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Frank

attitudes towards Esperanto

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Bonan matenon

As a linguist I’d like to know more about Esperanto. Currently I am writing a book on languages in the world. For my research, I ask ‘real’ speakers of a particular language about their attitudes and opinions. This is why I joined this forum. Unfortunately I don’t speak any Esperanto myself. These are the questions I’d like to discuss with you: 

1.     What is your first language? (i.e. ‘native’ language, mother tongue - if it is a language other than Esperanto)

2.     What other languages do you speak?

3.     When did you learn Esperanto?

4.     Why did you learn Esperanto? (this can be any reason)

5.     When do you use Esperanto? (e.g. in everyday situations, or on special occasions only?)

6.     How fluent are you in Esperanto? (as fluent as in your first language?)

7.     What role can Esperanto play in today’s world? (e.g. as an international language, or as a 'neutral' language)

8.     What do you think of the claim that the only real international language is English, instead of Esperanto?

 I’m looking forward to your replies.

 Bondezirojn

 Frank

Frank van Splunder PhD

Linguapolis / University of Antwerp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Saluton, Frank.

On 13/02/2019 at 11:44, Frank said:

1.     What is your first language? (i.e. ‘native’ language, mother tongue - if it is a language other than Esperanto)

English.

On 13/02/2019 at 11:44, Frank said:

2.     What other languages do you speak?

French and Italian, with a smattering of other Romance languages and superficial knowledge of a couple of other ones.

On 13/02/2019 at 11:44, Frank said:

3.     When did you learn Esperanto?

2002

On 13/02/2019 at 11:44, Frank said:

4.     Why did you learn Esperanto? (this can be any reason)

Curiosity.

On 13/02/2019 at 11:44, Frank said:

5.     When do you use Esperanto? (e.g. in everyday situations, or on special occasions only?)

I use it every day because of my work but not in the home. It does serve as a useful secret language if my better half and I want to talk privately in public.

On 13/02/2019 at 11:44, Frank said:

6.     How fluent are you in Esperanto? (as fluent as in your first language?)

Functionally fluent. I don't think many if any people become truly fluent in Esperanto compared to their native language. I might not know what an ash tree looks like but at least it's not a new name to me in English. I have no idea what it's called in Esperanto. Native speakers of national languages have vocabulary which is passively amassed and which people from other language backgrounds can't replicate.

On 13/02/2019 at 11:44, Frank said:

7.     What role can Esperanto play in today’s world? (e.g. as an international language, or as a 'neutral' language)

As long as you can find someone who speaks Esperanto (and therein lies the problem), it does the job it's supposed to.

On 13/02/2019 at 11:44, Frank said:

8.     What do you think of the claim that the only real international language is English, instead of Esperanto?

I think both claims in that statement are false.

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Saluton

I think you're right: English is not a truly international language either. On the other hand, it's far more convenient for most people to use English rather than Esperanto (even for you, I guess...). I was just wondering why people would learn Esperanto in today's world... (is curiosity the only reason?). 

There are two additional issues I'd like to discuss:

1 What do you think is unique about Esperanto when compared to other languages? 

2 Do you consider Esperanto as part of your identity? (In what sense)

Best wishes

Frank

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Hi, Frank -

1 hour ago, Frank said:

I think you're right: English is not a truly international language either. On the other hand, it's far more convenient for most people to use English rather than Esperanto (even for you, I guess...).

Yes, I wouldn't dispute the reality of the world at all. For many situations and people, English is the common language and is probably the nearest to claiming the title the international  language. But there are plenty of people and areas where it's of no use whatsoever, such as a village in Eastern Lithuania which I found myself in. Even the younger people in the restaurant didn't know it at all and we relied on our few words of Russian.

1 hour ago, Frank said:

1 What do you think is unique about Esperanto when compared to other languages?

Its origins. The fact it's planned. I imagine it's the only language which has seen growth of, say, one million percent in its speaker base since July of 1887 too :)

1 hour ago, Frank said:

2 Do you consider Esperanto as part of your identity? (In what sense)

Nope.

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Quote

1.     What is your first language? (i.e. ‘native’ language, mother tongue - if it is a language other than Esperanto)

English.

Quote

2.     What other languages do you speak?

I did French to A-level (age 18) and German as part of my degree. I wouldn't say that I can speak either of them, but I can watch German TV and get almost every word, and I can communicate in German if I have to, but always painfully aware of how many mistakes I am making.

