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This page began at 1920 GMT 23 March 2006 by moving some text, unaltered, from the Education Ideas page.

And then it was all moved again, unaltered, into the discussion page at 1402Z on 2 June 2006.


While trying to be as objective as possible, I feel that the best solution for the concept of language barriers is such: If using the website oriented education concept above, instead of spending time and money to translate the many lessons, concepts, and websites to the respective countries native language, I propose the use of a constructed language, preferably Esperanto, the most popular one in use today (with about 5 million users worldwide) as the language of education worldwide. This idea has many benefits which I will explain:

-Esperanto was designed to be easy to learn and to the best of my knowledge and personal experience, it is. This could be the first of the lessons that the student would learn. In keeping with the idea, is an example of a site where one may go to learn the language. To ensure the quickest possible learning, and to root out problems involving an individual’s first language, the "Direct method" of teaching it is used here. There are other websites I'm sure that are just as successful in teaching this way.

-English and Mandarin are the top spoken languages in the world. This is not by choice. Population is the reason in the case of Mandarin and English just happens to be the language of business and the internet. I feel that a strong sense of global satisfaction in this project would result if not only the students of the third world countries had to learn Esperanto in order to learn, but also the many nations across the globe that are teaching them had to learn it as well. That would allow for any country to communicate and teach directly with the students. No language barriers.

-What happens when people from the U.S., Europe, or Asia decide to visit these nations involved in the project? Immediate communication is established without the idea of the students needing to switch their native language. Without the use of Esperanto, these students would have all this valuable information, but not be able to do anything with it due to language barriers. Imagine a flourishing of education in South Africa and the schools put out some great talent. What then for them? They would travel in search of prosperity. While the many dialects of Africa are definitely beautiful, they aren't popular business languages and these student's talents' would not be able to flourish with their new education. It would be giving someone a brand new car without any keys to go with it. Learning of the worlds main business languages (English, French, Japanese, Arabic) is not ruled out by any means to those that want to learn it. But it represents a higher level of education that most will probably not obtain. I feel that the ability for even the individual schooled in just the arts, or just math, or just the sciences (all of which are not normally ventures that promote the assimilation of foreign languages) be able to gain the advantage of having that common language anywhere in the world.

Comment on the idea of using Esperanto 2

Esperanto is too much oriented to western civilizations, at Mexico we think that if you are pessimistic you learn Japanese & Chinese (or Arabic?), if you are optimistic you learn French, and if you are practical, then... you learn English. --Dagoflores 23:18, 3 April 2006 (EDT)

Comment on the idea of using Esperanto

Esperanto was designed to be an auxiliary language, with the idea that it could be a second langauge for everyone: it was not intended to become the first language of users.

I feel that it would be a good idea to make available Esperanto versions of learning material so that people can use that to become skilled in using the language if they so desire. However, although producing many versions of learning material in many different languages will as you write involve "spending time and money to translate the many lessons, concepts, and websites to the respective countries native language," that is, I feel, part of what needs to be done to make the project work. If some people can produce Esperanto versions by volunteer effort then hopefully they will be made available within the system: I feel that as auxiliary items they could be very useful, they need not be regarded as replacing versions in native languages. Nevertheless, if a learning module starts in English and then versions in Spanish and Portuguese are produced fairly quickly and then other versions take longer due to the amount of work and the possibly smaller number of translators available for localization into languages with a smaller number of users, then an Esperanto version might well be a valuable resource for a teacher whose native language is such a rarer language and who does not know English.

I am interested in Esperanto and indeed have included the accented characters for it in most of the fonts which I have produced. I feel that it has much to offer in the context of being an auxiliary language. I do feel, however, that children should have the opportunity to be educated in their own language. However, the word "should" is easily written yet does not deliver a solution, so using Esperanto is, I feel, certainly a tool which is there to be used and which could, in certain cases, perhaps be of great usefulness.

Some years ago I produced an animated gif file, when I was learning how to make them, which mentions Esperanto.

William Overington

12 March 2006

[Comment by Brian Clements 12 March 2006

"Esperanto was designed to be an auxiliary language, with the idea that it could be a second language for everyone: it was not intended to become the first language of users."

