Wednesday, July 6, 2011

English Teachers, Professors and Translators-Welcome

I taught English as a Second Language for about 17 years in the United States and EFL for about 5 years in Israel. I have only taught Esperanto for a few months but speak it for decades. Many educated people are not hearing about the reality and potential of Esperanto.

In my travels to several countries (i.a. Brazil, Cuba and Mexico) I met many leading, passionate Esperanto speakers and supporters (school teachers) who said the same thing. So I'm making this blog to let the world know that Esperanto as a Second Language is a superior solution to international communication than English as a Second/Foreign Language. I and many other teachers and translators of English advocate for Esperanto.

Many of us know that if Esperanto was taught first, before English, more people could become bilingual in western and other languages because of a) the positive-confidence building- effect of learning an easy second language and b) the up-lifting effect of having friends in numerous regions of the world. Many of these Esperanto speakers are eager to share their national culture with their Esperanto friends.

If the demand was there, if teachers' permits for Esperanto existed more often, I would have taught Esperanto more. This must change.

On the 18th of February, 2013 at an International Seminar, organized by the Nepalese Association of the English Language (NELTA), representatives met from over 30 countries. Maya Rai and Bharat Ghimire (my former guest in NYC) lectured on how Esperanto helps learning additional European languages. The president of the Nepalese Esperanto Association, Indu Devi Thapaliya and member Gautam Bishwa-Amike Mondo were also participants in the program.
We discussed the alphabet, word formation, and the grammar of Esperanto, comparing them with those of English. All mentioned are my personal and Facebook Friends.

The International Teachers Conference will occur in 2014 in Montivideo, Uruguay, 60 years after UNESCO made a favorable declaration for the teaching of Esperanto:

These English specialists are all experienced and certified teachers or translators.

Here is the beginning of the list.

Neil Blonstein/ New York City/ Israel

Leading Japanese Esperantist, Hori Jasuo, taught English for many years.
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Miguel Angel Gonzalez Alfonso/ Havana, Cuba

David Lopez/ Potosi, Mexico

George Roberts/ Goiania, Brazil
George died of a heart attack, July 2013, prematurely. He hosted me in 2005. I discovered his educational English site days after his passing:

Emerson Werneck/ Brasilia, Brazil

Amelia Barbosa/ Nova Erao, Brazlandia, Brazil

Fausto Melo/ Brasilia, Brazil

Josias Barbosa/ Brasilia, Brazil (Taught English and Esperanto in China at the university level) (His website for several instructional books in color and related cd's he's produced).

Gonsalo Bermudez/ Colombia and USA

Bent Jensenius/ Copenhagen, Denmark

Dr. Robb Kvasnak/ Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA

University level linguistics.

Monique Arnaud/ Bennington, Vermont and France

Madeline Crepalte/ France

Pierre Janton/ France at University Level

Nel Overwater/ Netherlands

Jean Pierre Boulet/ France, University Level

Jean Henin/ France University Level

Pascale Voldoire, France

Pierre Babin, France/ Inspector for English Teachers and in summers ran Gresillon Esperanto Castle at Bauge'

Jesus de las Herras/ Murcia, Spain

Angelos Tsirimokos/ Bruxelles, Belgium-- Greek by birth--Out of English or French into Greek translator, European Union.

Petra Smideliusz/ Budapest, Hungary
An interview of Petra at the 54th Argentinian Esperanto Conference. (2012)

Mario Jose De Menezes/ Brazilian Vice Council in Frankfurt, Germany formerly taught English

Dennis Keefe/ USA-China

Tim Morely

Completed a masters degree MATEFL/MATESL at the University of Illinois and was a director of international programs of commerce, VIIPP and VIBE programs in the 1990's.Li magistrighis pri MATEFL/MATESL che la Universitato de Illinois, kaj ankau tie estis la direktoro de internaciaj programoj por la komerco-fako, programoj VIIPPs kaj VIBEs en la 90aj jaroj. As per Dennis Keefe.
Istvan Ertl/ Helmdange, Luxembourg

He taught English in Hungary, his country of birth, for a few years. He has also translated from English in the past. He is a professional translator.

