Mathew Lowry's Tagsmanian Devil

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Ceci n’est pas une relaunch of this blog. It’s just that Ronny’s post (How the dominance of English kills the European debate) has been largely hijacked by Esperantists, and I need more space to react than that provided by Twitter.

The proper place for a debate about Esperanto in the EU online public sphere probably belongs on Joe Litobarski’s posts on the subject in 2009, but he seems to have taken them offline.

Back then, the general feeling I remember was that the Esperantists made very good points in favour of Esperanto as a potential lingua franca for the EU online public sphere. The problem was that English as a lingua franca had, in that delicious French phrase, ‘le merit d’exister’, so Esperanto would face a network effect-driven vicious cycle:

“Why should I learn Esperanto to blog about Europe? Nobody blogs about Europe in Esperanto, so I’ll have nothing to read. And nobody who blogs about Europe speaks Esperanto, so they won’t be able to read my posts!”

Nevertheless, back then the Esperantists made a really convincing case. Moreover, Ronny’s point adds to the case for Esperanto – a European online public sphere using Esperanto as a bridging language would not have any built-in topic bias.

Creating critical mass:

After Toño del Barrio tweeted his agreement that Esperanto needs critical mass to overcome the above vicious cycle (read his 2008 post on the topic, in Spanish), here’s a modest proposal for Esperantists. It’s based on the well-known principle that the only around a vicious cycle is to pump-prime the community with content.

If Esperantists want their language to become the lingua franca of EU policy debates, I’d suggest creating a network of Esperantists – ideally, one or more in each Member State – to launch blogs covering their national policy debates in Esperanto. This could consist of either translating selected blogger’s entire posts into Esperanto, and/or doing a weekly roundup in Esperanto (“this week in Estonia …“).

The trick here is that each blogger could also reflect on and react to the other blogs in this ‘’ network, drawing comparisons between national debates, etc (“in Poland and Hungary, by comparison, the same topic is seen totally differently, as my  fellow Espreanto4EU blogger points out … “).

Such an initiative could unearth the many debates that many believe are potentially out there, but don’t get the oxygen they need because those involved cant/wont blog in English. Non-EN bloggers across the EU could reach wider audiences. Metablogs could tease out similarities and differences between national debates. A real conversation could be created about how EU policy debates vary across Europe, probably for the first time. Papers could be written, conferences could be launched, and speakers applauded. Oh my!

All of which, in turn, would definitely get the attention of a larger audience, prove the value of the language as a lingua franca, and perhaps provide the motivation the rest of us need to explore Esperanto.

So, dear Esperantists, the ball is in your court. I’m sure will support you, as the alternative is to have this debate again in 2017…


  1. It is not exactly true that nobody blogs about Europe in Esperanto. Admittedly, not many, but there is for example this very interesting blog: E?ropa Civitano
    Also, Dafydd ab Iago writes regularly in La Ondo de Esperanto
    But this is largely a question of the hen and the egg. The bloggers need a wider readership, but there won’t be one, as long as there is not more to read… I myself blog mostly in Swedish, as I get a lot more readers that way. But I do translate some posts to Esperanto as well.

  2. @Kalle, thanks for dropping by and pointing to these posts. A quick look shows that none of them are tracked by I’ll add them. If you think it useful, maybe we can create a category for the esperanto language, bringing them all together.
    PS Chicken and egg is exactly what I meant by vicious cycle. The only way of kicking out of that is to prime the pump and create large quantities of high-quality content, thus changing the equation.

    @Simon, yep, been arguing for that as a feature of bloggingportal 2 for several years now!

  3. It is indeed nonsencical to suggest that machine transalation will solve the problem of a new global language, worldwide. People in some parts of Africa cannot even afford to buy food, let alone to buy a computer, as well.

    I do however think that there is a worldwide language problem, as well as a European one, which demands a solution.

    Which is why the non-native language, Esperanto, certainly should be given some consideration.

