Each year, our globe seems to get smaller. Ships carry a thousand items between countries. Jets carry passengers across oceans and around the world. Satellites bring us live television coverage from Europe and Asia. Every year, Canadians in every walk of life communicate more and more with people of other countries.
One barrier remains…As a result of this tremendous increase in contacts with the outside world, Canadians are realising that there is still a major barrier to international communication — the language barrier!
Canadians have long heard the cliche that “Wherever you go, people speak English.” In fact, at most ten percent of the world speaks English! Often, in other countries, only the people in the best hotels of the largest cities can use English, and even they are often not very fluent.
Anyone who has visited a foreign country and struggled with the language barriers understands this. Canadians are at last discovering what the rest of the world has long known: there is a real need for an international language.
Fortunately there is such a language. Its name is Esperanto. It was created by Dr. Ludwig L. Zamenhof, a Polish physician, who published it in 1887. Since then, Esperanto has been learned by millions. Of the many projects and proposals for an international language over the centuries, Esperanto is the only one that has stood the test of time and is being spoken today. It is in daily use by many thousands of people all over the world, and the number is growing constantly. Many international meetings are held in Esperanto. Books and magazines are published by the thousands to meet the demands of an international public. Some of the largest international firms put on special advertising campaigns in Esperanto. Hotels, restaurants and tourist resorts compete for the patronage of the Esperanto-speaking traveller.
Esperanto’s impressive success as the language of international communication is due to three basic advantages. it is easy to learn. It is politically neutral. And it has many practical uses.
Esperanto is easy…the international language is much easier to learn than any other language. In fact, it can be learned in about a quarter of the time needed to learn a national language! The spelling is easy: each letter has exactly one sound. The pronunciation is easy, and the accent is always on the next to last syllable. The grammar is easy: there are only sixteen rules, with no exceptions. (That means, for example, that there are no irregular verbs.) The vocabulary is easy, too: many international words are used, such as telefono (telephone), biologio (biology), and matematiko (mathematics). Esperanto gives a very “natural” impression in spoken or written use; and, because of its high ratio of vowels to consonants, it is often said to resemble Spanish or Italian.
Esperanto also uses prefixes, suffixes, and interchangeable endings to reduce the number of words to be learned. For example, in English we make the words friendly, unfriendly, and friendship from the root word friend. Esperanto carries this idea much further, making the vocabulary easier to learn.
In short, Esperanto has been rationally constructed for ease of learning. This has made it especially popular with busy men and women who cannot spend years learning a foreign language, which would be useful in only a small part of the world. Because of these features, Esperanto is attractive as an introduction to other foreign language studies. In the Hawaiian schools, for example, the study of Esperanto is a basic part of that state’s innovative English program.
Esperanto is neutral…The second major reason for Esperanto’s success is that it is neutral. It belongs to no one country. Many people in America and England say that English is already spoken so widely and is such an “important” language in the world that it should be officially adopted by all nations as the international language. This view is very unpopular in many countries.
This attitude is not merely because English is one of the most difficult languages to learn. The new nations of Africa and Asia are very reluctant to accept English (or any major language) for international communication because of the political overtones. For example, the countries of the Soviet bloc would not want to use English as an official international language, just as we would be reluctant to accept Russian in that role (as some Soviet publicists have actually suggested).
The Western nations have also shown their sensitivity to questions of linguistic equality. Quebec has rejected English as its official language; the Common Market nations insist on using all their languages in Brussels; the UN spends tens of millions of dollars every year translating into five official languages and into fifteen for UNESCO!
Esperanto is not the property of any one nation, group of nations, or social class. It belongs to everyone. It has no political or historical implications to hinder its acceptance. Every person who uses Esperanto is on an equal linguistic footing with all other Esperantists.
Esperanto’s popularity in smaller nations and in Asian countries, such as Japan, is largely due to this neutrality. This promotes a spirit of friendship and brotherhood among Esperantists which is quite impressive to everyone who sees it in use.
Why is Esperanto useful? Lernu Esperanto