January 7, 2013
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: Esperanto4.eu
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 ‘Esperanto4.eu’ 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 bloggingportal.eu will support you, as the alternative is to have this debate again in 2017…Mathew Lowry