5. How Christians put Esperanto to practical use
Christian Esperantists make use of their language in many ways. They take part in church services in Esperanto, they meet at the IKUE and KELI congresses, and they read the magazines "Espero Katolika" and "Dia Regno". Many Christian Esperantists correspond with one another, whether by postal mail or through the Internet. Many people are making their first contact with the Christian Esperanto movement on the Internet, so we begin with that.
5.1 The Internet
Pope John Paul II regards the new communications' media, such as the Internet, as a gift of the Holy Spirit for the evangelisation of the world. Catholic and Protestant Esperantists also quickly accepted these new means of communication. By using the Internet for correspondence, and by doing so in Esperanto, they facilitate contacts with other countries in two ways.
The editorial offices of "Espero Katolika" and "Dia Regno" have had Internet connections since 1993. At gatherings of Christian Esperantists many international friendships have been formed and these have subsequently been further deepened by email correspondence. Such contacts are particularly frequent between Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, Germans and Italians.
In 1997 IKUE's local representative in Argentina, Daniel Cotarelo García, established an e-mail forum for Catholic Esperantists. It has enabled Catholics all over the world to share their views on religious issues and events. In time, Christians of other denominations joined too, so that it has become a forum for ecumenical dialogue. That was apparent towards the end of 2000 for example, when an Evangelical Christian asked forum members for their opinions on the "Dominus Iesus" declaration by Cardinal Ratzinger, which led to a spirited exchange of views in a fraternal atmosphere despite all the differences.
Between 1996 and 2000 several hundred web pages were created in Esperanto with Christian content. Many of them were the work of six Christian Esperantists from five countries. Attila Szép (Hungary) and Carlo Sarandrea (Italy) composed IKUE's official website. Since 2000 it has used the easy-to-remember Internet address www.ikue.org. In France, Philippe Cousson did the same for KELI, while the German priest Father Bernhard Eichkorn put full information on the Internet about the Ecumenical Esperanto Congresses together with a number of religious texts and the German-language magazine "Ecumenical Esperanto Forum". In the U.S.A, Leland Bryant Ross, a Baptist lay preacher, is compiling a web hymnal with more than 350 Christian Songs in Esperanto.113
Another American, Stephen Kalb, is the author of the "Enciklopedio Kalblanda"114, a comprehensive Internet encyclopedia, regularly updated, with many illustrations and internal and external links. As a Catholic he has included in his encyclopedia numerous articles on religions, Jesus, Christian denominations, saints, prayers, feastdays etc. He explains the fact that, although he is a native English-speaker he composes websites mainly in Esperanto, by referring to the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" (Mt 7,12) - "I want others to write their pages in a language that is easy for me to understand. Esperanto is easier to learn than any national language."115
From www.ikue.org or another site, one can now find a considerable amount of religious literature in Esperanto on the Internet. Examples worth mentioning are a book by Piero Otaviano - "La Fundamentoj de Kristanismo" ("The Fundamentals of Christianity")116, the booklet "Malgranda Ekumena Katekismo" ("Little Ecumenical Catechism") by Heinz Schütte117 and above all, the entire Bible.118
Esperanto not only enables fraternal dialogue between Christians from all over the world, but also between members of all the world religions. Many web sites in Esperanto - e.g. on Buddhism119 and Islam120 - make it easy to find these contacts.
5.2 Church Services
Surveys carried out in Britain in 1968121 and Germany in 1992122 showed that among members of Esperanto organisations there were substantially more practising Christians than in the general population. According to the 1992 survey of the members of the German Esperanto Association, 33.5 % belonged to the Lutheran Church and 27 % were Catholics. That is slightly less than in the population as a whole; but on the other hand, 69.1 % and 87.9 % respectively practised their religion to the extent of "at least occasionally taking part in religious gatherings (for example, church services)". These two figures are remarkably high, because according to a 1987 survey of the general population in Germany (excluding the former East Germany), only 47 % of the Protestants and 73 % of the Catholics attend church at least occasionally.