Reza KHEIRKHAH, who has taught Esperanto in a number of countries, professionally teaches English in Taiwan. He got involved in the Esperanto movement during a major surge for Esperanto (1970's-1980's) in his native Iran.

Sabrina Endang/ Batam, Indonesia
Mike Jones Tuesday, 13.Sep.2011, Taiyuan, China
He is an American teaching English in China. Active Esperantist and son of Kent Jones, for many years the motor of Chicago Esperanto Society.

Jeremy Aldrich/ Virginia, United States
High School Teacher

Sonja Elen Kisa/Canada states: I am a translater and interpreter/terminologist among the following language pairs Esperanto-English English-Esperanto French-Esperanto.

Mi estas tradukisto, interpretisto kaj terminologo en jenaj
lingvoparoj: eo>en, en>eo, fr>eo

Joe Anthony Blum/ near Orlando, Florida

Norman Berdichevsky, Central Florida/ University Level ESL

Claude Piron ( UN translator, deceased-Switzerland) He wrote several books and video clips on the subject of Esperanto.

Mike Jones lived a number of years in China where he most taught. He prepared some English lessons in Esperanto: Lecionoj en la angla per Esperanto: Mike Jones logxis en Cxinio dum pluraj jaroj. Mi ekkonis lian patron, Kent Jones, Esperanto-aktivisto, en Sxikago.

Another source for teachers, popular in England, for teaching Esperanto in schools is

TED Talk: Don't Insist on English:

About 200 people, the head of Harvard, and other intellectuals debate the virtue of being bilingual, especially in the United States.

Sinjoro Eng of Malaysia had taught English for a number of years. (2012). He is now an avid supporter of Esperanto on-line.

Mark Starrs/ Australian living many years in Thailand, taught English for 8 years and now prefers Esperanto as a Second Language. He recently published a Tai intro for Esperanto.

Ikuko Kitagawa, Japan

Joel Amis (USA/Canada) taught English for one year in Japan about 2003. He spoke in English to groups of English teachers about Esperanto.

Rafael Mateos/ Cadiz, Spain

Majid Jafari, Malajzio (Iran-devena esperantisto).

Marina Kocari,

  • Mr. Schmitt of

 .......was recently interviewed in Muzaiko website in Osaka, Japan about his teaching English.

Nyegosh Dube
2013: An American citizen living extensively in Poland has recently taught English in Japan and Poland. (He is part Jugoslavian part Indian). 

Laurin Lewis was a volunteer at the World Headquarters of Universal Esperanto Association about 1974.  He guided the founder of this blog in the Rotterdam Offices.  We've re-met in 1980's, 2000 and 2013 in Israel, where he is involved  for over  a decade with language-learning software. 

Benjamin Irwin, Canada and Taiwan was a regular participant in the regional Esperanto events at Okemo, Vermont and Silver Bay, New York and is teaching English in Taiwan.

Jose Antonio Schiavinati, Brazil 

Miguel Viana, Porto Alegre, Brazil was with Neil in the World Youth Esperanto Conference in 2002 (Pato Branco) and the Social Forum-Port Alegre in 2005. He did a teachers' exchange program in Newark, New Jersey, summer 2013. He teaches English for or a decade.

Michael Leibman August 4th, 2011 

I think the purpose of an international language is to enable speakers of different national language to communicate as effectively as possible. The question shouldn’t be “how widespread is this or that language today ?”, but how many people could potentially speak it thirty years down the road having learned it as a second language? This is the only question that makes any sense to me. And the answer is equally simple. I am a native speaker of both French and English. In addition I have studied Latin, Greek, Russian and I have dealt with serious business matters in Spanish, Italian and German. Today I teach English in a middle school in semi-rural France and I chanced to learn Esperanto starting five years ago.
Foreign language teaching often seems a farce. The average individual whose native language has an important number of features different from those of English has next to no chance of really learning our language given the time allotted to instruction in school. Transforming English into an international tool of mass communication would require an enormous change of scale in the exposure to English. While this may sound like a good business proposition in a country which is running out of oil and hasn’t got much of anything else to sell, as a French taxpayer I find the prospect less than totally attractive.
So as far as I am concerned a re-engineered language like Esperanto, which is significantly easier to learn, may not be the solution but it will give us a far better run for the money than our wonderfully pleasant and baroque native tongue.
Harry Barron

