Sam Green's film is an interesting and entertaining documentary, which gets a good percentage of the facts right. It's easy to get some of the facts wrong on any subject, since most articles are written by reporters who have just begun to research a subject, in order to write an article. Reporters interview reporters, and continue to spread information that is seldom traced back to original, or even reliable, sources. Even when reporters are doing their best, it's best to take most statements with a grain of salt. For example, in this article, we are told that Esperanto's "popularity has waned", completely without citation or attribution. Is it true? Who did the research that supports this conclusion? It might be correct, but I suspect that the statement was simply made up by someone, because it might sound credible. As a counter-indication to waning popularity, the biggest free Esperanto learning site, Lernu.net, has 125,000 active user accounts, indicating a remarkable number of people engaged in learning the language. Lernu's online Esperanto courses offer learning help, guidance, and explanations in 37 different languages, and counting, thereby fulfilling the role, within that context, of a language facilitating international communication, connection and friendship building.
The other strikingly questionable statement in this article is that English is spoken by 1.5 billion people. While this figure can be found on Wikipedia, it exceeds all the estimates that I have previously seen put forward by anyone knowledgeable in linguistic demographics. English is clearly the most important and widely-used language for international communication, but 1.5 billion speakers is an exaggeration. Assuming that by speakers, we mean people who can actually hold a useful conversation on a variety of simple topics. No doubt that quite a lot of people have studied English at one time or another, but now have no useful capability in it.
It will be interesting to see how well English maintains its influence, now that the economic power of its largest countries, the US and UK, are in decline, following thirty years of sending most of their jobs and money to Asia (and to billionaires). In any case, the number of English speakers in the world is a smaller fraction now than it was in 1970 (which was roughly the peak of the world's use of English, on a percentage basis.) While the number of native English speakers continues to rise, it has been surpassed by Spanish in the last twenty years.
Bill Chapman is right. Esperanto is in fact more widespread than people imagine. It is now in the top 100 languages, out of 6,800 worldwide. It is the 29th most used language in Wikipedia, ahead of Danish and Arabic. It is a language choice of, Skype, Firefox, Ubuntu and Facebook and Google translate recently added this international language to its prestigious list of 64 languages.
Native Esperanto speakers, (people who have used the language from birth), include World Chess Champion Susan Polger, Ulrich Brandenberg the new German Ambassador to and Nobel Laureate Daniel Bovet. Financier George Soros learnt Esperanto as a child.
Esperanto is a living language - see http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8…
Their online course http://www.lernu.net has 125 000 hits per day and Esperanto Wikipedia enjoys 400 000 hits per day. That can't be bad :)
I'm not sure that Esperanto's "popularity has waned". I find a very dynamic, widespread speaker-population on my travels. I've just come back from France - where I used the language, of course.
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