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    Esperanto; international languages vs. keyboard layouts

    • Started by Shai
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    • Shai
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    Speaking of Esperanto in the other thread, someone has already made the analogy between keyboard layouts and languages, and I couldn't agree more (although in the end he chose Asetion over an older version of Colemak). I personally see Esperanto as a lost cause and I agree with most of the criticisms (see also). I think that Basic English is a much better choice for an international language. Check out the Bible in Basic English and Wikipedia in Basic English.

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    • From: Viken, Norway
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    Interesting. But I would focus on one huge difference between languages and keyboards; namely, that languages aren't much fun when you're alone! While I can type happily away on my new Colemak from day two (I'll write off day one as I wasn't really typing away anything that day), my Esperanto gets so little workout without me actively seeking out its small community - for which I don't find the time - that I'm starting to wonder whether my Icelandic proficiency isn't in fact about to overtake it. And I never learnt Icelandic...

    Also, I think that you have taken a mature stance regarding the competition: It was never you, nor any other Colemak proponents, that urged me to ditch Dvorak for the Colemak (apart from the layout-neutral CapsLock-to-Backspace thing). That was solely my own curiosity and perfectionism. As long as we can afford to suffer the users of the "nearly-as-good" layouts, the mood in the Colemak user group will never become as religiously sectarian as I remember it from the Esperanto society. That other guy choosing to stick with his Asetion isn't really a problem: He even acknowledged that the Colemak is a slightly better alternative, and only kept to the Asetion because he couldn't find it in him to switch again.

    Maybe Basic English has something for it. But even with the strong position English has in today's world, in effect becoming the "modern Latin", I'm not at all convinced. There is still much politics and identification in the world of language, a fact that I find to be often underplayed by native English speakers. (Not a stab at you!) I remember listening in at a UN session in Geneva once, and becoming very convinced that these representatives wouldn't be switching to English as a diplomatic language - basic or otherwise - any time soon. The controversial politics of the USA in the Middle East lately certainly haven't made English very popular over there. In analogy: After WW2 and the German occupation of Norway, the position of German as a second language was dramatically weakened while English flourished. One can only speculate on how it would've been if the UK had been quick enough with their own occupation plans to beat Germany to the pit!

    And while some non-English speakers would learn Basic English, I don't see many "proper" English speakers being willing to learn it. So Basic English might end up as little more than a stepping-stone; and I don't know how useful that really is.

    I've thought that there ought to be one "neutralish" constructed and consistent/easy-to-use language per major World part: The Latin/Germanic, the Middle East, the African and the Asian common languages. But I don't really believe that the languages within those regions even are similar enough to warrant such constructs. And that many common languages defeats much of the purpose anyway.

    Unless the UN (just the EU might help, actually) manage to agree on a lingual neutral ground, I don't see utopia happening. And some powerful countries don't play nice in there.

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
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    • Registered: 18-Nov-2006
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    Well, hrmph. I myself am not happy with Esperanto, kvankam mi povas paroli la lingvon iom bone [although I can speak the language somewhat well.] My best friend is trying to learn Esperanto but is having tremendous difficulty and I don't understand why.

    Some of the criticisms of Esperanto are fair (such as the redundancy of certain grammatical endings, the irregular, haphazard word derivation system - see my web page http://geocities.com/Qwertie256/misc/es … lems.html). But other criticisms are unfair because they are inescapable - for example some will criticize it for being too "Euro-centric", saying that word roots should be taken from all major world languages; while others will say it ought to be more recognizable to Europeans. And although to some extent arguments about the wordstock are quite reasonable, it should be kept in mind that for any constructed language there are *always* critics of the wordstock and critics of a language's word compounding system, no matter how the vocabulary was selected or what the system is.

    Nevertheless there are a lot of common criticisms of Esperanto that have been avoided by other languages without much critical repercussion. For example, if an IAL (international auxilliary language) design doesn't have accusative case markers and plural adjective agreement, the strongest criticism you'll hear is that it's "no better than Esperanto".