    Esperanto is not artificial but is a planned language. It is a modern living language as can be seen here

  4. Difficult questions for a thinly populated diaspora of people most of whom couldn’t care less about European politics, not to mention discussing it in a neutral, journalistic way. – Sigh.

    But that’s just how something is born: priming the pump, creating the detonating critical mass. Don’t think there’ll be a coordinated network of blogs, at once. Think of small corners. Think of how certain languages were born, with one single active speaker. But we need talent, too, not just enthusiasm.

  5. Thanks for dropping by. Sure it’d be hard – in fact, I really doubt it will happen. I was just trying to suggest something more constructive for esperantists to do than simply complaining, as we’ve seen them do more than once, that “everyone should learn esperanto ‘cos it’s better!”.

    Btw, blogging is not neutral or journalistic – quite the opposite. ;-)

  6. Although the proposal is well meaning, I see two major problems in it.

    First, creating that “high quality content” requires a huge investment in time and effort that the Esperanto community hasn’t got because of the meager human resourses at its disposal. The only way of making a difference would be paying or somehow subsidizing those content providers. It’s almost like starting up a company without any capital or loans.

    Second, good content is not enough. Look, Catalan is spoken by 10 million people and has an excellent literature stretching almost 1000 years. Yet, all that wealth is hardly even acknowledged by the outside world. I’ve met very few people that ever learnt a foreign language just to access the resources that language provided. The exception is English, which everybody studies (and sometimes even learns) out of a hopeless sense of obligation. Esperanto blogs could be the coolest shit on earth, and yet they would compel few people to learn the language, precisely because outsiders can’t understand enough of it to assess their quality. So we’re still trapped in the vitious circle, far before reaching any “critical mass” that, in my opinion, would necessarily equal the current number of English-language users.

    In sum, you propose an economic solution (creating incentives for individuals) to problems that are essentially ideological (bias against minority and planned languages), juridical (reflection of that bias in school curricula) and social (unofficial enforcement of English language use).

  7. Mathew wrote: “Btw, blogging is not neutral or journalistic – quite the opposite.”

    You might be right in that, bur GOOD blogging is journalistic an good journalism alwayd includes an element of audiatur et altera pars.

    Because you mentioned “covering their national policy debates in Esperanto” and “each blogger could also reflect on…” I thought you might be thinking of interesting and attractive blogging, but that seems not to be the case. There are more than enough average-quality euroblogs (in any language) to satisfy the readership which hardly exceeds the number of the bloggers.

  8. @Rubén, I elected to react to your comment on Ronny’s post. I also recommend this. Enjoy! ;-)

    @Harri, If you look around the blogactiv blogging platform (upon which this blog is hosted), you’ll see a variety of approaches to blogging. I should probably know, given that I launched it in 2007.

    The last time I saw the traffic figures, they showed that the readership is a bit more than the number of bloggers ;-) I mean really, do you really think it would’ve survived, attracting 80-100 bloggers, without traffic? But don’t let me disturb your prejudices, and please don’t visit, which tracks over 1000 EU-oriented blogs, many quite good (and very few of them truly journalistic in nature, btw).

    But the blogs here on Blogactiv, and all those tracked on bloggingportal, are, of course, still just traditional blogging – since then, the blogging has massively diversified, from Twitter to Tumblr. While all of this innovation is helping redefine what journalism is, and how the industry can survive, it isn’t all journalism, either. That doesn’t mean it’s not good quality.

    But still, you and Rubén should feel free to keep complaining. It’s always nice to see that some things don’t change.

  9. Suggesting that machine translation will solve our problems is nonsensical, not because there aren’t enough computers, because people are too poor t buy them or because the programs aren’t good enough yet.
    It’s nonsensical because human languages are too complex, too ambiguous and too different from eachother for machine translation to be good enough.

  10. Thanks for reading my comment, Mathew. (I’m learning how to behave, you see. Every single reader is valuable and worthy of a nice word.)

    You wrote: “It’s always nice to see that some things don’t change.”