I may have been unclear in my wording, but that exactly was my intention: to have Esperanto function as an auxiliary language. Even though the users would spend a great deal of time on it and probably get it to fluency very quickly, the idea and intent was that the individual’s native tongue wouldn't be threatened by whatever country decides to do the most teaching. I have trouble explaining it fully, but I think that a large influence of a language that has no native country or culture isn't as threatening as a language that has a nation and a culture backed behind it such as English or Mandarin. I feel too that just by staying in their particular geographic location with the cultures they know and love, they will not loose their native tongues, which is exactly my intention.

"Nevertheless, if a learning module starts in English and then versions in Spanish and Portuguese are produced fairly quickly and then other versions take longer due to the amount of work and the possibly smaller number of translators available for localization into languages with a smaller number of users, then an Esperanto version might well be a valuable resource for a teacher whose native language is such a rarer language and who does not know English."

And I do like this point and agree.

Should translation of text to native tongues be a not too difficult task, then that is a more direct way of teaching and should be used. I would think though, that from the standpoint of volunteer teachers coming from developed nations, the prospects of learning one language, then being able to help out anywhere in the world with this project seems like a definite plus.

End of Comment by Brian Clements 12 March 2006]

English IS the Esperanto

Forget Esperanto as a language for education, for the following reasons:

- Esperanto is still very Euro-centric, being based on germanic and romantic languages (ie, English, French, Spanish, German, Portugese, etc. Esperanto was intended to help with language interchange in the developed "NATO" world. It is a utility of businessmen, soldiers, and diplomats. It would still be quite foreign and culturally dominating in the Arab world, Far East, Africa, etc.

- Most or all of the world's practical learning is already cast in the major existing langauges (sorry, Swahili; sorry, Tagalog). The key to mastering this learning is to learn English first. Esperanto just will never become the repository for knowledge that English is already.

- NEW knowledge is published in English almost exclusively. Esperanto will be nothing more than yet another way to point to new ideas already expressed in English.

- English already serves as a language of common understanding the world over. Esperanto's job is already taken.

Let's not short-change the world's children in this educational project. The first step in their education will be to learn English.

End of Comment by CM, 16 March 2006]

English is an incredibly hard language to learn properly. Besides, who says that English will still be the language of common understanding say 50 years from now. Polyglot 11:11, 21 March 2006 (EST)
No one can say what language will be the internet standard 50 years from now. However, *right now it is English*, and CM is very correct in his assertion that English is very valuable. In the perfect world, everyone would learn Esperanto or something similar. However as the world is not perfect, it would be an incredible disservce to students for them to learn a near-useless (in a post-education sense) language. English or a close second Mandarin (Pinyin of course) is practical right *now*. Another point, probably in 50 years, we'll all have universal translators and this discussion will be moot. JasonS 10:46, 23 March 2006 (EST)
"As the world is not perfect"... So, why not try to make it a little bit better? You are right that one cannot know which language will be the international language of the future. I don't understand why skeptics say so confidently that Esperanto will never succeed. They don't know. I don't know, either, but i do what i can in order to make people open their minds to this idea that they refuse to consider. Lastly, you say we will have universal translators... Are you talking about software translation? Sorry, have you ever tried to use one? Software can't translate properly unless it understands the subject of the text. If you (or a computer program) find this sentence in English: "Short breathing exercises", how could it guess whether the excercises are short or the brething is short? What about "International Civil Aviation Organization"? What's international there? Aviation? The organization? You can only answers those questions by your previous knowledge about the world, or by context (sometimes it is absent). I would say you shouldn't expect machines to translate properly in just 50 years. Esperanto works better than automatic translation. The examples of ambiguity were taken from Claude Piron's book "Le défi des langues: du gânchis au bons sens" (in its translation to Portuguese). -- Yuu

[Comment by Brian Clements 3 April 2006

The fact that English is becoming the worlds “Esperanto” is the very reason why I am suggesting the use of a different language: because when the language spreads, the culture spreads with it. WITHOUT going into political debates, the key idea here is that I think the education should occur with the least amount of cultural influence from the nations supplying the education as possible. The increased use of the Internet, TV, and exposure to music will do plenty of that anyway.