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3.     When did you learn Esperanto?

I started when I was about 15, but only really made a serious effort when I turned 18 and joined JEB (the young-adult wing of EAB).

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4.     Why did you learn Esperanto? (this can be any reason)

I was interested in the idea of a constructed language and how that might work. But mostly because I don't really have the patience to learn all the hundreds of little rules and endings and so on that you need to really master another language. I can remember a time in my first year of uni where I got back an essay I'd written in German that was covered in red ink with all my little mistakes - although the meaning was clear, a good proportion of the endings and articles were wrong. On the very same day, I'd asked @Tim to help me with something I'd written in Esperanto, and his response was something along the lines of "you made one mistake here, and this part could be worded more eloquently, but otherwise it's pretty much perfect".

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5.     When do you use Esperanto? (e.g. in everyday situations, or on special occasions only?)

I have a good collection of Esperanto music, which includes some of my favourite albums - so they get listened to a lot, and I go to a local meetup once a month. I have a few friends that I chat to online in Esperanto sometimes. Otherwise, not a huge amount.

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6.     How fluent are you in Esperanto? (as fluent as in your first language?)

My knowledge is pretty good, but I often stumble over my words when I speak - nothing that wouldn't be fixed by a few weeks' regular practise. I don't have the feeling of being self conscious about making mistakes in every single sentence like I do in German.

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7.     What role can Esperanto play in today’s world? (e.g. as an international language, or as a 'neutral' language)

It's mostly a niche hobby, and is likely to stay that way. The main incentives that people have to learn a foreign language (economic, romantic, etc) don't really apply to Esperanto, so it's really only people with an interest in languages for their own sake who learn it.

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8.     What do you think of the claim that the only real international language is English, instead of Esperanto?

Esperanto is an international language, by multiple definitions. English is also an international language, by some (but not all) of the same definitions and by some other definitions too.

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1 What do you think is unique about Esperanto when compared to other languages? 

That it is a successful general-purpose constructed language. By successful I don't mean that it achieved whatever lofty goals its early speakers may have had for it, but that it has a sizeable community. Something like Pandunia doesn't really have a community beyond its own official groups. The only other constructed language that I might consider "successful" by that definition is toki pona, but that isn't a "fully-fledged" general-purpose language in the same way.

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2 Do you consider Esperanto as part of your identity? (In what sense)

No. It's just a hobby: something I do, not something I am.

Edited by Thomas
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Hi Thomas

Thanks a lot for your reply. I particularly liked your idea of Esperanto as something you do rather han something you are.

Best wishes

Frank

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Posted (edited)

1.     What is your first language? (i.e. ‘native’ language, mother tongue - if it is a language other than Esperanto)

Scots and English

2.     What other languages do you speak?

I know a few phrases in French, but nothing amazing, I can survive in France but not thrive in France.

3.     When did you learn Esperanto?

About two years ago.

4.     Why did you learn Esperanto? (this can be any reason)

I was going through a really tough breakup and it gave me some hope.

5.     When do you use Esperanto? (e.g. in everyday situations, or on special occasions only?)

Everyone of my friends speak Esperanto, I wake up to receive eMails and textes in Esperanto, I go for lunch with my friends and speak Esperanto. I then go to my work in the evening and it's an Esperanto only work environment, I go to the pub with my work mates afterwards in Esperanto and I have began to dream in Esperanto. 

6.     How fluent are you in Esperanto? (as fluent as in your first language?)

Almost C1 in speaking but a B2 in grammar.

7.     What role can Esperanto play in today’s world? (e.g. as an international language, or as a 'neutral' language)

Esperanto /could/ play a role as an international language, however, I do not believe it will ever overcome other national languages and become the de facto international lang.

8.     What do you think of the claim that the only real international language is English, instead of Esperanto?

I agree with Tim and Thomas' answer. :)

 

Kind regards Sammy. 

Edited by kashtanulo
to add my answers.

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1.     What is your first language? (i.e. ‘native’ language, mother tongue - if it is a language other than Esperanto)

English.

Quote

2.     What other languages do you speak?

Other than Esperanto, the only other language I can speak with some confidence is German, which I learnt at school to A-level. I also used to learn French (also at school) and Welsh (independently), but I am very rusty in both of these languages.

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3.     When did you learn Esperanto?

I started to learn Esperanto in 1994 (at the age of 13).

