| Why you should consider Esata || Jan 13, 2008 |
Thanks for your reply. You are one of those rare linguists who has made the effort to add Esperanto to his collection of mastered languages. You, like others who have a favorite international auxiliary language, defend it against all comers. The reasoning is apparently that there is room for only one such language, so any other candidates must be criticized and derided.
Esperanto is the most serious international language to date, and the language itself and the efforts of those like yourself to learn it deserve only praise. But the time in which Esperanto could have become a real player in the international scene has come and gone.
In this past century English has become the de facto international auxiliary language. It’s the language most widely used in business, during travel, in the media, on the internet, wherever and whenever. A generation ago school kids chose from a variety of foreign languages, now they mostly prefer to learn English, and with good reason - it opens the door to the world, to good paying and interesting work, at home and abroad. Quite simply part of the kit you need to succeed in the world today is real competence in English.
So English speakers rule, and the rest of the world can just take a back seat. As we all know, nobody speaks better than the natives. Only those who grow up with the language know its subtleties, inflections, proverbs, slang, etc. They have two decades of total immersion in the language. Others will always be inferior. Despite all our efforts at learning other languages, we never gain natural fluency, just practical fluency. In this context your comment that you can write poetry in Esperanto but not in English is surprising. To write good poetry you need not only complete fluency but much more, inspiration and imagination. If you can’t do well in your own language, it’s not likely you can do better in one you have learned.
At present, most attempts at defining an international language based on English just choose a subset of the vocabulary, encouraging the student to memorize that and then proceed from there. That’s a good approach to learning any language, but it doesn’t really change anything.
English is a wonderful language, and certainly as good as any other, but it definitely has its flaws, among them dreadful orthography and pronunciation, irregular past tenses and adjective forms, and many other oddities. If you’ve ever taught the language you know how many times you have to revert to a “that’s the way it is” answer, because there’s rarely a logical explanation for why things are the way they are.
Why shouldn’t a language be logical? Why shouldn’t it be international, based on lots of sources? Here the internationals come in with their proposals, and there have been some good ones. Today we should recognize that English should be the basis for such a language, but restructured to remove all irregularities, and it should be truly international. By that I mean do more than include a few dozen words from the other major languages in the vocabulary, it should include thousands of useful words from all the major languages.
So here is this new language proposal, Esata. First of all it’s a pidgin version of English, easy to learn for native speakers, which makes it an ideal personal language. A personal language allows you to communicate easily with your friends or others who have picked it up, but others won’t be able to understand you. Personal languages have their use, just look at slang and street language. Thousands of expressions are always coming into English, most of them starting as personal language, and then gradually moving into general usage.
You asked why anyone would want to learn a pidgin version of English, and the reason should be evident - instead of having just a few dozen new slang words or expressions, you can get a complete language that you can use with your friends. It’s just a cool dialect of English that’s easy to pickup, and it’s as interesting and useful to learn such a personal language as it is to learn a foreign one.
Coming from the other side, if English really is to become the world lingua franca, and billions of people have to learn it, they are going to make a mess of it, of that you can be sure. These people need help to get them to an adequate level of proficiency in the shortest possible time. The educated few will make a noble effort to learn our overcomplicated English, but most people without the time or inclination will adopt some clumsy and hacked up version to satisfy their need.
I would prefer that the billions start with a simpler pidgin English, because that will not drag down the formal version of the language. Remember that they will be talking among themselves, not just with proficient speakers of English, and that they will be making a complete mess of the language. ‘The bastardization of spelling and vocabulary’ you refer to is much more likely to occur if these people are attempting to speak real English than if they are speaking pidgin. If after years of practice with the pidgin form, they find they want to spend the effort to speak properly, more power to them. But in the meantime they are better off with a simpler version of the language. In the Esata language description this is described as an attempt to gain control over the vulgar form of the language, and influence its future.
Now, for the internationalization aspect. Most languages, artificial or natural, propose a single word to express a given concept, but in Esata we include lots of words from different sources which all mean much the same thing. Basically, where there is a short form of a word from another language, it is imported into the vocabulary. In Esata, complete dialects from other languages merge naturally and easily into the overall structure using the phrase words concept. The same mechanism allows to define dialects for specialized vocabularies, e.g. legal, medical, military, etc.
The inclusion of dialects allows the language to acquire a local flavor in particular language areas or for specialized applications. The best part about this process is that is organic, the language allows users to define and use new words, whose meanings are readily understood by others. Phrase words are made by pairing word roots, so the meaning of the combination is related to, but not completely defined by, its components.
Hopefully, this rather long response has responded adequately to your comments, and also stimulated those reading to looking further into the Esata language proposal.
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