Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cours en anglais, or should I say, courses in English?

So there is this proposed law in France that won't pass but that is highly scandalous in a country that prides itself more than most on its language (which nonetheless we must remember is as "impure" as the next language, and, historically speaking, a creole of Latin in itself...whoops!). The law would promote the teaching of more university courses in English (and some other foreign languages). Whatever one thinks of this, it is a noteworthy point of linguistic history. English has never had the same political backing as French, even in the colonial era, yet it has become the lingua franca at least in North America and Europe if not the world. Sadly, then, the world most certainly does NOT speak French (at least in one sense).

7 comments:

  1. I would like to argue the case for Esperanto as the international language.

    Esperanto works! I've used it in speech and writing in about fifteen countries over recent years.

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    1. Are you saying it should become the lingua franca, or that it already is? I highly doubt the latter, because though it is present internationally, it is not understood outside Esperanto circles. I've used Japanese all over the globe too, but that doesn't mean it's an international lingua franca.

      If you're saying Esperanto should become the lingua franca, perhaps you're onto something. How do you propose replacing English with it? How do you recommend I learn Esperanto?

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  2. Esperanto "is not understood outside Esperanto circles". True, just as English is not understood outside English-speaking circles. I speak Welsh and have spoken it in Patagonia, but I distinguish between that random distribution of speakers (who you probably won't meet outside of Wales and Argentina) and a useful lingua franca.
    English is widely taught, but the success rate is really miserable. Scandinavia and Netherlands have fairly good levels of English, but if you’re lost in rural France or rural Bulgaria, don’t expect to find an English speaker. I’ve lost count of the number of people who say “I learn English since eight years” but cannot tell you where they live or what time the football starts. English can sometimes be a but not the lingua franca.

    language has some remarkable practical benefits. Personally, I’ve made friends around the world through Esperanto that I would never have been able to communicate with otherwise. And then there’s the Pasporta Servo, which provides free lodging and local information to Esperanto-speaking travellers in over 90 countries. Over recent years I have had guided tours of Berlin, Douala and Milan in this planned language. I have discussed philosophy with a Slovene poet, humour on television with a Bulgarian TV producer. I’ve discussed what life was like in East Berlin before the wall came down and in Armenia when it was a Soviet republic, how to cook perfect spaghetti, the advantages and disadvantages of monarchy, and so on. I recommend it, not just as an ideal but as a very practical way to overcome language barriers.

    Life is too short to learn every language on the planet. If I were going to Japan for, say, two weeks, I would probably learn basic greetings in Japanese, but otherwise rely on Esperanto speakers to visit homes and gather "insider information". See some background information at http://www.esperanto.jp/ligoj/index_e.html

    There is nothing wrong with English - my mother tongue - but I still need and use Esperanto as a lingua franca. It offers benefits which a knowledge of English does not.

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    1. If we're going on purely quantitative measures, of course English is the lingua franca--not that everyone knows it or that it is by any means a perfect lingua franca! But it is the lingua franca precisely because it is understood outside English-speaking circles. By that I mean that it is generally the default (again, in North America and Europe at least) among speakers who do not share a common first language and would not otherwise use English much. This holds true in almost every area of life (industry, international business, politics, educational research, movies, and even music, perhaps unfortunately given the state of pop music in English). The same could not be said for Esperanto, or even common languages like French and Spanish.

      Question: If you visit Esperanto speakers when you travel, why not also visit English speakers (and speakers of any other languages you know)?

      That said, Esperanto could theoretically become the lingua franca, and maybe reasons such as the Pasporta Servo and the existing Esperanto community are good ones for arguing that it could/should. My question is, how do you see it becoming the lingua franca? More education? Government policies? Private promotion?

      Also, more personally, what resources do you recommend for me to learn Esperanto?

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  3. Many ill-informed people describe Esperanto as artificial - other ignorant people say that if human beings were meant to fly God would have given them wings.

    Esperanto is neither artificial nor as a failure however this is not true. It is the 29th most used language in Wikipedia, ahead of Danish and Arabic. It is a language choice of Google, Skype, Firefox, Ubuntu and Facebook.Google translate recently added it to its prestigous list of 64 languages.

    Native Esperanto speakers, (people who have used the language from birth), include World Chess Champion Susan Polger, Ulrich Brandenberg the new German Ambassador to and Nobel Laureate Daniel Bovet. Financier George Soros learnt Esperanto as a child.

    Esperanto is a living language - see http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670 Also, Esperanto Wikipedia enjoys 400 000 hits per day. That can't be bad :)

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    1. Hi Brian! Thanks for the helpful stats.

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  4. Hello, Jeremy

    I don't see any immediate breakthrough for Esperanto on the horizon. It has almost no state support, and its survival depends on the efforts of grass-roots volunteers all over the world. It is a fairly young language with a fairly youthful speaker population. There is some support from UNESCO, and it's used by a sprinkling of organisations such as Vatican Radio which want to reach a worldwide audience. For me it's important that I can use it now, rather than waiting for some global breakthrough.

    There are Esperanto courses in Herzberg, Germany. See:

    http://esperanto-urbo.de/page.php?pid=61311937 and http://esperanto-urbo.de/page.php?pid=91295910

    There is an Esperanto week, with courses in the morning, then excursions in the afternoon in Brittany:

    http://www.pluezek-esperanto.net/accueil_r.html

    For courses in Britain, go to http://www.esperanto.org.uk/education/courses.html

    f you're interested in on-line learning, take a look at http://www.lernu.net


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