Harry Barron August 6th, 2011 

I am coming to this argument as a one-time teacher of English as a Foreign Language to Adults and also as a polyglot and linguist and I would like to add my opinions to the argument.
Promoting English (or indeed any National Language) puts its native speakers at an incredible advantage over those who learn it as their second language. The effort and time (not to mention money) needed to learn and teach English at an acceptable (not to mention proficient/competent) level is astronomical and in a sensible world should be considered economically and temporally non-viable, especially compared to promoting Esperanto, the mastery of which would take a fraction of the time it would take to learn English to the equivalent level and would lessen financial burdens. Would not the promotion of Esperanto be a more effective and practical solution to second language acquisition?
But this is not a sensible world and at present, the English speaking nations are continuing to invest vast amounts of money propping up the Anglo-American culture and language across the globe and they are probably (and rightly) reluctant to see their investment go down the pan. I know that in some countries, for instance the Nordic Countries, many people have an excellent command of English and no doubt this gives the impression that these are English speaking nations and that there are probably equally competent English speakers in every other country on the planet; but the reality is otherwise. I have travelled the world quite extensively and I have lived in various far flung reaches of the world, such as France, the Philippines and China and know that it is actually quite rare to find competent English speakers in quite a number of places of the globe – sure, some people have enough English for tourists’ needs, but when you see the English language being murdered with invitations such as “Come for walk on water with us” (Lithuania) instead of “Come for a boat trip with us” (which was presumably the intended meaning) you have to wonder about what kind of (non?)success people are achieving in learning and teaching English. And there are numerous examples I can quote of strange English idioms. Despite English being quoted as having an easier grammar, especially in comparison to other languages, such as French, German or Russian, it is by no means an easy language to learn and some would say it is actually quite tough to learn English. Some would say that the Chinese continuum of languages have an even simpler grammar and language structure, but you could hardly say that they are easy languages to learn either! So easy grammar does not equate ease of acquisition. In my experience, Esperanto has a sufficiently uncomplicated grammar and the time for proficient acquisition is speedy. That to me is a double plus.
But it should be said, that in these aforementioned Nordic countries, the exposure to English in media (such as films and television programmes being subtitled rather than dubbed) begins at an early age and no doubt this helps to its acquisition and assimilation, but that does not mean that it a fair system by any means, especially since the English Speaking world rarely watches foreign language films, although dubbed films sometimes do pop up in cinemas and on TV, but rarely if ever are subtitled programs seen (although there are notable exceptions). Is the English Speaking world totally disinterested in what is happening in other countries? Or do these countries have to become English speaking nations first for us to take note?
Despite the relatively low numbers of Esperanto speakers in comparison with English, nevertheless, it is a language where you can find speakers in just about every nation on the Earth and it has been shown to function admirably at international conventions and it does promote international understanding of different cultures…
We are all in favour of “Fair Trade”, “Equality of the Sexes” “Basic Human Rights for All” and so forth, right? What happened to “Linguistic Equality” and “Language Rights”? Or did we trample on those rights with our own particular brands English imperialism already?

The only Brazilian Esperantist I got to know who died within months of my return was apparently an English teacher. I found a memorial site for Paulo Ereno, and even though a few years passed, somebody wrote today,  May 24, 2012, that Paulo was a language teacher. Paulo also worked for the Universal Esperanto Association Headquarters in Rotterdam. He stayed 8 years in Rotterdam.  His friend/student credits Paulo for his becoming an English teacher:
Eu conheci ele tambem, ele foi meu professor no Fisk hoje sou professor de inglês po causa dele. Me ensinou Coaching, aprendi outros idiomas. Fiquei bem triste quando soube da morte dele. Ele perdeu os dois dedos na Holanda num acidente de trem, até hoje sinto muito a falta dos ensinamentos dele. Eu estava na cerimonia quando ele se tornou unitarista, ele me ensinou muitas coisas e a tomar a minha direção na vida, até meus irmãos o admiravam. Um homem super educado, simples mas com um conhecimento incrível sobre a vida. O melhor preofessor de idiomas que já tive!

