Why is Esperanto more popular in some regions than in others?

Why is Esperanto more popular in some countries than in others? Why is the community vibrant in some regions yet barely active in others? Why is the movement strongest in Europe and East Asia but weakest in Africa and Central Asia? Why is it far more popular in Brazil than the rest of South America?

I’m not going to try and analyse why individuals learn the language or how many Esperantists are in the world, both questions are too complicated and lacking enough data to make a judgement. Yet even if you look at a map of UEA members, we can get a rough idea of the areas of relative strength (this article will focus on relative popularity not absolute). Obviously, many Esperantists are not members of UEA, but the data is still informative. I am also going to rely on my personal experiences and observations, which may not be representative but might point in the right direction.

Number_of_UEA_members_by_country.svg
Membership in UEA by country

Native language

This is the issue that non-Esperantists believe is the main, if not the decisive factor. It is taken for granted that Esperanto is far easier to learn for native speakers of Latin languages, in fact I have seen many people claim Esperanto is only easy for Western Europeans and is just as difficult as English or another national language for Asians.

Yet there is almost no evidence to support this. The countries with the most Esperanto speakers are China, Germany, France, Japan and Brazil. In Europe, the core of the community is centred on France-Germany-Poland and the fact each have a different native language family (Latin-Germanic-Slavic) has little effect. The language is stronger in East Asia than it is South America. If you look at the World Congress of Esperanto, there is little correlation between native language and participation rates. The last three congresses were held in Portugal, South Korea and Slovakia respectively, yet the attendance at each was remarkably similar. Even at the Congresses held in Europe, some of the largest delegations were from Japan and South Korea.

Let’s look at a case study. Slovakia and Portugal are both small European countries with similar population sizes, yet the vocabulary of Esperanto is much more similar to Portuguese than Slovak, so Portugal should have a much larger Esperanto movement. Yet it is Slovakia with an active movement while Portugal doesn’t even have a national association. There were more Slovaks than Portuguese at the World Congress in Portugal last year. We could also use Romania to test the hypothesis. It is an Eastern European country with a similar level of economic development as its neighbours, but Romanian is a Latin language, which should help it edge out. But Bulgaria and Hungary both have larger movements, despite their native languages having much less in common with Latin. In fact, Hungary has arguably one of the proportionately largest Esperanto communities despite the fact Hungarian isn’t even an Indo-European language.

Linguistic diversity

People who already speak multiple languages and are used to learning new languages are going to be more receptive to learning another language and familiar with issues regarding language rights. In contrast, monolinguals are resistant to learning a new language, don’t see any need to respect linguistic rights and often believe they are unable to learn another language. The polyglot nature of the Esperanto community is clear to see, and many are drawn to the language due to an interest in language issues. Regions where language is a political issue (like Belgium and Catalonia) have active movements and are resistant to the idea of one dominant language. Small countries where foreign languages are in close proximity often have disproportionately active movements.

The strength of English could be a factor in itself as English speakers are much more resistant to the idea of Esperanto than non-English speakers (they are also less likely to have heard about it). Native English speakers in particular are dubious of the need to learn other languages at all and feel English already is a global universal language (the belief “everyone speaks English” is very common). But it’s hard to isolate this factor as English speakers are largely monoglots but also geographically isolated. Out of Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA, only the USA has a land border with a country that speaks another language, all the others are islands. Even then it is hundreds of miles away for many inhabitants. Hence, it’s hard to tell whether English is a factor or just correlated with other factors.

Existing common language

The corollary to the last point is that Esperanto is far less popular in areas where there is already a common language in the continent. For example, most of South America speaks Spanish so they already have an international language for the continent. It is noticeable that the only non-Spanish speaking South American country, Brazil has the strongest movement on the continent. Likewise, Arabic already provides an international language in the Middle East, which could be a major reason why most of the Middle East doesn’t even have Esperanto associations. It is noticeable the only two countries in the Middle East with movements, Iran and Israel, aren’t Arabic speaking nations. It is possible that the fact Zamenhof was Jewish helped the popularity of Esperanto in Israel too.

