Claude Piron

L'espéranto est une parfaite idiotie

From a discussion on Mrs Wallström's blog (Mrs Wallström is the Vice-President of the European Commission)

23 January 2007

VA wrote : "People look upon these Esperanto musings as complete idiocy. And it is."

People? Really? What people? Masochists, undeniably. At least twice a year, I find myself in international groups of persons who learned English (and most of them often use it, so they have a lot of practice) and who also learned Esperanto. Never does a member of the group suggest that we discuss in English, although we all could. Why? Because we're not masochists. We know that the level of the discussion would be far inferior. Moreover, in English, native speakers have an advantage, and a good many feel uncomfortable in it - it's not always pleasant to feel superior when you value democracy - and since non-native speakers are at a disadvantage, we all prefer the other system in which we can discuss on an equal footing.

However, the main reason why we use Esperanto is that it is a language in which thought formulates itself much more easily. And more creatively. The language follows better than any other the spontaneous tendencies of the brain. So you feel at home in it. I feel at home in Esperanto, although I didn't devote more than six months to its acquisition, as I've never felt in English, to which I've devoted such a huge amount of hours, for years and years, that I won't try to count them; it would be too depressing.

I'm ready to accept VA's judgment and see myself as a complete idiot. But I am a happy idiot. In English,

- I have to twist my tongue to produce sounds that don't exist in the great majority of - I'm never sure what syllable to stress;
- while I'm speaking I suddenly discover that I don't remember if the past time of "to cost" is "costed" or something else, and if "indict" really rhymes with "derelict" or if it's another trap of the English spelling;
- and I hate it to realize after so many years of practice that I don't understand everything written in a blog that you'd expect to be conversational (I had to look up VA's "musing" in a dictionary).

So I use English only when I can't do otherwise, and I resent it. Macrosociety makes me struggle instead of just expressing myself, whereas the Esperanto microsociety accepts me as I am: a human with a brain programmed for easy communication. All the complications that make it impossible to most people to reach a level of excellency in English are not needed to communicate, they're just the whims of the Brits' ancestors. What a difference with Esperanto! Here I can formulate the same ideas more expressively, with more humour, without having to ask myself all the questions that I'm stumbling upon when I try to speak English.

Being a complete idiot doesn't bother me. When I see all those intelligent people who, in the hallways of the European Parliament or, as tourists in exotic countries, behave like aphasiacs, trying to make up for the lack of language with gestures and badly pronounced, poor remnants of a language they studied for years, I'm glad I've added to my vain attempts to conquer English the complete idiocy VA refers to. And I feel much compassion for all the people whom the media, the intellectual elite and the authorities keep on deceiving, distorting the respective pictures of English and Esperanto, as if breaking the taboo about the latter was terribly dangerous. And I wonder: for whom?