University Courses  for  Esperanto occur  farely regularly in some two dozen countries:

The friend of an Esperantist is involved in English language planning. I personally think that those that want to reform English orthography will not get very far and will end up supporting Esperanto as a Second Language.
Väčesláv Ivanov Mia amiko, ĉeforganizanto de la lingva festivalo en Velikij Novgorod, fake angla filologo, ankaŭ umas pri la temo:


The Trilingual European: a realistic expectation?
       The idea of a generalized trilingualism has been finding support all over Europe. Language teaching, we are told, must turn every young European into a trilingual citizen. But what does trilingual mean? Proficient, and fully so, in two languages other than one's mother tongue? The linguist Claude Hagège defines that level of command in the following terms: “For me, to know a language perfectly is to be able to follow word play performed at normal speed with native interlocutors in mind, and to speak the language without being identifiable as a foreigner” (1) and he concludes that “the number of true bilinguals (...) is quite low.” Indeed, that level of bilingualism reflects exceptional circumstances, such as parents speaking different languages or schooling in a non-family language. Straightforward language tourism is not enough. Personally, I have spent five years in the U.S., I work in English quite often, I have even taught at San Francisco State University, but I would never pass off as an Anglophone, and when I watch an American musical, I never get all the details.
A complex network of programmes
       A language is a complex network of programmes, in the cybernetic sense, whose functioning is constantly inhibited by hundreds of thousands of secondary or tertiary programmes interfering with the primary ones. This goes unnoticed because we acquired our mother tongue unconsciously, when we were too young to guess just how hard our neurons had to work. To speak correctly, one must keep blocking natural neuropsychological channels. For instance, if we want an adjective that conveys the notion “which one cannothear”, the spontaneous play of one's brain comes up with unhearable. But we have to learn to block that path and to put in place a detour leading to inaudible. Another example: this morning you have heard Mrs Cristina del Moral repeatedly mention the number of speakers of such and such language, using the word parleurs. Her French was very good, but at this particular point natural tendencies triumphed over her knowledge of our language: parleur is the natural outcome of brain mechanisms instructed to convey the idea that the normative language encodes as locuteur. And when the foreigners learning French learnt how to say en hiver, j'y pense and biologiste, they have to learn how not to say en printemps, je lui pense and psychologiste the correct forms are au printemps, je pense à lui and psychologue). The neural flow is not allowed to follow its natural path, which makes it want to express parallel concepts in parallel forms.
       Our natural tendency is to generalize every linguistic feature. If all children say `more good' before they start saying `better', this is because they generalize the structure of `more beautiful', `more difficult', `more crooked'. Learning a second language involves deconditioning oneself from the reflexes of one's mother tongue, reintroducing in one's brain a series of new reflexes, and then inhibiting quite a few of these very reflexes to produce a normatively correct form that flies in the face of the spontaneous tendency to generalize. An Englishman who is doing French has to learn that it won't do to say je chante / vous chante the way English makes you say I sing / you sing. He must pick up the reflex that makes you say vous chantez. Once this reflex is in place, though, he must then introduce another reflex that stops it for a couple of verbs. He has to install a "No Entry" sign stopping vous faisez, vous disez, and a detour that takes him to vous faites, vous dites. Once that detour is set up, he has to start all over again for prédire. He is set on a path that takes him to vous prédites. Wrong, you've got to say vous prédisez. You see, learning a European language involves placing several layers of reflexes on top of each other. I speak of reflexes because it is never enough to have understood and memorized the words. If you have to think, to run through all the folders and files in your memory to find the right form, you do not speak fluently. This is my dilemma when I have to speak Russian. Even though I have practised for thousands of hours, I have the choice of either speaking correctly, but slowly, at a halting, hesitant, painful pace, taxing my nervous system, or speaking fluently but knowing that everybody will burst out laughing, for my mistakes at that speed are phenomenal.
A minimum of 10,000 hours
       One needs at least 10,000 hours of study and practice to put in place the hundreds of thousands of reflexes one needs, whose number cannot be brought down. Now, the teaching of the first foreign language takes up a total of 800 to 1200 hours of class time, the exact figure varies from country to country. It is unsurprising, then, that at the school leaving certificate level, only one student out of a hundred can speak correctly in the first foreign language they have been taught. 800 to 1200 hours is only a tenth of what they would have needed. If we want children to learn two foreign languages, we need to increase teaching time by a factor of twenty.