I feel that as soon as you pick one of the natural languages as an official language for the project you do a series of things: First, you create a direct pathway for that specific languages culture to influence the nations being educated first culturally, then politically. This favoring a specific culture, I feel, should NOT be allowed to a byproduct of the project. What should happen is that the nation being educated should be gaining tools to enhance and flourish their own culture and create their own ideas about politics with as little outside influence as possible.

Second, as soon as a developed nation starts educating the people of a VERY influential and needy third world country, very keen businesses will start pushing product on them as soon as they see a window of opportunity. There are plenty of McDonalds all over the globe as it is. I’d rather see a family owned restaurant run by a brand new business graduate of the “$100 dollar laptop school” in Brazil then that same 30-year-old family man stuck under golden arches all his life because large conglomerates were able to move in for the kill before anything else could grow to fruition.

Third, say English were to be established as the main language of use here, not only would reason #2 happen, but almost every other established country in the world will use that very effect as a reason to not only bad mouth the whole project, but also to not participate wholly, if at all. If France were to start this project and start teaching needy kids in Africa, South American and the middle east French and they asked the United States for help, the very first thing we would want to do is to create another branch of the project in English, run by people stateside. Immediate schism. I feel that the goal here is the globe teaching itself, not the “west” teaching everybody else.

Fourth, jumping off the positive and productive reasons for using Esperanto listed elsewhere on this page, the very fact that it is the MOST neutral option (I do acknowledge CM’s comment that it is Euro biased) will mean that every nation will feel relatively the same about it. If everybody has to learn it, then everyone is on equal ground. Like stated in reason #3, nations like to bicker and will find every possible reason to not participate or nock another countries efforts. If you make everybody do the same thing in order to participate, this will better ensure that only serious people, organizations, and countries will contribute and that the focus and effort is on the education and not the people trying to get it done.

To respond to JasonS’s comment, I do agree that it is more useful right now to know English then Esperanto; this is obvious. And in a perfect world, everyone would be educated as well, but that’s what the project is set out to fix.

Because of the reasons listen above, I would hope that more people would learn Esperanto for this very reason. Note also, that Esperanto is just the language standard for other people in the world to teach these countries the information that they would not normally have access to. They SHOULD also have language classes in their native tongue and be taught correct grammar. They already live in their native country with their native tongue; it is a part of them and will continue to be. Given that, the countries teaching should acknowledge this effort and learn Esperanto as well to give these newly educated opportunities. Good things take time; great things take effort over time. If the goal is to fix a global problem, the entire globe as to make an effort. If that means English-speaking countries learning Esperanto, then I think that needs to happen.

End of Comment by --Neovos 00:23, 3 April 2006 (EDT)]

[Comment by William Overington 1120 GMT 3 April 2006

I have been interested in Esperanto, off and on, for many years.

I am not fluent in it and, not being much of a linguist, it would take me years to become fluent in it, if indeed I could ever get to that level. Even using what I know of the grammar of the language and a dictionary, I do not feel that I could express, say, the views in this comment, in Esperanto.

Just look at that last sentence!


Even using what I know of the grammar of the language and a dictionary, I do not feel that I could express, say, the views in this comment, in Esperanto.

end quote

How difficult do you feel that translating that sentence into Esperanto would be? For you? For me? For someone who has at this time not even begun learning Esperanto?

For me, it is important that the children are all educated in their own language.

It is also important that the project management is carried out effectively. If that means that interpreters need to be present at meetings then that is what it takes. It was said of a recent President of France that people in the media did not even know if he could speak or understand English because he always spoke in French and had an interpreter when interacting with English-spaeking people. Was having the interpreter political, practical or both? There was a time when French was the language used for diplomacy.

Where Esperanto could possibly be useful would be if there were some laptop cultural items bilingual in the local language and Esperanto. For example, some songs, some poems, some stories.

Maybe the name of the laptop could be in Esperanto, such as la laptopo, if indeed that does not already mean something else in Esperanto. Maybe if the laptop is available in several different colours, maybe the names of the colours could be definitively in Esperanto rather than in English or some other language.