Personal contacts

While many Esperantists are idealistic, plenty of people are drawn to the language by completely ordinary reasons, such as personal contacts. I’ve met many Esperantists who got involved because they were convinced by friends or their partner, these personal contacts are essential for keeping people in the movement. It can be intimidating going to your first Esperanto meeting if you don’t know anyone, so a friendly welcome can be decisive in bringing the person back again. If someone makes a friend, that can keep them in, so when the next person comes along, they can join the group and act as a magnet for more people. Likewise, if someone has no one they can use the language with, they might lose interest and potential learners would have no one to use the language with. This means towns with an active club can attract and retain new people, while potential new learners in towns without clubs are less likely to become active.

Slovakia has an active youth movement because a group of friends learned the language, brought their friends in and became friends with other people. As a result, there is now a close-nit group driving the movement. Hungary did have active youth movement, but they seem to have gotten somewhat burnt out as new people didn’t replace the old, leading to IJS not being organised last year or this. Most events, clubs and even national associations are dependent on a small number of highly active people who have a huge impact on the wider movement.

Education/Economics

Why is the movement weaker in Africa and the 3rd world in general? Esperanto is essentially a hobby language, people learn it for fun or because they like the idea of it. No one learns it for work or because it is necessary in school. This means it is more common among highly educated people with disposable income and less popular in poorer regions. Language learning as a hobby is far more common among highly educated people for various reasons including a greater comfort and aptitude with learning. People need time and resources to invest to learn the language, resources that are more available to well-off people.

Geography

People learn Esperanto to use it with other people, so places where international travel is easier are going to be more attractive. Germans are highly represented at international events because the central location of Germany in Europe makes it easy to travel and attending events are a great way to keep people in the movement. On the other hand, if you are far away from other countries, it is hard to find a use for Esperanto and speaking Esperanto with people who share your native language feels somewhat artificial to some. This why the movement is much stronger in the centre of Europe than on the periphery, why Slovakia is more active than Portugal, Germany and Poland more than the Balkans.


In conclusion, although the native language of a country seems to have little or no effect on the popularity of Esperanto, factors like language diversity, education, geography and personalities can boost support, while the presence of a rival international language such as English can weaken support.

28 thoughts on “Why is Esperanto more popular in some regions than in others?”

  1. “The strength of English could be a factor in itself as English speakers are much more resistant to the idea of Esperanto than non-English speakers (they are also less likely to have heard about it).”

    That’s what they were saying 40-50 years ago when I was leading the PR activities for Esperanto in Britain. Yet Esperanto then was popular, and well spoken of. In 1974 we had a majority in the House of Commons in the Esperanto Parliamentary Group. Some people were interested in Esperanto because they were so poor at other languages, and Esperanto gave them a chance. They felt guilty.

    Reviewing the popularity of Esperanto in countries across the world doesn’t reveal much unless you look also at trends. Britain looks mediocre, but if you look at Britain over 50 years ago and look at it now you’ll see a massive decline. Even then, you’ll see people becoming more supportive of the Universal Esperanto Association as their national association declines. In any case, the most active Esperantists in the UK are generally immigrants rather than native Brits.

    The really big problem in analysing this is that when people put in really in-depth research the Esperantists don’t want to know unless they can blame others rather than themselves.

