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November 28, 2010

From Babel to Esperanto

Could there ever be such a thing as a universal language?
English is sort of the default…

…language for business and education. But could there ever be a language that would be used and understood across ethnic and linguistic boundaries?

Look at this quote from the Wikipedia entry for universal language; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_language
“Universal language may refer to a hypothetical or historical language spoken and understood by all or most of the world's population. In some circles, it is a language said to be understood by all living things, beings, and objects alike.”

And I always thought learning a second language to talk to people from other cultures was challenge enough – how would any of us even consider communicating with “all living things, beings, and objects”?

The most widely used universal language is, of course, Esperanto, the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. It is no one’s native language but has somewhere in the range of 10,000 to two million active or fluent speakers. There are very few Esperanto speakers in the USA, most Esperanto speakers are in eastern and northern Europe, eastern Asia, Brazil, and Iran.

The whole premise of Esperanto – or any attempt at a universal language – has been to develop an easy-to-learn, politically neutral language that would serve as a universal second language to foster peace and international understanding. For more on Esperanto, click here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperanto.

Communicating across cultures and language groups has been one of humanity’s enduring goals since the beginning of recorded history. The Tower of Babel story in the book of Genesis in the Bible illustrates humanity’s determination (and frustrations) in working together.

The term “Babel” was incorporated in the science fiction series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy written by Douglas Adams. The Babel fish was a universal (galactic) translation service. In fact, Babel Fish has now become a a translation website (earth languages only!). Check it out at - http://www.babelfish.com/.

Let us know what it is about English and language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf is currently a radio host (tacoma.fm) and a newspaper columnist http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/columnists/morf_morford/ and would love to do either one of those somewhere else in the world next year.

Posted by mmorf at November 28, 2010 11:27 PM

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