Vivekanand Vellanki

From Wikipedia: Esperanto is a constructed auxiliary language. Its creator was Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof, a Polish eye doctor. He created the language to make international communication easier. His goal was to design Esperanto in such a way that people can learn it much more easily than any other national language.

For any new idea to be widely adopted, there are many hurdles. This is a common problem faced by startups all over the world. Let's ask questions that one ask of a startup to understand the problems in Esperanto being widely adopted.

What is the problem Esperanto is solving? When people from different countries meet, they have trouble communicating. It looks like this is the problem that Esperanto is solving.

How many people face the problem that Esperanto is solving? The following sets of people face this problem:

  • Bureaucrats
  • Tourists
  • Businessmen
  • Students studying in other countries

May be, there are more people who face this problem. But, it appears that the total population that faces this problem is about 10-15% of the world's population (if not lesser).

How is this problem solved today? Today, English solves this problem to a certain extent. Most of the users listed above know English.

However, there are still a large number of people who do not know English - think of Chinese students in the US, or Indian students studying medicine in Russia.

Also, tourists to countries like France, Germany or China where the language of choice is not English. In my visits to France and China, I found it difficult to communicate effectively with locals (China was harder than France).

As a written language, language translators do a pretty good job of translating from Chinese to English and vice versa. There are apps today that do a pretty good job of translating restaurant menus to English or any other language.

All these other solutions make it harder for people to adopt a new language.

What are the hurdles to adoption? Some hurdles to adoption are the following:

  • Not many people speak the language. Paraphrasing a saying about Queen's English, "Even if one knows Esperanto, who does one converse with in Esperanto".
  • Esperanto is not spoken at homes. Languages spoken in the home are easy for small children to learn
  • Not many teachers teaching Esperanto
  • Are there books/news papers/dictionaries to help people learn and practice Esperanto?

Other questions to ask:

Are there any rich and/or powerful people who are promoting the adoption of Esperanto? Money and patronage are required for most ideas to succeed.

Who benefits from Esperanto being widely accepted? If there is no one who benefits greatly, there is no driving force that is tirelessly working towards the success of the idea.

As a corollary, think of new computer languages and look at how difficult it is to get a new computer language widely adopted. Most computer languages that are widely adopted like Java, Javascript or C# have had rich and powerful businesses supporting them.

Sangeetha Pulapaka

The only natural languages we know of are human. In addition to such human languages as English, Spanish, Russian, and Chinese, with which we are all familiar, there are many less well-known languages, many of them spoken by hundreds of people. The more marginalized languages are dying out at an alarming rate. Owing to lack of evidence, our information about their origin is limited, but it seems likely that they evolved out of communication systems similar to those used by animals for communication. Living human languages are learned as first languages by infants and are used for face-to-face communication and many other purposes.

Natural languages are influenced by a mixture of unconscious evolutionary factors and conscious innovation and policy making. In most cases, the historical record does not allow us to tell what role these factors played in the development of a given feature, but the difficulty of consciously controlling the language used by a large population suggests that unconscious causes predominate.

The term "artificial language" is often used for humanlike languages that are created either for amusement (like J. R. R. Tolkien's Elvish) or for some practical purpose (Esperanto).

Artificial languages of a quite different sort are created for scientific and technological reasons, and the design of such languages is closely connected with logical theory. Logic originated with Aristotle in his Prior Analytics. Although Aristotle's syllogistic theory used symbols for terms (such as "some," "all," "not") that make up propositions, such symbols and the expressions made up out of them were not generally considered as part of a linguistic system until much later.

Creators of artificial languages tend to devise grammars that seem "simple" to them, but in fact carry a huge baggage of silent assumptions from their native languages. For example, I've read testimonies of Chinese students of Esperanto who find its obligatory marking of case and tense extremely confusing and difficult to master. 

Not to even mention the issues of syntax, which is impossible to describe in a simple way (if at all!) for anything that is supposed to be spoken by humans. For example, just try precisely explaining the usage of prepositions in any language, natural or artificial, and you'll end up writing a whole book. Esperanto "en" will be translated as "in" in an Esperanto textbook for English speakers, and as "u" in a textbook for Croatian speakers. Yet, I could go on for hours about various differences in the use of English "in" and Croatian "u" - and I'm sure a fluent Esperanto speaker could do the same when it comes to the differences in use between Esperanto "en" and either of these.

Designers of constructed languages basically want us to use the syntax of their native language for anything that's not explicitly specified (which is to say - the vast majority of the syntax rules for what they consider to be the correct version of their invented language). 

The famous billionaire George Soros is allegedly a native speaker of Esperanto.