Global Cooperation

Esperanto for Linguistic Justice and Equality

Among the organizations working for a new United Nations in the UN’s 75th year is the Universal Esperanto Association. Esperanto is a language designed for international use, created over 130 years ago, with speakers all over the world. The creation of Russian Jewish ophthalmologist Ludvik Zamenhof, Esperanto is easy to learn and use. Intended as a second language for people all over the world, Esperanto has speakers in almost every country – people eager to transcend national boundaries and communicate with their fellow humans in a language that is non-partisan and equal. 

Most languages used internationally (including, of course, English) favor their native speakers and disadvantage everyone else. And there are many people across the world who speak none of the internationally used languages and are therefore cut off from most of the globe. They have little or no say in world affairs. So much for linguistic justice and linguistic equality!

But a person’s language is an expression of identity, of belonging, of solidarity with a community. If that person’s voice is to be heard beyond their locality, they need to speak a language that is easily learned and easy to understand, in addition to their own – a language that is not owned by others, does not put them at a disadvantage.

The two million speakers of Esperanto are a small group with an outsize interest in world affairs. They are concerned about climate change, about nuclear proliferation, about universal education, about human rights. They don’t just yearn for peace: they practice it in their communication with Esperanto speakers across the world.  They don’t just hope for multilateralism: they do it.

And the Esperanto movement is heavily involved in the effort to bring about meaningful change at the United Nations on the occasion of the UN’s 75th Anniversary.

Zamenhof, who experienced discrimination firsthand as a Jew in Imperial Russia, based his language on the languages, primarily European, that he knew. He simplified the grammar; he used words common to many languages. The result was a language easier to learn than other languages – and not only for Europeans but for people of all linguistic backgrounds and geographical regions. 

Esperanto speakers oppose discrimination on grounds of language, the suppression of minority languages. They favor the promotion of linguistic rights as part of those rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They know that we cannot promote sustainable development without broad communication, indeed that the entire effort to build a sustainable world depends on full and fair communication and a common language for our common welfare.

Most of the words used today in Esperanto were invented not by Zamenhof but by the speakers of the language between his day and today. Esperanto has an extensive literature, original and translated, a strong musical tradition, and many opportunities to make contact with Esperanto speakers in other countries. 

Countries where the language is particularly strong today include China, Brazil, Iran, and Italy. Esperanto speakers include teachers, medical workers, lawyers, computer programmers. They come from many different faiths, have many different views – but they all of them believe in working together to make a better world, a peaceful world, a world of greater equality.

Please help by taking the UN75 – 2020 and Beyond Survey at https://un75.online.  It is available in many languages and for the first time the UN has included the option to use Esperanto.  Why? Because the Esperanto community and individuals have a long history of supporting the goals of the UN and cooperating with organizations like Citizens for Global Solutions.

Esperanto has a broad Internet footprint. You can learn the language for free at https://lernu.net/en and https://www.duolingo.com/course/eo/en/Learn-Esperanto, find out more about the Esperanto culture at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperanto_culture, learn more about Esperanto and the UN at www.esperantoporun.org.      

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Citizens for Global Solutions.

Chuck Mays and Humphrey Tonkin

Author Chuck Mays and Humphrey Tonkin

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