be a COMMON language, not the only one. In that it differs from Euro.

  171. avatar
    Daniele Laganà

    Two are the possible European language: Esperanto or Latin. And the European people would be able to vote which one prefers.
    No nation language can be accepted to become the European language!
    We have to destroy the dictatorship of the English, which imposed itself by colonialism and also now force me to use it for communicate with you!

  172. avatar
    Daniele Laganà

    Roberto, si dice “bugren”, anche se mi sembra esistono anche altre forme in esperanto per esprimere il concetto. ;)

    • avatar
      Vilheĉjo Framptono

      What evidence supports the claim that 78% of EU citizens know English? Are they simply saying that, or have they been tested on it?

    • avatar

      I doubt that the english of these 78% is ok enough to get a job in most companies.

    • avatar
      Larry D.

      78% of European citizens ? Where did you get your figures ? I can safely say that in France, Italy and Spain not more than 10% can actually speak it. From what I have seen in Poland or Bulgaria for example, it is not much better. So 78 %. Did you just make it up or does it come from somewhere ?

  173. avatar
    Ivan Čorak

    I don’t understand why people still push esperanto as a “universal” language when english is doing quite nicely. Even the Chinese are learning it (and mercifully aren’t trying to push chinese as the next “lingua franca”). Esperanto had it-s chance and it failed, end of story.

  174. avatar
    Seth Carreiro

    Jesus Christ, a common language, too?! Are you kidding me? One may as well abolish all country names and just make the entire continent one country: “Europe.” What a ridiculous idea.

  175. avatar
    Miguel Cabrita

    Nenhuma lngua que no tenha um cnone literrio que a estabelea, que no tenha uma imprensa robusta e com largo alcance que a divulgue e um corpo de falantes suficientemente grande que a consiga impor quer seja como lngua franca, quer seja como lngua oficial da UE ter hipteses de ser bem sucedida. O esperanto vive dos entusiastas que a aprendem em faculdades e um pouco como se fosse um Kllingon erudito e ao lado desta lngua que o seu lugar, o lugar de uma curiosidade intelectual.

    Existem problemas mais relevantes para o dilogo entre os povos da Europa do que saber qual a linguagem com a qual os burocratas de Bruxelas querem comunicar entre si.

  176. avatar
    Miguel Cabrita

    Esta no uma pergunta sria feita por gente sria verdadeiramente preocupada com qualquer problema relacionado com barreiras culturais e lingusticas na Europa, em vez disso uma pergunta colocada e postada com o intuito de impor um ponto de vista sobre um problema que na realidade no existe. Se no fosse assim no teriamos censura sobre comentrios em outras lnguas que no o Ingls.

    No Debating Europe, no, no, no.

    This is not a serious question made by serious people seriously concerned with any problem related to cultural and linguistic barriers in europe, otherwise is a question posited and posted with the purpose of imposing a point of view over a problem which does not really exist. If it wasn’t so there were no bans and censorship on comments in any language other than english.

    No Debating Europe, no no, no.

  177. avatar
    Spyros Tsakos

    No that would undermine the european project and increase the resistance to it, the EU should apply in practice its motto “united in diversity”, what we need the most are more democratic, efficient and less bureaucratic European institutions.

  178. avatar
    Vasil Kadifeli

    I see that discussion has lost the point. We are not talking about what the Europeans should be talking, we are talking about in which language the Europeans should be communicating with each other. There are so many people here who are of other nationalities then the UK and yet they want Europe to communicate in English. For example I see Greeks, Italians, Germans etc thet want Europe to be speaking and communicating in English. I see people who already for some reason or the other have learned to speak English and they don’t want to lose this capability they possess. Unbelievable!

    Think of a Europe without the UK. Is not it weird enough that for communication purposes we will be using a language out of those we talk within the Union?

