Math Behind the Assertion
It Really Would Make Sense
Esperanto the World's Default Second Language
The assertion that Esperanto is much easier to learn
than "ordinary foreign languages' is a commonplace; how much easier is
impossible to pin down with precision, as it depends on which "ordinary"
foreign language and which first language you use as reference points.
But the "four times as easy" (or one-fourth as difficult) figure cited on
ELNA's homepage (www.esperanto-usa.org) will suffice
as an average for the purposes of this essay. Let's
say we have a world population of twenty individuals, all of whom are
literate in their native languages but have no useful command of any
foreign language. Say
The purpose of
Esperanto is to level the linguistic "playing field" among speakers of
different native languages. The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate
that adopting Esperanto would result in savings of time and effort in the
world's educational systems, where at the moment the status quo places
inordinate demands upon the schools of those societies least able to
afford them, while leaving Americans, Britons and other native
English-speakers in an unfair position of advantage.
Say our educational system
selects Esperanto as the first foreign language, to be taught to all, and
that on average, competence can be achieved in one hundred hours of study.
The total time put in to bring the world's twenty inhabitants to the point
of mutual comprehension is 2000 hours.
- two of our twenty speak
- five speak
- and one speaks each of the following:
- and, let's say,
Contrast this with an
educational system which selects English as the first foreign
language--the most common scenario today. The two native English speakers
need not take a foreign language at all, will always be the most fluent
speakers in the
world, and will be the arbiters of the correctness of the other
eighteen's expressions. The eighteen non-native-English speakers will
require on average 400 hours of study to attain the target level of
competence; the total time required will be 7200 student hours (5200
more), and the result will be less egalitarian than the Esperanto
Even if we select Chinese, spoken by five of our world's twenty inhabitants
one of them speaks a dialect so far removed from the Mandarin norm that
anywhere else in
the world it would be called a separate language!), as the
first foreign language, the cost of universal mutual communication
ability will be 6000 student hours -- three times the cost of the
Esperanto plan -- and the inequity will be similar, except that a higher
percentage, about 25% instead of 10%, will profit unfairly from
Now, even if we assume that for the foreseeable future many if not most
educated people will need some knowledge of English -- not to talk to
their neighbors, but because of the undeniable wealth of information
available in English and unavailable (or less readily available) in
other languages (including Esperanto and Chinese) -- or of some other
language besides their native tongue and Esperanto, there is reason to
believe, and some experimental data to support the belief, that if the
world's language-learning efforts were to be put into 25% Esperanto (the
first 100 hours per pupil) and 75% English (an additional 300 hours per
pupil), the 18 non-English-speakers would emerge with, on average, as
much or more English competence as if they had spent their whole 400
hours (each) on English. Esperanto as a first foreign language
significantly improves acquisition of an additional foreign language.
Of course, the English-speakers would be put to the inconvenience of
spending 100 hours learning to communicate with their neighbors, but -- who knows -- the "hardship" might do them--and the world--some good ;-) . .
This page is part of La Lilandejo
website of Leland Bryant Ross.
For more information on Esperanto...
or visit the website of the
ESPERANTO LEAGUE for NORTH AMERICA ( ELNA )
or (for information on Esperanto in more than fifty languages)
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