Altogether, 49.3 % of the members of the German Esperanto Association identified as practising Christians, so naturally many of the participants at Esperanto events like to attend church services in the International Language. At the World Esperanto Congresses ecumenical church services are always part of the programme, even if the congress is held in country whose government does not favour Christianity (for example Beijing in 1986 and Havana in 1990).
For the same reasons, religious services in Esperanto are also held at many smaller gatherings. The organisers of these events are usually very willing to include church services in the programme, but it is not always possible to find a pastor with the necessary fluency and time available to lead the service. At events for young people in particular, some of those taking part solve this problem by organising a bilingual church service in cooperation with the pastor of the nearest parish, with hymns in Esperanto and the homily read aloud in both languages.
In several cities - especially in Poland, Italy, Germany and Britain - religious services in Esperanto are a regular event. In London they have been held every month since 1912. In Germany, Catholic and Lutheran clergy offer religious services in Esperanto in Speyer Cathedral (a Catholic Mass, every second month since autumn 1991), in Stuttgart (an ecumenical church service, almost every month since 1995) and also occasionally in Freiburg Cathedral (from November 1996). Since 1990, church services in Esperanto have also been held during Germany's annual Catholic Weeks and Church Weeks (Katholikentag, Kirchentag). At the Catholic Weeks in Dresden (1994), Mainz (1998) and Hamburg (2000), Archbishop Jakubinyi from Romania celebrated Mass in Esperanto.
Church services in Esperanto such as those in Speyer or Stuttgart are usually followed by a visit to a restaurant or the local Esperanto club or by a group sightseeing tour of the city. It makes sense to offer church services to visitors for several reasons: firstly, because they often attract other Esperantists who do not regularly practise their faith; and secondly, because Christians from other countries who happen to be visiting the region are often delighted that they can attend church services in a language they understand and can afterwards meet and get to know German Christians. Furthermore, such services are in themselves a powerful symbol of the solidarity with other Christians of all nationalities which continues even when no congress is being held.
5.3 Periodicals and books
Between ten and twenty Christian periodicals are regularly published in Esperanto - if a number of very modest newsletters are included. "Espero Katolika" is published in Rome. It includes news about the worldwide Catholic Church, reports on papal activities and messages, articles on those who have been recently beatified and canonised, and on the history and current events of the Catholic Esperanto movement. It is the oldest continuously-published magazine in Esperanto - appearing bimonthly with 30-40 pages of abundant and varied content of the highest standard.
The Protestant counterpart of "Espero Katolika" is the KELI periodical "Dia regno". It too is published bimonthly. Because KELI includes among its members Christians of many different denominations - mostly the Reformed Churches, but also Orthodox and Catholics - its pages often feature lively ecumenical debates.
A member of IKUE or KELI may subscribe to the magazine of the other Association for half price. This arrangement can help Christians to view current events from a new perspective. When Pope John Paul canonised John Sarkander in 1995, Catholic Esperanto magazines joyfully proclaimed the news: "Our Saint John Sarkander. Our model of faithfulness and courage."123 So Catholics were surprised to read an article in "Dia Regno" with the grim heading: "A thorn in the ecumenical journey". The article quoted Pavel Smetana, President of the Czech Ecumenical Council, as saying that John Sarkander "had neither sympathy nor Christian love for believers of other religions, whom he opposed".124
Besides the IKUE and KELI magazines, the national branches of the two associations also publish many newsletters, for instance "Franca Katolika Esperantisto", "La Ponteto" (the newsletter of KELI's members in France), "Kristana Alvoko" (British KELI members), and "Frateco" (Polish Catholics). Several magazines published mainly in national languages also deserve mention, such as "Katolika Sento" (Italy), "Kristliga Esperantoförbundets Medlemsblad" (Sweden) and "Ökumenisches Esperanto-Forum" (Germany).
"Dio Benu" is the largest of the national associations' magazines, its abundant content reflecting the high level of activity of IKUE's affiliate in the Czech Republic. From its pages it is clear that this association has very good relations with bishops and cardinals - and furthermore that many young people are active members.
Besides numerous small newsletters, about 200 periodicals are regularly published in Esperanto. About 10 percent of them are primarily devoted to religious topics, which may also be true for the approximately 40,000 books and booklets in Esperanto which have been published to date. In addition to the Holy Bible, both the Koran and the Bhagavad-Gita have appeared in Esperanto translations.
