21. Why are most esperantists veterans?

That is not exact, though there could be an explanation to it... Firstly, there are many young people who have learnt Esperanto. In fact, all Esperanto pupils I have ever had were under 20. There are many associations of young esperantists, like Juna Amiko or The Rossetta Stone, which was born at the Murcia University.

However, it is true that if we walk along the different Esperanto Congresses which are held all over the world, we'll see that the medium age of the members is high. This is because people older than 30 have more money, and those older than 60 have more time to attend congresses.

But it is also true that many people who when they were young had fought against, despised or simply ignored Esperanto have needed all their life to mature enough and understand the essence and nature of Esperanto, outgrowing their prejudices —which most times are external to them— which did not let them see clearly enough. These people are late to help creating and improving the Whole Mankind Culture, but at least they can get some benefit out of its present condition

Esperanto Spain ~ Back to the questions. ~ Reread ~ Next question.

22. How many people can speak Esperanto all over the World?

That question is more complex to answer. We know that, for example, there are 300 million people who speak Spanish all over the world, because we know how many people live in Spain, Venezuela, Argentina, and all the Spanish speaking countries. We can also get the number of people who have taken a Spanish course in a lot of language schools and other institutions. We can also get the number of Spanish speaking people who are living in non-Spanish speaking countries. We can also make a guess at how many people learnt Spanish on their own, and this would be the weakest part of our quest. Well, this is the only part of the quest we could do regarding Esperanto, since it is not the official language of any country in the world. Not so many official institutions teach Esperanto —well, some universities do teach it, like the International University of Peking, where lecturers from anywhere in the world can go there and lecture in Esperanto on the topic their original university commissions them to, and then it is the Peking University the one who gives the certificate, but that is, I reckon, an exception—. Most of the Esperanto teaching is made in the world by private individuals and institutions, most of them for free. So, it is extremely difficult to have an accurate figure, since we cannot revert to the National Institute of Statistics of any country. We can rely only on estimation, which is something very little scientific. The best we can say is that we are many more than our detractors say, but many less than we would like to. ;-) Anyway, so that you cannot say we elude the question, I will tell you that the most pessimistic estimation which has ever been done tells about 200,000 esperantists all over the world. The most optimistic one goes to 30,000,000, which will set Esperanto among the seventeen most spoken languages in the world!

However, I could not care less about how many we are. We'd better be few and good than many and bad. :-) Of course, with time the number of esperantists will grow, but every day the esperantists make the cultural patrimony of mankind a little bigger and bigger. We think of Man as a whole rather than particular national individual. Those who will come after us will find a lot of ground flattened out. But the path will go along the way we will have made!

Esperanto Spain ~ Back to the questions. ~ Reread ~ Next question.

23. English is already the XXth century Latin. Esperanto is not needed at all.

It is true. But that is not enough. When you say Latin I suppose you mean the role as a bridge language Latin had in the Middle Ages: it was spoken all over Europe, but it was no longer the language of any European country, since the Roman Empire had been destroyed in the fifth century. But the question is: Who could speak Latin in the Middle Ages? Certainly not common folk!: it was spoken by priests (though some of them frankly badly, as we can check in the complaints by bishops in the council and synod records which have reached us) and scholars, that is to say: humanists and scientists. Alcuin from York —for example—, being an Englishman, could teach at the Sorbonne and many other European universities, and his pupils fully understood him, because they knew Latin. But let's not forget that scholars were very few, and university students were very few more. The clergy had (and in some countries like Spain still have) very long studies, they study for twelve long years, which is long enough to master a difficult language. However, if you ask any expert in Classical Languages, he or she will tell you that NOBODY can SPEAK Classical Latin or Greek, and the one the priests speak is not classical, but Vulgar Latin. More than thirty years ago the British élite universities of Cambridge and Oxford taught their degrees either in Latin or Greek, but they gave up, probably because of the extreme difficulty of their speaking correctly. And not everybody could attend these universities —nor can— as you all probably know...