Also, it could possibly become the practice when meeting someone who speaks a different language to greet him or her in Esperanto if one does not know how to greet him or her in his or her own language. After a few words or a few sentences one might then need to use an interpreter, yet it could perhaps be good to say something in the other person's language if possible, yet if that is not possible to use a neutral language such as Esperanto, so as to indicate that one is not expecting that everything is to be said in one's own language.

End of comment by William Overington 1120 GMT 3 April 2006]

"Even using what I know of the grammar of the language and a dictionary, I do not feel that I could express, say, the views in this comment, in Esperanto."

Eĉ uzanta tiun kiun mi scias pri la gramatiko de la lingvo kaj vortaron, mi ne sentas ke mi povus esprimi, ekzemple, la vidpunktojn de tiu komento, en Esperanto. Olivier FAURAX (1,5 year of esperanto) 06:48, 25 May 2007 (EDT) ]

It is a fair criticism to say that Esperanto is not entirely culture-neutral. Its creator was heavily influenced by Polish and other Eastern European linguistic conventions because he came from that area. But the important thing is he tried to make it culture-neutral, and the shortcoming was because he lacked exposure to a wide enough range of cultures. With the internet, it's now possible to learn about linguistic conventions in a lot of different languages, so somebody ambitious could probably do a better job than Zamenhof did.

That said, Esperanto is linguistically a lot more culture-neutral than English is. -- WillWare 09:32, 2 November 2007 (EDT)

About Esperanto (Claude PIRON)

If you are interested in this thema, I highly recommand articles from especially (in no particular order) :

End of Comment by Jean-Michel Fayard, 16 March 2006]

Mi ankaux pensas ke Esperanto estas tauxga ideo

I second the proposal to use Esperanto as a go between language between all content. Everything can be expressed with it and it is extremely easy to learn. Just imagine if everybody around the globe would learn this language, we would all be able to talk to each other just like that! Polyglot 11:11, 21 March 2006 (EST)

Re "Mi ankaux pensas ke Esperanto estas tauxga ideo"

This is not correctly displayed Esperanto but uses a method using the letter x which is sometimes used with 7-bit and 8-bit computing equipment as a work-around.

The letter x does not occur in Esperanto. In order to write Esperanto one needs six accented characters which are not in the 7-bit or 8-bit ASCII set, and so a practice arose in places such as Usenet newsgroups of using an x to indicate that the previous letter was accented, this being possible because each of the various accented characters used in Esperanto acts upon a different base character from the other accented characters used in Esperanto. What has been here expressed as ux should be a ŭ character.

The correctly displayed version of the heading is thus as follows.

Mi ankaŭ pensas ke Esperanto estas taŭga ideo

The meaning as I would translate it is as follows.

I also think that Esperanto is a suitable idea

Producing the ŭ character in this wiki is straightforward, simply use an ampersand, a hash sign, the number 365 and a semicolon all in sequence with no spaces between.

The Esperanto sequence aŭ is pronounced like the ow in the English word cow. The word Mi is pronounced like the English word me.

Having said that, the ŭ character will only show if the font which is being used at the reader's location has a ŭ character in it, so the x method for accents does have some uses. However, if Esperanto is used on the laptop the x notation should hopefully not be necessary.

Note by William Overington 22 March 2006

Using Esperanto's ease of learning

For a couple of years, I've wanted to build a project to use Esperanto for what it's good for: being easy to learn. I would like to build a curriculum that is based on the "think globally, act locally" maxim. Student groups from many different countries, would make observations about their own culture/community and share them with their peers around the world. Each weeks' lesson would provide enough Esperanto to allow them to post their observations and read their peers observations. By the end of 14 weeks, the students would all be more-or-less fluent in Esperanto and would have a global perspective on a topic of study. I don't believe this could work in any national language. Moreover, I think this experience would be *particularly* valuable for English-speaking students who are increasingly never confronted with the challenge of having to operate in a second language. I'm excited about OPLC because it could serve as a platform for this project. I've written about it here and started designing a module for it here.

--StevenBrewer 13:32, 30 May 2006 (EDT)

The project itself looks interesting.

The page linked to above has the following.

Esperanta Kultura Interkomprenigxo (EKI)

Would the children using Esperanto use the x method for expressing the accented characters? Hopefully not.

Brewer replies: No -- I'm confident it could be done without resorting to x-method. The fact that its in the document is simply due to my accidentally using x-method in a context where it wasn't necessary.