      1. WORDS ARE THE PROPERTY OF ALL ALIKE

        In Esperantujo and in the wider world the powers that be and the sinister forces that have thwarted Esperanto, as referenced in Ian’s sad account of what has transpired at the EAB, are as yet insufficiently apprehended. More whistle-blowing will bring about yet fuller expositions that attain a global reach. International bodies whose raison d’etre is the realizing of world peace are not immune from the corruption and infiltration chronicled by Ian. The brave editor of ‘Esperanto sub la Suda Kruco’ has recently aired an important part of this historic problem: http://aea.esperanto.org.au/ftp-uploads/ESK-125-dec2016.pdf (p. 17-22)
        Said six-page expose in Esperanto is too long for posting here. Please contact this writer for the English rendition which includes an historic photograph of Nobel laureates, Einstein, Bergson, Lord Cecil and other notables of the era who similarly failed to eradicate the corruption manifested by a super rich coterie and propped up by their venal intellectuals so that the public’s aspirations re Esperanto soon after WW1 and during the interbellum might be strangled in the cradle. Long lingers the aftermath at the UN, I sadly opine in my unofficial status as a former member of the Baha’i Esperanto League.

        In 1954 the Universal Esperanto Association (UEA) joined the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation. In 1966 UEA presented the UN and UNESCO with one of the largest petitions in the history of the United Nations. One million individuals from 74 countries personally signed on, including heads of government, leaders of unions, charities, clubs and so on. As one they called for step by step introduction of Esperanto into every school in the world. In all, therefore, seventy-one million people indirectly supported Esperanto and its world peace initiatives. (Ambassador Ralph Harry: ‘Adventures in Esperantoland’, p. 66.) Regarding UNESCO-resolutions adopted in 1954 and 1985 and also by the League of Nations in 1922, vocalised moral support, and little else, is clearly evident in UN circles . For an account of the Machiavellian machinations in Geneva, the city of the nations, that thwarted Esperanto shortly after WW1 refer p41 gratis online courtesy University of Georgia, USA: http://bahai.uga.edu/Realigas_la_Mondan_Pacon.pdf (Free in English in pdf at pauljdesailly@gmail.com) An Esperanto office in liaison with the UEA is staffed in New York at the UN whose cultural matters are mainly delegated nowadays to UNESCO which in turn continues to “monitor Esperanto’s progress”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Esperanto_Association#International_organizations

        1. If they’ve asked me to subscribe in support of something useless but perceivably positive, I would.

          If they’ve asked me to vote to redirect public funds to it, I would obviously refuse.

          The governments in the world are not idiots, and they understand there is no need to waste money on something so useless as Esperanto. Especially if they are spearheaded by Islamic movements such as Bahaism.

          Seriously, can you come with just one good reason to promote Esperanto, a reason that would convince me or any other normal person?

          To make up conspiracy theories is a stupid thing to do.

          1. Consider answering the question about ‘which countries’ Shaa. It’s an important prerequisite in a face to face discussion that all questions politely put are addressed – and absolutely essential in a group discussion. Untenable and rude assertions tend to destroy the good will inherent in the norms of consultation when such prerequisites are ignored. PS Various governments in Communists and Democratic countries already support Esperanto and Esperantism!

      2. “If a majority of MPs were in the Esperanto Parlamentary Group, why did they not use their influence to promote the language? What ever happened to the group?”

        There was a dirty tricks campaign, which I had to investigate at the time. The Chairman of the EPG, Lord Davies of Leek suddenly resigned. The co-ordinator of the Esperanto Lobby called a meeting of myself, the President and Vice-president of The British Esperanto Association (Inc) and the co-ordinator of TUCEG, the Trades Union and Co-operative Esperanto Group. Without saying a word he pressed the button on the tape recorder, and played back a telephone conversation he had had with Lord Davies. A letter had appeared under his name in a national newspaper praising the EPG. Lord Davies said he hadn’t written it. He also said there were other things going on. A couple had made an appointment with him, apparently “only to pass the time of day”. I couldn’t understand why he should resign rather than just stating the truth. At the request of the Lobby Organiser I didn’t go public on this, in order “not to embarrass Lord Davies”. That was the reason I didn’t approach the newspaper. I interviewed all concerned, except for the Lobby Organiser, and was satisfied that that letter had not come from them.

        However, whoever sent the letter made one mistake. He quoted the latest membership figures for the EPG, and that had only just been derived. A memo had just been sent round by the Lobby Organiser, but I hadn’t at that stage read it, and neither had others. It had not been published. I concluded that we were under surveillance and that this was no amateur matter. I left it there.

