It is time for the EU to develop a common language. We already have a common market; a common currency and we can freely travel to any country within the EU. However, what we don’t have is the ability to converse with all EU citizens in a common language. English is the most widely understood language in the EU, yet less than 50% of EU citizens understand it. This number will further decrease when Brexit occurs.
The EU currently has three procedural languages, English, French, and German. There are twenty-six official languages within the EU. The common market, currency and free mobility of workers are all designed to encourage commerce between member states of our bloc. It’s all well and good that workers can move freely within the EU but what is the point of that if they can’t take advantage of this benefit due to the obstacle of language. The language barrier has played a role in the recent crises within the EU. Immigration was pointed to as one of the main reasons for the passing of the Brexit vote. The inability of an immigrant to speak a shared tongue with the natives of the country’s they are travelling to frustrates the locals and makes it more difficult for the immigrants to integrate into the culture of their new home. A recurring theme amongst citizen’s complaints about the EU is that they feel ‘out of touch with Brussels’. It is hard to feel in touch with an institution that the majority of its citizens need a translator to understand. But which language could we utilise?
Esperanto was constructed by L.L. Zamenhof in the late 1800’s. He created it as an ‘international auxiliary language’, to serve as a means of communication between people of differing native tongues. It is easy to learn, presents a simple introduction into learning a second language and assists speakers in the learning of other European languages. Esperanto could be adapted into and utilised in the EU, where an organisation already exists to help in the implementation of a common language.
Esperanto has relatively simple grammar, which is completely regular. The writing system is phonetic which makes pronunciation easy. Esperanto has a completely regular way of deriving new words from the ones you already have. You can combine prefixes and suffixes with words you already know whenever the results make sense. The root words used in Esperanto were mostly chosen in such a way that they are easy to recognize and easy to remember for speakers of any European language.
One can become proficient in Esperanto in about one tenth of the time you would need for a natural language like Spanish or German. Reaching proficiency in German may take between 3 to 10 years, depending on your level of dedication, whereas becoming fluent in Esperanto will take about three months to a year, with the same amount of effort. Esperanto is the easiest living language to learn, it is a great stepping stone on the road to becoming a polyglot.
Strange as it may seem, if you are monolingual and invest a year in learning Esperanto and then four years in learning French, you may end up speaking better French than if you just learned French for five years straight. This is because Esperanto will teach you grammatical mannerisms in a pure and easy-to-remember way. Esperanto is not hindered and confusing for a new learner by irregularities that are ubiquitous in naturally developed languages. It helps you to become familiar with principles and rules of a language.
Why in our primary schools, do we start off teaching our children how to play the recorder? Is it because we want to become global forerunners in the production of recorder players. No, it is because learning how to play the recorder is a good introduction for young people into the world of music. It teaches them to read music, follow rhythm, explore musical interests, and gives them a good grounding for more advanced instruments. Why would we not apply the same logic to language learning skills? Esperanto could serve to be the lingual version of the recorder.
When the subject is brought up of the potential implementation of a universal or international language, it is often met with dubious suspicion that the introduction of such a language would have an adverse effect on the native language of countries. Sceptics also fear that this will consequently, negatively affect the country’s culture. However, the beauty of Esperanto is that it would actually assist people in the learning of natively spoken European languages if they wished to do so. Esperanto would actually accentuate the number of people being able and willing to speak native languages due to them being easier to learn.
However, Esperanto is not without its flaws. Esperanto was created predominantly by a single person during a time when linguistics was a young scientific field. The EU may prefer to construct their own language from scratch, using modern and up-to-date knowledge about languages to develop a completely new one which would optimise time and ease of learning.
Ironic how with an article like this, less than half of the target audience, the citizens and hierarchy of the EU, can’t understand the language with which I am attempting to communicate my points to them.
By Peter Hoy – Politics CoEditor