Lest my blog turn into a gathering place for anorak-wearing saddoes, this shall be my final word on Esperanto.
After my previous post, I learnt two important things:
1) Being rude gets you more readers and more comments than being nice; and
2) I was correct in my predictions about how Esperantists would react.
Let me expand upon the second point for a moment: I had a sinking feeling that they would say "but it does have songs, literature, folklore etc". Which is true in the sense of 'stuff made up my Esperantists to amuse other Esperantists', but profoundly untrue in a deeper sense. No, there isn't a folklore; unless you start twisting definitions until they scream. Because there are no "folk".
Esperanto has dwindled, whatever its proponents claim, from merely obscure to wilfully bizarre. It has approximately one sixth the number of speakers as Albanian, and nowhere you can go to actually learn it for real, on the street, from native speakers. Esperantists may decry my shallowness for being able to flirt and eat in Bahasa (it says much about there own tragic geekiness that they regard good food and relationships as beneath them; 'beyond them' might be closer to the mark); but of course that isn't all I can do - in my 15 years of working as an occasional freelance translator/interpreter I have wrestled with TV subtitles, mobile phone menus, liferaft instructions, sauce-bottle labels and reports on coconut palm cultivation, to name but a few. In much of this I have been aided and abetted by my handy sleeping dictionary, Mrs Byard. We work as a bilingual team (and in the interests of political correctness I should point out that I am her sleeping dictionary in English). I wouldn't have been able to do the dull and worthy stuff half so well had I failed to get the important things - enough food to keep me alive while studying in Indonesia and a native-speaker partner - sorted first.
Secondly, I am reassured that I am not alone. This chap makes the pertinent point - something that occurred to me to, years ago, when first getting to grips with Bahasa - that Esperanto is simply too obscurely Eurocentric to make it as a genuine international language. If one were to decide on a medium of global communication, it wouldn't be Esperanto. Even regularising conjugations and declensions misses the point that neither are necessary to construct a perfectly adequate language. Zamenhof was unable to stand back from his Indo-European cultural context and imagine something simpler and easier; Esperanto is at root a failure of either imagination or knowledge of the world of languages beyond Europe.
Let me explain what I mean. In Bahasa, verbs don't change according to subject. I go - Aku pergi; he goes - dia pergi. Why should the verb change? Furthermore, the verb doesn't change according to tense or mood either; these are indicated by single words which are dropped into the sentence. Instead of learning a tense, you learn one word, which can then apply to any verb (in fact, any predicate regardless of part of speech) - sedang for the progressive, sudah for the present perfect, akan or hendak for the future.
Once you have liberated yourself from the tripwires of grammatical endings (ack), however regular, you begin to perceive them as a non-functional frippery; a sort of linguistic peacock's tail - magnificent if you like that sort of thing, but a total ****ing encumbrance in real life.
I'm not suggesting Bahasa would necessarily make the best global language (although it has around 300 times as many speakers as Esperanto - many of them strikingly pretty - and a genuine culture behind it including a fabulous cuisine); merely that a truly 'easy to learn' global language would not look like Esperanto.
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