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Esperanto: Lost in Translation

Aug
2
2006

Fans of the Esperanto language are in Florence for their 91st World Congress.

You’ve got to hand it to them for persistence in the face of failure. The idea of an artificial international language is a good one, but the concept is part of the problem: it’s artificial.

Most of us learn language fluently from our family, early schooling or perhaps, later, lovers, not out of some earnest belief in world unity.

Still, there are said to be 1,000 “native” speakers of Esperanto and you have to wonder what the parents were thinking. Teach them Klingon? It’s a better party trick at least.

The Esperanto pow-wow, attended by about 2,000 people if last year‘s figure holds, has been snubbed so far by English-language media. Italian news agency ANSA picked up just one small item about a study the Esperantists commissioned.

The finding?

English, the default lingua franca, costs the EU government €17 billion (about $22 billion) a year. That’s a lot of money lost in translation, to be sure. These costs could be cut out entirely, the study says, if there were a common European language. (Italians, for one, have a notoriously hard time communicating in English).

I want to support Esperanto, I really do. Invented in 1887 with the goal of creating a universal second language that would foster peace and understanding so what’s not to like?

Trouble is, they just don’t seem to have much of a grasp on reality. To be fair the six-line news item (in Italian, at that) didn’t elaborate on whether there was a plan of action or any other details on the study.

But how much time and money would it take to train everyone involved in the EU to communicate fluently in Esperanto? And how would you overcome the resistance to learn another language that could only be used for work?

The bickering over official languages, with Globish as a common language, will no doubt continue.

I’d love to know from an Esperantist — and there are said to be between 100,000 and two million speakers out there — why they took it up. And how they plan to bring it forward.

Share  Posted by Nicole Martinelli at 1:35 AM | Permalink

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