P*rl in Latin, whither Python?

Nick Bensema nickb at fnord.io.com
Sun Nov 19 21:17:48 CET 2000


In article <m31ywf1rc8.fsf at localhost.localdomain>,
Lieven Marchand  <mal at bewoner.dma.be> wrote:
>Martin Christensen <knightsofspamalot-factotum at mail1.stofanet.dk> writes:
>
>> >>>>> "Lieven" == Lieven Marchand <mal at bewoner.dma.be> writes:
>> >> Not many Americans speak more than one language, and those who
>> >> speak more than two are truly rare. When I tell them that I am
>> >> currently learning my seventh most of them don't believe me.
>> Lieven> I think that's the biggest argument against Esperanto. Most
>> Lieven> people motivated enough to learn Esperanto are amateur
>> Lieven> linguists who speak a lot of languages, so I've never learned
>> Lieven> Esperanto since the odds of meeting someone with whom I would
>> Lieven> have no language in common but Esperanto is fairly small.
>> 
>> Now, that's an argument that bites its own tail if I've ever heard
>> one.
>> 
>> 1) Esperanto is a nice idea, and it would be great if everybody spoke
>>    it.
>> 
>> 2) Not many people speak Esperanto, so it's not immediately useful.
>> 
>> 3) Because it is not immediately useful, I will not learn it.
>> 
>
>It's a fairly common problem in introducing anything new, be it a new
>computer language, a new media format or anything else. Look at where
>digital television is. Look at the relative success of stuff like
>DCC/MiniDisc. God could only create the world in six days because he
>had no installed base. Generally, the only way this gets solved and
>something new gets introduced is by heavy subsidizing for a number of
>years by a large corporate sponsor. A comparable situation would be
>getting some countries to make Esperanto a standard course in high
>school.

Actually, I think the unpopularity of Esperanto owes to that it doesn't
really have a "killer app" that is obvious to the public.  People learn
Spanish to speak to Mexicans, Latinos, and Spaniards.  People learn
German and French to speak to Germans and French people and to read
written works in their respective original languages.  But why would
someone learn Esperanto?

The killer app for Esperanto might be travel to foreign countries in
which the language is not widely known, or politically charged.  That is,
after all, the situation which prompted Zamenhof to invent the language.
That could make it popular, say, in the Balkans, or other troubled parts
of Eastern Europe, and perhaps Africa and Asia as well.  But why would
plump white middle-class Westerners want to bother ourselves?

For us, the killer app might be in making one's writing more readable
for the entire world, either through machine translation or through
genuine comprehension.  It is conceivable that if Babelfish or
Elingo supported Esperanto, one might get better results translating
Esperanto to English, Spanish, Japanese, and French, than translating
any one to any of the others.

>Oh, it's on my list of languages to study. But you haven't answered my
>main argument. How many people speak Esperanto who don't also speak a
>lot of other languages? If you and I hadn't English in common and
>Esperanto didn't exist, I guess we could work something out between
>Dutch/Danish/German.

I've heard many a story of married couples who had no common language,
and invented pretty much a big seven-language creole between each other.
Secret languages!  They're not just for twins anymore!

But consider that English is the kind of language where, even if you learn
it, you might have an incomprehensible accent because of the confusing
spelling.  Or you might have a hard time accumulating vocabulary.
Same thing in German.  I'd say it might be easier to "work something out"
in Esperanto than in Low German.

As for me, I believe it's one of its strengths that Esperanto speakers
also speak a bunch of other languages.  It means that the Esperanto
community is full of generally educated and open-minded people.

-- 
Nick Bensema <nickb at io.com>      ICQ#2135445 
==== ======= ==============
GAME OVER        CONTINUE?          CREDIT 1



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