       This is the choice made by Luxemburg, where primary schools teach 27 classes a week and reserve 12 of these for two foreign languages, German and French, which comes to about 3000 hours over the six primary years. Language study continues into secondary education, which means that Luxemburg does have a trilingual population, but Luxemburgers perform less well than their age-mates in mathematics, science and other important subjects. Besides, the fact that young people leaving school do not instantly lose these languages in their working life is due to the unusual geographical location of the Grand Duchy, making it a matter of daily routine that one has to keep talking to users of French and German. In countries like Spain, Finland or France, one would forget the languages learnt at school in no time, for conditioned reflexes do not stay intact unless they are regularly reinforced. You notice this whenever one of your languages has gone unused for several years: the words you have trouble remembering, the slips you make target those points where the connection between related concepts has snapped, where an inhibitory reflex coupled with a detour has faded.
Trilingualism or disguised promotion of English?
       If you want a trilingual population, what level should you aim for? Real mastery of all three languages is unattainable through straightforward schooling, and there is no way to fund the scale of language tourism needed for the entire population. Even teaching a few school subjects in the foreign language does not bring that level of proficiency within reach. Switzerland has some grammar schools that teach four subjects in a foreign language for three years. The students certainly do better in that language than their counterparts who have had conventional training, but they are still nowhere near full mastery. If we confine ourselves to European languages, the only realistic outcome would have to be a trilingualism involving a good command of one's mother tongue, an imperfect but reasonable knowledge of a second language and an acquaintance with a third language enabling, not proper use, but some preliminary access, an outcome that makes sense, culturally, for the more you learn different ways of expressing the same thoughts, the more you expand your mind.
       Unfortunately, there are serious problems with such a system. It would tilt the balance in favour of Anglophone countries. For one cannot communicate across countries unless one of the languages learnt is the same for all. How is a trilingual who speaks Portuguese, Greek and Danish to have a serious conversation with one whose languages are Finnish, German and French?
       This means that parents will demand that English should be the language most thoroughly learnt. As for students who are native speakers of English, the majority will not be motivated to learn two other languages, for they know that, wherever they go, they can manage with their mother tongue. Now, the main factor that drives language learning success is motivation. A paradox: you encourage trilingualism to safeguard diversity, to guarantee increased mutual understanding among all Europeans, but in fact you push them all into the arms of the English-only formula, which means adopting a mode of thinking that has nothing to do with the mental and cultural traditions of continental Europe.
       We are then not moving into a generalized trilingualism where everybody would be more or less on the same footing; we are moving into a bilingualism that works better for some than for others and that maximizes inequality among communities. For the communities are not equally placed vis-à-vis English: Germanic speech communities have an advantage relative to Romance speech communities, and the latter are better placed than Slavic and Baltic communities. English is basically a Germanic language and thus close to German, Dutch and the Scandinavian languages. It has a lot in common with these languages, not just at the level of basic vocabulary and grammar, but at much more subtle levels. There is a shared spirit to the languages of this family that is foreign to Romance and Slaviclanguages. Even if Romance language speakers are at a disadvantage in relation to their Germanic neighbours, they are much better off than Eastern Europeans. One of the difficulties of English has to do with its enormous vocabulary, roughly twice the size of any other European language, since a massive layer of French and Latin loans have been added to a Germanic base but has not replaced the original words. You do not know English if you have not learnt both fraternal and brotherly, both libertyand freedom, both vision and sight. A Westerner knows one of these terms beforehand, but not a Hungarian or an Estonian. The adoption of English as the means of international communication creates a hierarchy among the speech communities; it is not democratic.
A really realistic solution
