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Schuermans Schuermans

2011.167

Schuermans In Central Asia

Why Languages?19

Schuermans
Petroglyph circa anno Domini 650, photo by Lagmanbek.

There's a language problem in the world, and most of the time we have no reason to think about it. It's been with us since the Tower of Babel,17 which is why we don't think of it much. Especially in America, where one can live most of a life and never encounter anything but English. We're incredibly blessed that the world beats a path to our door to learn our language because they wish to speak to us. It's incredibly arrogant to expect them to do so, in a general sense. To expect them to speak English to function in America, yes. English is part of our culture, unapologetically. Expect them to learn English because everybody should learn English, because it's the only international language worth learning... that arrogance borders on the colonial attitudes of the last few centuries.

All the national languages with more than a few hundred speakers have cultural baggage: somebody oppressed someone else at some point, and language was one of the means of doing so. It's in the nature of featherless bipeds, no getting around it. The only ones I know -- native English, student of Russian and German -- need no further explanation as to "cultural baggage." All national languages also have the problem that native speakers have an unfair advantage over all other speakers. There's almost no way to get into the "club" unless one is born into it.

The Communists were ruthless but clever. If their ideology weren't so evil they would still be dominating half the globe. Thank Heaven for His mercy and that He allowed them to pass into the dustbin of history. They used a little known language to increase their influence beyond their core. They did other things, but the use of Esperanto was extremely clever. It leveraged their resources into many cultures they otherwise would not have touched.18

The people that speak Esperanto -- between 2 and 8 millions, in over a hundred countries throughout the world -- will read material in their language just because it's in their language. Because the Communists printed material in Esperanto, they have sympathizers in all those cultures. What a stroke of brilliance! Now in all those cultures, native speakers issue apologetics for the Communists, because those folks read the material in Esperanto!

You might not know about Esperanto. It's an invented language designed for one thing: to enable people to communicate that otherwise cannot. It's the only planned language that survived its founder, and continues to gain momentum despite no "official" status. On the practical side, there's a hospitality network offering free overnight lodging to only Esperantists. I have yet to find one of their members, however, that can accomodate a family of 9!

I can't solve the language problem by myself, but the cliche "no one can do everything, but everyone can do something" applies here. Therefore I study Esperanto.

I can do something. To learn a language designed to be easy, with no advantage to a native speaker, in order to assist my fellow featherless bipeds is a step in the right direction. There exists a better message than Communism that Esperantists and all their countries and cultures need to hear.

My plan is to eventually get my web page in something in addition to English in order to say to the billions who don't speak English, "Hey, you're important, too." Esperanto, at least, but I'm not very good at it. Russian, because I work and live in it currently. German because I love the heritage and the sound. Time is precious commodity, and I'm not a full-time web guru. Plod along with me.

All the best!

Footnotes

17Genesis xi.9.
18Don Harlow, Chapter 10 of The Esperanto Book, entitled "Right Makes Might."
19 Article by Robert Schuerman.