        Some time later Esperanto Lobby was taken out of the control of BEA (Inc) by registering the name as a Business Name on a register that no longer exists. That gave the Lobby organiser sole right to continue lobbying under that name. The cost of registering was £1. The amount was trivial, but it was paid by the Company Secretary of BEA (Inc), who was also the office manager. I raised this in Council, because it meant that the Lobby organiser and the Company Secretary were complicit in this, though I didn’t put it that way at the time. The Lobby organiser deflected attention by announcing the reason for the resignation of Lord Davies of Leek. This brought about such outrage and anger in the Council meeting that my point was overshadowed.

        Earlier that year the President of the Universal Esperanto Association, Professor Ivo Lapenna of the LSE, had resigned as a result of a dirty tricks campaign. Two years later Harold Wilson suddenly resigned as Prime Minister, offering no explanation. Later he joined the EPG; he had learned Esperanto as a scout and had always supported Esperanto, but to my puzzlement had remained stum during his premiership. The new EC Commissioner, Lord Thomson of Fleet was an Esperantist, and had written a few days before his appointment that he spoke the language and supported it, but when The Guardian asked him “How’s your Esperanto?” he denied everything. It was politically dangerous to support Esperanto.

        The EPG kept going, and there were from time to time parliamentary questions on Esperanto, and the existence of the group led to much publicity during that period.

        I had resigned from the Executive Committee of The British Esperanto Association Inc., and from Council, as a result of the shenanigans of the Lobby organiser and the lack of understanding by the President in particular that no-one who is not committed to the cause should be on the Executive Committee; the Lobby Organiser was by that stage saying to me quite openly that Esperanto was a crazy idea. When I had departed Council spent two years in enclave discussing the setting up of Esperanto Association of Britain as a Charity. I now think that was a dirty trick, too. BEA (Inc) was run down and is now dormant. It was a take-over.

        In 1999 the Vice-President of EAB refused to have any further contact with the Esperanto Parliamentary Group, saying that as a Charity they were not allowed to undertake political activity. I complained to the President, who gave a nice smile but did nothing. The EPG Chairman at the time was Lembit Öpik. I did all I could to keep that contact going, but in vain. The Vice-President of EAB at the time had a reputation amongst activists in the association for undermining things.

        In 2006, shortly after the witch-hunt against me following my confidential memo to the President of EAB, there was an amazing documentary on BBC about the resignation of Harold Wilson. They gave such detail and convincing interviews with leading figures at the time, as well as secret tape recordings taken by two journalists with Harold Wilson after his resignation to give that documentary enormous credibility. Wilson had asked them to undertake an investigation into a dirty tricks campaign by MI5 and MI6, which led to his resignation. Only then did I understand why Lord Davis of Leek had resigned so quickly following the dirty tricks; he would have interpreted that as a warning. He had previously been Wilson’s peace envoy in Vietnam on a failed mission to stop the war, and I think he was a close associate of Harold Wilson, and would have been well informed on what was going on.

        I think anyone who has followed today’s Brexit shenanigans will understand that it’s not enough to have a majority in Parliament or even in the Cabinet in support of a policy. That policy will not go ahead if it is opposed by civil servants, as witnessed by Theresa May’s first Brexit Secretary, who was marginalised and as a result was calling for the sacking of the Chief of Staff, before himself resigning.

        1. Great work Ian. Your diligence and professionalism (1) in this important research and (2) in your perseverance in calling us to collective action is an inspiration. Cognition! Volition! Action! What springs to my mind is the sort of corruption that took place in the CIA that resulted in an undermining of the Esperanto movement and also throughout the USSR at various stages of its existence.

        2. Why do all your stories involve blaming dirty tricks and conspiracies in EAB? It’s the like Soviet Union, failure could never be admitted so it was always blamed on sabotage by enemies.