WHY WAS LATIN ABANDONED as a learned language? When Gutenberg invented the press, culture became more popular, that is to say, was accessible to everybody because books became much cheaper than ever, which was a real cultural revolution. Common people learnt to read and write, making general illiteracy decrease drastically. But books, if they were to be sold, could not be in Latin, learned language which common folk did not master. That is why vernacular languages (like English, French, Spanish, Italian, German) became so important, so much that they cornered out Latin slowly but for good..., to such an extent that nowadays Latin is no longer in the syllabus of Secondary School in Spain and some other countries whose language stems out from it.

With such a long introduction I want to tell you that I concede you are right: the XXth century scholars use English for their papers and speeches. Of course, they each would prefer to use their own language, but they all know that is not feasible and they get by with their mimed and clumsy English, which lacks style and lexical and syntactical richness, which some even call International English in an obscure attempt to legalize their huge linguistic and —above all— phonetic mistakes they make. Let it be!, let the wise use English if they are so interested in it.

But common folk, we the people who are not Erasmus of Rotterdam or Sir Isaac Newton, nor Madame Curie nor Emily Dickinson, we need a simple language which is easy and we can learn in less than a year and which in the term of a fortnight let us manage in the situations of common life. It is true that English is easier than the rest of the European languages. It is also true that it is not easy enough for our needs. The only serious alternative is Esperanto.

Esperanto has an easy grammar which consists in only 16 rules WITH NO EXCEPTION WHATSOEVER, which can be learnt in just an evening. Its basic vocabulary has about one thousand words (exactly 917) which can be multiplied by 200 thanks to its exclusive system of prefixes and suffixes. In addition, any two different words can be combined into a new one for a new concept. But NOBODY USES 200,000 WORDS in any language. Experts say in fluent Spanish only 7,000 words are used to talk about any single topic, whereas the same can be accomplished in English using as few as 3,000. However, in Esperanto we can use three times less than in English. With the particularity that this base can be multiplied by two hundred without having to revert to the dictionary. Another advantage in Esperanto is that near all the words already sound a bell to us, like virto, nigra, scienco, religia, angla, germana, inteligenta, porko, etc.

For all this, we can finally allow that ENGLISH IS THE LATIN of the XXth CENTURY. Esperanto is —a little more every day, and fully in a day which maybe we all will see— the world romance language, the one we all, not just the scholarly élite, can understand and teach one another about what whatever each one of us is keen on, without us having to be an Erasmus or Hipatia of Alexandria..., and also it will be a good tool through which —those who desire to do so— can fraternize in full freedom and equality, reaching that which the people have been asking for since the French Revolution —two centuries ago—and which is still an unfulfilled desire for Mankind.

Esperanto Spain ~ Back to the questions. ~ Reread ~ Next question.

24. Circumflexed signs (^) are an unnecessary difficulty which is specially noticed when using the modern communication means, such as the Internet.

Circunflexed signs represent different sounds from those without them. In fact, they are different letters from them, as much as ç is different from c, or x from y. If Esperanto had not those sounds, it would be poorer. The solution consisting in using two letters (a digraph) was suggested by Zamenhoff himself just in case there is no other way to represent them (because we are not writing by hand, or our machine is not good enough to represent them), or even three or more to represent a single sound —as it is done in other languages, such as German and Polish— makes language less phonetic, since a phonetic language is the one which has just one single letter for every single sound, and just one sound for every single letter. That's why if we took the circumflexed sounds away, the language would lose some of its richness, whereas if we wrote those sounds using digraphs, the language would lose functionality and reading Esperanto would be more complicated.

Esperanto Spain ~ Back to the questions. ~ Reread ~ Next question.

25. The sounds of H and Ĵ are difficult to pronounce, as well as the groups sc and nkc.

The sound of the letter H exists in many languages, though some of them —like Italian and Spanish— do not have them. However, in many Spanish speaking areas, like the South of Spain, the Canary Islands and South America they use the sound of the Esperanto H for the Spanish J, from what we can conclude that Esperanto (and English) sound H is a sound tolerated also in Spanish. Regarding the sound of Ĵ, it is the one in the Spanish J and it also exists in Arabic, German, Gaelic and many others. The problem is that two very important countries in the West gave birth to languages which do not contain this sound (France and England). However, even the nationals of those countries will be able to pronounce it properly if they only press the back of their tongues against their palate veils and blow hard. :-) Orthodox speakers of Spanish can also get the correct sound of H by carefully imitate a dog's gasp...