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4.     Why did you learn Esperanto? (this can be any reason)

Because it was free to do so ... I had a book called 'Free Stuff for Kids' and one of the things I could do was 'learn another language', which involved writing to the Esperanto Association of Britain and asking to try out their Free Postal Course. (I was also generally curious about languages at that point anyway, so it was almost a no-brainer to write in and try it out.)

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5.     When do you use Esperanto? (e.g. in everyday situations, or on special occasions only?)

Mainly only when I meet other Esperanto speakers (not as often now as a few years or so ago), although I have also recently started translating subtitles in YouTube videos into Esperanto, which helps me practice my vocabulary.

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6.     How fluent are you in Esperanto? (as fluent as in your first language?)

I am not quite as fluent in Esperanto as my first language, but I can hold conversations about various topics (including some more specialist ones) reasonably well. I reckon my fluency now is similar to the fluency I had in German at A-level (which was 20 years ago): I don't think my spoken fluency in Esperanto has deteriorated nearly as much as my German has. (I have generally been better at written rather than spoken communication in any language.)

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7.     What role can Esperanto play in today’s world? (e.g. as an international language, or as a 'neutral' language)

I think it has some value as a social international language: its adoption for official purposes has not really happened to date, but it can still help people from different countries to meet each other. (This assumes, of course, there are Esperanto speakers that one would actually like to speak with!)

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8.     What do you think of the claim that the only real international language is English, instead of Esperanto?

I don't think that statement is true. Aside from the fact that only around 10% of the world's population can speak English (albeit more widely spread across the world than, say, Mandarin Chinese) and it happens to be very difficult to learn (even as a native speaker), there is a fair amount of cultural and historical baggage associated with English that could dissuade people from learning it. In any case, co-opting an unplanned (national or even regional) language intentionally as an international one is fraught with difficulties.

I work as a scientist and most published journal articles tend to be written in English - while that would suggest English as a de facto language of science, the language quality in articles can vary massively depending on where the authors are based. I have had to peer review several articles before publication, and sometimes just trying to understand what the authors are attempting to explain can be very difficult!

I would also add that I believe the implied claim in that statement that there can only be one international language is incorrect. Not only are other 'national' languages (e.g. Spanish, Portugese, French) used comparatively widely, but Esperanto is not the only language planned for international communication (although it does seem to have stuck around longest after its creation). Other created languages also exist (e.g. Ido, Interlingua), and someone might come up with something even better than Esperanto in the future. (That is not a reason not to learn Esperanto, though!)

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1 What do you think is unique about Esperanto when compared to other languages? 

The fact that it was designed as an international language, it has comparatively regular grammar, it can be learned quickly compared to other languages, it has a truly international culture that can come with it.

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2 Do you consider Esperanto as part of your identity? (In what sense)

Not really, no ... I happen to speak Esperanto, but my personal identity is not defined by the languages I can speak.

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Hi Mikeo

Thanks a lot for your comments. I think you made a good point about English being the de facto language of science while at the same time it may be difficult to understand some of the stuff which is being written in English. As you pointed out, the cultural and historical baggage associated with English could even dissuade some people from using it. The question remains, of course, whether Esperanto can fill this gap.

Frank

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Hi Frank,

1.     What is your first language? (i.e. ‘native’ language, mother tongue - if it is a language other than Esperanto)

My mother tongue is English, up to the age of 5 I spoke dialect and learnt English at school

2.     What other languages do you speak?

I speak Hebrew, German, Dutch,  Esperanto fairly fluently. Basic Welsh,  and a working knowledge of Korean

3.     When did you learn Esperanto? 

44 years ago

4.     Why did you learn Esperanto? (this can be any reason)

‘I was interested in the concept of a language  without national overtones.

5.     When do you use Esperanto? (e.g. in everyday situations, or on special occasions only?)

I write a lot in Esperanto to esperantists around the world.  I read daily and listen to podcasts, mainly Kern.punkto

6.     How fluent are you in Esperanto? (as fluent as in your first language?)

i can speak read and write with no problem.  Though to speak I often need a few hours to get into the swing of the language

7.     What role can Esperanto play in today’s world? (e.g. as an international language, or as a 'neutral' language) 

if people realised it is possible to learn Esperanto within a short period of time and be able to communicate better than a person who has studied a language for a few years then inter European communications would improve 100%+ within 6 months.

i once worked a 7 night stretch with a friend who spoke fairly good Latin.  She agreed she would try Esperanto for the week we were on duty together.  At the end of the week we were using Esperanto 90% of the time.