          1. Because I came up with the evidence, mate. What’s more, I hadn’t started off with the conclusions, as most sociologists and Esperantists do, but I started off to find out what was going on. Is it not legitimate for someone with scientific research qualifications to undertake research into the collapse of the membership of an association. The conclusions were unexpected for me, and for the legal advisor, too. As regards blaming others, many of those undermining the Esperanto association were supposedly my friends for many years. I offered you the evidence some time ago after you had rubbished my work, and you dismissed that, and censored some of my comments. My work was more detailed and extensive than any of my three MSc theses, and the only project to be rubbished. But it has never been rubbished by anyone who has taken care to look at it. The amount of abuse I’ve received over this has been phenominal.

            1. “Because I came up with the evidence, mate.”

              No you haven’t, you haven’t provided evidence for any of your claims. All your stories are based on your anecdotes and personal conversations you had. Most of your evidence is just “someone privately admitted I was right all along” and we just have to take your word for it.

              1. I offered to send you all twelve research reports in our earlier correspondence, but you didn’t take it up, but did keep on telling the world I was making it up. I summarised. Do you expect me to write research reports as comments to blogs? But all you should need is the graphic I eventually got the editor of EAB Update to publish in 2011, and the statement by the Treasurer in the following issue beginning with a statement that my figures were correct. No-one has contested the fact that the Management Committee from 1993 to 1999 was consistently stating that the capital was being eaten up. You can check that one out for yourself. If you want evidence of deception, then read the rest of the article by the Treasurer of EAB in response to mine.

                References:

                * Historia Kromnoto https://legacy.esperanto.org.uk/eab/eab_update/gxisdate53.pdf page 12 : The purpose of this article was merely to get the graphic published at last, but when it did appear the graphic appeared small with indistinct text. It shows the capital rising dramatically. The two areas in the bar chart distinguish between ‘free’ capital and ‘allocated’ capital. This was the revised chart following my original submission to the President of December 2006, which was followed by the denunciation campaign. I had made no allegations, but had put at the end that possibly the financial crisis had been caused by too much capital being in the ‘allocated’ section. Subsequently I found that not to be the case. I managed to get that published only because a former General Secretary had asked the marginalised Legal Advisor about a letter by Dermod Quirke and the EAB Libary. I kept out of that one because I thought it could be laying the ground for entrapment, going from events in the 1970s, but I said that only privately to the Legal Advisor. When the two met the Legal Advisor showed the Secretary my chart, and he went pale. This set off a series of events which eventually led to the publication of my article, under strict conditions that I say nothing critical of the committee. I succeeded with that only because I assessed the editor as being well-intentioned but gullible and naive, and believing what he was told merely on the authority of the ’eminentuloj’ rather than on the logic if the case.

                * Kapitalaj investaĵoj de EAB de 1983 ĝis 1998 https://legacy.esperanto.org.uk/eab/eab_update/gxisdate54.pdf page 19 : This is the Treasurer’s reply. In the first sentence she accepts my figures. Then she says it’s not that simple. What isn’t. She was trying to justify the ‘financial crisis’, but I hadn’t mentioned the ‘financial crisis’. Then she goes into irrelevant stuff about ‘BEA Ltd’ (Actually at that stage it was BEA (Inc)) and their constant ‘deficits’. Indeed there were frequent ‘deficits’. At my first AGM of BEA (Inc) in 1964 someone asked how that could be, when they never seemed to lose money. The company secretary replied that ‘deficit’ in the accountancy system they were using didn’t include donations. I thought at the time that that should be made explicit, because most people equated ‘deficit’ with the difference between losses and gains. I didn’t think that that linguistic difficulty would ever be used to deceive the membership. Now look at the Treasurer’s Graphic 1, ‘Gains and Losses’. If that graphic were correct then the annual rise in capital from my graphic would not be possible. The only possible resolution of that that I can see is that she intended to write ‘deficit’. But even so, if the intention was to deceive the members, then I would still classify that as a lie. Now look at Graphic 2. It is a claimed forecast from 1994. Why produce a forecast when we have established the real figures. It’s clearly based on the loss from 1993 to 1994, which was due to a decision to spend a lot of money that year. The Treasurer then according to the minutes stated that if they continued to lose money at that rate they would have to sell the house in six years time. True, if you interpret that as being for just the previous year, rather than as a trend, as I think most people would have thought.