       The only way to avoid reinforcing the hegemonic position of English is to move the authorities and the media out of a state of slumber and denial. Unfortunately, coming to one's senses involves overcoming enormous resistance. The area I am about to venture into is one in which various bits of received wisdom are widely accepted, one in which very few people have made a serious effort to make sense of the facts. I trust you to listen with an open mind; all I ask is that you hear me out without letting preconceived notions get in the way. The various things I am about to say come from my own experience, especially my childhood, and from the facts I have studied, facts of culture, of pedagogy, of linguistics, of phonetics, of neuropsychology. I will stick to facts, which means that all the points I make are verifiable, even the ones some of you will find outrageous (2).
       There is a realistic trilingualism available, one not vitiated by the difficulties of the model I have spoken about so far: the trilingualism of “mother tongue - Esperanto - another language”.
       Esperanto is completely based on the right to generalize every linguistic pattern. This means, neuropsychologically speaking, that it spares us all those secondary and tertiary reflexes set up in other languages to inhibit the primary reflexes you start out with. Students learning a conventional language walking on a path where some sadist has planted a series of traps with the express purpose of tripping them up. Now, setting up those reflexes that keep you from falling into these traps takes up roughly 90% of the time it takes to learn a conventional language. Since Esperanto simply does not have these traps, the amount of learning time saved is enormous. If you learn Esperanto for a month, you reach a level of communicative proficiency that would take you a year to attain in any conventional language. In other words, after six months of Esperanto, if we hold the number of hours per week constant, the school children have a communicative competence level equivalent to what they would attain, for a conventional language, at the end of secondary school. This means that it is enough to teach Esperanto for one semester, say at the end of primary schooling or the beginning of secondary schooling, to implement the first stage: the bilingualism of “national language - international language”. Over the rest of their schooling, the students will now have, for the third language, all the hours the current system uses up for the second language.
Relational and pedagogic dimensions
       The student's chances of attaining serious proficiency in this third language are now even brighter, for Esperanto has proved to be an excellent propaedeutic subject, i.e. a subject whose study heightens language awareness. A Frenchman studying German has to unlearn a complex, rigid and arbitrary system and move into the new habits of another complex, rigid and arbitrary system. To make the transition from je vous remercie to ich danke Ihnen, one needs to modify the pronoun placement reflexes and the ones that handle the directness or indirectness of the object complement. If I describe this as arbitrary, this is to stress that this replacement of reflexes has nothing to do with the needs of communication. If I were to say je remercie à vous in French, or I thank to you in English, literally translating the German formula, I would be understood without any difficulty. As far as as the communicative content is concerned, there would be nothing at all amiss. What makes such speaking fall short of optimal communication is the fact that if I were to say this I would sound odd; my audience and I would not be on the same footing; thus it is at the relational level that there would be a problem.
       Now, this relational level may turn out to be important. Even when the content of an utterance is understood because the listeners are tuned in, the fact that unwanted connotations get in the way can become a serious problem. A Danish minister, Mrs Helle Degn, had just taken office when she had to chair an international meeting. Speaking in English, she wanted to say, “Sorry, I haven't got my bearings yet, I took charge only very recently”, but what she said was: “I'm at the beginning of my period” (3). Everybody understood her, but what a blow to her prestige!
       When speaking a foreign language, one often comes across as less intelligent than one actually is. If I say “I thank to you”, you follow what I mean, but you do not perceive me as the person I really am, there is something out of tune between us. One of the big pluses of Esperanto is that its enormous lexical and syntactic freedom enables it to avoid this type of problem. In Esperanto you can mimic the French pattern of “je vous remercie” and say mi vin dankas, or mimic the English structure of “I thank you” and say mi dankas vin, or mimic the German construction of “ich danke Ihnen” and say mi dankas al vi. Since all three patterns are equally standard, none of them sounds odd. Let us look at another example, this time in the lexical domain. In French, I can say vous chantez merveilleusement, `you sing marvellously', but I am not allowed to use the same pattern for the concepts of `music' and `beautiful': vous musiquez bellement `you music beautifully' would be understood but is wrong. In Esperanto, just as you can say vi kantas mirinde for `you sing marvellously', you can also say vi muzikas bele or vi bele muzikas, literally `you music beautifully'. In other words, children learning Esperanto learn how to express their thoughts along lines that are much more varied than in any conventional language, and learn this without undergoing the negative pedagogic experience of making