Rather poor closed-mindedness at English Forum Switzerland

A question was posted on EnglishForum.ch about Esperanto: “I am wondering if I can use Esperanto in Switzerland? Is the number of people who speak Esperanto growing?”

There were about 20 responses from 12 users when I came across the thread — a mixture of useful information and dismissive comments.

I created an account and replied; the text of my post is copied below in full, in the first comment. It appeared on the site for about 20 minutes, but when I refreshed the page to see if there were any replies, I was told that my account had been blocked for spamming, and would never be unblocked. Charming.

Going back to the thread again now, I see that the post from “Michjo” (which I refer to in my post) has also been removed, and I’ve been told that Brian Barker suffered a similar fate (both posts were polite and informative about Esperanto in Switzerland).

I’ve written to the web admin to see if there’s some technical explanation and posted on their Facebook wall asking about it, but it certainly appears that dissenting voices are simply rejected from EnglishForum.ch.

I’ll update this post if I hear back from them.

UPDATE: an informative comment by “Enrique” was also pulled from the thread, although I’ve just noticed that a comment by “nicolee” about attending an Esperanto poetry seminar has been up there for over 36 hours now. Meanwhile, the author of “You’ll find just as many people speak Klingon as Esperanto. It’s a hobby, not a language” has been “thanked” by six other users so far.

UPDATE (2011-10-09 18:08 UTC): currently there’s a comment by Lu Wunsch-Rolshoven that simply says “Maybe some of the Esperanto groups in Switzerland would be able to help you.” Let’s see how long that lasts. Incidentally, my post on the Facebook wall is still there.

UPDATE (23:12 UTC): Lu Wunsch-Rolshoven actually posted three or four messages to the thread which stayed live for a few hours. In the last hour or so though, the whole thread has been made private, i.e. viewable only to forum members. Google still has the posts cached, if you want to read. PS My Facebook post is still there!

UPDATE (2011-10-10 09:30 UTC): Lu Wunsch-Rolshoven’s posts have, predictably, been deleted, as has the one by “nicolee” about attending an Esperanto poetry seminar. The thread has also been moved from http://www.englishforum.ch/language-corner/127522-esperanto.html to http://www.englishforum.ch/trash-duplicate-questions/127522-esperanto.html, effectively hiding it even from members. How spectactularly rude and closed-minded.

If any administrators from EnglishForum.ch would care to comment below, I’ll be happy to post their comments in full, verbatim, and permanently.

UPDATE (15:22 UTC): I’ve had a reply from the moderators to my query about why my account was banned. Here it is in full:

You were banned under the our general ban of Spam and/or unwanted content because your location and subject matter does not fit our forum’s topic matter.

To make things perfectly clear The English Forum is NOT a language forum. It’s a support group for English speaking expats who reside in Switzerland. IE; work permits, housing, social events, schooling and just fitting in to name a few.

True, we do have a language area but if you take a moment to look at the description you would see why Esperanto is out of place within our forum as it is not one of Switzerland’s official national languages.

Language Corner:
Questions and answers for learners of German, French and Italian, translation help

If you are searching for Esperanto forums I’m sure you’ll find many online but as I’ve already stated, The English Forum is not one of them.

thank you for your understanding.

I’m pleased that they have at least responded, but find the response rather inadequate. My post answered a question posted by another forum member. If they’re so concerned that everybody must talk only about French, German and Italian, why was the original post not removed first? Why were the snarky, unhelpful answers not removed first? (before the whole thread was taken down, obviously).

It certainly looks like the informative posts about Esperanto rubbed up some moderator’s prejudices the wrong way, and a rule was found, and inconsistently applied, to back that up.

24 komentoj to “Rather poor closed-mindedness at English Forum Switzerland”

  1. timsk Says:

    My “offending” post read:

    I’d second LewisJD’s answer above: “If you mean use it in daily conversation, no. Esperanto is not really spoken anywhere like that. But if you mean use if on an occasional basis amongst a select group of people, probably. There may be some Esperanto speakers around.”

    That basically sums up the current state of Esperanto in many countries across the world — there are Esperanto speakers in most countries across the world.