                Now look at the letters section in the same edition. “I cannot see the point” shows the denialism that was prevalent in EAB. Eric Walker was the previous General Secretary, a good, well-meaning guy, a Quaker strongly in favour of peace. All the Quakers I talked to afterwards had the attitude that we’re all friends and in the movement for the same purpose. The editor cut out a paragraph from the original text, which criticised the President. The following letter is one massive ad hominem attack, by a former President of EAB, who is now a Professor of Classics. He will be well aware of the classical techniques of denigration that he himself is using in that letter.

                If you want further evidence of deception look at:

                * Letter from Ian Fantom https://legacy.esperanto.org.uk/eab/eab_update/gxisdate40.pdf page 4. This is not a letter from me, but from the Trustees about a letter I had sent out privately in support of The Friends of Wedgwood Memorial College who were campaigning to keep the college open. They interpreted statements from the local council as an intention to close the college down. Since the college at this stage was paying its way, they believed the motivation to be asset stripping. The committee were accusing me personally of being ‘alarmist’, and never acknowledge that this was coming from the Friends of WMC Association. I discussed this with their Secretary, who was puzzled as to why EAB were completely ignoring their request, when they had their HQ at the college. As a result of this, I sent out a second letter, reporting what had just happened.

                * Statement by the President on behalf of the trustees: https://legacy.esperanto.org.uk/eab/eab_update/gxisdate41.pdf page 3. This refers to a supposed reference I made to Dermod Quirke and the Library. There was no such reference to either. The circular I had sent out was in support of the Friends of Wedgwood Memorial College, who were campaigning to stop the local authorities closing the college down. They had appealed to everyone who had anything to do with the college to write to MPs etc. This statement was just fabrication.

                * https://legacy.esperanto.org.uk/eab/eab_update/gxisdate33.pdf Various articles before the AGM denouncing me, and my reply. The President’s statement on me is vacuous. No-one asked what my cricitisms had been and what it meant. The President’s response to my statement was about the meeting of 11 February. At that meeting I hardly said a word during the discussion on the resolution. I realised it was a stitch-up. Look at the wording of the resolution — last sentence. Had they suspended me? No. It was fake. They didn’t have the legal right to suspend me. Yet the previous meeting had been massively about my question to the Treasurer, which I had put at the meeting previous to that, and then in between meetings. That was pure deception.

                1. Correction: “but I hadn’t mentioned the ‘financial crisis’” -> I hadn’t made any claims about the ‘financial crisis’.

                  Whether or not there was a financial crisis, the point I was making was that my examination of the accounts was to check on the truth of the constant statements in the minutes and elsewhere that the capital was being used up, and that would now need explaining.

                1. I offered to send you all twelve research reports in our earlier correspondence, but you didn’t take it up, but did keep on telling the world I was making it up. I summarised. Do you expect me to write research reports as comments to blogs? But all you should need is the graphic I eventually got the editor of EAB Update to publish in 2011, and the statement by the Treasurer in the following issue beginning with a statement that my figures were correct. No-one has contested the fact that the Management Committee from 1993 to 1999 was consistently stating that the capital was being eaten up. You can check that one out for yourself. If you want evidence of deception, then read the rest of the article by the Treasurer of EAB in response to mine.

                  I gave references in my previous message that disappeared when I posted.

                  1. So, Robert, you accuse me of not coming up with evidence, but your software sends any references I try to post down the drain. And when I offered you a disc of my research reports you weren’t interested. And then when you accuse me of blaming the enemies, you give the Soviet Union as the example, rather than your own government. That’s exactly how wars start, whether between nations or between factions. And it’s exactly what you’re doing.