Many biographies of the saints have also been published in Esperanto (Francis, Dominic, Edith Stein), and also several papal encyclicals: John XXIII's 'Pacem in Terris', Paul VI's 'Ecclesiam Suam' and 'Populorum Progressio') and John Paul II's 'Familiaris Consortio' and 'Laborem exercens'. In 1995 IKUE produced a video documentary in Esperanto - "La Mortotuko - signo de nia epoko" ("The Shroud - a sign for our time").
Among the scores of Christian prayer and hymn books in Esperanto, the most impressive and useful is "ADORU", a book of ecumenical church services published in June 2001 in Germany. Its 1,472 pages present prayers and hymns translated from a wide range of languages as well as some original compositions. While Churches in different countries still publish their Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox hymn books separately, "ADORU" is the result of long and intensive ecumenical cooperation between Christian Esperantists from different countries. It draws on the rich traditions of liturgy and worship of all Christian denominations.
5.4 Vatican Radio
In Europe radio broadcasts in Esperanto can be heard on medium- and shortwave from seven countries: Poland and China (daily), Italy, Cuba, Lithuania, Austria - and the Vatican. Since January 1997 Vatican Radio has made regular broadcasts in Esperanto: at first once a week, then from 1981 twice weekly, and since October 1998 three times a week. Every Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday evening its broadcast begins with the Esperanto phrase: "Estu lauxdata Jesuo Kristo" ("Praised be Jesus Christ"). Vatican Radio's Esperanto broadcasts include news about current events in the Church and the world, programmes about recent papal documents and statements and occasional reports on the activities of Catholic Esperantists.
The broadcasts can also be heard via the Internet and - outside Europe - by satellite. They attract considerable interest, even in countries where Vatican Radio's national language broadcasts are hardly noticed. Every year its Esperanto section receives about a thousand letters from listeners around the world, quite a high figure considering that the total broadcast time is only about 30 minutes a week.
5.5 Charitable activities
In common with almost all Christian organisations, IKUE and KELI are also involved in charitable work. Examples of aid projects initiated by previous or current committee members of IKUE and KELI in recent years include Dr József Kondor's aid to lepers, Jacques Tuinder's "Agado E3" project to assist the blind, Hansjörg Kindler's help for the handicapped and the Espero Cooperative in Zaire.
Brief descriptions follow of a couple of these projects.
In 1993, "Kroata Milita Noktlibro" ("Croatian War Nightbook") was published. The author, Spomenka Štimec, describes how her country was inundated by hatred, violence and death; and she provides a voice for those who lost their closest relatives, but even so appeal for reconciliation. Hansjörg Kindler, a German Old Catholic priest, arranged to have this book translated into German. The income from sales of the book - over EUR 10,000 in a few short months - was used to support handicapped children in Croatia.
The Espero Cooperative functions in a totally different part of the world. It was founded in 1993 in Bukavu, a town in south-eastern Zaire. IKUE gave the cooperative over $40,000 - partly in the form of a loan and partly as a grant - and African Catholics used the money to construct a brickmaking factory. Production began in 1994, and shortly afterwards the manager of the cooperative, Yogelolo Lutombo, was happy to report in Espero Katolika: "Your help has created 31 jobs which support 31 families who had previously experienced much suffering!"125
In all of these projects Esperanto fulfils a double role: on the one hand, Esperanto magazines publish reports on them and appeals for donations; at the same time Esperanto facilitates the international contacts these activities involve.
Esperanto offers those who speak it numerous opportunities to get acquainted and make friends with people from other countries and cultures. Christian Esperantists feel that they share a double bond, a shared language and shared beliefs. This means that when they meet they know they know they already have a great deal in common and this encourages deep friendships between them.
