Categorized | Culture, History

Against Esperanto, or Kontraŭ Esperanto

Many, many years ago, had the unique experience of learning the “international” language of Esperanto.  My school district, being located in a progressive pocket of suburban America, had somehow caught wind of this minor fad, and made the efforts to teach it to us.  In those fledgling days of the Internet, our teachers said, a universal language was inevitable, because the world was shrinking.  We were told that Esperanto was to be the language of the future which, one day, would be spoken by all educated people, and that we would be able to converse with Frenchmen and Zulus alike, over the Internet, in Esperanto.  Soon, they told us, visitors from exotic locales might very well turn up on our streets, and inquire of us directions to the post office, banks, or shopping arcades; and they would do so in Esperanto.

And thus it was, that thrice weekly, we would file into a cramped classroom adorned with green stars and cartoonish images of people from around the world holding hands, and recite things such as “mi parolas, vi parolis, li parolos”  (I speak, you spoke, he shall speak).  I learned it quickly and easily enough to earn good marks in the class, but otherwise did not care for it.  To my ears, contrasted with the melodiousness of French or Spanish, Esperanto sounded ugly, mechanical, and repetitive.  Even then, as a child, I knew that Esperanto would never produce a Shakespeare or a Cervantes; nor would it ever bring forth anything like the Popol Vuh or the Tale of Genji.

However, my loathing of Esperanto was not the dread of foreign languages, nor was it a result of a crass attitude of the supremacy of the English language.  In fact, it was quite the opposite.  I’ve always been enthusiastic about foreign languages.  Growing up, I was jealous of those who had Italian or Polish grandmothers who still knew the language of the Old Country.  During my high school years, I learned Spanish well enough to take a trip to Spain the year after I graduated, and walk the streets without a tour guide.  In college, I took a year of French and a year of Italian.  Of course, my studies in the latter did not permit me to become fluent, but nevertheless were a window into the uniqueness of those spoken languages.

It should be noted, that in historical context, the idea of a Universal language by no means began with Esperanto.  Early Kabbalists believed in the existence of an Adamic language — a language spoken in Paradise before the Fall — separate from the Ancient Hebrew of the Torah.  Gottfried Leibniz conceived of a characteristica universalis for the expression of scientific, philosophical, and mathematical thoughts.  Later inventors created more practical languages, intended for more general use, such as Volapuk, but none of these became popular.

The first and foremost problem with using Esperanto as a “world’ language is that it is undeniably and distinctively European.  But, if Esperanto is to be a European language, then something like Latin, despite its higher grammatical complexity, would be preferable due to its historical prevalence as the language of learning on that continent, and so would any of the major spoken languages of Europe.  However, within every language is a richness, a broad cultural and identitary estate, that must be kept and preserved.  At best, it might be possible to create constructed languages that incorporate the narrow families of languages (for instance, the Romance, Germanic or Slavic languages), but any hypothetical language could not proceed further than that because of cultural subtleties.

Regarding certain ethno-identitarian concerns, Esperanto, then, is probably unique among the constructed languages, for having a distinctive anti-identitarian ideology which is associated with it.  Esperanto is inherently linked to what its creator, L. L. Zamenhof, termed Homaranismo, or Humanitism.  The ideals are summed up as follows:

  1. I am a human being, and I believe that there are only human ideals and ideals linked to the country of origin; every ideal which brings hatred among peoples and entails the power of one ethnicity over another I believe it to be human egoism, which sooner or later must disappear and to which disappearance I must contribute according to my possibilities.
  2. I believe that all peoples are equally part of humankind
  3. I believe that every country does not belong to a particular group of people, but equally to every people who live in it…(T)he mixing of the country’s interests with those of one or another group of people, language or religion I regard it as reminiscence of barbarian times, when there was only the right of fist and sword.
  4. I believe that in his/her own family life each person has the natural and indisputable right to speak whatever language or dialect he/she wants and to confess whatever religion he/she wants; nevertheless, when communicating with people from other origins he/she must, when it is possible, aim to use a neutral language and to live according to neutral religious principles.

As demonstrated by the above, the very ideological framework of Esperanto is the pure embodiment of the modernistic, rootless phase of degeneration.  Esperanto, with its secularist and anti-traditional face hiding under a utopian mask, its anti-hierarchical and “anarcho-democratic” nature, is to the world of linguistic what the United States was to politics.  With regard to these ideals, Esperanto is merely a means, o­ne of the instruments to realize them, and was never meant as solely a means of facilitating communication.  By the 1960’s, in some Euro-socialist circles, the deduction that socialism definitely needed an international language became the logical precursor to the world-wide “worker’s revolution”.  Thus, the Esperantist concept of Finvenkismo (final victory) entailed not just a linguistic paradigm shift, but one in which a more extreme Homaranismo could become a dominant world ideology which would ultimately replace both Western and civilizations1.