    So true. And you are one of the proofs of the pudding. Please go on in your bubble. It was my mistake to think you had made a serious proposal.

  11. It’s ironic, Harri, that you invite me to continue my way inside the Bubble, given that finding ways of piercing the Brussels Bubble is one of the overriding themes of this blog and indeed my professional life (see all posts tagged bxlsbbl).

    One of the biggest problems facing that is multilingualism, of course, so I remember being quite interested in what Esperantists had to say in 2009. And the points made recently on Ron’s post regarding the ‘topic neutrality’ of Esperanto only reinforced my interest.

    And that’s why I made my modest suggestion for how Esperanto could be used to pierce the Brussels Bubble, connecting together national conversations through a neutral lingua franca, and providing people with an extra reason for learning it.

    I even went so far as to ask the technical people behind Bloggingportal to create a new language category, so we could bring together all the EU-oriented posts in Esperanto.

    But, Harri, it was only a suggestion. Perhaps it’s a bad one, or (and this was always likely) just plain unrealistic. It’s up to the Esperanto community, who would have to put in the effort, to judge. But there is really no reason to be offended by it, nor to dismiss blogging on EU affairs so snidely.

  12. Would Ronaldo please tell us when, precisely, Africans will have a money to buy a computer and if this will solve the language problem worldwide? Money is certainly a problem.

    Africans cannot buy food, let alone buy a computer. It’s a question of priorities for them.

    Machine translation however does have a role in promoting the need for a common international language and perhaps that is why Google Translate has recently added Esperanto to its prestigious list of 64 languages

  13. Matthew, vi ne vere respondis miajn argumentojn nek faritajn ?i tie nek tiujn en la blogo de Ronny Patz. Estus pli konstrue se vi respondus ?iujn aparte, ?ar tiu transblogado konfuzos legantojn. Pri la video, mi komprenis nek ?ian signifon nek vian humursenton (eble tro nacian?).

    Eble mi devus esprimi la demandon pli rekte: ?u VI MEM lernus Esperanton por kompreni debatojn kaj blogojn faratajn en tiu lingvo? A? por kompreni min mem, same kiel mi devis lerni la anglan por komuniki kun privilegiataj denaskaj anglalingvanoj kiel vi?

    Se vi respondos “jes”, tiam via propono montri?os konsiderinda.

    Mi beda?ras ke vi rigardas min plendema, sed pripensu la kialon: vi alju?is la tutan laboron kaj respondecon al ni, esperantistoj! Vi preferas laborigi nin anstata? vin! Kial vi ne kundividos la taskon lernante la lingvon?

  14. Well, you convincingly showed the limits of Google Translate there! I didn’t understand most of your comment (was that the point?).

    If I understand correctly, you didn’t ‘get’ what the video was about. Sorry about that – it’s just a joke. Consider yourself RickRolled. I just wanted to see how far this particular meme had reached, and inject a little humour into what was becoming pretty acrimonious. I’ve been rickrolled too, btw.

    As for the rest, I really dont feel like repeating my comments VI and XIV, above, as well as the one on Ron’s post, for a fourth time! Get a life!

  15. Matthew, I not only showed the limits of Google Translate but also the non-existant multilingual abilities of this “.eu” domain, which can’t deal with Esperanto letters (just Latin-3 characters, nothing more exotic than Turkish or Maltan, for instance).

    I see there’s been a communication problem, because I didn’t feel the debate to turn “acrimonius” until your “Get a life!”. In no way I meant a personal attack. You see, sometimes a common language is not enough, because it only aggravates cultural differences. I’m still not offended, however.

    The gist of my point was: would you be motivated to learn Esperanto yourself in order to understand Esperanto blogs rather than just resorting to automated translators and the like? If you say “yes”, then your proposal to promote the language may be sound.

    In my opinion, adults are too difficult of a target, regardless of what content you create to motivate them. It would be easier to promote language learning among school children. As for your other arguments above, I can’t see how they relate to mine. If you feel you repeat yourself, let’s leave it that way.