There are numerous gatherings of Christian Esperantists - pilgrimages and retreats in Poland, weekend get-togethers in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Lithuania, meetings of Italian Catholics and Swedish Protestants. The biggest, and by far the most international, are the congresses organised by IKUE and KELI. Nearly every summer one of these events takes place, usually with the cooperation of both associations. Up to three hundred Christians, from around twenty countries and widely differing backgrounds and denominations, gather for a week to pray, sing, chat and discuss their common interests. The programme usually includes daily religious services and addresses on the congress topic. There are a number of meetings but also plenty of entertainment in the form of excursions, concerts, full-length and one-act plays by the young people and folk dances.
It may well be that the ecumenical congresses organised by IKUE and KELI are of more benefit to ecumenism than any number of theological dissertations, treatises or declarations by Church officials. In the opinion of Gerrit Berveling, a Dutch Esperantist and Premonstratensian priest,
True ecumenism lives and blooms at the grassroots level, in lively gatherings of people of different Churches, denominations, and even religions. True ecumenism continues to bloom in serious group discussions (free of arguments, but always involving respectful debate in search of mutual understanding). True ecumenism lives and blooms in joint church services at which the worshippers let themselves be inspired and nourished by God himself, the source of all that is, who can neither be captured nor defined. Here, we recognise each other as people who belong to different traditions but who are all joined in the same search for God himself. Our one and only God.126
For the most part, these words reflect the views of many of the members of KELI, but IKUE members also agree with them. To some who are active in IKUE however, it would be enough to have occasional ecumenical events, while others want to have a separate congress for IKUE at least every second or third year. From time to time therefore IKUE and KELI make their own separate arrangements.
A major one was IKUE's 50th congress in the summer of 1997 in Rome and Rimini. Three hundred Catholics from about 24 countries took part in it. The congress began with Mass in Esperanto concelebrated by 17 clergy lead by Bishop Giovanni Locatelli at the main altar of Saint Peter's Basilica. Other highlights were the greeting by Pope John Paul in Esperanto previously mentioned and on the same day - the 3rd of September 1997 - an audience the congress participants were granted with the Italian President, Oscar Luigi Scalfaro. After meeting a number of Esperanto-speaking clergy belonging to different rites, Scalfaro noted that "Esperanto is also useful for ecumenical dialogue" and thanked the IKUE members for their work for the cause of brotherhood and "understanding among peoples".127
5.7 Ecumenical Esperanto camps for young people
In summer 1996, twenty five young Christians from seven countries attended the 11th Ecumenical Esperanto Congress in Szombathely (Hungary). It was decided to hold an annual Ecumenical Esperanto Youth Camp (Junulara Ekumena Esperanto-Tendaro - JET). The first such camp was held from the 11th to the 18th of August 1998 in Unterkirnach in Germany's Black Forest. About 60 youngsters from Germany, Ghana and seven Eastern European countries came to discuss "reconciliation" and paths to a peaceful future for mankind; they sang and prayed in Esperanto and explored one of the most beautiful regions of Germany on hiking and cycling trips.
However it was decided not to organise a separate camp for the following year, partly because of the quite heavy organisational workload, but also because the young people wanted to experience effortless communication in a locality where language barriers between young Christians from all over the world are particularly noticeable. So the second JET was instead held at Taizé in south-eastern France, where every summer the community founded by Brother Roger hosts tens of thousands of youth from every continent, to lead them to the source of faith.
As a result, from the 9th to the 16th of August 1998 about 50 young Esperantists, along with about 6,000 young people from all over the world, met at this village which has become famous among Christians as a place to meet and meditate. The organisers of the meetings for young people in Taizé willingly allowed the use of Esperanto in the small group discussions; but they initially caused difficulties because they insisted that the Esperantists, like everyone else, must be strictly separated into groups of young people up to the age of 29 years, adults, and families. In addition, from the day they arrived the Esperanto-speakers had to separate according to nationality. Consequently a number of Esperantists were accommodated with young people whose conversation for the whole week was limited to the words "România" or "Português".
This highlighted the successful use of Esperanto in the group discussions. With the help of the letter "An Unexpected Joy"128 by Brother Roger in Esperanto translation, the Bible and the list of daily community chores, young people from eight countries discussed religious issues and problems in their personal lives. These discussions, combined with the enchanting church and the famous Taizé chants, made this JET an unforgettable and enriching experience for everyone who took part. Many returned two years later in August 2000 to meet once again at Taizé during the 4th JET.