8.     What do you think of the claim that the only real international language is English, instead of Esperanto?

having lived in Sittard and having been told everyone spoke Engels, I soon learned “speak Dutch or die”  not everyone speaks English and when they do it’s often impossible to work out what they are trying to say. I’m fairly well travelled and have found that few people actually have a good command of English apart from those who have used it continually in their employment.

 I’m looking forward to your replies. 

 Bondezirojn

 Frank

Frank van Splunder PhD

Linguapolis / University of Antwerp

 

 


 

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Hi Steve

Good point: not everyone speaks English - not even in the Netherlands, even though many people (including the Dutch themselves) think all Dutch do. "Speak Dutch or die" may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I get your point. I was surprised to hear it is possible to communicate in Esperanto after only a week's practice. I guess it helps a lot if you speak some other languages - I don't think a monolingual person could manage. 

Best wishes

Frank

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Mi interesas pri la respondoj de la demando "ĉu vi konsideras ke esperanto estas parto de via identeco?" Ŝajne ĉiu respondis "ne".

Laŭ mi, esperanto ja estas parto de mia identeco. Sammaniere, havi barbon estas parto de mi identeco, kvankam morgaŭe povas ne plu esti. Ĉu ne ĉio pri mi estas parto de mia identeco? Ĉu ne estas la koloro de mia hararo kaj haŭto? Kaj la lingvoj kiujn mi parolas? Kaj la libroj kiujn mi legis? 

Mi ĉiam konsideris ke "identeco" simple signifas "kompleta priskribo". Tamen, la demando mem indikas alian signifon (se ĉio estas parto de la identeco, kial demandi?). Ĉiukaze, paroli esperanton ne nur estas io kion mi faras: la esperanta ligvo (ne nur paroli la lingvon, sed scii pri la lingvo) nepre iomete influiis mian pensmanieron kvazaŭ filozofion. Mirigas min ke la respondantoj ĉi tie ne sentas same.

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1. English
2. None to any great extent, I have always been interested in languages but have never needed to speak any particular one, so I always learn the basics and move on. Esperanto is, I think, a good language to learn if you want to learn any language and don’t care which, because it doesn’t take so long to get reasonably good.
3. Maybe 2016.
4. See Q2.
5. Not very often. I have some books in Esperanto but I don’t often meet with other speakers.
6. I can read and write, and I follow the flow of fluent conversation, but I don’t have much experience speaking and it shows.
7. Possibly it could play a role as an introduction to other languages for school children, not that it’s going to happen any time soon. The original aim, as I’m sure you know, was to allow people of different cultures to communicate in a neutral language whilst preserving the distinct cultures and languages of the world. Doesn’t that sound like something we still sorely need? 
8. In my opinion, you would measure the “international-ness” of a language by calculating the mean distance you would have to travel to find a speaker, anywhere on land. In rural Russia you would have to travel a long way to find an English speaker, but in Britain you would not have to go far at all. Do this for every location on Earth and take the average. By this measure, English is probably the most international language and some Polynesian language spoken by only two people on a single island would be the least international. Every language spoken by people in more than one nation is, by definition, international. So it doesn’t make sense to say “only international language”, there are thousands of international languages, but English happens to be the most international. 

1. The interesting thing about Esperanto is that, besides being inter-national, it is also non-national, which makes it neutral between countries.
2. I have made some comment about this above (in Esperanto). The gist of it is that I consider everything about myself, including the facts that I have blond hair, speak Esperanto, and have a beard, to be part of my identity. The only other way I can interpret the question is about my philosophy, or my outlook on life, for example believing in the importance of economic equality or human rights. In this sense, I still do consider Esperanto to be a part of my identity. Not so much speaking the language, but learning about the language has influenced my thought a small amount. For example, before learning about Esperanto, I never really thought about the arguments in favour of a neutral language. So learning Esperanto has opened my mind to many things, not just the language itself. 

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Dear Orbaleno

Thanks a lot for your reply – and for replying in Esperanto. I got the main idea, and Google Translate helped me to understand the parts I didn’t get.  I think you’re absolutely right: everything can be part of one’s identity – even a beard, as you say. The books one has read are probably more important to define one’s identity, but you made your point! I particularly liked your view of identity as a ‘complete description’. 

Frank

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