Regarding the groups sc and nkc, what you complain about really is about the sound of the letter c. But you will have it right if you pronounce AT THE SAME TIME a t and an s. Esperanto is much easier than any other language, but it still has a few difficulties. They are not difficult to overcome, above all if you have a good teacher, and even the worst language students can attain a perfect Esperanto accent, since they only need interest and perseverance.

Esperanto Spain ~ Back to the questions. ~ Reread ~ Next question.

26. You are right in everything you say, and Esperanto should be implemented all over the planet. Unfortunately, there are too many interests and we who think like this can do nothing to change crude reality: English is being inforced and there is nothing we can do.

This is the most cruel objection I have ever confronted. Because it refuses people control on their own lives. However, we do think that a lot can be done.

Basically, who forces English in the present day world? It is true that huge amounts of money are spent in promoting English and in trying to persuade us that without English you can go nowhere. And it is true that with English you can go very far nowadays..., provided that you master it, of course! The trick is convincing people that the others master it, since it is clear that standard people, those who usually walk on our streets, those whom we meet at the picture house, the shop or the concert hall, those whom we see at college —and not just the alumni— are unable to produce a ten minutes long paragraph in English, not to mention talking about their private life, their most confidential wishes, in English- At most, they can speak about an abstract, general topic, which is much easier because the language level needed for that is very standard, with no dialectal differences.

We esperantists can add two plus two, and very seldom it is not four: if I cannot master this language, neither my neighbours can, nor my fellows, nor my countrymen in general, I can assume that those from other different countries cannot master it any better. Therefore it is not possible. This assumption can make us feel better, since thus we discover we are not stupid, and that it is false that assumption, that we are not good at languages, but that they in general —and English in particular— are difficult, more than a musical instrument. But as well as everybody has not the temper nor the time needed to master piano or guitar, and yet after a few hours' practice we can handle a recorder and produce a few melodies, we can also certainly handle Esperanto within a few hours. Of course, a language —including Esperanto— can never be fully apprehended. But the ten or twelve thousand sentences in which we can compress the whole of our existence we could learn to construct after a relatively short training. This is not fantasy. This is something which experience proves every day. And yet, it is something impossible to achieve in any other language. Because Esperanto (and this is not exaggeration, but simple fact) is the easiest language in the world!

Once we have overcome the mental conditioning we suffer from television and publicity in general, with false slogans like the one which says that "within three months you will learn English without studying", then we will be able to call everything by its own name, and so we'll solve the problem.

When we see that we can make ourselves understood by people from other cultures, like the Lithuans, the Chinese or the Maoris, all these mental barriers will fall. It is true that we will not be able to contact a thousand million people through Esperanto. But if we mastered Chinese, we wouldn't either. Because the number of people whom we will be able to have met in our whole life is a very limited one, and it is not bigger than a few hundreds. But it is sweet comfort to know that if needed, after a few hours' training anybody can make him/herself understood in Esperanto.

I think this is a very clear argument about what we can do to turn over those facts which are apparently condemn us to linguistic slavery nowadays. On television we can see European ministers who speak in English in the news. But their English is painful, and they would certainly rather speak in their own language. Shall we defend the reason of force, or do we feel we are strong enough to demand the only ethical solution?

Esperanto Spain ~ Back to the questions. ~ Reread ~ Next question.

27. I am English and when I go abroad I find that this airport and hotel English you mention is more than enough for me. Why should I learn Esperanto?

For nothing and for all. Just to lie on the sun and have a drink on the rocks now and again no language at all is needed. Traveling just to see the scenery and one or two museums can be done nowadays with no knowledge of languages at all. After all you can find plenty of leaflets about the sights all over the world. If you want to ask a question, however, you must be happy with what the local guide can tell you, which is usually very little: short, limited answers. I have never found a fully competent travel guide whose command of English let him or her talk about the local art, literature, or even the history of the country in the lands which I visited.

