PAKATAN, will you introduce Esperanto in schools if you go to Putrajaya?

With the 13th General Election looming ahead, there are many demands and manifestos which will be made by the people and the political parties.

I am not a politician but an ordinary citizen of Malaysia who is impartial to politics. Here is just a question for PAKATAN, which is a strong opposition group in my country.

As there are many complaints over the decline in the standard of the English language in Malaysia, my simple question is: Will your coalition introduce Esperanto in the schools to help to nurture more talents?

Esperanto or Internacia Lingvo, which means International Language, is very effective in helping learners, especially the young, to learn better.

Attention! | http://www.flickr.com/photos/scubasteveo/

Look at how the British, once discouraged by the Thatcher government, is now spending even more on Esperanto research. The Spring Board project is a four-year, on-going research programme. Despite the fact that the propaedeutic effect of the language has been discovered from the first research in Britain back in 1920, many people still have doubts or unwilling to teach Esperanto in schools. These doubts are founded on political agendas rather than considerations for the good of the people.

However, the Ukranian Minstry of Education thinks otherwise and will introduce Esperanto in schools. Brazil has unofficially introduced it in its schools and more than half of the schools in Brundi are teaching Esperanto.

The maximum amount of time required to learn Esperanto is two hundred (200) hours but that for English is two thousand (2000) hours, after which the learners may nevertheless still not be able to speak and write well in English. Many argued that the standard of English in Malaysia or I should say in Malaya was good then, but do not forget that how many percent of people were able to go to the schools, how many percent of elites were able to go to the university, and how many more are pushed out of mainstream society to be the marginalised group. The poor – the urban poor as well as the people in the rural areas – are always victims of the English language, for they do not have the money to fill the pockets of the British or American book publishers and film producers.

The Esperanto comes in a full package. The AIS, more fondly known as the Esperanto University, in San Marino, has not only internal courses from Bachelor degree to Ph.D. programmes, it also has external programmes for those who reside outside the campus. The external degree, according to the El Popola Chinio, a China Esperanto monthly magazine, costs only 250 Euro per annum. The tuition fee for this external course is even lower than local university fees.

Out of the many planned languages, UNESCO only recognised Esperanto. The circular was sent to all the members in 1954 and again in 1985. We missed out on the first circular (despite the allegation that we were not colonised by the British, as someone said and then later admitted that Malaya had indeed been colonised). However, the second circular should be known by government bodies who had attended the UN meeting in the 80s.

Esperanto has an office in the UN building and each year the representatives of the Universal Esperanto Association would present reports and findings. The 100th International Esperanto Congress is going to be  in 2015. The Vietnam Esperanto Association is hosting the 97th International Esperanto Congress in July 2012. The Esperanto Scout Movement is also celebrating its centenary in 2018.

Look at China, the Esperanto Radio is almost 50 years old and the Esperanto magazine spans more than half a century. They even have the Esperanto Merchant League and of course, the Ministry of Education recognised Esperanto as early as in the 60s. Most official websites are available in Esperanto. China just started the Esperanto TV last year:

Not only China, of late, the Kansas state government in United States of America also provided an Esperanto version of its website. The British parliament also employs Esperanto translators for translating various reports.

The benefits of Esperanto do not only include the ability to learn other languages faster. According to Tony, a past President of the Chicago Esperanto Association in a comment in Change dot org, Esperanto could help the autistic children too.

None of the political parties or the NGOs, particularly the DONG JIAO ZONG, in Malaysia are willing to conduct research on Esperanto. More aptly put, they are neither caring to the poor nor the rural folks. We have an acute shortage of qualified English language teachers in the rural areas, and all races will suffer from the lack of an international language if they were forced to leave school early. But in the age of the internet,  no one can conceal the truth from the people. Again, this internet service is still not available in many rural areas, and even if it were, the charges are so high that poor families will hardly be able to subscribe to the service.

How difficult the English language must be, given that even English kids fail examinations for their mother tongue. English is more of a commercial lingua franca but not a general one. Within the ten ASEAN countries, in how many countries would you be able to use English comfortably on the streets? How about countries in Europe or Latin America countries like Brazil, Colombia etc.?

Dr Robert Phillipson claimed that English is an imperialism language. What would be the trend of the usage of English in the future?  In order to pursue equal rights, many people in Europe are joining the political parties based on Esperanto.

Would it be a loss to teach one year of Esperanto and reap its countless benefits?

I leave it to PAKATAN and the like to do the research although many reports have been long published.

Do not leave the people on the margins out of mainstream society. Malaysia is a country which is full of natural resources and of course human resources too.

