Resistance may be futile: Are there alternatives to Global English?
is the title of an article by Dennis Baron is professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois, U.S.A. Although most of this article appears to be very well-researched his professionality seems to flag when it comes to what he calls boutique languages; in which category he includes a 'niche language like Esperanto' and 'an artisanal lingo like Klingon'.
Esperanto speakers are always quick to stand up for the language. So by the time I had read it six others had already commented on the article. They explained that Klingon is a fictional language as opposed to Esperanto, which started as a 'planned language' and has since developed like any other one. The language works well and it has more speakers than Klingon
What surprised me most of all was his usage of the word 'boutique'. According to this reference a boutique is a small shopping outlet, especially one that specialized in elite and fashionable items such as clothing and jewellery.
This is what I think of as a boutique.
Boutiques are cool and exotic especially for people with well-stuffed wallets.
Boutique language? What was it that Humpty Dumpty said in 'Alice in Wonderland'?
''When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean.''
What does Professor Baron mean when he refers to Esperanto as boutique language? If he means that is cool and exotic then all I can say is that he is barking up the wrong tree.
It is an everyday language for a community international roots and connections, that at present seems to be growing.
How big is it?
According to Dennis Baron :
'about 1,000 native speakers and as many as two million who boast some familiarity with the language. '
The truth is that nobody really knows. Membership statistics from Esperanto organisations represent only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Thanks to internet people learn the language, get in touch with other Esperanto speakers, read Esperanto literature and journals and listen to Esperanto music. However as many of them (unfortunately) never join an organisation it is difficult to tell how many we are.
Even more important is the lack of information with regard to how many of us are competent speakers.
Native Esperanto speakers grow up in Esperanto-speaking families - ' Elementary, my dear Watson'.
For them it is the language used for mundane affairs such as:
'What are we going to have for dinner tonight?'
'The kitchen sink's blocked again.'
'No more chocolate for you, my dear....'
'Can you collect my coat from the dry-cleaner's?'
After all how else could there be 'about a 1000 native speakers'?
Whether or not Esperanto will ever become everyman's second language is perhaps just a beautiful dream and this remains to be seen. However for now Esperanto is very much alive and as a living language does it not deserve as much respect as any other living language?
P.S.This link may well give a more up to date picture of how many Esperanto speakers there are in the world. It is based on languages used in Twitter messages about the death of Steve Jobs. P.P.S.According to one esperantist's interpretation , this would indicate that perhaps there about 10 - 12 million esperantists dotted around the globe. However this sounds a bit too optimistic, in my humble opinion.