https://www.duolingo.com/STEEZY-DEO

Is Esperanto A Good International Language?

Well, Esperanto was made to be a fairly easy language constructed by L. L. Zamenhof. But what about countries who's native language isn't European. Asian languages are one of the hardest in the world and many Europeans find it hard to learn Japanese or other languages because of writing systems or complex grammar. This was kind of one reason why Esperanto is critized.

2 years ago

18 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/PotatoSanta
PotatoSanta
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Although Esperanto is hard for speakers of non European languages it is still much easier than English. We could make simpler languages but ones that are suited every language group in the world would be hard. I think that Esperanto would work better as in international language than English if we could only convince more people to teach and use it.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Anderson_Lu.
Anderson_Lu.
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PotatoSanta, wow, you know so many languages

6 months ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DragonPolyglot
DragonPolyglot
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Today, there are Esperanto groups all over the world, including Asian countries like Japan, in sizable numbers. Here are places in the world where Esperanto has a community of speakers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperantujo#/media/File:Number_of_Esperanto_association_members_by_country.svg

You might be interested in this article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperantujo

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/GrandaUrso

I don't have any links, but anecdotally Esperanto is much easier to learn than English and I know that it has some measurable popularity in Japan. I think that one of the more appealing aspects of Esperanto to Asian nations (This is purely speculation on my part) is that it isn't a product of the U.K. or U.S.A and thus one isn't submitting themselves to these powers in learning it even though it is Eurocentric in many ways.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HappyEvilSlosh
HappyEvilSlosh
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In Japan a religion called Oomoto uses Esperanto and Wikipedia claims "Almost all of the 45,000 active members of Oomoto have studied some Esperanto, and around 1,000 are fluent in the language." No idea what proportion of total number of Esperanto speakers in Japan that is.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HappyEvilSlosh
HappyEvilSlosh
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Is Esperanto A Good International Language?

Depends a bit on what you mean by the question.

If you mean are there many people around the world than the answer is probably leaning towards yes. There are many accounts of people using it successfully in different places, particularly by hooking up with local Esperanto groups (rather than bumping into people on the street who speak it). I would be very surprised if there were any natural language that were easier to learn than Esperanto (I say this not as someone who can speak it but who has read a fair bit about it), so even though it may be harder for a Japanese speaker to pick up than an English speaker it will be easier for the Japanese speaker to learn than, say, English is.

If you are asking whether it should be an international language that depends on your opinions. I find it too sexist and eurocentric to support. In addition by learning it you are effectively voting for Esperanto to achieve that position because every minute you spend learning Esperanto is a minute you haven't spent learning something a bit more neutral like Lingwa de Planeta or even Lojban.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/keaves27

It's good for propagating the concept of an international auxiliary language, but for various reasons I don't think it would be the ideal 'official' one, in the event that an official IAL was adopted (by the UN, say). An ideal IAL would be one that is 'owned' equally by all nations of the Earth - I.e. not some guy from Poland with a French dictionary. Also, as one would expect from a language constructed by someone who wasn't actually a linguist, there's plenty of stuff in there that is hardly necessary. Just the phonology is more complicated than it needs to be. Honestly, if you're wanting it to be easily picked up by anyone regardless of their native language, you should seriously consider not even having the phonemes /b/, /d/, /g/, /v/ and /z/. Seriously, not all languages make a voiced-unvoiced distinction - just as some, such as an obscure language called English, don't distinguish aspirated or implosive consonants. And the consonant and vowel clusters aren't exactly as simple as they could be. The syllable structure of a truly inclusive international language would have to be limited to Consonant-Vowel, or maybe Consonant-Vowel-Consonant. Also, why have five vowels when you can make do with three? Three-vowel a-i-u systems are common - if it's supposed to be simple for everyone, why discriminate against those who currently only speak Arabic or Quechua (for example), languages in which /e/ and /o/ are not distinct phonemes?

Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike Esperanto, and clearly it is good at what it does - bridging the gap between languages and cultures through a relatively easy and nationally neutral language. But if the nations of the world were to form some sort of world state in which a single 'neutral' language was wanted - neutral both symbolically and in terms of having as few learning curves as possible for as many people as possible of as many different backgrounds as possible - I think they would be better off commissioning professional linguists to design a language which omits all unnecessary features that are not universally present in natural languages.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Platypus01

Except professional linguists would be the last people you would want to give it to. Firstly they probably wouldn't do it. An IAL is basically the antithesis of what they do. Secondly, if you could convince five of them to do it, you would get seven proposals, all equally as good as each other. Then they would all go off and write papers about it. And a book or three.

When I was looking at Esperanto, I did what a lot of people probably do and read up about Ido, Interlingua, Lojban, etc. I decided on Esperanto because it had the most resources, it was much easier to find someone who spoke it, and I decided that I thought any improvements the other languages had over Esperanto was pretty marginal. It seems to work.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/johaquila
johaquila
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Actually, Interlingua was developed by a committee of professional linguists. It was there answer to the question whether Esperanto, Ido or something else should become the standard IAL.

The eurocentricity of Esperanto isn't so much a weakness as a strength of Esperanto. Being easy to learn for a large group of people is important for an IAL to make it reach critical mass for becoming useful. And being a good first introduction to what is currently the dominant family of languages is an important bonus for it from the point of view of the rest of the world.