  16. Totally agree that the CMS behind this site is showing its age. It was chosen before I joined EurActiv back in mid 2007 to launch Blogactiv, and doesn’t appear to have had a lot of updates since.

    But this is fair enough – there’s no demand. As I pointed out a bit over 3 years ago, when we launched we couldn’t even get French or German-speaking bloggers to blog in their own language – they preferred to blog in English. Just one example of the network effect. Today, things have improved … but only three of the language selectors on the Blogactiv home page are active.

    Anyway, yes, I made my suggestion because IF:
    a) the best way of knowing what people were saying across Europe about an EU policy topic would be to learn Esperanto
    b) AND IF learning Esperanto really is as easy as you all say

    … THEN I’d say that a few people might take the plunge. And that, of course, could kickstart this from a vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle, at least in the EU bubble.

    I’m not sure I personally would – as an Australian, I am particularly crap at foreign languages! ;-( But my experience in getting people to blog on Blogactiv leads me to say this because – and this is critical – such content would be both unique and professionally relevant to those in the emerging EU online public sphere.

    In contrast, while I’m sure there’s a massive cultural wealth in catalan, the same can eb said for any language. In any case, there’s too much English literature for me to ever read it all, and there’s also so much wealth that has been translated for me into English.

    But just to repeat myself one more time, “I was just trying to suggest something more constructive for esperantists to do than simply complaining, as we’ve seen them do more than once, that “everyone should learn esperanto ‘cos it’s better!” … Perhaps it’s a bad one, or (and this was always likely) just plain unrealistic. It’s up to the Esperanto community, who would have to put in the effort, to judge.”

    If you have a better idea, great! But just telling everyone to learn Esperanto because they should is flogging a dead horse. You have to give people better reasons than that, no?

  17. Despite our disagreement, it may interest you that I was actually planning to do something actually similar to your proposal. I’ve persuaded members of Kataluna Esperanto-Asocio to start posting both original and translated articles on Catalonia’s recent strife for independence and the referendum that is scheduled for 2014, because it seems that foreign press has gotten a very limited view of the topic. We expect foreign esperantists to read them and even translate them in their languages.

    Then you may be in doubt: Is this a EU-policy problem or not? I would say it is, because for Catalans independence without EU membership is unthinkable, and the challenges of the internal enlargement of the EU played prominently in our November ballots. Indeed, Spain’s likely veto to Catalonia’s admission will test the entire institutional framework of the EU. Yet others would dismiss it as just another example of a “bag of topics” particular to a nation and of little interest elsewhere, like the British exit referendum.

    Thus, we have a power issue here: Who sets the agenda of what is an EU issue worthy of general interest and what is not? Ideally, it should be the citizenry, but so far it’s been the political elites (the same elites that exclude Esperanto and all language issues from the agenda). Since those technocratic elites work in English, set the agenda in English, and decide on it in English, few of those topics get discussed at length in the local media. Therefore, as English is used precisely to prevent discussion, the problem may be that actually not enough information is being produced on those topics in other languages to translate in into Esperanto. Yet this is just my guess. On the other hand, without a common language the citizenry has no way to set a common, alternative agenda.

  18. Great minds think alike! ;-) You’re absolutely right that the multilingual factor can determine the news agenda, so best of luck with the project you’re getting together.

    When you have these posts in Esperanto, make sure this content gets tracked by Bloggingportal (by then hopefully we’ll have the Esperanto language filter ready), to make it easier for Esperanto bloggers and other media with an interest in European affairs to find it, perhaps integrate it into their work in other national languages, etc.

    PS This reminds me of a post I wrote a while back about the situation in Belgium, where “most foreign correspondents … [posted to Brussels to cover EU affairs] get their news on Belgian affairs from the RTBF (the public francophone media), simply because more of them speak French than Dutch. What’s a Flemish nationalist to do? I explore their strategy in The value of politically-motivated news, and as you’ll see I can’t really make up my mind what I think.