    The negativity that the mention of Esperanto brings out in some people (e.g. MiniMia and lost_inbroad above) is interesting and revealing, but tells you more about the person concerned than it does about Esperanto. Assertions such as “You’ll find just as many people speak Klingon as Esperanto” and “It’s a hobby, not a language” are hardly worth responding to; you might as well say the same thing about Albanian or Danish. You’d be equally wide of the mark.

    Michjo has already mentioned much of what I would have said — cheers! — so I’ll just end with a couple of similar links:
    La Pasporta Servo http://www.pasportaservo.org/search/node/svislando
    Swiss Esperanto Society http://www.svisa-esperanto-societo.ch/adres.html

  2. timsk Says:

    Wrote to the forum moderators (possibly for the second time — not sure if the first message went). This time, I mentioned not only my own suspended account, but also the three others who had their polite, informative posts removed, and the fact that the thread was marked as a duplicate when their own search engine (and Google) suggest that Esperanto isn’t mentioned even once on the whole forum.

    Again, I’ll post any reply I receive here, or the mods are welcome to post here themselves.

  3. Brian Barker (@Brian_Barker) Says:

    I tend to think that the word “Esperanto” is some sort of swear word for them 😦 Hence to be eliminated.

    I did an interview for BBC Radio Manchester a couple of days ago and the interviewer dubbed Esperanto as “just a hobby”

    Something which they would not dare to say about Chinese or Japanese. I did reply, albeit clumsily in my interview, that because the British Government employs Esperanto translators (Department of Works and Pensions) it has ceased to be a hobby.

    Quite unusual, btw, for the BBC to adopt a negative attitude towards Esperanto nowadays. Perhaps the BBC interviewer, Alan Beswick was in a bad mood 😉

    • Elhana Says:

      Brian, all your activity is posting the exactly same copypasted reply into each thread which contains esperanto keyword, containing several ridiculously absurd claims: that esperanto is in top 100 languages, which it isn’t, as the cutoff is ~7 millions, which esperanto never had and never will have ever, and that british government employs esperanto translators, which is crap that was debunked already.
      You are disgrace for the entire esperanto cult.

      • timsk Says:

        While I’m glad that Brian’s publicity work for Esperanto exists, and have no problem with the copied-and-pasted aspect when many readers will be coming across it for the first time, I agree that a degree of fact-checking would be worthwhile.

        Even according to an Esperanto-sourced list of languages (http://bertilow.com/lanlin/lingvoj.html) the 100th has 5 million speakers, which is way more than anyone seriously claims for Esperanto. “In the top 3 or 4%” is a valid claim, I think, and makes the point that Esperanto has more speakers than at least 95% of the world’s language.

        As for the government employing Esperanto translators, as you say Elhana, it’s unfortunately complete bollocks, as far as I know. That didn’t stop the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and others reporting that it happened, but they never let mere facts get in the way of a good story.

        (The gist of the story is that NHS Direct pays a retainer to an language agency, and that agency has translators/interpreters available in a wide variety of greater- and lesser-used languages; from that tiny kernel of truth springs the ‘journalistic’ claim that “millions is wasted translating into pointless languages”. Ho hum.)

        As for “Esperanto cult” — I certainly don’t agree with that, but will take it as hyperbole rather than a carefully researched accusation, unless you’d care to expand on it further.

      • Lu Wunsch-Rolshoven Says:

        It depends on the definition, if Esperanto is in the “top 100 languages”. It probably is not, if you consider the mere number of speakers.

        But Esperanto is in the top 30 languages of the Wikipedia, one of the 10 languages on http://esperanto.china.org.cn/ and between the 64 languages of http://translate.google.com . In fact I don’t know of any list of languages where Esperanto is _not_ between the top 100 – besides the number of speakers. Do you, Elhana, know of such a list?

        We may consider also the amount of text in the internet, cf. http://arxiv.org/ftp/cs/papers/0006/0006032.pdf (number 27 between some languages with latin letters in 2000; I tried to repeat the experiment some weeks ago and Esperanto still seems to have about 0,1 % of the English text amount in the internet, around 5 000 000 000 words.)