P.S. This article was originally submitted to a local online news portal which claimed to be a nuetral in news reporting  but trashed my articles when the content of the article is about Esperanto whether the articles are in Chinese or English languages. I have set up a blog to republish those articles.

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After watching the 8 minutes short film of the late Dr Claude Piron on the chanllenge of language, Sinjoro ENG has himself revolutionised. Watch it and see whether the short film will touch you too. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU

Posted on 24 November 2011. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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12 Responses to PAKATAN, will you introduce Esperanto in schools if you go to Putrajaya?

  1. Hi Mr Eng, I am a little late in reading this article, but thank you for sharing. I was a little skeptical about Esperanto in the beginning because we have a lot of other languages circulating in Malaysia – what could one extra language do to help us? And also, how could that help us learn English better?

    But after reading some of the articles in those links and checking out the language myself, I find the idea of a universal and artificial language to be intriguing. Languages I am familiar with are English, Mandarin, Malay and some Italian. I cannot see the immediate benefits of learning Esperanto in improving Mandarin or Malay fluency (yet?) because I have not delved deep into learning the language, but as far as English and any Romance language goes, I do believe it would have benefited me to learn Esperanto beforehand. In fact, my English has improved just by learning Italian because I understand grammatical structures more easily and I can pick up meanings of English words through Italian/Latin rooted words. I have a gut feeling that Esperanto would do the same.

    I personally think that when you talk about Esperanto you should emphasize that it is an artificial language. Reason being that its artificiality has its strengths and weaknesses. Its artificiality is what makes it worth learning (as counterintuitive as it may seem at first).The only weakness is that in reality nobody will use that language even if you travel – more people will still be using their own native language anyways. But the strengths are:

    1) It has no relation to any other ethnic group, so the language is as logical and as can be (ie no weird local slangs and language pecularities – think "lah", "ma", "aiyo" in our daily Manglish). This means fewer misunderstandings and a straightforward learning towards the mastery of the language.

    2) It takes on words and grammar from many different languages (not just Romance languages), meaning that when you learn a language from anywhere in the world you will be able to spot familiarities between Esperanto and that language. Familiarity makes it easier for one to pick up a new language.

    Also, to anyone who actually reads this, I wanted to point out that mastery of Esperanto is not the main goal. Even learning it for a few months would reap long term benefits IMO. Because the ultimate goal should be familiarity – familiarity with certain words, grammatical structures, and phonetical sounds or any other aspect of a language. In other words, learning Esperanto is like learning a little bit of English, German, Romance language (Italian/French/Spanish/Portughese) etc all at once.

    However, the implementation of it would be another headache…

    • Sinjoro ENG

      Well, Caroline, you have experinced the propaedeutic effect of language learning, if you can seach a little more of Esperanto in the youtube, you can watch the sample of Chinese language vs Esperanto, mostly in the grammar. I cannot paste the link of the propaedeutic here as it may capture as spam. I tried this way. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Propaedeutic_value_of_Esperanto

  2. Amina

    Esperanto has been around for a long time and yes, it has been more successful than any other artificially created languages. However, I'm not that optimistic about its ability to create more opportunities for the disadvantaged communities in Malaysia, or Asia for that matter. You brought up many valid points for the introduction of Esperanto; its simplicity, its use in many countries…but ultimately, it's still not a major language. One year, would not be enough to research its benefits…look at how long we've spent on training ELT staff and developing and changing English curricula…etc and we still haven't got it right. It would take at least a decade, possibly more, to conduct meaningful research, which could give us some indication of how useful Esperanto might be. I agree that these resources would be better used, in improving our ELT programmes from the elementary school level, whether in terms of teaching methodology, teacher proficiency, syllabus, etc. Europe is different since, you can still get relatively good benefits and employment opportunities in non-English speaking environments. There is resistance towards the linguistic, commercial and cultural imperialism of the U.S. and the U.K. They can afford to resist, as even their poor have good social welfare benefits. Asia's poor have nothing. Those who can move out of blue collar jobs generally need English or a local language. Those who are trapped in menial work, need to leave their countries, in order to get wages that are above slave rates. English would increase their opportunities, without a doubt. China, where Esperanto has been around for half a century, is still embracing English language training on a large scale, both through public and private efforts. Why? Utility. English creates more opportunities, in one's own country, in Asia as well as throughout the world. Forgoing English for Esperanto would further disadvantage children whose parents cannot afford private schools as English would even more become the domain of the elite.
    As far as easy, or difficult. There are opposing schools of thought on whether some languages are more difficult than others to learn. Some linguists believe that all (non-native) languages are equally difficult to learn, given that the learning contexts & methods,age of students,etc are equal. The degree of difficulty is believed by some to lie in how different the target language is from the first language. Another thing is, even if Esperanto IS easier to learn that may not necessarily be a good thing. Simple languages with limited vocabulary, by nature, can only be used in limited functions. Look how hard they are coining words to expand the functions of Bahasa Malaysia…
    You are right, the spread of English can be seen as a by product of the combined colonizers-the British Empire, in the past and the U.S. Conglomerates in the present. We can lament it all we want and nothing will change. As long as English is valued in business, international relations and academia, we need it for progress. How do we overcome this? We choose a view-the emotional or the practical. Clearly, the latter will help us get there. Remove all the emotive connotations connected to English-classism, racism, culture-threat, politics, etc…and see the language as what it really is- a tool. Why do science students learn the table of elements, why do architects learn Autocad (or whatever..) why do programmers need XYZ language. We learn these without emotional or political reactions because they are not historically tied to bigotry, colonization and Big Biz U.S. That's how we should approach English.