  19. Thank you for the mention. Sorry I’ve not been able to comment until now.

    Your idea is interesting, but, as other people have commented, you need a level of resources and commitment that is difficult for a community of volunteers like the Esperanto one. We’ll try, though.

    Your proposal and the whole issue raised has been trated in the chief web magazine in Esperanto, “Libera Folio”. See

    BTW, one of the problems with the use of English, is that for non native speakers, many nuances are lost, and so we are in inferiority of conditions. Just one example: I cannot understand your reaction to the comment by Harri. Perhaps, being Spanish, I have misunderstood his message, or yours, or you have misunderstood his intentions. I have had conversations in the past in Esperanto (he’s Finnish) and he is a very kind person. Perhaps he has not explained himself properly, or you have not perceived his intentions, or I have misunderstood everything, but your response to him, and the first reaction to Rubén’s comments, have seemed to me undeservedly harsh. A language problem, perhaps

  20. About creating critical mass.
    I once calculated in 2004 for the European Election that Europe would need only 20 years time of schooling to build a 100-million mass of young people, if Esperanto would be taught in all European school.
    It is perfectly feasible by e-learning and would required only a part of time dedicated to languages. Esperantist have been saying that from 50 years, but there is only a handfull of schools where pupils have that chance to meet Esperanto early enough to get an easy access to other foreign studies.

    The vicious circle can be breached at least at individual level. I often post interview of bilingual families in my blog if you are interested to get a flash forward to the future of european citizen.
    Cyrille to get the interviews

  21. Vast amounts of political discussion occur at Yahoo and Google groups, at Facebook, within the nearly ninety year old Workers Esperanto Movement, SAT (Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda) in our Green Party (Verduloj) groups and websites. It is unfair to suggest we esperantists are not periodically reaching out on social issues! I maintain several blogs of interest….certainly not mainly about European politics. For informing the English speaking world about Esperanto I summerize in English at To describe major accomplishments of the US Esperanto movement I blog at To describe many of my own social concerns partly in English partly in Esperanto I blog at To emphasize the numerous English teachers who prefer Esperanto I blog at . To unite the many librarians I’ve met that use and prefer Esperanto I created I believe their are a thousand great blogs out there in Esperanto or multilingual that tackle some social issues and professional issues. Social issues will not be resolved without mutual faith. In this area Esperantists outdo all English-speakers despite our much small numbers.

  22. Thanks for passing on the article. I can only read the google translate of it, so I can’t really judge it that well.

    One thing I would point out is that I was referring to a blog-conversation about Esperanto that took place in 2009, not Javier’s 2012 post. The 2009 conversation is now offline, which is regrettable, as it took pretty much the same course, with certain Esperantists getting quite upset that all of us Eurobloggers didn’t immediately stop everything we were doing and learn Esperanto. This is perhaps an exaggeration, but there’s an element of truth in it. It ended with the blogger concerned agreeing to learn Esperanto, but you can guess what happened …

    Anyway, as I said, perhaps my idea is “a bad one, or (and this was always likely) just plain unrealistic. It’s up to the Esperanto community, who would have to put in the effort, to judge. After all, I dont know what resources you have, or what better ideas you have had.

    I was just trying to contribute an idea through which you could create unique and valuable content that would demonstrate Esperanto’s suitability as a lingua france for the EU online public sphere and might just motivate some of its denizens to learn it.

    As for Harri, the bad temper started with his second comment: “I thought you might be thinking of interesting and attractive blogging, but that seems not to be the case. There are more than enough average-quality euroblogs (in any language) to satisfy the readership which hardly exceeds the number of the bloggers.”. I took offence to the first part, thought the latter part both rude and ignorant, and, as Brian agreed, found the whole comment rather snide.

    But I do agree that I probably misinterpreted Rubén’s first comment due to language issues.