mistakes. There is an expansion of their language awareness and linguistic creativity without the feeling of failure. This is extremely pleasant and encouraging. I can vouch for this. Esperanto was my first foreign language and gave me the taste for languages. Another psychological advantage of Esperanto is that it does not force you to wear somebody else's identity. Learning how to pronounce English amounts to learning how to ape the Anglo-Saxons. Many young people who are, physically perfectly equipped to pronounce it properly never make it, because of a psychological barrier. In order to imitate English pronunciation, one has to give up one's mother tongue habits in the placement of one's tongue, one's lips, one's velum and so on. This massive transformation is often experienced as a loss of identity. In Esperanto, everybody has a foreign accent, and great variations in pronunciation are regarded as entirely normal. Experience shows that in sharp contrast to what happens in the case of English, these variations in Esperanto do not affect intelligibility, for phonetic reasons that it would take too long to explain here. In other words, Esperanto is to a conventional language what practising scales is to a concert, what gymnastics is to skiing; Esperanto is designed to enable us to take seriously the articulation between two rigid and arbitrary systems. Experience shows that it does this enabling quite well. A class that has done one year of Esperanto plus five years of German reaches the same level of proficiency in German as another class that has done six straight years of German. The “lost” year is not a loss.
       If our authorities, our representatives in the European Parliament and in the national parliaments, the political parties, the academic, economic and cultural elite really wanted Europeans to preserve their linguistic diversity, to keep their identity intact and yet become tolerant of different identities, to enlarge their cultural horizons and communicate across national boundaries with the same ease as in their mother tongue, they would acknowledge that the trilingualism of “mother tongue - Esperanto - another language” is found, on scrutiny, to be the only realistic solution. This is the conclusion one reaches when one takes a close look at how these things really work. I am insisting on this need for a close look because what is standardly said about language in the ministries, the European supranational agencies and the media is practically never connected to any examination of real life. That talk belittles the importance of the linguistic handicap in everyday life, it egregiously understates how hard it is to learn a language, it is reduced to hand-waving on all the crucial issues, and it dismisses Esperanto as an idea or a project, rather than a linguistic reality whose workings are easily inspected and judged.
       The formula that I am suggesting is, then, the only realistic option at the content level, what one might call the technical level. Unfortunately, I'm afraid it is not yet realistic enough from the socio-politico-psychological point of view. On the one hand, the social forces working on behalf of the monopoly of English are extremely powerful. They have to do with power, with the social situation, with economic interests, but also with such influential factors as fashion and snobbery. On the other hand, there is a tenacious resistance to opening the "Esperanto" file. This is a domain where people in power, as well as many journalists and linguists, jump to conclusions without looking at the facts, as if they already knew all that there was to know, as if one could arrive at an understanding of the nature and functioning of Esperanto as well as the culture associated with it (4) without considering the record and without investigating how it works when it is used.
       And yet the stakes are very high, for it is a matter of values as important as linguistic diversity, equality among the nations, and thus democracy itself at the European level. Many people are aware of just how high the stakes are. But very few of them, I'm afraid, have taken the trouble to find out what the options are for dealing with these issues, to investigate what has been happening in practice, and to make the comparisons without which one cannot come up with an objective take.
       Fortunately, as Lincoln once said, “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” People are likely to wake up all of a sudden, and once they do, what needs to be done can in fact be done very quickly. Who knows if, by declaring 2001 the European languages year, the Council of Europe has not taken the crucial step that will at last elicit serious study of the facts, and will lead to solutions that represent genuine out-of-the-box thinking?
       1. Claude Hagège, “Une langue disparaît tous les quinze jours”, L'Express - Dossier, 3/11/00.
       2. Claude Piron, Le défi des langues - Du gâchis au bon sens, Paris: L'Harmattan, 2nd edition. 2001. See also “Linguistic Communication - A Comparative Field Study”
       3. Jyllands Posten, 14 January 1994; Sprog og erhverv, 1, 1994.
       4. Claude Piron, L'espéranto - L'image et la réalité, Paris: Université de Paris-8, 1987, pp. 12-15. See also Claude Piron, “Culture et espéranto”, SAT-Amikaro 393, March 1984.

A good comparative overview between the relative difficulty of learning English and Esperanto.