One language for everybody

One language for everybody ABSTRACT: "English, which has now become the lingua franca of the world, threatens to destroy the existence of all other languages within the space of a few generations. Only a neutral supernational language, created specifically for the purpose, can bring about universal, and particularly European communication without endangering the life of other languages and cultures." This is the view expressed by Esperantists. We may or may not agree, but what we must not accept is that very few people realize that the problem of language, too, is a problem of democracy. The Radical Party aims to be an instrument of transnational action for those who believe in federalism, in democracy, in justice and in nonviolence, also in the field of language and culture. (The Party New, n.4, September 1991) Draft manifesto There exists a problem which concerns democracy and the upholding of democracy: the creation of a universal, and particularly European means of communication that does not endanger the life of hundreds of languages. Only a planned and neutral language can fulfill this purpose. Esperanto is already an established language, with an extremely wide range of published texts, both translated and original; it is widespread as a spoken language in international exchanges, conferences, and Esperanto Cultural Centres. And it is also the language of human relations, including family relations. When a living language holds a hegemonic position as a lingua franca in Europe and in the world - the position now held by English - it threatens to destroy all other languages within the space of a few generations. Latin, for example, destroyed the native languages of ancient Europe; just as the language of the white peoples that colonized the New World destroyed the native languages of the American continent. In these two cases, the process took longer because international communications were relatively primitive and, above all, the mass media had not yet come into existence. The example of Latin, however, also shows the solution to the risk of absorption currently run by all the languages of the world. Having become a dead - and therefore "artificial" - language, no longer spoken as a mother tongue and, just as significantly, no longer the language of an Empire, for centuries Latin acted as the language of culture (and not only as an auxiliary language), without preventing the birth and the evolution of the vernacular tongues. Only a planned and neutral language, therefore, can serve universal, and above all European, communication without putting other languages at risk. And, as more than one hundred years of experience show, only Esperanto is now ready to carry out such a task: there is already a considerable quantity of written material in the language, both original and translated; it is widely used as a means of international dialogue, in research Conferences, and in Esperantist Cultural Centres; and it is also the vehicle of human relations, including family relations. Moreover, the fact that Esperanto is extremely easy to learn and that it is supernational in character, and therefore does not favour anyone or discriminate against anyone, puts everyone on an equal footing: there would no longer be privileged populations which avoid learning other languages by forcing other people to learn theirs, nor privileged classes which have the financial means to learn a language as difficult and complicated as English. However, a lingua franca does not become such by virtue of its merits, either practical or ethical: it does so as the consequence of a political and cultural debate which can bring about an awareness of the measure of the problem, or as the consequence of a political power that is able to support it. The achievement of the political unity of Europe is therefore necessary for the success of Esperanto. We are faced, therefore, with a dilemna. On one hand the political unity of Europe has not yet been achieved, and it will be a long time before we have a European Government, a European Parliament, and a European federal system with the powers and the strength to introduce proposals such as that outlined above, which in any case is still hindered by prejudices and lack of understanding. On the other hand we need to act immediately, because the dangers inherent in the hegemony of English are increasingly serious and any delay may lead fatally to a "point of no return". This is, however, a way out of the dilemna: a first, though decisive step which can and must be taken straight away. A number of experiments carried out at different times and in different places - and now scientifically studied and measured by the Institute of Cybernetics of the University of Paderborn in Germany - show that Esperanto, due to its rational and simple character, can serve as a useful instrument for the learning of other languages: if children first begin to learn Esperanto, they are then able, after two years, to pick up other languages more easily and more rapidly. In many countries the teaching of foreign languages is about to be introduced in elementary schools. This would be an ideal opportunity to introduce Esperanto as an instrument and a means, in the hope that in the future it may also be chosen as an end. With the decision to start teaching all children a foreign language from a very early age, Europe is about to make, or has already made, the most important choice of cultural policy in this century. This choice may lead either to the end of our languages and our cultures, and therefore to the end of the pluralism which constitutes the very "identity" of Europe, or to the achievement of the first, decisive step towards a rational and fair solution to the problem of international communication - a solution which respects all cultures - through the introduction of Esperanto as a pedagogic tool. The authorities in each country and in Europe should take at least this first step. This is not a renouncement of the final and more ambitious aim, but the proposal of a moderate, reasonable solution which can immediately be put into effect and which cannot fail to be accepted even by the opponents of the more long-term aim: a solution which would allow us to carry out any further tests that may be needed, and to take a final decision, which the time comes, "ex informata conscientia". **** Communicating in Europe ABSTRACT: The 1993 single market, partly due to the lack of communication between Europeans, risks being a tardy, rhetorical, and anti-democratic stage in the process of European integration: it favours those who have already organized themselves with regard to international communication, accepting the power and the linguistic monopoly imposed by the English-speaking countries. But can the European Community accept an imposition of this sort, knowing that a different choice, democratic and supernational, would count on a "market" of 350 million people? (The Party New, n.4, September 1991) The peoples of much of Europe will shortly experience an important event - the beginning, very probably, of true economic union. This will constitute a vital and perhaps decisive step towards political union, desired and hoped for by all those who believe in the future of the continent. Amongst the main problems that have to be solved in the construction of the political union of Europe is that of finding a way to overcome the difficulties of communication between people who speak different languages. This difficulty, from 1993 onwards, will force the vast majority of EC citizens to play a single, passive and consumerist role, leaving those who don't have much money "to consume" in even greater solitude and crisis, and preventing real mobility of all European workers throughout EC territory. These difficulties are destined to increase even further due to the movement of people and the consolidation of democracy throughout Europe. Each people rightly believes that its cultural heritage, and therefore its language, should be protected. This would not happen if one of the languages of the Community were officially chosen, or came in any case to monopolize communication in Europe. In this case all the other languages would have limited room for manoeuvre and would run the serious risk of disapp earing, even in the short term. To replace linguistic monopoly with the idea of an oligopoly, as the "Language Programme" of the European Community proposes, would mean that a small number of languages would have political and cultural power over all the others, without a true free market - in the linguistic field too - with adequate anti-trust laws, and without creating real communication between Europeans. But aside from the necessity of communicating directing without favouring certain peoples at the expense of others, it is also necessary to create a true European civic spirit, open also to the widening of the Community to take in other areas. It is necessary to furnish people with the objective of equal communication, accessible to everybody, together with the acquisition of a true supernational civic spirit: the culture of the Esperanto community shows that this is possible. Why not suggest Esperanto as a second language capable of furthering democratic European union in the most effective way, with great saving of time and resources? This would allow the birth of an original European culture, a truly supernational identity, ensuring the integrity and the development of single ethnic identities. And it would constitute the essential premise for the rapid political constitution of the United States of Europe: more rapid, without a doubt, than the economic path, followed since as long ago as 1950, has proved to be.