Firstly, I’d like to say how pleased I am to take part in discuussing Esperanto with someone who comes to the subject with an open mind, rather than with a mass of received ‘wisdom’ that’s impossible to shake, even in the face of clear information to the contrary. For that, I’d like to thank Nicole very much.
I’m still going to dispute a few points though. 🙂 Well, it wouldn’t be a debate if we all agreed, would it?
A few considerations: I was taken to task (albeit politely) for calling Esperanto an “artificial” language. The definition comes from Wikipedia: “a language designed for human communication which was created by the work of one or more persons, rather than having naturally evolved as part of a culture.”
My point wasn’t that this is necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not the way people usually learn languages. Is it a better way? Easier way?
Well, the definition you cite comes from the part of Wikipedia clearly marked “nostalgia”, i.e. way out of date. Looking for the same page in the current Wikipedia gives a much more detailed and accurate article. However, quibbles over terminology aside, I’m not sure that I understand the connection between Esperanto’s artificiality and people learning the language. Nobody’s asking learners to invent (or re-invent) the language themselves; it’s there to be learnt, just like English or Italian or Chinese… it’s just that because it’s based on a planned structure rather than a thousand years of organic evolution, most people find it easier to learn.
Here’s an analogy that’s just popped into my head: imagine a tourist visiting central London for the first time, and another in Manhattan. You could live for years in London and still not be aware of street names even a couple of miles from home. As for giving directions, if you haven’t got a map, it’s difficult to direct anyone who hasn’t already memorised hundreds of place names and street names. In Manhattan, where the street layout and naming convention was planned rather than grown organically, pretty much anyone only needs two minutes to see how it works, and can then take themselves to “the corner of 5th Avenue and 32nd Street” or “10400 18th Street” or whatever. Nobody’s expecting visitors to Manhattan to be qualified in town planning, but the fact that the town is planned makes it much easier to navigate, for beginners and experts alike.
Nicole also says:
Part of the problem will be gaining enough critical mass, including the English-language press, to get the point about Esperanto across.
[..] the study I cited […] was actually about how much money the UK makes with the dominance of English. It was by a French governmental agency and there’s no trace of it in English […] And, If you look at Google news, the Esperanto congress in Florence never happened. As some of the posters on Morley’s site conceded, Esperanto has always had a PR problem.
…and it still has. 😦 You’re right that the study has yet to be translated into English, although I believe the Italian Radical Party is offering a bounty to any volunteer translator who’s willing to have a go.
But to answer your final qustion:
Hmmm. Anyone know of an Esperanto group in Milan?
Well, yes I do. 🙂 Well, I don’t actually know anybody there, but according to the World Esperanto Association’s Yearbook 2006, the Milana Esperanto-Klubo meets on Fridays (except August and national holidays) from 9.30pm at Via De Predis 9, 20155 Milano. The entrance is next to Via Bramantino. The Itala Esperanto-Federacio is also based in Milan, and can be contacted at email@example.com