But if you are abroad and fall ill, the doctor needs not understand English even if he is a real authority in medicine and has published his findings in English, since the publication can have been translated by a professional translator, or he may be competent in written English and yet not understand oral English. If he gets the wrong information from you, it is you who is in trouble, possibly in danger of death through a wrong treatment. Maybe your back is aching, or your eyes are itching or your mouth is dry, or you cannot breath correctly..., you may even not be able to move at all if you had an accident, and gestures are not possible at all... Do you really think people from other lands have the obligation to waste their time in learning a language just in case the English speaking people do not have a problem when they wander all over the planet they only share? They might understand altruism is something different..., and two-sided! Of course, if the problem is that you get involved in an accident, you can hire a translator to assist you in court..., but are you sure you can afford it? And by the way, the worst accident in the history of aviation took place at Los Rodeos (Tenerife, Canary Islands) because the pilots of either plane (none of which were English) did not guess on time whether that word, report was a noun or a verb (report freeway).

Esperanto, after a short training, offers you the opportunity to talk to natives of the place you are visiting, to talk about any topic at a depth and variety of details which are simply unknown in any other language no matter how long you study it. Talking the local language is always an important step towards your host's culture, and it is much more enriching that staying at the high tower of English, waiting for us the common folk to ascend to its eminence. Learning Esperanto is giving just half a step, it is true, but it is also an invitation for people from other cultures to imitate us and meet us half-way at that cross-roads which is really our language of concord and comradeship.

Esperanto Spain ~ Back to the questions. ~ Reread ~ Next question.

28. Esperanto is but a mixture of words from different languages.

Which language is not a mixture? Whatever was spoken in the British Isles before the Saxon times was wiped away by that people, when they settled up the Angle-Saxon Heptarchy. Three centuries later, the Normans crippled English into not having its rich inflectional system any more, and also they poured hundreds of new words into English, and the common folk, trying to emulate the powerful, dropped their native way of speaking and conformed to the new rulers' speech. Little by little, directly or through French, Latin took over the lexical core of English, and so the romance words of the present day English amounts to something between 75% and 80% of the total words. Good Old Shakespeare kept on using foreign words from Italian and French in his plays, and so did the other great masters of English literature, as they still do. Nowadays English is influencing other languages a lot, but it still keeps getting foreign words from virtually anywhere, like ria (from Spanish), iceberg (from Icelandic), desperado (a wrong spelling, though), and so on.

If we had to talk about German, it would be very interesting to have a look at the language at the eighteenth century, when Martin Luther translated the Bible: he had to give a full vocabulary at the end, because the different dialects of German were not standardized yet, and so he had to create a lot of words and explain them at the end of his translation. That, evidently, reminds us of what Zamenhof did with Esperanto...

Not to look partial, I shall also say that Spanish is also a conglomerate of the different speeches of the Christian tiny kingdoms at the Iberian Peninsula between the eighth and eleventh (or so) centuries. Actually nasal vowels passed away because Basque speakers did not have them in their native Euskera. In Spanish, thus, you find Latin, Arab, Basque, Celtic, Arab, Italian, French and English words all mixed together. It happens the same all over the world, for trade, war and other kinds of human relationships bring languages together and make them influence one another.

But what sheer use of force, economic power, moral authority (Luther and the Pope), or that of any other kind (literary, scientific, etc.) did in English, Spanish or German, it was done through a scientific way by Zamenhof in Esperanto. Table, for example, is tablo because of the French table Italian tavola and Spanish tabula among others. The idea is that the words must sound familiar to as many people as possible and that it happens so in so many words as possible. However, nothing tells us whether report is a noun or a verb in English, whereas we have immediately this problem solved in Esperanto: informi is the verb, and informo is the noun. It is simple, because it is logic and it consumes no effort at all. In Spanish mesa can be table (noun) or pull your hairs hard (verb) according to the context, but nothing in the word itself explains it to us.

