Should Esperanto be an official EU language? One of the most popular ideas on the Conference on the Future of Europe platform comes from Louis, who calls for: “Official recognition of Esperanto as one of the languages of EU citizens”. Does he have a point?
To get a response, we spoke to Marko Modiano, Professor of English at Gävle University in Sweden (and a proponent of “European English” as a common European lingua franca). What did he think about Esperanto as an official European language?
If we want to entertain the idea of Esperanto being a choice [for Europeans to learn] there are several problems. One is that Esperanto will not put money in your pocket – learning the language is not a gateway to a career or into financial services or into a great high-tech job. Those are the kinds of things that get people interested in languages; when it helps them in their work, where they can make more money, they can be more prosperous and successful. Esperanto won’t do that.
Second, Esperanto doesn’t have a battery of poetry, novels, short stories, films, and so on. It has no cultural heritage. I know there are a few things, and I’m sure there have been some great novels written in Esperanto, but they’re not going to fare very well in competition with Jane Austen. We have this incredible cultural heritage in languages like French and German, and certainly English, Italian, and so on, and that makes those languages vastly superior to a language like Esperanto which, basically, is a political movement, if you will. We don’t need to get into that, but what we have is that more than 95% of the young people in the European Union today have some knowledge of English, and… there are more speakers of Klingon than there are speakers of Esperanto.
We put Prof. Modiano’s comment to Louis from the Conference on the Future of Europe platform for him to respond:
I think the professor you quoted is just badly informed. There are something like 120 books published every year in Esperanto, and I don’t know how many books are published at all in Klingon but it’s certainly less than one or two a year – it’s nearly nothing! And I don’t know if you know any Klingon songs? Well, you can search for Esperanto music on YouTube. So, I think we should go back to reality: it’s not because someone is a professor that he’s well-informed about Esperanto and Klingon…
Esperanto gives you direct communication with lots of people around the world. A friend of mine made a trip with a professional travel group to Nepal and, when she was there, in the evening, she said: ‘Goodbye, I’m going to visit some Nepali people’. They were astonished that she knows someone in Nepal but, in fact, she was meeting up with fellow Esperanto speakers in Nepal, who are open to visitors who come and are pleased to have them as guests in the evening. That’s what Esperanto gives you all around the world: speakers who are really enthusiastic about the idea of people coming together on an equal level. And, yes, I have had guests from Nepal, from Madagascar, from South America, from Brazil, and it’s a wonderful way to get informed about other cultures…
Should Esperanto be the official language of the EU? Is it an easier language to learn than English? Is it more neutral and less political? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!