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Friday, January 4, 2013

Why Esperanto Sucks

Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh. I completely agree with the goal of Esperanto to make a universal, easy-to-learn language. Unfortunately, Esperanto has a number of problems:

1. It's basically pidgin Spanish.

People who are familiar with Romance languages will have no trouble learning Esperanto, but most people in the world do not speak a Romance language and have never studied one. Basing a language on Latin is only useful to people who have studied Latin or speak a language related to it.

2. It contains a number of sounds which are nonexistent in other major languages.

Esperanto has many words containing the letter l, which is difficult for Japanese people to pronounce and is interchangeable with r in many other languages. It contains the letter v, which is absent in Japanese, Arabic, and others. It has words containing the "ar"  and "er" sounds- also nonexistent in many major languages. It has the hard h which is nonexistent in French and p which is nonexistent in Arabic. It has the ch from "loch" sound which is also nonexistent in many languages- including almost all dialects of English! It has dipthongs which do not exist in many languages. Bottom line, it has too many sounds.

3. It has too many long words.

Long words are intimidating to students. Yet Esperanto is full of monstrosities such as imperiestro and komecanto. Consonants clusters and long words should be avoided if the goal is ease of learning.

4. Most Esperanto speakers live in Europe.

A person in a country like Ethiopia or Malaysia is going to have a hard time finding anyone nearby who speaks Esperanto. A person in that situation is better off learning English despite the difficulty.

5. It has too many words.

An English-speaking college graduate has an average vocabulary of about 20,000 words- including various derivatives. A Chinese-literate college graduate can recognize about 3,000 ideograms- including ones derived from others. I have a vocabulary of about 2,000 words in Swahili including derivatives which is plenty enough to be fluent. Esperanto has 900 standard roots, which is a step in the right direction, but still about 3 times more than what I'd say is essential.

6. It uses suffixes instead of word order to indicate subject and object.

English, Chinese, Swahili, and many other languages use word order indicate objects. Why throw in an unnecessary case system?

7. It uses the definite article.

Again, unnecessary and nonexistent in many languages.

8. It is not linguistically neutral.

A good universal language should not sound like it was derived from another natural one. It should use words from many different language families. Putting in words from Hindi, Arabic, Japanese, and others will give a few cognates to act as a toe-hold to the learners who speak those languages.

9. It contains the letter s which is difficult for people who lisp.

Letters like s and r should be avoided particularly for the sake of people with speech impediments.

The goal of Esperanto remains valuable, but it cannot be achieved without learning from its shortcomings.



geo said...

10. It bites.
11. It is responsible for global warming effect.
12. People speaking Esperanto die mysteriously.
13. Esperanto is the bad guy - you have to learn it for 6 months instead for 6-12 years as English.
14. It makes you wiser - wise people are dangerous.
15. This is stupid if everyone could communicate easily with everyone else. No secrets. No cheating. Boringness... Let's stick to English.

Akira Enderle said...

No offense intended, but honestly, some of your arguments are pretty bad. I couldn't agree more that Esperanto needs major reforming (I am building a conlang aiming to reform all of its faults), but please use better arguments.
List of Counter-Arguments
1- esperanto has indo-european roots. at least half of the world is capable of speaking an indo-european language and therefore it still has a lot of roots that can be readily recognizable by a large number of people (though the vocabulary should try to exploit this)
2- I agree here, however it doesn't really make any sense to mention that Arabic doesn't have the phoneme "p". According to Wikipedia, the "p" phoneme is actually one of the most common phonemes across the world's languages. The phonemic inventory should be reduced though
3- long words are not intimidating, especially if broken down
4- It is without doubt, overly biased towards European languages
5- who cares?
6- the accusative case is redundant since 9 out of 10 sentences in esperanto use SOV word order, but it does make the language easier to learn for people who are not used to the SOV word order.
7- if you don't have an article, then how else will you indicate definiteness? perhaps you could use context, but the ultimate goal of any grammar is so that you don't have to rely on context. the article does serve a useful purpose
8- languages that have different polysemities can't necessary add their words to esperanto or else it would make the vocabulary inconsistent
9- so what? again, according to wikipedia the phoneme "s" is actually very common across the world's languages. The world's most common consonant phoneme is "k".

Extraño said...

Esperanto is definitely European, but I think most of them live in Brazil. Brazil is notable for conlangs. They also have a lot of Interlinguists.

However, if you are an American, especially a white American, learning Esperanto will piss you off, because it connects you to Northern Europe and Russia, and these people hate white americans. Frankly, international communication doesn't aid Americans.

But having said that, there are several non-English languages within America to learn like French Creole, Choctaw, sign language, etc, which don't connect you to assholes. I would personally recommend every America try learning Choctaw. It's easily as easy as Esperanto with an amusing grammar system.