IALA (the committee that developed Interlingua) took these considerations one step further. The way it is constructed, Interlingua is essentially the average of English, French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. The way it feels, it is a radically simplified and modernised version of Latin. Interlingua speakers can easily communicate with speakers of Spanish and Italian, and in writing also with speakers French, Portuguese, Romanian and the other, smaller Romance languages. A disadvantage compared to Esperanto is that the grammar is more irregular. An advantage is that its vocabulary and grammatical structures are even more useful for learning many major European languages. Also, unlike Esperanto and other artificial languages, Interlingua has a precisely defined process for determining its vocabulary from the source languages. Linguists can have an argument, and in most cases ultimately agree based on objective criteria, on whether a certain word in a specific spelling and pronunciation is an Interlingua word, even if nobody ever used it! I think this is why Interlingua has much more extensive dictionaries.

These linguists were certainly successful in the sense that even though Interlingua has a lot less speakers than Esperanto, it's still very much alive because it would be useful even to the only Interlingua speaker in the world! So I would say they did a pretty good job.

Of course if linguists were tasked with developing an IAL without any practical considerations, totally different considerations would come into play. Some Turkic, Polynesian and Eskimo languages (probably among others) show what is possible in terms of simplicity. I think that for at least some of them there is a theory that they got to this level of simplicity because they actually arose much like natural IALs a long time ago. Based on these languages, linguists could no doubt come up with a much simpler, truly international but still intuitive IAL.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jirka92122
jirka92122
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It is impossible to make a language that is truly equally far (close) from all languages. Remember, the perfect is the enemy of the good. For an IAL you want something that is is simply good enough. Improving on Esperanto is probably a world of diminishing returns. You will easily get something slightly better. But then, what is the point. You can always do slightly better. You will have a slightly better language that nobody speaks. Then someone will do slightly better than you. Etc... You have to be pragmatic. Esperanto makes a lot of pragmatic choices. It is not at all perfect. Mostly because there is no perfect international language. If you want a perfect IAL, there will never be one. You don't want the perfect language. You want something that is good for all practical purposes. And Esperanto is.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HappyEvilSlosh
HappyEvilSlosh
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the perfect is the enemy of the good.

I'm on the receiving end of this comment quite a lot and I really find it irritating, mostly because it means the person hasn't really been listening to what I've been saying. When it's been used to describe my position it's usually a position where I've sat down and thought about not what's the perfect solution but what the minimal properties I expect any good solution to have, i.e. I find it not even sufficiently good, let alone perfect.

I would take it is a personal favour if each time you use that expression before you do you stop and ask yourself whether what someone is urging for is actually perfection and not just for a particular bar they feel hasn't been met. :)

/personal bugbear

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jirka92122
jirka92122
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The expression still works. It may not be literal, but the point is, there will always be someone who feels that some bar hasn't been met. So there will always be someone not satisfied. That is the point of the expression.

In fact if you think about it there is no perfect solution, not that you can't get to it. It is not something that is "linear". It is not that there is some "measure" of goodness that everyone agrees on. The problem is that even opinion of what's a good solution is not something that has an overlap for all people. The point is to get close to where a reasonable number of reasonably pragmatic people would think is a good enough solution. If your opinion of what is a "good solution" is too restrictive, and if you are unwilling to make many compromises, then precisely the expression "The perfect is the enemy of the good" applies.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/HappyEvilSlosh
HappyEvilSlosh
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If your opinion of what is a "good solution" is too restrictive, and if you are unwilling to make many compromises, then precisely the expression "The perfect is the enemy of the good" applies.

Your conditionals are just as subjective as what constitutes "good"/"perfect". Although while we're talking about pragmatism:

Improving on English is probably a world of diminishing returns. You will easily get something slightly better. But then, what is the point. You can always do slightly better. You will have a slightly better language that nobody speaks. Then someone will do slightly better than you. Etc... You have to be pragmatic. English makes a lot of pragmatic choices. It is not at all perfect. Mostly because there is no perfect international language. If you want a perfect IAL, there will never be one. You don't want the perfect language. You want something that is good for all practical purposes. And English is.

It would be easy to apply your description of what you think 'perfection is the enemy of good' means to undercut this argument for learning Esperanto.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Falsafaa
Falsafaa
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Well when you say it like that, I just have to agree.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/keaves27

This does sound a bit like the argument made for just accepting English as the main global language. It is evident that Esperanto is easier to learn for most people, but English is by far the more popular, has far more resources, more accessible resources, etc. 'It's not perfect, but it will do.'

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KissZoltan2

English is extremely difficult at a high level, and if You are not native, or not using english only in Your life, than You will be in a serious disadvantage. English is therefore not very precize language for not native speakers. The cost of english language is very high for the mankind, with esperanto everything would be much more effective.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/jirka92122
jirka92122
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Actually it is not necessarily. The argument is that Esperanto is an order of magnitude better for international communication, not that it is a small improvement.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KenecxjoGoldberg

Esperanto estas tre forta en Japanujo kaj Ĉinujo. Homoj en (120) landoj parolas Esperanton. La aŭtoro petis, "Se vi parolos pri mia internacieco, volu diri, ke mi nomas min ruslanda hebreo." [Esperanto is very strong in Japan and China. People in (120) countries speak Esperanto. The author asked, "If you speak about my nationality, please say that I call myself a Russian Hebrew."]

2 years ago
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