  4. Henri Masson Says:

    Dankon, Tim, pro tiu tre bonvena iniciato !

    Estas efektive hipokrite kaj malhoneste aserti ke Esperanto estas ekstertema en tiu angla forumo en Svisio, kaj unuflanke forigi kaj cenzuri komentojn, kiuj alportas kontroleblajn informojn pri kiuj la aŭtoro de la demando cetere tre kore dankis, kaj aliflanke lasi malestimajn onidirojn, klaĉaĵojn sen respondrajto.

    Temas pri stulta kaj eĉ kretena sinteno, des pli ke eksperimentoj jam de longa tempo montris ke lernado de Esperanto kiel unua fremda lingvo faciligas la lernadon de aliaj lingvoj, inkluzive de la angla.

    Jen opinio de anglalingvano kaj poligloto pri lingvoj, inkluzive Esperanto : Language Ambassadors – Seán Ó Riain — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqqKAQMUzPI&feature=channel_video_title

  5. Lu Wunsch-Rolshoven Says:

    I read the reply of the moderator with astonishment.

    The moderator wrote: “The English Forum is (…) a support group for English speaking expats who reside in Switzerland.” So I don’t see a problem, if someone like nickmcanada asks about Esperanto speaking people in Switzerland. To give him an answer means supporting that user.

    The moderator states that the “language corner” is for “learners of German, French and Italian”. But the problem is that this is not written above of the language corner, see http://www.englishforum.ch/language-corner/ , so when writing an answer you don’t see this. The information can’t be read either on the page with new posts, http://www.englishforum.ch/search.php?searchid=7148405 .

    The English Forum Switzerland has an Off-topic forum with “General off-topic”, http://www.englishforum.ch/general-off-topic/ . So there would have been no problem with moving the thread there.

    It is just not understandable from the arguments the moderator gives in his mail, why he saw a need to ban several people permanently just for helping someone with an answer. So, what is the real motivation to ban so many people? Could it be that the English Forum Switzerland and The Local are just fearing Esperanto and true information about it, as do so many translators and interpreters?

  6. Michjo Says:

    Thanks, Tim, for this blog entry. I’m the aforementioned Michjo, and here is the reply I left on englishforum.ch in response to NickMCanada’s original question (I made a couple of post-edits to it before posting it but after saving it locally, which I have tried to reproduce from memory, so it may look slightly different from what you recall):

    You can certainly use Esperanto in Switzerland. At a few hundred thousand to a couple of million proficient speakers worldwide, its numbers certainly aren’t as great as those of ethnic languages, and being spread out fairly evenly around the world, it’s also spread thinly. Plus, it’s almost no one’s native language. It should therefore come as no surprise that you won’t be able to use Esperanto exactly like you’d use French, German, Italian or even Rumantsch. However, you can use it in a way that’s just as real and just as satisfying, if you’re willing to think a bit outside the box. – people use it in friendship, romance, family, academia, science, technology, business, literature, art, music, and so forth. All it takes for you to use Esperanto in Switzerland is for you to be able to speak Esperanto, be located in Switzerland, find other Esperanto speakers, and want to speak Esperanto with them. How useful it is, is how well it satisfies YOUR requirements, not those of others.

    I lived in Switzerland near Neuchâtel for 12 years. During that time, I learned Esperanto and met with the Esperanto group in La Chaux-de-Fonds at the municipal library. The same location, under city sponsorship, houses the CDELI (Centre de documentation et d’étude sur la langue internationale / Centro de dokumentado kaj esploro pri la lingvo internacia, http://www.cdeli.org) that actively researches and documents writings in and about Esperanto. Also in La Chaux-de-Fonds is the KCE (Kultura Centro Esperantista, http://www.esperantio.net/index.php?id=35) that hosts activities like the one described by Nicole, and many others, and has accommodations for visitors.

    The SES (Svisa Esperanto-Societo, http://www.svisa-esperanto-societo.ch/) provides information about Esperanto in Switzerland. In particular, http://www.svisa-esperanto-societo.ch/adres.html lists local Esperanto groups in Switzerland with contact information. More information on Esperanto activity in Switzerland can be had through SES’s publication, “SES Informas” (http://www.svisa-esperanto-societo.ch/SESi/).

