Esperanto?4 April 2009 at 5:02 AM | Posted in News | 3 Comments
One of the objectives of multilingual literature is to mirror more of the world than any one language can or, negatively, not to be blind to elements of reality that any one language is necessarily blind to. Why not, then, one could ask, use Esperanto, as one reactor to this blog suggests?
This is Wikipedia‘s account of how the debate about Esperanto has moved as far as literature is concerned: “Esperanto is intended to be an ethnically neutral auxiliary language. The lack of an inherent culture is one of the things that makes Esperanto so much easier to learn and to use than other languages. In an ethnic language like English or Chinese, the student has to learn innumerable arbitrary expressions. It’s not enough to learn the grammar and vocabulary; many perfectly grammatical expressions are unacceptable because people simply don’t speak that way. In Esperanto, such considerations are much less important. Speakers can say what they’d say in their native tongue, or whatever makes sense at the moment, and Esperantists from other language backgrounds aren’t likely to notice the difference.”
Whatever we think of Esperanto, the insight of Esperantists that using a language is not only knowing grammar and vocabulary but culture is accurate. One of the silliest defenses of English as an international language is that it is culture-free. Of course not! It is as British as the British or as American as the Americans! (Substitute for the proper nouns any people or place that speaks any of the Englishes.) A Filipino that writes in English is more British or American than Filipino. This may sound nativist or essentialist, but read a novel originally in Cebuano or Ilocano or Tagalog and read it again in its English translation. If you know both languages well (as many bilingual Filipinos do), you will immediately sense the difference (provided, of course, that you have literary competence as defined by the structuralists). The language itself imposes a different sensibility quite apart from plot, structure, character, imagery, theme, and other literary elements.