    I'm afraid I can't see Basic English as a good international language. Why would one want to learn a language with the all the phonological and spelling difficulties of English, except as a stepping-stone on the way to full English? I agree with DreymaR: it's hard to imagine many English speakers would be inclined to learn Basic English (I, for one, am not).

    In any case, it's not really up to us, is it? As DreymaR pointed out, a language, more than a keyboard layout, requires a community (though it certainly helps for keyboards too.) In over a hundred years Esperanto's community has only grown to between 100,000-3,000,000 speakers (estimates vary widely) and I can't imagine it growing much more than that with the way things are now. Some people assume that if any IAL succeeds, it will be Esperanto. I don't like that idea since I would really like some other IAL to "win" instead (perhaps Ido, perhaps Novial, perhaps some as-yet-not-invented language to be designed by a team of the world's top linguists). With so few speakers, Esperanto has the ideology and momentum to survive, but not to become a second language for the world.

    I think what an IAL really needs to thrive is government support. The UN would be a good start--as Claude Piron has pointed out, with the UN's large document translation expenses, it could actually save money by standardizing on Esperanto or another IAL. But to really thrive I think an IAL would need a home base, a geographic area where it thrives. An area where at least two languages are spoken already.

    Consider that it is more economical to make everyone learn an "easy" IAL than to make everyone learn a particular "natural" language. For example, suppose you have a region in which a few different languages are spoken and that the most popular language is X (X could be English or anything else.) Suppose 50% of the people can speak X and that there is an IAL called L that can be learned in 1/4 of the time it takes to learn X. Then teaching everyone L should cost half as much as teaching everyone X.

    It would be more economical in the long run if children were brought up on Colemak instead of Qwerty. But the problem is community: languages need big communities to thrive; an existing large community of IAL speakers might grow naturally, but such a community cannot form spontaneously. I think a government somewhere needs to create that community by bringing up a generation of children on a particular IAL.

    I can't point to a particular place in the world where an IAL would be an obvious solution to a language problem. But there must be someplace where it would be a good idea--some place where three or four languages are spoken and where language barriers are somehow economically detrimental, so that an IAL is the most efficient solution to the economic language barrier problem. Of course, personally I think language barriers should be removed even if there is no clear economic benefit, but that is an altruist belief and the argument "it's the right thing to do" is rarely (never?) enough to convince a government of anything.

    So the point is, it's not up to those of us who speak or promote IALs to decide which one will "win". It's up to governments--the organizations in charge of teaching children--to decide if and which language will obtain a large community of speakers. Governments seem to be the only entities powerful enough to create the requisite communities. All ordinary citizens can do is seed-planting... spreading the idea around so that perhaps one day it will be "on the table" during government negotiations.

    Last edited by Qwertie (01-Jan-2007 00:52:15)
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    Qwertie said:

    I can't point to a particular place in the world where an IAL would be an obvious solution to a language problem.

    It'd have to be somewhere like India, where English already fills that role in a babel of more than 800 local languages IIRC. Having it happen in the Middle East somewhere would be most poetic, since that's the homeland of Babel itself.  :) Seriously though, I believe many would like to see Arabic in that role (however linguistically unsuited it may be) so you'd likely run into opposition from some of the more zealous Muslims.

    You're right in that a home region would help a constructed language establish a more solid number base. At the same time however, this might make it less politically desirable and easier to write off as a "their" language instead of something worth learning for everybody. The best thing might be if the UN saw fit to initiate a process to construct a new and better IAL... and actually succeeded at it. But as I said, the UN enjoys too little respect from several powerful players (including the USA and China I think) and therefore doesn't get the funding and support it needs.

    Last edited by DreymaR (01-Jan-2007 06:45:46)

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    • From: The Netherlands
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    check out lojban or loglish!

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    • Registered: 26-Jan-2007
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    Quite frankly, NO language will ever fit the role of IAL, no mater what one would want due mainly to ignorance and politics. As far as making the comparison to keybords, one's the prision, the other is the cup you rake against the bars. You can change the cup, but not the prison.

    Sil

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    • From: Saguenay Lac St-Jean
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    English is a good international language.

    Thanks to the British Empire, it's known widely. And thanks to French being the language of England's elite at the time, English developed into an easy to learn, grammaticaly simple language.