In the phrase Esperanta Kultura Interkomprenigxo (EKI) the gx is a 7-bit ASCII workaround for USENET newsgroups and the like for the ĝ character. With the web and the laptop project the x method is not needed.

The character codes can be worked out from the code chart which contains the twelve special characters (six capital, six small) needed for Esperanto.

They are coded in hexadecimal is the document.

On a PC the Microsoft Calculator in View | Scientific mode has a facility for converting hexadecimal to decimal.

Including Esperanto Tutorials with Laptop

There are a number of excellent Esperanto tutorials out there. I think it is important to have one of them bundled with the OLPC. For this to happen, it would have to run on the Linux OS and the "local language" would need to be a module that is loaded when the machine is ordered for a particular country. Then children could learn Esperanto in their own language, if they desired to. I know there are a number of Esperanto tutorials which are web based, but if kids don't have access all the time to the web, they will need a tutorial bundled with the laptop. --DaveRaftery

Esperanto, a waste of space

Why don't we include Klingon tutorials as well? That would be just as useful for communicating with the rest of the world.

Seriously, any space on the laptop used for Esperanto is a waste of perfectly good resources that could be used to teach English, the universal language of the Internet and the world.

English spoken by less than 10% of world's people

Look it up in any source. Less than 10% of the world's people speak English. Not just native English speakers. ALL English speakers. There is no world language currently. In fact, most of the people in the world don't even speak one of the 6 UN languages (English, French, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, and Arabic). The contest is not only not already won; it's not even begun! Esperanto is the best choice for us and for OLPC. Jeremy ALDRICH September 24, 2006

Esperanto is an invaluable global communication tool

I started learning Esperanto 6 months ago and now I actively read, correspond, and translate in the language. I think providing Esperanto learning materials with the laptops would be an excellent and very worthwhile decision: among other things, children who have no English capabilities could start to familiarize themselves with the entire world that much sooner through the artificial language. Also, to any critics, I see nothing of a "contest" between English and Esperanto. Esperanto is and HAS ALWAYS BEEN intended as an alternative method of communication, not a replacement; I think that English and Esperanto abilities can compliment and improve each other, and those who view English dominance as a "contest" or a "struggle" - whether it's "already over" or not - are missing part of the picture.

I think that if a child invests 6 months into learning Esperanto, he can subsequently learn English (or other languages) more quickly and effectively, having already familiarized with the concepts of a foreign - particularly Indoeuropean - language. What particularly excites me about the idea of incorporating Esperanto education into OLPC is that I think it would be very easy to do, and particularly, easy to incorporate as an option for the children / families to pick up or let alone as they wish. This means that involving Esperanto would ideally require minimal effort and put no pressure on the children to accept it, for an inclusion that could potentially have a massive impact on the children's education and, subsequently, our future world. I wholeheartedly support this move, and anyone interested in more depth to my reasoning can read or contact me at following: or (in Esperanto)

From the perspective of the Esperanto movement itself, I think giving Esperanto attention in a product that will ideally find itself in the hands of every child in the world will increase interest in the language and allow the network of Esperanto speakers to grow dramatically (and it's already several times the population of Iceland), thus making the language many times more worthwhile for the children themselves.

To conclude: From the perspective of a German friend with whom I have had this discussion, Esperanto has survived a time when German was destined to be the "universal language", then came Russian, and now it's English. And next... who knows? Possibly English will succeed. Maybe Spanish will have a turn. Probably Mandarin is next, if anything. But I feel that Esperanto will survive, because Esperanto isn't just a language: it's a global community and a global movement focused on peace, tolerance, and intercultural learning. The language is simply the tool to give the movement a neutral, international interface. Viewed in this light, I find it very hard to justify NOT implementing Esperanto into OLPC in some way.

Topher Hunt, Esperantisto, ESL instructor in Nicaragua -

Esperanto is a non-issue

The OLPC team does not make the educational content decisions for the 2B1. These are made by ministries of education in the various countries. All that the OLPC can do is to present a smorgasbord of rich choices from which a ministry can choose what they want.