                    The key reference to deception that I referred to is EAB Update 54 page 19. I just tried posting the URL and it went down the drain again. If this comment gets through, look it up and figure it out for yourself.

                  1. “My own government? When has the Irish government ever blamed its problems on conspiracies and sabotage?” They were complicit with the US in NATO in the 9/11 wars, and although the Irish state may have had no foreknowledge of 9/11 I haven’t heard them asking obvious questions or expressing any doubts about 19 Arab terrorists plus funding from Osama bin Laden. Clearly they were supporting the US claims with no evidence. Irish people died in that terrorist attack, and only now do we have a Grand Jury set up to investigate. Certainly there’s plenty of current material on my government blaming others for what they are responsible for, and there are signs of that often whenever I watch the television news on the BBC. I first became aware of the systematic use of this technique in the first substantial meeting of the EAB Management Committee after I’d joined in 2005. They were doing it so much that they were giving me hints on where I should focus my research. So why pick on the Soviet Union when there are plenty of friendly countries reversing the blame today?

  2. To enhance this well-researched and well-put article and to apprehend Esperanto’s successes in various countries, and especially at the UEA, more attention to the philosophical and religious dimensions of Esperantism is required – imo. This is especially true re Brazil and Japan, respectively F. V. Lorenz and Oomoto:

    Many Faith-communities and Non-Governmental Organisations send representatives and observers to big Esperanto events such as the annual Universal Congress of Esperanto and the tri-annual Asian-Oceanic Congress.
    Of the 100,000 active or moderately active Esperanto speakers in the world, perhaps one in ten is completely fluent. Many more than one million however stay au fait with the basics and niceties of the language. A big majority comes on board without allegiance to any particular group – political, religious or other. Of those who are organised in groups and administered in part from Esperanto Land’s world centre in Rotterdam, the largest groups are found in Braille – 500, Roman Catholicism – 1,300, Christian Evangelism – 350, Economics – 100, Ethnic Liberation – 150, Environmentalism – 300, LGBTI movement – 200, Journalism – 150, Medicine – 500, Naturalism – 100, Go-game – 150, Philately – 100, Physically challenged – 200, Oomoto (a Japanese religion of Shinto provenance founded in 1892) – 700, Radio Amateurs – 300, Railways – 800, Rotary – 100, Scouts – 50, Spiritism (F V Lorenz, Brazil) – 600, Teachers – 700. Six hundred Esperantists support SAT, a non-national, educational, socialist group based in Paris. The Baha’i Faith lists 200 registered speakers. Two Buddhist (Buddhist League and Won Buddhism), one Islámic and many Christian groups (Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Orthodox, Quakers, Unitarians and others) are also represented, as are Cosmology of Martinus and Hillelism. RELIGIONISTS AND ADEPTS OF VARIOUS PHILOSOPHIES FORM APPROXIMATELY 50% OF THE UEA’S GROUPED MEMBERS . Atheists boast an interesting group too with a membership of approximately 60. Nevertheless, non-grouped members as individuals constitute a majority in the Esperanto world community.

  3. “The really big problem in analysing this is that when people put in really in-depth research the Esperantists don’t want to know unless they can blame others rather than themselves.”

    What does this mean? Can you provide an example?

    1. Indeed I can. I spent a whole year full time researching the decline in membership of Esperanto Association Britain. For that I got myself elected to their Management Committee, writing in my manifesto that I wanted to develop the public relations, as I had done in the 1970s. No-one had any doubts that I was competent in that area. However, I had decided that if they blocked me from doing that I would turn my attention to tracing the source of that intervention. I was also competent in research, having an MSc in Physics.

