Friday, June 20, 2014

Post Calls on Esperanto to Surrender

Ĉu ĝi vere estas senespera?
There's an almost triumphant air to the New York Evening Post piece reprinted in the Washington, D.C. Evening Star on June 20, 1906, titled "Esperanto's Hopeless Effort." Why is Esperanto's effort hopeless? The rising tide of English, according to the Post.

At the time, the Esperanto movement had had only its first World Congress and was gearing up for the second. The first national Esperanto convention in the United States was to come later that year. Esperanto had yet to see its peak activity, but the Post was already declaring game over.
The new world-language, Esperanto seems to have already won more advocates than the older Volapuk. No manufactured language, however, seems to have much chance in competion with English, which long ago displaced French as the most useful and widely spoken language and which is gaining after than ever in all parts of the world. Quite recently the German government has ordered that all railway officials and employees must learn to speak English. In Antwerp also the authorities are urging all classes to study English and are providing special facilities in the public schools; the city has become "almost an English-speaking port." In Japan all school children are now obliged to learn our language. A few years hence tourists from this country will be able to get along there as easily as on a trip at home. With Great Britain, India, Australia, Canada, the United States and large areas of Africa using English, what hope is there for any other language? The rest might as well give up the unequal contest and make it unanimous.
When I was a freshman in college, a history professor was astonished to find that few of my classmates spoke any French, and told the class that French was the preeminent language of world affairs. Shortly later, during spring break, I ran into my high school French teacher who was amused by this and commented that French had lost that position long ago. According to the Post, this was actually over even before that professor was born.

Still, the line "what hope is there for any other language?" has an odd tone to it. Isn't this the voice of the conqueror? Do we get a maniacal laugh after it? I'd like other languages to have some hope, though at this point, English does seem secure.

Also, given that Esperanto takes its name from its word for hope, was the Post tweaking the sensibilities of the Esperanto movement by calling it "hopeless"? Still, at least there was general acknowledgement that Esperanto had beaten out Volapük.
You can follow my blog on Twitter (@impofthediverse) or on Facebook. If you like this post, share it with your friends. If you have a comment just for me, e-mail me at
This blog runs solely on ego! Follow this blog! Comment on this post! Let me know that you want to read more of it!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...