There are 6,909 known living languages in the world according to Ethnologue. As you might imagine, this makes communicating with foreigners pretty hard. In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, there was an animal called a Babel fish. Insert one into your ear, and BAM! you could understand any language in the universe. Unfortunately, current technology is nowhere near this good, even with Google Translate adding voice translations in the Android app.
A more realistic solution might to be to create a universal language. If everyone would learn this language, then the world would be more connected. Enter Esperanto, a constructed language created by Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof back in 1887. It’s the most successful constructed language created to date, boasting millions of speakers worldwide. The Esperanto Wikipedia has more than 143,00 articles. Esperanto has many strong points:
- There’s actually a culture. There are many books and magazines written in Esperanto, and countless websites and blogs. This means that there’s a vibrant community to immerse yourself into, a key component of learning a language. This also highlights the fact that this language isn’t dying or abandoned.
- It’s easy to learn. Studies by the Institute of Cybernetic Pedagogy at Paderborn have shown that French students who studied 150 hours of Esperanto reached the same level of proficiency as those who studied 2000 hours of German. Another surprising fact is that Esperanto only has 16 grammatical rules. English has many, many times that.
- It’s for a good cause. Esperanto is a neutral language, not affiliated with any country. As such, when you converse with someone in Esperanto there is no feeling of “You have to learn MY language.”
Having said that, I don’t think Esperanto is the solution to our language barrier issues. I’ll counter each of the points I made above:
- It’s not useful enough. Estimates put the number of speakers between 10,000 and 2 million. Look at the list of most spoken languages:
Learning one of these languages will allow you to communicate with many more people. And any of these languages also has a unique culture and interesting content.
- It’s not really easy to learn. Esperanto is based on European languages. This means that if you are a native speaker of Korean, for example, you are unlikely to find Esperanto easy to pick up. Also, another point should be made- don’t choose a language to learn just because it’s simple. You should choose one because you enjoy it or because it is useful.
- I’m not going to deny that Esperanto is for a good cause. However, you should balance this with a pragmatic look at if a just cause is one of your top priorities. There is nothing immoral about learning Spanish or Russian, or any other language.
Most people only have enough energy and time to learn one second language. Therefore, you should choose carefully. If you think Esperanto is a cool and beneficial language to learn, go ahead. There are many in the Esperanto community who will welcome you with open arms.