In this issue’s trip through the archives, we visit another still-relevant essay from ELNA’s first year; this article, by an unnamed author, appeared in the November, 1953 issue of the newsletter.
The present status of the Esperanto movement, as far as public acceptance is concerned, can be described very nicely by means of a story which appeared some months ago in an international periodical. It seems the board of directors of a large company was meeting, and the president made the following statement: “Gentlemen, I have wonderful news! Our research department has developed a revolutionary new method of production. In the six months since we began using this method our costs have been cut in half, sales have doubled, and we are now in a position to declare the largest dividend in the history of our company.” Amid the ensuing applause, however, one gentleman rose and said warily, “This new method may be fine in practice, but how does it work out in theory?”
Supporters of Esperanto are not proposing a theory for breaking down the world’s language barriers, but rather are pointing out that the language problem has already been solved — that what we are trying to do is extend the use of the international language beyond its present limited scope to include ever-widening fields of international activity.
There have been many proposals for a universal interlanguage — they number in the hundreds. Many are as ridiculous as the recent suggestion that English, spelled with Russian letters, be adopted by all nations. Others are carefully worked-out projects with much in their favor from a strictly scientific point of view; the latest of these, a project years in preparation and which represents the efforts of a great many well-known and competent men, is Interlingua. The Interlingua project was launched with a great deal of costly promotion. Yet, as reported elsewhere in this issue, Interlingua seems already, for all practical purposes, to be a dead issue. The reason why Esperanto has succeeded while the Interlinguas, the Novials and the Mundilatins have failed will be the subject of an article in a later issue. In a word, just as it “takes a heap of living to make a home,” it takes a lot of using to make a language.
Esperanto ceased to be a project 50 years ago; it has become the living language of a living people. We have our own literature, our own periodicals, our own social life. There is no question as to whether or not Esperanto will “succeed” or “fail”; there is only the question of whether the ease with which we are able to exchange ideas with our fellows throughout the world will be shared by the businessmen and the scientists, the diplomats and the politicians, the working men and the students of all countries.