    The French language should be simplified. Some attempts have been made but L'Académie Française has refused all of them. Except one that was passed in 1990 and it's taking years to implement.

    A simplified Version of English exists. It's funny, i don't see why it's easier in any way than conventional English.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_English

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    ChaperonNoir said:

    English is a good international language.

    because to be straight-from-the-shoulder, it is a nest of obstinate rules and cultural identicalness, conjunctive to amentia and ill gotten prestigiousness.

    Last edited by Silphatos (27-Jan-2007 19:51:55)
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    Fairly devoid of disambiguation issues, sporting exhilarating archaic flourishes with which to daunt the novices, in possession of a vocabulary purloined from a plenitude of sources that nowadays is sufficiently large to warrant impending gravitational thesauric collapses... indeed, that's the good international language we all love and cherish for sure.

    English is so far the only language that has presented me with an actual word-a-day calendar - for native speakers, no less. I was astounded to find that I, a Norwegian, knew several English words that several well-educated English people I met didn't. (The nincompoops didn't know what a rood is, pah!) Be that as it may, I'm still the proverbial fish on dry land whenever I make a stab at true fluency.

    My stint as an Esperantist at least presented an opportunity to meet fellow speakers on diplomatically plainer ground, all other things set aside.

    *** Learn Colemak in 2–5 steps with Tarmak! ***
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    ChaperonNoir said:

    English is a good international language.

    Hey, you have convinced me!

    over a billion in India

    over a billion in China 


    in Science now, if you want visibility you better publish in English. 

    English because of it's history is a total whore of a language that sucks up everything
    and adapts to everything it encounters.

    I just don't see the point of something like Esparanto, Ido, etc.   


    ----from an obnoxious monolingual Texan.---

    Last edited by keyboard samurai (29-Jan-2007 16:50:01)
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    • From: Saguenay Lac St-Jean
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    DreymaR said:

    Fairly devoid of disambiguation issues, sporting exhilarating archaic flourishes with which to daunt the novices, in possession of a vocabulary purloined from a plenitude of sources that nowadays is sufficiently large to warrant impending gravitational thesauric collapses... indeed, that's the good international language we all love and cherish for sure.

    English is so far the only language that has presented me with an actual word-a-day calendar - for native speakers, no less. I was astounded to find that I, a Norwegian, knew several English words that several well-educated English people I met didn't. (The nincompoops didn't know what a rood is, pah!) Be that as it may, I'm still the proverbial fish on dry land whenever I make a stab at true fluency.

    My stint as an Esperantist at least presented an opportunity to meet fellow speakers on diplomatically plainer ground, all other things set aside.

    How come your English is so developed DreymaR? The Internets? Books ? It's surprising because i bet you probably have ZERO opportunities to speak your English in Norway.

    Silphatos : I don't really get your point, but the thing is : I speak French, Dreymar speaks Normand and still, thanks to English, we can communicate.  So if it works! Well it works! No need to change it!

    Last edited by ChaperonNoir (31-Jan-2007 02:20:29)
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    • From: Viken, Norway
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    My English is good because I'm using it a lot. Contrary to what you think, as a Norwegian academic you get to use your English on a daily basis. There are international coworkers, publications (almost all important scientific publications are in English which is just as well since my latin and German are so rusty!), textbooks (few university-level textbooks are made in Norwegian since we're only a 4 million capita nation), international conferences - the works. And coming home, I watch movies, use the internet, play online games, read books in both languages etc. I'm even a fan of older English although reading the 13th Century variety is a major chore so I avoid that.

    Silphatos and I aren't doubting the fact that English is working as an international language between us. We may be sceptical as to whether it's working optimally for all people at all times. Even so, I at least have no illusions about the fact that it's very powerful today and will remain so in the foreseeable future.

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    DreymaR said:

    I'm even a fan of older English although reading the 13th Century variety is a major chore so I avoid that.

    Well we knew that since you knew what "rood" was.    :)

    Why is a Norseman dressing like a Roman ?

    If my memory serves me, the Vikings occupied a fair part of Britain and because of this the Norse language had a hand in simplifying English grammar.

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