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Has NASA heard of Esperanto?

I was watching a TV program about space recently and apparently trainee astronauts bound for ISS (International Space Station) are required to learn both English and Russian. According to Tim Peake learning Russian was by far the hardest part of the training.

“Learning Russian has been the single most difficult aspect of my training. I love systems, I love diagrams, I’m not a natural linguist and Russian for me has been particularly hard. It’s probably the part that I’ve found the toughest, and at times, the least enjoyable.”


Just another example of how Esperanto could save massive amounts of time, energy and money. Perhaps I'll write to NASA and tell them about it. :-)

October 1, 2017



For sure NASA has heard of Esperanto. Color me skeptical, but I"m not convinced that Esperanto is so obvious as the solution here.

Esperanto was designed as a universal second language. It's also meant to be neutral. The situation that TIm Peake is in is neither universal nor neutral. Indeed, one of the reasons astronauts have to learn Russian is because they're using non-NASA equipment, whose controls are in Russian. Where there are only two languages involved, a "universal" solution is less appealing (I was going to suggest "Runglish" - but apparently this is already a thing.) Plus, the willingness to learn Russian could be taken as an act of friendship.


All of this.

Also, in an emergency, I bet they are better off communicating in languages that are the first (or second, there are plenty of non-US astronauts from countries where people learn English at a young age) language of at least some of the people involved, than in a language they've all learned as adults. I would also assume that English and Russian have a lot more space vocabulary than Esperanto does...


Not sure why 'universal' and 'neutral' are conditions for the use of Esperanto? The 'universal' solution seems like a good fit to me, and is also 'future proof'. Suppose China (for example) were to become a major player in space; according to the current model that would mean each astronaut would have to learn multiple languages - hardly an efficient use of time and resources. In fact, it may even be the case that the lack of any common language is a disincentive to cooporation (of any kind and in any field). Controls written in Russian/English could either be replaced by Esperanto or be made bilingual (I live in Wales, and all public information is written in both Welsh and English). As for 'an act of friendship', you may be right but in practice it's more of an act of necessity.

I disagree that they would be better off communicating in a language which they learned at a young age. I have learned more Esperanto in the last 2 months than the French I studied at school for 6 years. :-). In an emergency I would have thought that the most important thing is to be fluent in the language in order to avoid misunderstanding and ambiguities. Esperanto seems to be a good choice for technical subjects because it's very precise, and far less ambiguous than English (don't know about Russian though). I wouldn't know about the technical vocabulary of Esperanto, but even if it's lacking in 'space' vocabulary I don't think it's a good reason to reject it. It's easy to create new words in EO, and after all, until 50 years ago no language had much 'space' vocabulary.


Universal: why make them learn French words like "soif" when they have "thirst" and " жажда" available?

Neutral: What's a better way to show you care about someone than learning their native language? (Well, assuming you have to learn a new language either way?)

Annika's comment about space vocabulary fits with my experience of speaking Esperanto and non-native German with my kids. Although I found Esperanto easier for familiar topics, any time I had a doubt of how to say something, it was very easy to ask a native German speaker. Even with many fluent speakers to ask, finding a good answer in Esperanto always turned into a project.


If Esperanto is universally thought at early age it would be extra easy, which will enable precise communicate with the rest of the world. If we survive the WW3, it will happen one beautiful day or sooner.

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