However, language learning material is beyond the competences of the OLPC team. Even if they wanted to, they simply don't have the expertise to put together Esperanto learning material. The only way that Esperanto will ever appear on a 2B1 computer is if an external group puts together a language learning package that is so good, it catches the eye of the ministries of education.

That is why Esperanto is a non-issue. Until there is an Esperanto-learning package for the OLPC there is nothing for the OLPC to do.

P.S. Anyone who thinks that they can solve this by knocking of some cute open-source version of Eurotalk in Esperanto, better quit right now. In order to catch the eye of the OLPC, the project will have to be a cut above existing language learning software and embody some of the constructivist principles.

Well, it's good that is one of the best language learning sites on the Internet then.

Non-issue, really?

That disappoints me. It seems that including Esperanto somehow in the OLPC project would be a very minimal effort for a big benefit for the recipients... even if it's just a desktop link to Lernu for those who have internet access. Would a link like that really be imposing or difficult to include?

Then why don't you get an esperanto group together to create an esperanto version of the OEPC? Once it is created it is available for some ministry of Education somewhere to adopt and include.
Disappointing? Then you will also be disappointed that Lernu will not be accessible to about 99% of OLPC users because they will NOT be connected to the Internet. Even the few kids who are in larger cities where there is Internet access are likely to be stuck behind a restrictive firewall that favors local content over foreign content in foreign languages like Esperanto which local people are unable to vet for suitability. So yes, a link like that would be EXTREMELY imposing to include. You simply don't get it. This computer is not like a textbook, not like an encyclopedia. It is something new that allows constructivist principles of education to be applied on a large scale.
Most especially, the 2B1 is not intended to create large numbers of consumers of digital content to be mined by the Disney's and Sony's of this world. It is intended to create large numbers of educated people who are capable of going their own way in the world. It may surprise you that countries like Brazil do not want to be dependent on so-called developed countries for expertise in science and technology. They want to grow it at home!
Hey - I think you're making a pretty big generalization with your "consumers of digital content" comment. I don't approve of developed-country dominance; I genuinely want these people to experience growth in an educational structure independent of the first-world "consumerism". And I genuinely think that such a structure would be more effective and stronger if kids in Brazil and the Congo and rural China could communicate together from the start and learn from each other; build off each other; and I genuinely feel that that communication would happen much more quickly and effectively with the help of Esperanto thank without it.
And I genuinely don't appreciate the acrid dismissals of any suggestions we make. Read these comments and suggestions in disgust; that is fine. Grumble that we should be going to the embassies of each country instead of congregating here if you want; but please keep in mind that these proposals are made in good will and a genuine effort to contribute to the OLPC project - or "piggy-back off others' work", as it was worded by another critic - and that we are not making these suggestions without basis; we believe in Esperanto based on observation, not theory.
I am sorry, but I am not willing to accept that Esperanto is a "non-issue". Perhaps not now; not in this way; but certainly nothing will happen if our critics are not willing to open themselves a little to the possibility that maybe close-mindedness isn't helping. (Yes, close-mindedness is the term I would use for some of the comments I have read in this discussion.)

Esperanto is definitively a posibility because it is not necesary many things to include it in the laptop, like anyone says before it is only needed a link to the lernu! web or simply a space of 2mb or less for two or three courses of Esperanto, courses that make to anyone capable of speak, write and chat in Esperanto. I had learned Esperanto in 15 days or less, this is not a joke, its true. The benefits or learning that are very big for many reasons (like the capacity of the brain to make many processes. In 15 days I had learned the same as in 3 or 4 years of english.

Maybe a graphical equivalent of Esperanto?

Would it make sense to do some kind of graphical equivalent of Esperanto? I imagine something like little low-res photographic icons for nouns and verbs, and modifier icons to handle grammatical stuff like conjugation, declension, verb tense, etc. Photographic icons could use graphical conventions, e.g. colored borders around the photo tell you the part of speech. So a picture of a glacier with no border is the noun "glacier", with a red border it's the adjective "cold", and with a yellow border it's the adverb "coldly".

The OLPC could then have an application that translates to/from this pictorial language from the user's native language, doing a best fit. The dictionary of pictograms is maintained on some agreed-upon server somewhere. Conventions are established for introducing new pictograms to the language, or people can set up secondary servers and easily tweak a config file to use them.