    When we are talking about communication we mean a language that is very easy to learn, that can be learned by anyone and also learned in a very short time and with the least expenditure on language learning. Esperanto is such a language, anyone can learn it and start speaking within a month or two. It is a language that very clearly conveys what one has in mind. And let the others to understand that conveyed meaning very easily. Esperanto is a European language. Those who know English, French or any other Latin based language they already know Esperanto and can get accommodated to Esperanto very quickly. I believe within a two years program Europe can start communicating in Esperanto, and a very much higher percentage than now is English will be already speaking and understanding Esperanto within those two years.

    I would even accept any other language let it be German, Italian, Spanish, Greek etc but not English. Everyone is free to learn and talk whatever he wants. Either his mother tongue, or his regional tongue, or his country tongue, and Esperanto respects all those tongues.

    Here we are just talking about the language that will be our mean of communication within the European Union.

  179. avatar
    Vilheĉjo Framptono

    What the Europe needs is not to spread English, but instead to recreate the situation which existed in western Europe before the Reformation when educated Europeans used a neutral second language to communicate with each other. Europe — and indeed the whole world — needs the new Latin known as Esperanto, which is superior to the anarchic, mongrel dog’s breakfast known as English in every way.

    English is hard for speakers of non-Germanic languages — which includes most Europeans — to learn, whereas Esperanto is easy for everyone. English is irregular and anarchic, whereas Esperanto is regular, logical, clear, precise and expressive in a way which English never was, is not and never will be.

    There’s an additional problem with English too: it requires speakers of every other language in Europe to learn and accept incorrect meanings for thousands of words which they already understand correctly from their native language. This is because the English forms of these words which are Latin, Greek, Hebrew, etc. have been bent out of shape by generations of misuse by Anglophones too lazy, stupid or ignorant to learn their correct meaning and following colloquial misuse instead. Not only does that make English harder for them to learn, it means that they have keep track of different meanings for different linguistic forms of the same word! The spread of English would be a travesty for this reason.

    • avatar
      Rien Slagter

      I agtee with you

  180. avatar
    Maciej Oliwa

    It will be hard to turn away from English now, nothing in this matter should be changed.

  181. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    Europe has bigger problems to solve that a language distraction is not going to help solve!

  182. avatar

    Europe has bigger problems to solve that a language distraction is not going to help resolve!
    Let us focus on the essentials!

    • avatar
      robert leleu

      Tutcerte facila lingvo ne solvos la problemon per si mem, tamen certe ĝi helpos

    • avatar
      Bill Chapman

      Are you referring to English? I have lost count of the number of times I have seen people pull at a door marked “push” and push a door marked “pull”. I’ve also lost count of the number of people who say “I learn English since eight years” but cannot tell you the way to the station or what time the restaurant opens.

  183. avatar
    James Taylor

    Spanish is only the most widely spoken first language Juan. More people speak English as a first or second language.

  184. avatar
    Zoltan Vig

    Do you think this is the most important debate proposal right now?…Than think again!

  185. avatar
    Marco Marazzi

    NOOOOOOOOOO. It’s English already. Let’s face it. And in fact you are all writing in English

  186. avatar
    Vitor De Carvalho

    Take a look at the comments: I just read comments in one language, though there’s your response :) (I know and like esperanto but I think is not pratical)

  187. avatar
    Ilaria Piovesan

    it is a quite impossible change nowadays… Esperanto should have been chosen as EU working language as the EU was set up. In fact, the idea that every language has the same importance within the union is really democratic but was definitely more practicable then (when the official languages were only 6): now there are 24 official languages so documents and all other stuff can be translated in 552 ways. I know that this in a job opportunity for many translators, but think how much could we have saved if Esperanto was adopted as official language of EU at the end of ’50s

  188. avatar

    Dafuq is that? English of course! French should get over it and stop taking that paper work to Strasburg to keep the national pride alive, it’s waste of money!