Therefore, we see that Esperanto is not just a mixture of words, but a logical system of rules and words intertwined which our thought can ride to open our mind and concept of life itself. That's why Esperanto is a hidden treasure for those who want to unbury it at a very cheap cost.

Esperanto Spain ~ Back to the questions. ~ Reread ~ Next question.

29. You say that Esperanto has no dialects, but I have heard the way it is spoken by a Frenchman, an Englishman and a Spaniard, and they did not speak it in the same way.

Watch it! Speaking a dialect is something different from speaking a language with a lot mistakes. When you learn a foreign language, you must try and reproduce the phonemes of it, so that when you achieve it, natives of that language say that you don't look like a foreigner from the way you speak, what makes you happy. In Esperanto there are no native speakers, since there is not such a country called Esperantoland, in spite of what is sometimes written about it.

When you hear people talk French or Spanish with -say- Bristol accent, you wouldn't say you use a Bristolian accent of French or Spanish, but that they don't manage their foreign language. If the same person were so careless when speaking Esperanto, why should you say he or she is talking Esperanto with a Bristolian accent?

Unfortunately there are many esperantists who don't care to learn the Esperanto phonemes, which are not coincidental with any native language, luckily. And I feel it is lucky because that forces us all to open to the others. Esperanto is everybody's, it is true, but it is also everybody else's, and so you cannot do whatever you want. You said you heard people from France, Spain and England talking it each with their own accent. That is a shame which can be corrected after a couple of hours. But that must be solved by everyone on their own.

Esperanto Spain ~ Back to the questions. ~ Reread ~ Next question ~

30 Esperanto? Do you mean that thing nobody speaks because it is not interesting?

Of course. Really this question is answered by itself, only by adopting a more tolerant feeling. Let's see:
  • Nobody speaks it. It is clear that, even if we Esperantists are only 200,000 (our worst estimation) or thirty million (our best one), it is jus a little drop of water in the sea, compared to the total world population (over six thousand million people). Of course, the number of citizens belonging to democratic countries, of people holding a university degree, or simply non analphabet people are also too little numbers if compared to the global quantity of people living in the world today. But in the same as it would be stupid to conclude that being analphabet is good because most people are, you can't support seriously the idea that Esperanto is not useful because of the same reason. :-)
  • It is not interesting. It is NOT interesting to him! As I said before, if people cannot understand one another, the big guys will be able to control our lives much more easily. Let's have a look at how easily they sold us the story about the American spy plane which crashed with a Chinese fighter inside or very near the Chinese air. It reminds us of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was certainly outside the air limit of the USA. Yet, not many people related both things. Now suppose we could talk to the average Chinese man directly. In Esperanto we could understand him much more easily, but unfortunately there are interests against global understanding. There are a lot of copy rights from English language products (cinema, literature, but also news agencies, which shape events to justify the way of life of the free world).
Anyway, if these reasons do not convince you, as Great Lebowski used to say, that's kind of your opinion, isn't it?

Esperanto Spain ~ Read again ~ Next question

31 Esperanto is a language with no soul.

Esperanto is a tool for communications, the same as the Morse Code, television, portable phones or English language. None of them has a soul. Only the person using them has it.

Questions ~ Read again ~ Next question

32 It is impossible that English stops being the global language.

Once thre quarters of humanity spoke Latin. Today nobody speaks it, even in school. What is the fastest conclusion from this?
Back to the questions. ~ Reread
~ Esperanto Spain ~ Course ~ Fernando Sor ~ Yepes ~ Paper info

Paper Info:

This paper was

  1. written in Puerto de Mazarrón (Murcia, Spain) on July, 23rd 1995,
  2. translated into HTML on the following 25 of May by Jesuo de las Heras.
  3. Updated: questions 24 to 26 were written and answered on Thursday, the 15th of August of 1996 at 20:04 by the same.
  4. Questions 27 and 28 were written by the same on Monday, 17th of november of 1997 at 21:14:46
  5. Question 29 was added on Friday, 6h of December 1997 at 0:36:08.
  6. Questions 30 and 31 were added on May 1st 2001 at 11:55.

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