Right, first off, let’s respond to the question in the title:
Whaahahahaha! Of course it doesn’t!
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s recap what Esperanto is for the readers who are not obsessed with languages (i.e. the readers who are not translators 😉 )
Esperanto in a nutshell
In 1887, the Polish Ludwik Zamenhof (known to his fans as L.L. Zamenhof) published a book in which he described a completely new language, a language he had invented himself: Esperanto. A language with a really simple grammar structure and easy-to-learn words. Zamenhof hoped that schools everywhere would teach it so people from all around the globe would have one shared language to communicate in.
And for a while there, it seemed to work. In the 1920s, quite a few governments pledged that they would have Esperanto taught in their schools, and indeed did so. But both Hitler and Stalin got in the way; Hitler because he saw it as a language to unite the Jews, and Stalin because he saw it as anti-nationalist. People were deported or killed for speaking Esperanto. This, it may not surprise you, was not very beneficial to its popularity.
Well, not quite. Though there are not many Esperanto speakers (in fact there are just a few thousand (in the whole world!) who can speak it well enough to have a fluent conversation), there is a bit of a revival going on right now, because the well-known language-learning app DuoLingo added Esperanto to their range of languages in 2016, and hundreds of thousands of people signed up. Small but highly motivated Esperanto communities exist in almost every country, and they organise meetings and weekends where people can practice the language together. If the DuoLingo learners find their way there, the language could get quite a boost.
Esperanto a threat to translators
Though Zamenhof envisioned a world where translators were unnecessary, because everybody could readily converse and write in Esperanto, with only a few thousand Esperanto speakers worldwide, that world has not come to pass, and the threat of Esperanto on the translation business is zero.
Or is there another (real) threat?
The language that is a threat to us, I guess, is English. English has received the role that Zamenhof envisioned for Esperanto: it is taught at schools to children all over the world because it has become the international language of communication, a “lingua franca”. In a room of Italians, Poles, Chinese and Venezuelans, the spoken language will be English even though there is not one actual native English speaker in the room.
There is not much use getting upset about the existence of English as a lingua franca, it’s a force that cannot be stopped. Translators who translate into English, of course, have no problem with it at all, as they see the orders pile in. Translators who translate into another language often see themselves forced to add English as one of their source languages. At international conferences and meetups, translators also find themselves speaking to each other in English. A real die-hard might say that a translator conference should use interpreters to communicate, ensuring that their colleagues have work, but, you know… it’s just so damn practical to speak English!
Need a translation into Esperanto?
Back to Esperanto though. Just in case you want to contribute to the new blooming of Esperanto, our translation company offers translations into and from Esperanto, so you could always book us and open your wares up to a new market of Esperanto speakers. A very small market… But still!
What do you think?
What do you think? Is it a shame that Esperanto never became the international language of communication that it was meant to be? Is there still a chance that it might? Let us know in the comments!
Interlex is a translation company that specialises in creative translations: translations that run smoothly and are just right for the target audience.