Sequences of pictograms are easily emailed (or posted to the web or newsgroups or wikis or whatever) as lists of servers and pictogram indices. Maybe there'd be a new mimetype and eventually browsers would automatically pop up the translation app. That would be kinda cool. -- WillWare 09:42, 2 November 2007 (EDT)

It is not graphical, but something which might be of interest if looking at ways of expressing ideas between people who do not share a common language is the following. It deals more at a sentence level. It is some years old and was experimental, so maybe think of it as a catalyst for thought. Maybe the board game might be of interest.

Esperanto too European? / Literacy anyone?

Just a quick note on the side: I don't believe Esperanto is "for NATO countries". Already there are very active Esperanto communities in countries such as Brazil, Benin, Kongo, Iran, China, Japan and all of the former Soviet Union's area. The reasons why these people don't see Esperanto as too European: - the grammar is not European - the vocabulary is based on various European languages BUT these are the languages that happen to be spoken not just in Western Europe but also North America, all of South America, Eastern Europe, Australia, Africa... people often forget that most African countries use a European language as lingua franca, whether that be French, Portuguese, Dutch/Afrikaans or English. So many people in these areas already know at least *one* European language already, though maybe not English. The only continent where this is less common is Asia, but in Asia still a lot of people learn European languages. So Esperanto's vocabulary is actually an advantage to just about everybody except perhaps a monolingual Mongolian or something. - But finally the origin of vocabulary doesn't matter all that much because studies have shown that you only need to learn about 500 word roots in Esperanto and that will allow you to express yourself as well as you could with 3000 word roots in English or French, because you can easily and predictably create up to 30 new words based on a single Esperanto word root. Even if the monolingual Mongolian can't recognize any of Esperanto's word roots, he'd still find it much easier to learn than any European national language.

If we want to provide education, we SHOULD worry about what language that education will come in, not leave it up to local governments. The education has to come in some language or other. Even putting millions of textbooks on the OLPC won't have ANY effect if people can't understand the language they are written in. And even Germans (speaking a language very close to English) need at least 7 years of dedicated instruction before they can consider learning another subject through English. Actually, most never reach that point in their lifetime and over 70% don't understand simple English advertising slogans like "where money lives". What does this say for the millions of children in developing countries? Lacking proper instruction, they will never be able to make use of whatever awesome learning materials there are on the OLPC, and even with instruction the computers will be broken before they can reach that point. In my humble opinion, Esperanto should definitely be considered, because it's the only language in use today that can be learned in 6 months, so that the children can start learning other subjects through Esperanto after 6 months already, rather than after 7 years or more.

Literacy is also an issue that hasn't been considered enough I believe. Developing countries typically have extremely high percentages of people who can't read or write, particularly among non-adults. Only the rich (who could also afford private teachers and shouldn't be the focus of the OLPC) are usually literate. How are the poor children going to access all this knowledge? The OLPC probably has to include a program that teaches children literacy. Literacy in what? English spelling is a nightmare and to learn that along with a foreign language... Esperanto would also be of great help here, because Esperanto features a 1:1 relation between sounds and letters. People can correctly write down any new word they hear, without any doubt, and they can correctly pronounce any new word they see. For this reason I believe a literacy program based on Esperanto has a much better chance of success than one based on English.

Why Children Should Learn Esperanto BEFORE English

The gist of this is that if you learn, say, Esperanto for 1 year then a national language (ie English) for 3, you come out being more proficient in English than those who study English exclusively for 4 years. This seems to be because Esperanto provides an easy introduction into language learning. It certainly does have propedeutic value; plenty of studies confirm this.

Regarding The Argument That Esperanto Is "Too European"

I agree that Esperanto takes it's vocabulary nearly exclusively from European languages, but I've heard that Asian languages have had a significant influenc on grammar. Indeed, there seems to be a high incidence of Esperanto speaking in certain Asian countries- I point you towards Japan and China in particular. From anecdotes from asian people, I've heard that they had no problem learning the language. It seems to be more about the regularity and simplicity of the language than the vocabulary. I won't deny that it's probably easier for Europeans to learn Esperanto, but it's certainly easier for Asians to learn it than English!