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November 13, 2004

Comments

Derek

If you haven't read it, I highly recommend a book that's now almost 20 years old, The Story of English:

http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/0142002313/penmachine-20/

It was a companion to the U.S. PBS series of the same name, and provides a wonderful, thorough, and easy-to-read overview of the evolution and spread of English around the world. The references to technical English and some of the regional dialects (particularly of South Africa and, sadly, Sierra Leone) seem a bit dated, but overall it has aged well, and discusses many of these same issues in some detail.

Maurice Sujet

The statistics given about the number of English speaking people in many countries of the planet are based on inquiries resulting of self-evaluation and the given proportions of persons very proficient in English are quite exagerated. All people traveling a lot in the world can make this objective observation.
Many of us should like to know the numbers of european deputies who can debate in Brussels in full equality with their English colleagues having English as their mothertongue. They are not so many because even in the north countries having a germanic language you can read
for instance in AFTONBLADET (Sweden) "when it's a nuanced reasoning we risk to say what we can and not what we would" or "it's easier to mend a beer in a pub than to discuss around the table of a board of directors". We may add in international meetings where English is the only language allowed and where all documents must be in English. Is it fair to all members who don't speak excellent English and is it democratic when the statutes proclaims the equality of languages in Europe and the right for everybody to use his or her native language?
Is it possible to get real numbers of persons in every part of the world having really an excellent knowledge of English, not only passive but also active, in order to be able to fully participate actively , on equality level, in debates or discussions?
Thank you for your attention and please pardon my flawly English . Usually with my English or US friends, and with my many friends from all continents, I'm using Esperanto and I can use my brain for finding ideas instead of thinking of all the traps of national languages as English or French. I'm enjoying this privilege now from fifty-five years , and this privilege, which I got in only four months by myself teaching, is growing every day with the use of " Internet which seems created for Esperanto" as once wrote to me a German friend. If you want to hear this pleasant language from Poland, China or Vatican regulary broadcasting from many years you may
go to http://radioarkivo.org
or type www.esperanto.net or type only the word esperanto on Google server and you'll receive many pages (more than one million) in the international language or about it.
The knowledge of Esperanto is also very useful to give interest in other cultures and instigate to learn other languages , like English, more rapidly and with more success. It occured to me as to many of my friends: for us Esperanto was a real stepping stone ( or a spring-board ) to learn English and to improve our national language.After objective inquiries the NITOBE Commission recommended its teaching in the states of the League of Nations after the WW1 and UNESCO did the same in 1954 and 1982 because the Esperanto speaking organisations are aiming at the same goals of peace and culture with respect to the diversity of all languages and cultures. Every knows that many languages are in peril, and linguists are aware that their destruction would be an intellectual catastrophe." The greatest intellectual disaster that the planet has ever known" , wrote David Crystal , the eminent author of the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of English Language (1995) in article to GUARDIAN and p.viii in his work "DEATH OF LANGUAGE" (Cambridge University Press). For as wrote the Linguistic Society of America in a policy statement in 1994
"The loss to humankind of genetic diversity in the linguistic world is (...) arguably greater than even the loss of genetic diversity in the biological world" ( p.34).
It's urgent for the leaders of the world to think of these wise positions of intellectuals who know what they are speaking of.

Eliot (Amy)

Great article. How do you feel about US-based websites with global events and members being written in American English? We're having that struggle in our organization right now. My British husband thinks we should write in British English anytime referring to our UK conferences, but I think the site should have a standard usage...

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