On Esperanto and Other Wonderful Ideas

November 26, 2012

There are good, great, and magnificent ideas. The last ones, devised by geniuses minds, are almost always really dreams. Ahead of their time, wonderful and priceless.

Some examples follow immediately: Santos-Dumont / Wright Brothers flying machines (to this date, one of the greatest ideas of all times: machines that can fly), money as a medium to provide unit/store of value, anesthesia to eradicate pain in specific procedures, languages for communication. Just to name a few.

I’ve always been fascinated by languages, because they are structural to Humankind. With the possibility of encoding them as written things - for future generations - the concept of a language can be the “meta” idea of all times (I’m not a linguist/psychologist/philosopher, but I think the general feeling of what I’m trying to describe is graspable).

But languages?… there are lots of them! Even computers have their own (just joking - my other life mandates so)! In fact, we have so many particular instances, that even a biblical account is dedicated to this issue.

Now picture this: a student at secondary school (circa 1880) has the interesting idea of constructing an artificial language, useful for worldwide intercommunication. Is he a dreamer? A fool? Genius? (please, understand that the whole idea of artificial/constructed languages was nothing new, even at that time; see Lingua Ignota)

The wonderful idea Zamenhof (aforementioned student) had was a universal language, designed on the principles of simplicity, extensibility, and neutrality, to promote peace. His first attempts failed exactly because he tried to focus only on the idiom universality and format, not on practical aspects:

alt zamenhof L. L. Zamenhof (creator of Esperanto)

As a student at secondary school in Warsaw, Zamenhof made attempts to create some kind of international language with a grammar that was very rich, but also very complex. When he later studied English, he decided that the international language must have a simpler grammar. (…) By 1878, his project Lingwe uniwersala was almost finished. However, Zamenhof was too young then to publish his work. (…) Zamenhof initially called his language “Lingvo internacia” (international language), but those who learned it began to call it Esperanto after his pseudonym, and this soon became the official name for the language. For Zamenhof this language, far from being merely a communication tool, was a way of promoting the peaceful coexistence of different people and cultures.

It’s not difficult to become an Esperanto advocate. With its ingenious and powerful capacity to evolve, this tool doesn’t belong to one specific culture/country - it belongs to everybody!

The idea is not to substitute national languages; the central point is to become the second language of everyone. And although English has fulfilled an important gap among international peers, non native speakers almost always have a disadvantage when talking to native ones. It’s not a matter of control (or imperialism and alike), it’s a matter of neutrality and equality between human beings.

Finally, for those who think that an artificial/constructed language is an anachronistic concept, Esperanto can be used to express the deepest thoughts and emotions. An example? William Auld was nominated for the Nobel Prize (Literature), solely because of his Esperanto works.

That’s the beauty of wonderful ideas. They never die. Someday, somehow, they become reality.