    • Sinjoro ENG

      Amina, Thank you for your time in spending in response to the text but unfortunately you did not go beyond the line.

      Do you know there is Esperanto University ?

      Do you know there is Esperanto Commerce League ?

      There are many do you know question for you if you have followed the articles that I have written and click all the links to read it and take few minutes to communicate with Esperantists in facebook or twitter. You would not think this way.

      I did not say stop learning English, did I ? I proposed to have the Esperanto as a spring board to other languages.

      Read it again.

      Just spend 200 hours learning Esperanto and reap the countless benefits it offers.

      The short brief introduction by the editor of loyarburook who has a good vision for Esperanto

      Unless you learn Esperanto yourself, you can only see the benefits Esperanto can bring.

      Pakatan or Barisan Nasional should set up a specialist team to conduct a research and to rip the good effects of Esperanto.

    • Amina, I would like to invite to watch this short film by the late Dr Piron and you would know why the ELT is hardly developed.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YHALnLV9XU

      If this short film cannot give you more ideas, I would not know what would be the better piece of the article can help to clarify the situation of language learning.

      • Amina

        Hi!
        Thanks for your response. I’ve actually read almost all your articles on Esperanto and am still exploring the links. Will watch the movie too. I saw some of the comments on your articles written in Esperanto and found myself recognising many of the words(with no Esperanto training), so I do see your point about it being easy to learn.
        I guess I’m just apprehensive about the Education Ministry’s (regardless of which govt is in power, it will still be many of the same people in the trenches)ability to handle such an effort and worried that the already scant resources available for English improvement would be further diminished. Your efforts in researching and advocating what you see as a way of creating more opportunities for the disadvantaged is commendable.

    • the Malaysian's problem with English now is 'cultural imperialism' and how it impacts Bahasa Malaysia and our cultural identity, in the forms of bahasa rojak (BM mixed with English) spoken by the richer urban Malays, the DBP's over-reliance on English loanwords … and ultimately, why the emphasis on English in Malaysian cyberspace whilst most local websites are useless to foreign net users? I'm not sure how replacing English with Esperanto in international organizations and such will solve this but the bottom line is many Malaysians have a negative impression of English and it's because the English language is seen to pervade in "forbidden territories" of Malaysian and Malay culture for some time. Like, why do we watch American cartoons in English while our neighbours are watching the same stuff in their own languages? So the only way to solve the English problem is to withdraw the English language from those forbidden territories and start all over again in the best way within ethical bounds. That's how ELT is more successful in China than in many Commonwealth countries.

      In short, when English is increasingly seen as culturally intrusive to various cultures on Earth, a threat to cultural diversity, it could spell either the wipe-out of many world languages the eventual downfall of the lingua franca itself as a result of a massive backlash.

  3. Gamowa

    First thing first surely. Let others develop Esperanto or any other futuristic language and if proved useful or superior and adopted by the main economies perhaps we too should seriously into it. Lets not divert attention to why the parents want a choice in the first place.
    They want a language which enable their child to stay connected to the advanced, progressive development in the world. Where they can have access to all the necessary and relevant information and knowledge to survive.

    • Remush

      Chicken and egg problem

    • Enrique

      Others have already developed Esperanto. Esperanto have been in use during the last 124 years, by people in most countries, and of course, it have proved to be really useful. Now is the time to get everybody, specially school children to learn it and enjoy its advantages.
      Esperanto not only permits communication all over the world, but it is also a good introduction to learning other languages,
      including English. It takes less time to learn Esperanto and English, than just to learn English.

      Enrique

    • Sinjoro ENG

      Saluton Gamowa

      Unfortunately you did not put your fingers working on the google or yahoo search enginee to read the development of Esperanto neither you have followed my articles in loyarburok. Here is the link for you.
      http://www.loyarburok.com/?s=esperanto&x=11&a…