  189. avatar

    Le plus grand problème est précisément la politique du fait accompli qui court-circuite la démocratie et dont on voit les effets délétères, que ce soit en matière linguistique, politique ou économique. Il est temps de créer une opinion publique européenne, de communiquer entre nous de telle sorte que les solutions qui paraissent évidentes aux uns ne semblent pas absurdes aux autres. L’unité des peuples européens est à ce prix… à moins de revenir à l’empire.

    (translation by Google-Translation)
    The biggest problem is precisely the policy of fait accompli that bypasses democracy and which we see deleterious effects, whether linguistic, political or economic. It is time to create a European public (opinion) to communicate with (among) us so that the solutions that seem obvious to some does not seem absurd to others. The unity of the European peoples is the (at that) price … unless you return to the empire.

    • avatar
      Christa H.

      Please explain what is your definition of “a language”, and how Esperanto does not fit it?

    • avatar


  190. avatar
    Nelson Vassalo

    English please. Even latin language speakers would prefer that to learning a brand new latinized language.

  191. avatar
    Mariana de Almeida

    I don’t think there’s any need for it. We must treasure and preserve the integrity of the languages we already have and which aren’t an artificial creation, but rather the result of centuries-old evolution.

  192. avatar
    Mark Letters

    English is the European language with the most mixing of Germanic/Scandinavian words together with French/Latin/Greek vocabulary, so it’s the best compromise language for most Europeans to use. Plus it has the simplest grammar, with no adjective agreements, few nouns with gender, and almost no verb endings to learn.

  193. avatar
    Ivan Burrows

    Mark Letters

    Great Britain is not part of Europe so English is not a ‘European’ Language.

    Definition of ‘Europe’.

    The most common definition of continental Europe excludes the Greek Islands, Malta, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, the Balearic Islands, Iceland, Ireland, and the United Kingdom and its dependencies. Most definitions extend the boundaries of the continent to its standard boundaries: the Ural Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian Sea, and the Caucasus Mountains.

    So, Not part of Europe = not ‘European’.

    • avatar

      So what do you do here???

  194. avatar
    Adriana Alonso Candela

    Well, even though it constituted an indeed innovative idea a couple of centuries ago, I do believe that currently it has become a mere utopic idea….

  195. avatar
    Galassini Gianluca

    NO, never. multilingualism and linguistic relativity are our key to make all europeans understand what the EU is all about :” United in diversity “.
    Our aim should never be to abolish diversity, but rather to use it as propellent.

    more languages in schools and more interchange is the way

    • avatar
      Larry D.

      what do you call a dead language ?

  196. avatar
    Tomas Kronas

    Use what you have. English, French but not Esperanto. Fake language. If you want to make a new language make something more modern, futuristic.

  197. avatar

    Si vous êtes si certains que l’anglais (quel niveau?) est plébiscité, pourquoi ne pas organiser un référendum? En plus, il n’y a pas de risques: si le résultat n’est pas celui souhaité, on peut toujours l’ignorer.

    (translation by GT):
    If you are so certain that English (what level?) Is favored, why not hold a referendum? In addition, there is no risk: if the result is not the one you want, you can always ignore it.

    • avatar

      Me Tarzan… You Jane…

    • avatar
      Christa H.

      Easier?? More understandable?? What, pray tell leads you to that conclusion? I volunteer teaching both English and Esperanto online. And people generally speak better Esperanto after a month than English after a year. I achieved fluency after a year of online study; in what other language can you do that? And I don’t have any difficulty in understanding!

  198. avatar
    Thomas D

    Awesome though to abandoned the national language’s for a new first common tongue, but seems unlikely.

    • avatar
      Bill Chapman

      There is no suggestion that Esperanto would or should replace national and ethnic languages – just the opposite. The idea is that Esperanto could serve as an auxiliary language – a common tongue for us all.

  199. avatar
    Andrea Martano

    why spend millions and millions to redo all the papers, websites, etc? Why to impose to hundred millions of people in Europe and rest of the World to learn a new artificial language heir of old ‘peace and love’ ideas and no real common and shared roots? Let’s learn Klingon, then! English is spoken and understood in every Country, every people is exposed to English in every place of the World, let’s be serious. It was hard to make the Euro the common money of a bunch of Countries, how much harder shall be change the language and what shall be the point in that, what advantage or benefit?