    Another way of locating other Esperanto speakers in Switzerland is through the Pasporta Servo (“Passport Service”, http://www.tejo.org/eo/ps_lingv_en), a volunteer international hosting service through which Esperanto speakers are willing to put up other Esperanto speakers for one or a few nights, and maybe show them the sights and local life, for just one low cost: be able to speak Esperanto. Even if you’re not interested in the hosting service, you can still locate other Esperanto speakers who have signed up at the main Website at http://www.pasportaservo.org/ ; http://www.pasportaservo.org/membraro?filter0=Svislando&filter1=**ALL** lists users living in Switzerland, some of whom provide personal contact information. To search and see other site content, you have to sign up for a (free) account on pasportaservo.org, which does NOT require you to take in guests.

    Yet another way of locating Swiss Esperanto speakers is through the prime Esperanto learning-material Website, Lernu.net (http://www.lernu.net). Lernu.net has Esperanto speakers and learners signed up from all over the world. A search engine (http://en.lernu.net/komunikado/uzantoj/sercxi.php) allows you to find users by location, level in Esperanto, and so forth, although just selecting “CH – Switzerland” will return too many hits and require you to narrow your search, which you can do by city, (level in) Esperanto, etc. You need to sign up for a (free) lernu.net account to use the search engine.

    To answer the other part of your question, numbers of Esperanto speakers are definitely increasing, especially in the last decade or two. Even if, as hinted above, we don’t know exactly how many speakers there are, we can observe an increase in those numbers, just as you can tell there are more shoppers at Migros-Centre on Saturday afternoon than mid-day Tuesday by the greater density of people, even if you don’t know exactly how many there are. Esperanto numbers, sustained primarily through personal interest in Esperanto, have always been increasing steadily, even if *official* interest has waxed and waned over the years, descending at times into overt hostility. The Internet has given Esperanto a real boost in recent years thanks to ease of communication and availability of resources. There has also been increased official interest in Esperanto of late, for example in China (Esperanto now taught in many schools, government maintenance of an Esperanto section of China Radio International, full coverage in Esperanto and government-supplied Esperanto interpreters at the Beijing Olympics), Brazil (general popularity, Senate proposal to recognize Esperanto to satisfy language requirements in schools) and France (positive reports on Esperanto commissioned by French government, recent proposal similar to Brazil’s).

  7. Michjo Says:

    I also sent a complaint to the administrators of englishforum.ch, to which I received, just today, the same boilerplate response you did. I replied as follows, and await their response:

    You state that I was “banned… because (my) location and subject matter does not fit our forum’s topic matter”. From the “Read this first” for the Language Corner (http://www.englishforum.ch/language-corner/1191-guidelines-language-corner-read-before-posting-here.html) (stress is mine):

    “What is on-topic or off-topic in this area?

    Discussions here should be limited to the use of language as it applies to life in Switzerland. This could include the use of English (see next section), but should not incude other languages (e.g. Spanish, Japanese) unless they are relevant to a topic in discussion (such as highlighting the difference between German and Japense, or the similarities between Italian and Spanish).””

    And to remind you of the contents of the original post (stress is mine):

    “I am wondering if I can use Esperanto in Switzerland? Is the number of people who speak Esperanto growing?”

    Limited as it may be, Esperanto does exist and is used in Switzerland (I know, I lived there). While NickMCanada apparently dos not reside in Switzerland, his question bears the mark of coming from someone who plans to. By asking this question, he makes Esperanto germane to the discussion.

    Now, let’s assume that, in spite of all that, responses broaching Esperanto are so egregiously off-topic as to deserve to be banned forthright. Then why only a select few? I could be paranoid and point out the strong pattern of positive support of Esperanto common to those who were banned, but to be as fair as possible, they were also all newbies. “They should have known better”, you say – but why, then, were none of the other responders censured and banned, when their responses were all unmistakably on the topic of Esperanto, and they had been around considerably longer, and should therefore have known even better? Should some form of reaction be deemed necessary, a warning – especially for newbies – rather than sudden and permanent expulsion would be far more appropriate. In fact, you provide for just that with temporary bans.

