Article by Derek Roff
Esperanto is not a hypothetical language. It is a living language that has proved successful in facilitating international communication and enriching the lives of its speakers for more than a century. It has many advantages and surprisingly few flaws. It is certainly possible that a "better" language could be invented, but it is interesting that many of the supposed superior language projects published in the last century now look rather silly. Most of them take too narrow a view of what an international language needs to do. Esperanto was launched with the goal of expressing all that is needed for all aspects of human communication, including art, science, and love. That was a good idea, because from the start, speakers wanted to use it for very diverse and individual purposes. I'm intrigued with the language that has only 118 words, but I doubt that it can meet the daily communication goals of thousands or millions of speakers.
Some say that Esperanto is elitist. While it does have aspects that interest intelligent and curious people, there are Esperanto speakers from all walks of life, and all educational, professional, and social classes. Indeed, I have recently begun corresponding with a woman who is a political refugee in central Africa. She found my address on the Internet, and contacted me. Her life, experiences, and motivations could hardly seem more diverse from a superficial checklist analysis, but we are finding the correspondence to be interesting, illuminating, and fun.
If you want to invent or endorse the most perfect hypothetical world language, there are many fervent Internet discussion groups that focus on this. If you want to try out an actual intercultural language, and see what it is like to make friends and join in discussions with people from dozens of countries, unimpeded by translators, at a large variety of big and small gatherings, then Esperanto is the only option at the moment.
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Derek Roff became enthusiastic about Esperanto while attending an intensive class at the North American Summer Kursaro (Esperanto Institute) in 1980. He enjoyed the language for itself, but much more the interesting people and international contacts that it made possible. Derek immersed himself in the language and culture of Esperanto, using Esperanto to connect with interesting people during his travels to Europe, Asia and Latin America.
Derek now teaches and creates language learning materials for Esperanto and for other languages. He works at the University of New Mexico's Language Learning Center.