      The intervention came immediately from the former Director of Development, who had been hired for two years to develop the association following its move from London to Barlaston in the North of England. He was sending me emails saying that some people are suitable for committees and others aren’t, and other such nonsensical formulations. He had been a top-level civil servant before taking early retirement and taking up the position in the Esperanto association. Eventually I invited him to my home and we had a three-hour discussion. He still wasn’t making sense. The outcome was that he said that if I really must be on the committee it must be on researching the decline of membership. I replied, “Do you realise that that’s what you were supposed to be doing for two years as Director of Development?”

      From that it was obvious who was actually running the Management Committee. I carried out my research and found out far more than I had anticipated. I wrote 12 reports, all of which showed how good people were being marginalised. Eventually I realised that for all their talk of a ‘financial crisis’, and the ‘eating up of the capital’, never ever did they give figures in the minutes or elsewhere. Reluctantly I turned to the accounts, and found the capital was not stated, and I put a lot of effort into calculating that capital. Eventually I wrote a draft confidential report to the President giving my analysis. For the whole of a period of 6 years of the ‘financial crisis’, if my figures were correct, the capital had been dramatically increasing. I suggested that perhaps the problem had been that too much capital was in designated funds. The reaction of the President was to call me ‘paranoid’ and launch a vicious witch-hunt against me at the 2006 AGM. Only in 2011 did the Treasurer concede that my figures were correct, and only then did I make any allegations of lying.

      That ‘financial crisis’ started in 1994, when their Honorary Secretary resigned, writing privately that he was being denied access to financial information. It culminated in the selling of their property in 1999 at just under £1M, having put it on the market for £0.5M. From two sources I later learned that the market value would have been £1M – £2M; one from a committee member who had asked around at local estate agents, and another from their own legal advisor, who specialised in conveyancing of large commercial properties, and who had been marginalised at that stage. Their former Honorary Secretary, who had resigned, told the solicitor: “As far as that committee is concerned, you are an invisible man, as is anyone who is actively engaged in promoting Esperanto”.

      Browsing through ‘EAB Update’ for that period will tell you a lot more about the witch-hunt. Some of the people involved had also been involved in the witch-hunt against Ivo Lapenna, which led him to resign in 1974. The President of EAB was a professor of Phonetics and Linguistics, and in that capacity worked with the British Council in the promotion of English. From 1989 to 1995 he was President of the Universal Esperanto Association, advancing the view that the Esperanto movement shouldn’t be promoting Esperanto, but just keeping it functioning until the world asked for it. UEA was paralysed for the period following the Cold War, when membership of Esperanto associations in former Communist Countries of Central Europe was rapidly declining and the British Council was pushing English. In Britain something similar happened. There was a linear decline in membership starting abruptly in 1992.

      There’s a lot more, but virtually everyone is in denial. You’ll find lots of praise for those who present superficial pictures of the situation, as long as they don’t hint that anything is the fault of the Esperantists, but good hard solid evidence of Esperanto speakers working against the cause is taboo. Yet there has been a similar intervention in every generation since Esperanto was launched in 1887. Such denial has been in evidence on this website, too, which is why I worded my contribution ‘diplomatically’.

  4. Excellent article! Indeed, the main reasons Esperanto isn’t well known in Russia are rival international language (Russian) and remoteness of other countries. I can travel thousands of kilometers in any direction and everyone there would speak Russian.
    A pity.

  5. I think the main reason for that is the level of teaching the foreign languages. The worse it is taught, the easier it is for Esperanto to find an audience. In countries which can actually speak foreign languages, no one is interested in it.

  6. Which country or countries do you have in mind Shaa? In just about every country there are some people (not many in some places, granted) who speak Esperanto. Said diaspora is one of Esperanto’s strong suites. Quality over quantity?

  7. The data points at first world nations that are more accepting of homosexuality. Esperanto is a very limp-wristed language. It supports a weak work-ethic: easier is better. “Smart people” dont learn hard real languages but chat stupidly in a language in which they need a a single morpheme -o to identify nouns. Of course homosexuals love latin as well. Th romans were always buggering each other. The nations that dont speak esperanto generally have more homophobic belief systems like Mexico. The brazilians may just like regularity.

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