    All of which demonstrates the need for a lingua franca. I think you know what I would suggest … ;-)

  23. The idea is certainly well intended but I don’t see how anything like this could happen. (Then again, I did not foresee many other things that happened at the end but that’s not the point.) A good blog requires a writer who knows his topic and offers some views that can’t be found elsewhere. We would need several dozens of this kind in order to bring an all-EU Esperanto blog network to life. I don’t see this potential in the existing Esperanto blogger (or internet) scene.

    Anyway, the whole approach would only mean to substitute English with Esperanto which is not really the idea (and considered realistic or desireable by the Esperanto speakers I know). Instead, let’s focus on what Esperanto speakers are doing already (and what is loosely connected to the EU):

    a) learning many different foreign languages. English is not “the enemy” of Esperanto – the real enemy is the thought that English is enough. A good practice at social networks like Facebook is to publish new statuses in several languages at once, including Esperanto. This is where Esperanto really works as a “bridge language” because this way I read a lot about stuff I would have totally missed otherwise. It also shows that it’s better to focus on the capabilities of the Esperanto speakers than on the language itself.

    b) enabling contact with ordinary people from all over the world (including Europe). I witnessed it only two weeks ago. 258 people from 34 countries coming together for a week. For me it’s a tradition since I was a child (I am a native speaker of Esperanto) but the more I think about it, the more impressed I am by the friendly contacts between people from countries with not-so-friendly relationships.

    I consider these points to be much more important than any blogosphere in Esperanto. After all, blogs can be written by old, bitter single men whining about how stupid the rest of the world is (which also happens in Esperanto)… a real exchange of ideas requires at least some social abilities – and this is what can push the European idea further.

  24. @Cyril, Neil and Kunar, many apologies – your comments were caught by my spam filter, as were the two pingbacks, above.

    My spamfilter’s bad behaviour is a real shame, as all three comments are excellent but are only published now, when the conversation seems to have reached exhausted point.

    Still, I’ll see if I can find the time to respond sometime this weekend…

  25. @Cyril,
    – if you can get one million signatures, try a European Citizens Initiative? However, even if you succeed, you’ll probably find that the EU cannot force countries to include Esperanto in their curricula, and that Now is Not the Time for the EU to be forcing (what will look like) Another Crazy Scheme from Brussels down everyone’s throats. Still, worth a thought. as it would, at the very least, raise the issue and perhaps prompt some countries to consider Esperanto a little more.

    – the critical mass will be reached when so much quality material is available in Esperanto that it makes sense for people to learn and publish in Esperanto.

    Which brings me to …

    @Neil, who says “I believe their are a thousand great blogs out there in Esperanto or multilingual that tackle some social issues and professional issues”.

    The reason your comment was flagged as spam was the number of links. What you really need is one site to point to that aggregates, organises (i.e., categorises/tags) and then promotes all Esperanto blog posts on a set of topics (politics, social issues…)., for example, aggregates and human-processes the posts from over 1000 blogs covering EU issues. It’s 100% voluntary.

    Is there an Esperanto equivalent? If there was, and there was (say) a weekly roundup of the best posts translated into English, French, German, etc,. (to show the rest of us just how excellent the Esperanto conversation really is), then you’d be able to demonstrate the critical mass I was discussing above.

    Which is why I thought I’d ask the BP technical guys to add Esperanto to the language list. No answer, sadly… ;-(

  26. @Kunar

    One thing that confuses me is that there are some commenters who say “there aren’t enough of us Esperantists to make this work”, and there are others (like Neil) who say there are thousands of you. You can’t both be right. An Esperanto blog aggregator, as I suggested to Neil above, would settle the question.

    No, I was not advocating substituting English with Esperanto. I was proposing it as a bridging language. But, yes, I wholeheartedly agree with “blogs can be written by old, bitter single men whining about how stupid the rest of the world is” … some things never change.

  27. @Mathew Lowry

    E-planedo collects blog posts from a lot of Esperanto blogs, but it doesn’t seem really up-to-date to me. This is the best I know about at the moment. By the way, the top post right now is Putinoj de Svedoj ni neniam estis (“We were never whores of the Swedes”) about Finnish identity.

