Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Danger of Esperanto

Protecting French children from
the dangers of Esperanto
In July 1922, Léon Bérard, the French Minister of Education, banned the teaching of Esperanto in French universities. The French were not done with Esperanto. One it was banned in the universities, the French went on to ban it in public schools as well. They said they had their reasons.

On September 10, 1922, the New-York Tribune ran a translation of an piece by the editor in chief of Le Matin, Stephane Lauzanne. Mr. Lauzanne spent half his editorial writing about Esperanto. The piece is listed as appearing in Le Matin on August 25. I haven't looked it up there.
Besides this big battle [whether French schools should teach modern or classical langauges] another smaller one is being fought; but it is a battle which belongs to the comic style. It deals with the diffusion of Esperanto. Maybe you do not know what Esperanto is, but you should know, if only for the sake of humor. Esperanto is a kind of Russian salad which was invented some twenty-five years ago, and which is formed by the amalgamation of all the natural languages of the globe. It contains half English words in juxtaposition to half Spanish words, and Russian syllables arranged with Dutch or Japanese syllables.[1] It is a kind of monstrous animal having a lion’s body, the winds of an eagle, a horses head and a mane made with fish bones. The claim of the inventors of Esperanto was that their language, containing a particle of all the languages, would peals all national and would finally impose itself on all nations like a universal language.

That Finns or Albanians favored such a propaganda is comprehensible.[2] Their dialect has no chance of imposing itself on the universe.[3] They need a second language. Just as well Esperanto as any other. But that French people, or English, or Germans could have let themselves be allured by this linguistic bolshevism, that is far more extraordinary! It is nevertheless a fact that Esperanto—which was born twenty-five years ago and ought to have died through ridicule—continues to have disciples in Europe. Every year, in a different capital, they hold a congress, at which they are not very numerous, but where they make a great noise.[4] They get so excited that quite recently the Minister of Public Instruction had to address a circular to all the French educational resorts to warn them against the danger of Esperanto.
An article in the Washington Herald on that same day explained the danger (according to the Ministry of Public Instruction):
The reason for this order, according to certain school teachers, is that the teaching of a language as easy as Esperanto endangers the existence of the French language and thus the national solidarity of the country.

They contend that children will naturally take to an easy language such as Esperanto and in that time French and English would perish and that the literary standard of the world would be debased. Furthermore, they argue that a national langue plays a predominant part in maintaining national unity and point to Poland and Lorraine as examples.

”Esperanto is an artificial language of no real merit,” writes one professor. “It has no very definite origin and while it aims to draw the scattered people of the world together, does it not rather tend to denationalization?”
There you have it: Esperanto is so easy it’s dangerous!

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  1. Not really, of course.  ↩
  2. But you can’t fool the French, so sir.  ↩
  3. Note the noble sacrifice of the French, helping to keep us safe from having to speak Albanian.  ↩
  4. They even had the effrontery to tread the holy soil of France in 1905. I’m sure Mr. Lauzanne was delighted that war stopped them from meeting in Paris in 1914. Taking small comforts when you can.  ↩

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1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. I knew that the French government fought against Esperanto on these days, but I didn't knew that there where so... honest doing so (I speak chiefly about the article of the Washington Herald).



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