Esperanto, thankfully, is now quickly becoming a moribund idea, just as communism was.  Few people will have heard of it in the 21st century, save for linguists and historians, and perhaps a few ideologues and confused college students who pick up the odd, dusty book in the stacks of their local libraries.  In its place, let ring the echoes of Virgil and of the Mahabarata, and the sweet strains of the Homeric Odyssey and the tales of Beowulf.  A for Esperanto, let it therefore be laid to rest in a matter so befitting to itself: in pace requiescat!


1Footnote: Thus it should come as no surprise, as mentioned previously, that the heretical Baha’i cult became thoroughly interested in this artificial language, even forming a Baha’i-Esperanto-League with the sanction of the Universal House of Justice.

About Gabriel F. León

Gabriel F. León is a staff writer for RidingTheTiger. He is of Spanish, Italian, and Irish descent and currently resides in Manila, where he is a professor of the English language. He is an avid sport fisherman and cyclist.
  • Mustafa H.E.

    It’s the language of that devil George Soros. However, the Esperanto movement, to my knowledge, has died down, completely invented languages hold no weight to the more natural languages like English, Arabic, French, Mandarin, Hindi, Bengali, etc.

  • Arturo C DiazNuila

    interesting article on the “socialist universal language”, although the writers conjeture seems  to be valid, the use of technology is rapidly deteriorating our culture and therefore our way to communicate.

  • http://en-gb.facebook.com/people/Brian-Barker/1004522862 Brian Barker

    Many ill-informed people describe Esperanto as “failed” – others say that if human beings were meant to fly, God would have given them wings.
    Esperanto is neither artificial nor a failure however.  As the British Government now employs Esperanto translators it has ceased to be a hobby. More recently this international language was used to address the United Nations in Bonn.
    During a short period of 125 years Esperanto is now in the top 100 languages, out of 6,800 worldwide. It is the 22nd most used language in Wikipedia, ahead of Danish and Arabic. It is a language choice of, Skype, Firefox, Ubuntu and Facebook and Google translate recently added to its prestigious list of 64 languages.
    Native Esperanto speakers, (people who have used the language from birth), include World Chess Champion Susan Polger, Ulrich Brandenberg the new German Ambassador to and Nobel Laureate Daniel Bovet. Financier George Soros learnt Esperanto as a child.
    Esperanto is a living language – see http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670 Their online course http://www.lernu.net has 125 000 hits per day and Esperanto Wikipedia enjoys 400 000 hits per day.  That can’t be bad :)

  • http://en-gb.facebook.com/people/Brian-Barker/1004522862 Brian Barker

    Esperanto a minor fad ?

    Their online course http://www.lernu.net has 125 000 hits per day and Esperanto Wikipedia enjoys 400 000 hits per month. 

    That can’t be bad :)

  • Septimine

    I think the notion of a lingua franca of some sort is a good one, simply because the world is getting smaller.  I don’t think you can do so with a language that has a distinctive European bent and an agenda to essentially wipe out differences between nations and cultures, but having at least a few agreed upon words to form a pidgin for trade purposes is reasonable, and in fact has happened whenever people from different cultures got together for a common purpose. 

    Esperanto isn’t a good interlanguage for a lot of reasons.  Not the least of which is that it doesn’t have a systematic means of determining which language to barrow from — so some words come from Russian, some from Italian, some from English and some from German — with very little rhyme or reason for the choices made. The best interlanguages I’ve personally seen are Interlingua (based on Latin) Latine Moderne, or Glossa which are all simplifications of ancient Greek and Latin by removing some inflections.  Klingon could conceiveably work, but the affixes make the words intolerably long.  

  • A R

    Thanks for the read. The eurocentrism cloaked in cultural objectivity and humanism really cannot be overemphasized. For an intellectual critique of Esperanto by very entertaining linguist, see http://www.xibalba.demon.co.uk/jbr/ranto/ or search “Learn Not To Speak Esperanto” by Justin B Rye. Peace.

  • http://jcatala.net/ Joan Català Piñón

    Learning English: 5 years (intermediate level)
    Learning Arab: 7 years (intermediate level)
    Learning Mandarin: 8 years (intermediate level)
    Learning Esperanto: 2 years (advanced level withouth any single problem on pronounciation or writing or talking)

  • J.I. Smith

    The idea of using Latin as an auxiliary language is risible (or risibilissimus): the grammatical complexity is far too great. Interlingua was designed to be Latin without inflection (Latino sine flectio), which is more reasonable, but personally I see Esperanto as more than adequate. It’s not a perfect language, but it’s a very easy language to learn and allows for efficient communication (of course, it may be somewhat Eurocentric in its vocabulary, but no language could be all things to all people, and thanks to our imperialistic history most of the world has contact with European languages in any case). I’d recommend anyone interested to learn it.

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