Esperanto, the common Eurolanguage

October 10th, 2007 by Romeo Anghelache

I was reasoning on the necessity of a common language for EU, earlier on. I dropped too easily Esperanto as a choice, opting for Spanish instead: I feared that a constructed language wouldn’t stand a chance near a historical one.

However, due to Amadeo Nuclini, Igor Negravaski, André Calmis and the other commentators on Mr. Orban’s forum on the subject of multilingualism in EU, I learned, from Claude Piron, (he has a lifelong experience in handling languages) from a series of 10 episodes 10 minutes each: Les langues: un défi (in French) that Esperanto is the best choice because it is a constructed language as opposed to a historical one.

I’ll try to make it here clear why, in a concise form.

His argument, in my understanding, is that the currently used languages preclude intercultural communication because of their naturally different histories.
So, at least the following issues appear in an intercultural communication:

  • irreducibly different semantic resolutions (e.g. in chinese, it seems, you have to specify which grandmother are you talking about, your father’s mother or your mother’s; if you have to translate from English to Chinese, then you have to do some research beyond the written text to get it accurate);
  • truncated communication (let’s be clear, you have to live and socialize a couple of years in a foreign country to claim you know the language, and then you only get to know a small part of the native linguistic reflexes: any naturally grown language is continuously enriched with logically inconsistent native reflexes from the street speech, so a foreigner will end up learning the grammar in a few months and then he’ll have to cover the exceptions in a decade or more);
  • EU expenses on translation are large, with no benefit in sight; to provide an image about this effort, Mr. Piron says that translation costs 100 euro per A4 page, and 750 euro fee per translator per day; he also says the translation related costs for the EU institutions amount to 3 euro/year/european; although it seems little, I’d like to know the amount of indirect costs related to translation (electronics, software, maintenance, housing and travel for the translators etc.), and I’d also like to know how this amount compares with the scientific research EU funding.

Briefly, to master a language, and its accurate translation into a second language, you have to grow somehow with both.

Here comes the advantage of a constructed language: the rules are minimal and provide for consistency, so one can build naturally on it with the result being portable interculturally.

Practically, what should EU do about this state of affairs?

  • Obviously, for the official EU documents, Esperanto should be made mandatory and all the other EU languages optional. This will not only avoid the translation expenses, but also the the expenses with the armies of lawyers which will get involved in reinterpreting a semantically sloppy historical language in the face of law. In schools at the national level, Esperanto should be mandated as the second language as an instrument for communicating with foreigners, EU or non-EU, anything else should be optional.
  • TV subtitles in Esperanto should be made obligatory, or available, at least, for any TV presentation in the EU countries;
  • Try setting up an international cooperation with non-EU countries for an Esperanto-based communication.

If the EU administration doesn’t decide anything in the direction of a common EU language, in, say, a year or so, those interested in this issue (I hope, all the Europeans) should start organizing themselves online for a way to push this on the EU legislative table.

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