    Regardless, my response to NickMCanada’s question was entirely topical, relevant and desired (certainly by the original poster and, judging from the thanks I got, by at least one other reader/responder to the thread). If you still object on the grounds that you consider the entire topic of the discussion to be off limits – in spite of the fact that by leaving the original post as long as you did and allowing at least some responders to reply uncensured, you give tacit approval to the topic – then the proper course of action would have been to censure the original poster and delete the entire discussion topic, not punish (some) individual responders. That is exactly what happens on better-known fora like Yahoo! Answers, where I have seen several questions deleted and their askers banned for gross irrelevance, while individual replies and their submitters never are as long as their replies are topical to the question. It turns out that, in the end, NickMCanada’s topic was deleted. But wait – NickMCanada wasn’t banned. As pointed out above, only a select group of responders was banned…. but NickMCanada is just as much of a newbie as those who were censured, yet his account remains.

    Please explain, then restore my account

  8. Lu Wunsch-Rolshoven Says:

    Upton Sinclair said: ‘It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.’ So it may be difficult to get the moderator understand our position when his salary is paid by The Local, http://www.thelocal.ch/ , which is an English language internet magazine.

    I think they feel Esperanto to be a dangerous rival for English and they just fear it. If really Esperanto would be learned by thousands and millions and if it would some day be a more general school language, a project like The Local would just collapse. They would loose their jobs and a countless number of English teachers, translators, interpreters, university teachers, people using English every day would loose their jobs too. Or they would be forced to learn Esperanto. Nearly no one of them would like that. So I understand they fear Esperanto. I think they are right. In my view it is only a matter of good marketing to promote Esperanto – so they try to undermine our marketing and they don’t want to read posts with sound information about our language.

    The traditional aim of the Esperanto movement is to introduce Esperanto generally (even if not everyone still thinks this to be realistic). I never heard of any study what this would mean for the English language industry. I think we need one. Many people would suffer a lot. We should consider this and understand their feelings and their fierce battle.

  9. Leo Says:

    Wow, the admin of that forum really doesn’t like Esperanto. I feel sorry for the members that are governed by such a fan of speech that has first been approved by him.

  10. P Heger Says:

    It isn’t just Esperanto that the moderator doesn’t like. Apparently, he cannot stomach laziness either. Several months ago I registered for the forum and submitted a polite and informative introduction to myself. By the next morning the the introduction was gone and I received the same “you are a spammer – don’t even think of trying to register again” type message. Upon writing to the moderator for an explanation he rather snippily replied that I had not filled out many of my fields (which I had not filled out) were populated by x’s or the like, and this is classic spammer behavior. I wrote back, apologizing and explaining that I rushed my registration and purposefully left the fields blank, planning on filling them in later, and that the fields must have auto-populated (as they have done before on other on-line forms). He wrote back a rather rude, dismissive reply that he found this highly unlikely but would nevertheless look into the matter. Several weeks later I received and email from admin asking a few technical questions, which I suppose could have explained the auto-population. By then I was just too bored with the issue to bother. Its a shame, because I was looking forward to getting involved in the forum and would have been a good participant. This all leads me to wonder what the moderator’s definition of spammer are? And why not just employ a filter then block spammer’s once they have proven themselves to be spammers instead of this pre-emptive nonsense? I can only come to the conclusion that the moderator is slightly bored and gets a little lift by blocking would-be users. Perhaps he didn’t like my intro? I will never know. It brings me to mind of that episode of Seinfeld with the soup nazi – “NO SOUP FOR YOU!!!”

  11. Michjo Says:

    Update: I never got a response to my second complaint email, but I sent a reminder to the administrator asking for a reply to my second complaint, and I did get a reaction: my IP address has been banned (the one from which I posted to the site; I still have access through other IP addresses).

    Here is what is displayed when I try to access englishforum.ch from here:

    Sorry. The administrator has banned your IP address. To contact the administrator click here.