    • avatar
      Christa H.

      Klingon won’t do; it’s copyrighted :-D.

  200. avatar
    Stelios Peppas

    The only solution is the revival of Latin as official Holy Roman Empire language! Oh sorry I forgot that the Northen barbaric tribes can’t speak #troll

  201. avatar
    Thomas Hou

    Esperanto is the most precise and easy to learn language. It would be a brave but wise decision to teach him to all European students. Everyone can learn esperanto in 5 days, believe me.

    • avatar

      It is a little exaggerated. Since 150 hours are needed to speak esperanto, 30 hours will be missing…

      Maybe to reach the level most people have in english…

  202. avatar
    Stelios Peppas

    Body language is the best option and the second more optimal is Arvanitic dialect or Sanskrit!

  203. avatar
    Stelios Peppas

    Ivan, I am just trying to troll the conversation. Even though I don’t believe that Europe needs an official language. I think that thr diversity of languages that still exist in the continent help us as society to evolve and create an sustained and complex higher culture. As for myself, i feel that i am lucky that i can speak properly and write in Greek, English, French and Latin….

  204. avatar
    Aubrey Williams

    Nope. For one thing, there’s not enough Celtic-type features in it :P I like diversity, and this wouldn’t exactly help that

    • avatar
      Bill Chapman

      As a speaker of Welsh or can read Breton, I would disagree strongly. Word order can be the same in Welsh and Esperanto, so “Athro ydw i” is “Instruisto mi estas”. Incidentally, the Esperanto for “tri deg naw” is “tridek-naŭ”!

      Wider use of the planned international language Esperanto would help to preserve the smaller languages. Esperanto has the advantage of having (almost) no native speakers.

  205. avatar
    Blagovest Blagoev

    As per me – English is a better option, yet definitely the EU needs a common language even if it is something as weird as Esperanto… or even Klingon…

  206. avatar
    Hugo Oliveira

    It’s much better to have a common monetary system. If you give them a common language, they’ll be abble to comunicate between them, and no control comes out of it.

  207. avatar
    Vassiliki Xifteri

    Since Europe Union was not built in the concept of U.S.A but reassures of the cultural identity and individuality of each member state so the language of each state remains. (Esperanto is also an artificial language… I would not like to speak an artificial language just for the sake of it…)

    • avatar
      Larry D.

      Do you drive a car ? Because when you do, you ride an artificial horse. Do you wear glasses or lenses ? Because if you do, you use artificial eyes.

    • avatar
      M. D.

      This statement is factually incorrect.

  208. avatar
    Giacomo Luca

    No way. People should speak fluently at least two other european languages other than their mother tongue. Problem solved.

  209. avatar
    Vinko Rajic

    NO , we should have English , the greatest percentage of EU citizens can use English and we have US , Canada , Australia on the other side .

  210. avatar
    Renato Barros

    already requested the entire international community, to contact me but ignore me constantly, and I think it will only contact me when there is blood or when any member of the European union citizen has a serious accident.It is the EU and all its members colluding with crime with the theft of Portugal. more so this message is published on the day and time the accident happen, vain all envolher shoulders and say not know anything but it’s not true. all know and are silent even those who go ask dismissal when deaths and terrorist vain to call me just because I’m me fend off thieves. in Portugal there is an old saying: It’s so thief what will you garden as it is a door.
    I hope to see the first European commissioner to contact me to know the truth and protect its citizens when it comes to Portugal and being deceived by Portugal.

    I need help, do not need money
    Experience: I founded my own country
    Renato Barros: ‘My son is 27 and if I were his age, I would probably sell the island and buy a Ferrari. But I am 56 years old, and I want to enjoy everything I have’

    • avatar

      What is the official language of your country?