Almost at the U.N. Posted by Transparent Language on Mar 27, 2009 in Esperanto Language
At two salient points in world history, Esperanto came within a fraction of a hair of being globally embraced. Unfortunately, neither of those instances proved fruitful for our favorite secondary language. However, it is worth noting that Esperanto comes closer and closer to worldwide recognition with each consecutive try – so we should be there soon!
After World War I finally ended, and the League of Nations had been established, a proposal during the first meeting of the League came about in favor of teaching Esperanto in the schools of every country. Having emerged from a global conflict in which alliances and causes for war were unclear, any effort to foster world peace was met with welcome. Esperanto, as a universal second language, would have been a helpful tool. Unfortunately, due to a vehement French delegate, the proposal was defeated – the delegate insisted that French was, in fact, the universal language that the world sought.
Later on, a similar proposal appealed to the United Nations in the 1940s. The measure sought to teach Esperanto in schools across the globe, as well as to use Esperanto as the language for international tourism and commerce. It almost worked – the proposal was backed by French President Vincent Auriol, four different prime ministers, over 400 parliamentarians, and uncounted thousands of scientists, linguists, and educators. Alas, this proposal also met its downfall, but at the hands of the United States. Since the US was a major economic power at the time, they adopted a mindset similar to the post-WWI French: English was the way to do things.
Perhaps we will learn from history this time, and support Esperanto when the opportunity arises?
(A more complete history of Esperanto can be found in David Richardson’s “Esperanto: Learning and Using the International Language [Washington: Orcas Publishing, 2004])
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