    1. Post polite, informative and relevant response… account banned.
    2. Complain to the administrator… useless boilerplate reply.
    3. Complain to the administrator again… ignored.
    4. Request answer to second complaint… IP address banned.

    What, pray tell, would happen if I contacted the administrator yet again? 🙂

  12. guesty Says:

    Wow, I never knew Esperanto speakers were so evangelistic! No wonder you all were rejected on a forum which has nothing to do with Esperanto. LOL..!! You guys seriously need to get a life (and a “real” language).

    • timsk Says:

      Hello guesty, and thanks for your, er, constructive comment. You’re quite right that EnglishForum.ch itself has nothing to do with Esperanto, and if someone had just turned up on the forum and started preaching to everyone about how wonderful Esperanto is and he can’t understand why everyone doesn’t learn it… well then, I’d like to see them banned too. Same goes for any other irrelevant topic — it’s spamming, it’s annoying, and it doesn’t help anyone.

      What has annoyed people in this case is that a user on the forum had posted a question asking for information about learning or using Esperanto in Switzerland. At that point, it seems quite reasonable to come along and answer the question, particularly as the answers from the existing users were uninformative at best. But while the piss-taking and unhelpful posts were left, replies by half a dozen different people who were giving relevant information about Esperanto in Switzerland were removed within hours or even minutes of being posted.

      If anyone’s being cliquey and evangelical, I’m afraid it’s the moderators who apparently can’t bear a single mention of the international language Esperanto on their precious forums. It’d be a real shame if, like, people were ever informed about it. Oh yes, that’d be terrible.

  13. Get-A-Life Says:

    Guy gets rejected.
    Guy is miffed.
    Welcome to the Internet, it’s a place for those that do not have a life to bitch about life. Myself included. I do not feel the need to rant so comprehensively ineffectively.

  14. Guest Says:


  15. Pacon Says:

    Sorry to hear about your bad experiences. On a forum with more than 60 000 members, it must be difficult to differentiate between a helpful language enthusiast and a cynical spam-merchant. It is worth bearing in mind that although the English Forum is a commercial website (primarily an advertising platform for a Swedish media company), the moderators all work for free and have a lot to keep on top of. Mistakes happen, although that doesn’t justify the poor manners of the administrator when you asked for an explanation.

    There is, however, another forum for English speakers in Switzerland where you would be very welcome to share your knowledge and experience of Esperanto:


    We look forward to seeing you there. 🙂



  16. ian booth Says:

    I was also banned after a few minutes… someone called “richdog “claimed that I was “marketing” a business. In fact I was suggesting sites where desperate parents could access help and advice about schooling for their children with dyslexia. At the very most I suggested websites to have a look at…. No More than that!
    I also suggested independent organisations that are already freely recommended on the English Forum and internationally recognised and acclaimed individuals to whom I have no affiliation and who are also already reccommended on other areas of the English Forum. Apparently because I posted similar suggestions on several threads on the same evening I am deemed (by “richdog”) to be marketing these organisations/individuals. What utter crap… I am merely trying to help parents who find themselves in dire straits. And believe me, if yu have a child with dyslexia in this god forsaken area, then you need all the help you can get!!. “Richdog” I hope your children do not have dyslexia for their sakes…as for you – gth.

  17. TheRaven Says:

    Believe me, you are better off having been “banned” from the English Forum. The moderators there are useless idiots, and the closed-mindedness you speak of is not confined to them.

    The typical English Forum poster is a mentally disturbed working class Brit. Nastiness and personal attacks abound. Nobody there is interested in a meaningful discussion about anything. Anyone who tries to ask a serious question about anything is treated to insults, snarkiness and sarcasm by the resident hooligans and bullies — cheered on by their camp followers and sycophants who dish out words of praise, thanks and green-blobs like jelly beans at Easter. These mental midgets have the capacity to turn almost any thread into a free-for-all.

    These people are easy to recognize because they are usually “Forum Legends” with THOUSANDS of posts and an equal number of thanks.

    It used to be a decent board, but it’s been on a downward sprial for quite some time. I was a member for awhile, but I moved on, and have no regrets.

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