    I don’t see a real contradiction between Neil Blonstein and me. He points out that there are thousand of Esperanto blogs out there. I say we do not have enough blog authors from all EU countries to could write specifically about EU topics and with a high quality regarding content. So the mass of Esperanto blogs is not the problem, it’s the problem of finding blogs a) only about one topic b) with an author who knows what he writes about and has more insight than “the average reader” and c) this for every EU country. To get the dimensions right, I could think of about a handful of German blogs covering EU topics sometimes but nearly no-one only about the EU.

    Your idea of including Esperanto at seems to me a very realistic approach. Not that I really expect Esperanto to be added but a) using an existing platform about a topic which includes several languages is better than trying to reinvent everything b) to be visible it’s better to take part in a not-Esperanto-exclusive project and c) this will work even if different Esperanto blogs are not updated daily. If we collect all Esperanto blog (deemed worthy enough) that cover EU topics and use only their posts in the category “EU” (e-planedo works like that more or less) then we will have at least some updates in Esperanto from different countries.

  28. Hello Matthew, here‘s the report on Catalonia I wrote about, it just came out. It’s not a blog, but we may consider that approach in the future.

    Going back to your topic, and as my closing remark, I would dare to say that what really bothers you and many others about Esperanto is that learning it is still a matter of moral choice, i.e., whether to live up to your ideals and principles, and sadly morality is not in fashion any more. Mind to think that it would remain so even if the EU started massively promoting it, for we could still choose whether learning Esperanto or only English, whereas making it compulsory would cause a terrible backlash, besides being still unthinkable.

    (Saying ‘we’ I meant continentals. You, native English speakers, have another problem on top: you are systematically trained not to learn languages. I’ve taught Spanish in a US college and was shocked by an education system geared to systematically cripple language learning abilities. My own American husband has failed to learn Catalan or Spanish after three years here, because he lacked motivation: languages were ‘merely’ my major, why should he take them up? Also, I’ve witnessed how many English speakers are insidiously discouraged from speaking other languages by people wanting to use them to practice English. Thus, all your excuses about your inborn unability to learn languages, and your request of a network of Esperanto EU bloggers, sound to me like a psychological self-defense mechanism to indefinitely postpone language learning.)

    Excuse the rant, but you may see now why I’d rather give up on adults, and concentrate the effort on children, who are learning machines and lack the many prejudices that clout adults’ intelligence. Blogging in Esperanto about European issues is something many school teachers would love to promote among students, but before that the EU should put Esperanto on an equal footing with other officially recognized foreign languages in school curricula, which still hasn’t.

  29. It always amuses me when people start psycho-analysing others based on their blog, or tweets, or whatever, without even meeting them. Usually, it reveals more about the critic’s mindset than anything else.

    So apparently everyone who doesn’t learn Esperanto is immoral, and not living up to their ideals and principles? Wow. And I have a psychological self-defence system preventing me from learning English? Really?

    I’d mention that every exam I took in both French and Latin during my first three years of high-school were always my lowest scores, despite requiring double the effort I put into every other subject, but I wouldn’t want to disturb your sense of moral superiority.

  30. Well, some people don’t even have principles, so they don’t have this problem either. Not that I think that applies here ;-)

    Seriously, the problem is not whether esperantists are self-righteous or not, but how certain people comes to see us as a moral challenge; I believe that’s the only cause of the defensive position some people adopt when I mention just in passing that I speak Esperanto, immediately trying to discredit the concept itself with disparaging remarks. When confronted to it, the challenge to the individual is very simple: since you think it’s the fair thing to do, will you do it? If the answer is negative, some defense must be set up to avoid seeing oneself as hypocritical and therefore “immoral”. The alternative is resorting to innate inabilities, be they imagined or real (I believe both cases may happen). Of course, many other people are simply ignorant and never even come close to realize the ramifications of proposing a neutral international language, so the above doesn’t apply.

