11 September 2011

I was reading through a blog post by Chuck Smith and saw one of the pictures from the event. The really interesting thing was that the photo was representative of a wide range of ages, cultures and both genders. It was the caption that caught my eye though:

“191 participants from 28 countries”

This is pretty impressive in its own right but it got me thinking about how people from different cultural and language backgrounds would normally communicate. When I thought about it, it occurred to me that the way I would expect them to communicate would be by using English. Admittedly this is something of a bias, and potentially a troubling one. It’s not so much that I assume people would use English to cross the language divide, but more that it had not occurred to me that they wouldn’t. In truth I had never really thought much about it. Of course I am aware that either could have learned the other’s language, that perhaps they might use Spanish or French. Still, even knowing the wide range of choices…

I’ve known about Esperanto for many years but it’s only now that I’ve stopped to really think about it and what it’s trying to do that it now seems strange to see English as a preferred means of communication.

Of course in my defense, English does seem to be one of the primary languages on the planet and without wishing to get into a heated discussion, I’m sure we can probably agree that English is the second language of choice for many people. It offers a lot of bang for the buck as it were.

I asked my friend who is a native Dutch speaker but also speaks English fluently what he thought on the subject. Would he assume that they were probably using English to communicate. He said:

“of course I would, since you know… English is generally seen as the default language everybody speaks.”

One point I do want to make is that this post is meant to express that English doesn’t have to be the “lingua franca”. I think for many people English does serve this role and that many people expect to be able to use it in this manner. However that assumption (the British on holiday abroad comes to mind) should be challenged.

Esperanto is certainly proving to be an eye opener in more ways than one!

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