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125 Years of
Among the Peoples of the World
Tove SKUTNABB-KANGAS • Robert PHILLIPSON
Gerhard WALTER • Fernand DE VARENNES
Dr Fernand de Varennes,
International Observatory on Language Rights, Université de Moncton, Canada:
125 years of Esperanto
"It is time that the various nations understand that a neutral language could become a real bulwark for their cultures against the monopolistic influences of only one or two languages, as it now appears increasingly evident. I sincerely hope Esperanto will rapidly be making more progress to assist all of the world's nations." - Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, former President of the Republic of Iceland.
There may be no alarm bells, but there is a crisis: there is nothing natural to the disappearance within a century of more than half of the world's languages spoken today, nor is it normal that a relative privileged few can dominate through language much of the "others" in the rest of the world.
The use of an auxiliary and neutral language such as Esperanto was one of the ways suggested 125 years ago of maintaining "unity through diversity" in a way which was both fair and equitable - and not contributing to the massive extinction of the linguistic heritage of all of humanity.
Is this realistic? I don't know.
Should we just give up and do nothing? Absolutely not.
To paraphrase Gandhi, if "non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as cooperation with good", then this should also be true for the policies of governments and international organizations such as the UN and UNESCO. It would be wrong - maybe even evil - to do nothing when facing this phenomenon and to simply allow hundreds of millions of people from all around the world to be excluded, disadvantaged or even penalised for not being perfectly fluent in one of a small handful of
world mega-languages often erroneously presented as the only languages of development and civilization.
125 years after its creation, the need for a language such as Esperanto is more pressing in the 21st Century than it was in the 19th: large segments of humanity must not be excluded by the adoption
of a small number of exclusive languages which, contrary to widespread myths are neither neutral nor bring together without favouritism all of the world's nations.
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