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  • Canadian language police prepare for unrest as 200 attend Esperanto Congress in Montreal

Comments Aug 6, 2008 8:39 pm

I learned Esperanto a bit in high school, or should I butcher-wise say, mi lernis iom esperanton je lernejo duala. I also studied a little lojban, which was originally designed to be machine-tractable due to lack of grammatical ambiguities (based on Russel grammar).

While international auxiliary languages (IALs) are probably past their fad time in the early 20th century, there are some notable historical successes for auxiliary languages and artificial languages, such as Lingua Franca in the Middle Ages, Swahili, and the Hangul alphabet in Korea.

But I think a language like lojban has promise for recovery. Machine parsing of natural language has not really gotten into true pragmatics at this point, and it may be uncertain how grammatical ambiguity might affect it in the future (maybe we can make probabilistic networks that will be quite successful), so once we get to the stage where we are really able to handle pragmatic interpretation of natural language, I'd take another look at the IALs, specifically lojban and it's predecessor, loglan.

Reply to at 8:39 pm Sep 27, 2008 5:20 am

I have only just begun to investigate esperanto but I feel, on reading your blog, that you have not. Yes, only 200 at a conference is not very large but I understand that this conference was only for the americas where esperanto is not that well known. Most esperantists in this hemisphere are located in South America - they may find a trip to Canada a bit expensive. And, I don't thing that number included those in the video-confrencing. In the more global conferences that take place outside of North America, the attendance numbers average over 2500 people. I think that is quite impressive for a made up language that is marketed and publisized by word of mouth. (unlike Star Trek that has had huge amounts money poured into its local, national, and global marketing for decades!)

I find it interesting that the place that has the least esperantists is the place that speaks the so-called global language. Obviously, the world is not very please about being forced to learn English. How will we feel when another country's language becomes the norm? When Rome was in power their language was used as the main language of politics and commerce throughout europe and into the middle east and africa for centuries, The church gained huge amounts of power and continued with Latin, then French rose as the appropriate language. Now it is English because of America, the superpower. Well, America is on the edge of an economic breakdown. Russian is on it's way back up and China's dragon is starting to unroll itself to show the world it's true size. If another country becomes the dominant player in the world, why would it continue to force it's people to learn the language of an 'lesser' country? I already know a number of people learning Mandarin in expectation of a change in the language of business.

How long would it take for you to become fluent in another language? 4-5 years? - a year if you go and immerse yourself in it? How much would it cost for those lessons or language exchanges? - a total of hundreds or perhaps thousands of dollars? (I took years of French and can't read a children's book!) Esperanto is a curiosity to me, a hobby, so I only spend a total of an hour or so each week on it. My personal study can be measured only in months and I'm already beginning to read novels and to instant-message with others around the world. And, the entire thing has been free of charge!

I think it would be interesting to see if the language of the world could be chosen by us rather than  forced upon us.

Interesting blog, by the way. I'm glad you've provided a platform for discussion.

Thank you.


Reply to at 5:20 am Sep 27, 2008 5:45 am

Perhaps a language cannot bring about world peace but it can help and foster it. I was not at the conference but was told that one of the video conferences was from an indiginous tribe in South America. They are hoping that Esperanto will become a global language, and soon, in order to save their language and culture. They have had english forced upon them, Portuguese, and Spanish. If there was a global language they could keep their language and only learn one easy economic language.

Language and culture (and often patriotism) is wrapped up together. When you learn a new language you learn more about their culture. When you send up rallying cries they are in your own language or the language of your forfathers. We often believe that intelligence is wrapped up in a language's proper usage - How often do we mistake immigrants as uneducated or unintelligent just because they speak English poorly? The Quebequois fight english because they don't want their culture to be overtaken. What about the Irish? the Latvians? the Tibetans? Haven't they all at one time or another been told to get rid of their language and only speak the language of their oppressors? A universal language cannot stop one country from invading but it can keep a culture alive. It can foster understanding. It can call more effectively for help. And, an easily learned language, can help us to see beyond the words to the intelligence and the people behind them.


By the way, think of the money it would save! All those translators, translations, transcribing, movie captioning,...


Sorry, I'm running on. Thanks again.

Reply to at 5:45 am