Where is Esperanto taught in schools?


Language policy
Question about Esperanto in the French National Assembly


en Esperanto

The French Minister of Education Luc Chatel has in his Answer to a parliamentary question by Olivier Jardé (Somme), the general admission of Esperanto in the French school system rejected; For comparison: In France, a total of 57 languages ​​could be chosen for the 2009 Abitur (cf. Le baccalauréat 2009: "22 langues vivantes étrangères" (living foreign languages, 24 other languages, 11 regional languages).

The answer from the Ministry of Education contains several positive pieces of information about Esperanto, for example the Esperanto ideals of fraternity and neutrality are emphasized and reference is made to Esperanto’s own culture. It is also mentioned that Esperanto is spoken by millions of speakers all over the world.

There were no objections to teaching Esperanto in working groups.

Reasons for rejection

The Ministry gives a number of reasons why, in its opinion, Esperanto does not meet the necessary conditions for institutionalizing Esperanto teaching in schools:

  • Esperanto cannot currently compete with the major international languages ​​such as English, Arabic, Spanish, Russian and French. In addition, Esperanto is not now recognized as a working language in the large international organizations.
  • Esperanto is not a mother tongue.
  • Esperanto's own culture is still very young.

Working language

The Ministry of Education argues here with the major international languages ​​that are also used as working languages, while at the same time a total of 57 languages ​​are admitted to the French Abitur, the majority of which only play a minor international role.

Mother tongue for a hundred years

The claim that Esperanto is not a mother tongue is incorrect - Esperanto has been a mother tongue since 1904. In "The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics" from 1994 says that there are even second and third generation native speakers (i.e. one grandparent already spoke Esperanto as his mother tongue). The number of native Esperanto speakers is estimated at several thousand today.

Written Esperanto culture since 1887

The reference to the fact that Esperanto's own culture is still very young is difficult to understand in the context of educational policy - nobody rejects the teaching of computer science with the argument that this subject is still very young. It should also be noted that Esperanto has had a tradition of written literature since 1887 - longer than some of the languages ​​admitted to the French Abitur. Around 120 Esperanto books are currently published annually; this, too, exceeds the number of new publications in many of the languages ​​admitted to high school in France.

Eligibility criteria

In the answer, some criteria for admission as a subject are also listed:

  • Esperanto must be sufficiently widespread in the world to allow its effective and practical use.
  • It must have an official status.
  • It must be the bearer of a culture and a rich and living cultural heritage. The student must be able to compare his own culture with that of the others in order to understand what makes each different in its own way.
  • It would also be a matter of sensitizing the student to the linguistic variations such as accent, dialect and language register that make the language special.
  • It is the access to the complexity of a culture and the inner richness of a language that makes learning particularly motivating for the students.

These criteria cannot justify a rejection of admission as a regular subject in French schools - and thus the denial of equality with 57 other languages:
  • Practical use: The ministry itself states that several million people around the world speak Esperanto; this alone shows that a practical use of Esperanto is not a problem. Examples of the use of Esperanto are Wikipedia with currently 128,000 articles (22nd place in comparison with other languages), the information pages of the Chinese government (Esperanto as one of ten languages), the pages of Google or computer programs like Firefox.
  • Official status: Esperanto has been permitted as a school subject in Hungary for decades; a legislative process on Esperanto in public schools is currently under way in Brazil.

    With the inclusion of the Esperanto PEN Center in PEN International, Esperanto was recognized as a literary language in 1993.

    As early as 1985, Unesco invited its member states to "promote the introduction of a study program on the language problem and Esperanto in schools and higher education institutions" ( Minutes of the general conference in Sofia, 1985).

  • Comparison of cultures: It is surprising that in connection with Esperanto, comparing cultures is discussed. On the one hand, Esperanto has a culture in which its own creations come together with the national cultures of the Esperanto speakers. On the other hand, the international community of Esperanto speakers offers every day the opportunity to relate one's own culture to that of others.
  • Accent, dialect and language register: In Esperanto, too, the speakers of different regions have a more or less pronounced accent. A speaker in Esperanto certainly uses a different style of language than a musician, a writer or a young person. There are no pronounced dialects in Esperanto today - it is surprising, however, that a ministry of education regards dialects as essential for the admission as a school language; dialects are usually not the focus of school lessons ...
  • Complexity of culture and inner richness of a language: It is not easy to give criteria for the complexity of a culture and the inner richness of a language. However, it should be noted that the diverse Esperanto culture with literature, theater, music, international encounters, etc. is definitely attractive for many people who learn Esperanto and e.g. contribute to the further growth of Esperanto Wikipedia.

    As far as English - for comparison - is concerned, it is rather questionable whether it is primarily the inner richness of this language that motivates learning, or rather the fear of being excluded from education and many other things and thus poorer access to it to have external wealth ...

Louis F. v. Wish Rolshoven, EsperantoLand

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