    It the topic interests you, there is a famous essay on psychological reactions to Esperanto by a psychologist.

  31. @Rubén, you write “When confronted to it, the challenge to the individual is very simple: since you think it’s the fair thing to do, will you do it?”

    No. That’s not what I remember thinking when Esperanto first emerged in discussions back in 2009, nor again recently. My reaction was not to feel ‘challenged’ – it was much more straightforward: “sounds interesting, even worthwhile, and given the time I’d do it … but is it worth the time, given everything else in my life right now?“.

    One of us back in 2009 decided to take the plunge, but soon realised it wasn’t worth it compared with other things in his life. It’s a relative, not an absolute, calculation.

    My suggestion was one among many ideas you must have heard about how to change the dynamics of that cost/benefit calculation.

    If I’d offer any more advice, it would be that dismissing people who decide to not learn Esperanto as unprincipled or immoral is not exactly going to help your cause…

  32. Well, there you have it, then: individual cost-benefit calculation solves nothing because it leads everybody back to English and to everything else that affords immediate benefits and rewards. That’s why I wrote before that I think yours is an economist’s position. Yet I confess I only know superficially what economists have written on Esperanto. The studies by Nobel-prized Reinhard Selten, for instance, seem to me a mathematical game more than anything else.

    If you don’t understand my claim, let me turn the tables around: what kind of cost-benefit calculation would be doing the people you’re asking to invest time and effort in blogging on the EU in Esperanto? If anybody takes up your challenge, I don’t think many of them will do it in in anticipation of personal benefits, they’ll do it because they believe Esperanto and its spread to be a common good worth the sacrifice. That’s the same reason some people persist in learning Esperanto despite the lack of immediate rewards and become esperantists (rewards do exist, but in all language learning they come late, after the investment).

    In sum, you misunderstand me if you take me to believe that pursuing one’s own interest is always and necessarily “immoral” (your own term), but I do believe that investing one’s own effort in the creation of a common good is certainly a moral position. The first option is selfishness indeed, but selfishness is often a healthier option for individuals than selflessness.

    Within a purely cost-benefit calculation, we could even say that in the case that creation succeeds (here Esperanto blogs), the “piggy-backers” that take advantage of it later (here, learning the language to understand content that matters to them) would be taking a free ride and thus being “immoral”, but since in doing this they are furthering the other party’s goals (the spread of Esperanto) besides their own, that is a moot point. Yet the fact remains that in order to bootstrap Esperanto, you still need to start with somebody’s sacrifice. So cost-benefit calculation has to yield at some point.

  33. So, the only way any human being can improve the public good is to learn Esperanto?

    Ever considered the possibility that when I referred to cost/benefit calculations, I was talking about “what’s the best use of my time and effort for the public good?“?

    Personally, for example, I decided that investing my free time into redeveloping would provide greater public good than me learning esperanto, simply because (a) I’m lousy at languages, and (b) I’ve been building websites since 1995.

    What’s immoral or unprincipled about that?

    PS it was you who brought up morality (comment XXXII).

  34. Yes, I brought the issue of morality, but connected to the topic of language learning motivation from end to end.

    Indeed there are many ways of doing public good, all of them equally worthy. It is OK to specialize according to one’s skills. Esperanto is quite similar to those “one-issue parties” that focus on a single goal, in this case fairness in international communication.

    However, from deep specialization comes expertise. As an outsider, you made a proposal on the promotion of Esperanto. As you saw, most esperantists have responded here with both attentiveness and a good deal of skepticism stemming from different reasons. In my case, I had some qualms on the sufficiency of providing good content in Esperanto to motivate people to learn it (in language acquisition lingo “extrinsic motivation”) as opposed to the ethical reasons that moved most of us to learn it for its own sake (“intrinsic motivation”). That’s all there is to it.

    Anyway, I think most of us now see a natural link between blogging on EU topics and using Esperanto, so the idea is not outlandish in itself. We’ll see whether more people puts it to practice.

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