In summer 1999 the 3rd JET was held during the Ecumenical Esperanto Congress in Gliwice (Poland), but with its own programme. More than 80 young people attended, making it the biggest JET so far.
Besides these Ecumenical Esperanto Camps for young people, the author was most impressed by the Catholic Esperanto Camps, described in the next chapter.
5.8 Catholic Esperanto Camps
"Awake, all you sleepers, the birdsong is calling you" ... At the Catholic Esperanto Camp in Sebranice the new day begins every morning at 7am with singing accompanied by a guitar. Half an hour later Mass is celebrated in Esperanto; only then is breakfast served. At 8:30 everyone assembles for "Morning Orders" when the day's programme is announced and IKUE's flag is raised, while the campers sing:
"Supren flugu niaj flagoj, kolektigxu la fratar'.
Dio benu Esperanton, sonas kanto en tendar'."
("High above our banners fly, as our comrades gather round.
God bless Esperanto, is the song that here resounds")
First there are Esperanto classes for at least four different levels of language ability. In the conversation classes, the participants discuss religious and secular topics in Esperanto. The participants introduce themselves and tell how they were led to faith in God; for example, one may talk about the saint whose name they were given at baptism or about the evangelisation of various countries. Czech participants talk about religious education in the Communist era; others compare the Christian festivals in the various countries. Other topics, such as the environment, enable them to make comparisons between different countries, for instance in relation to recycling.
In the afternoons, some groups practise hymns in Esperanto; others play volleyball or go to the swimming pool located right by the campground. Sometimes there is a guest speaker, for example a priest may talk to them about prayer or marriage; this topic particularly inspires lots of questions from the youngsters.
In the evening, the flag is lowered while the campers sing:
Sun' subiras horizonton, angxeluso vokas jam.
Turnu penson al cxielo, zorgas pri ni Dia am'.
(The sun sets slowly in the west, to the sound of angelus.
As our thoughts are turned to heaven, for we know that God loves us.)
People chat among themselves, play games and sing around the campfire.
At 10pm the night-time silence begins. As night descends, the campers form a big circle, cross their arms, take one another by the hand and sing "Steletoj" ("Little Stars"), a translation of a Czech folksong:
Steloj, adiaux nun, dormas mi jam.
Kore mi petas vin, tre mi petegas vin,
zorgu pri la patrin', pri mia am'.
(Sleep is descending, farewell stars above.
Grant what I ask of you, hear what I beg of you,
Care for my mother, and those whom I love.)
The campers exchange handshakes and smiles and finally wish each other good night and go to bed. A few youngsters continue talking by candlelight. But soon, they too fall silent.
Westerners visiting such a camp for the first time are always taken aback at first - or maybe even shocked - by the strict routine and the extremely basic living conditions, unless they are already familiar with scout camps. In time however they get used to it and at the very least begin to appreciate the advantages of the early morning start. The lack of electric light is another good reason to start the day early; nor as a rule are there any luxuries at the camp. Don't even think about hot running water! The toilets - which are not the flushing kind - are in the forest. It is very moving to see how in such basic, almost primitive, conditions, young people from various countries are able to have a good time and spend a week in a warm and friendly environment.
Only a few months after the downfall of the Communist regime, IKUE's Czech association was re-established. In 1991 it once again organised a Catholic Esperanto Camp, the tenth KET after an enforced break of 14 years. At first, not many young people came; most of them knew only a little Esperanto and spoke mainly Czech while in camp. In the years that followed, several of them not only greatly improved their knowledge of the language, they also brought along friends from their school or parish; others read about the camp in Catholic magazines or were told about it while enrolled in a special correspondence course for Catholics. Since the thirteenth KET in 1994, the core group has consisted of several friendly young Catholics who speak fluent Esperanto. The chaplains are Father Savio Ricíca from the Czech Republic and Father Lajos Kobor from Hungary. Bishop Karel Otcenášek of Hradec Králové often visits the camp to show his support for the activities of the Catholic Esperantists. In 2000, auxiliary bishop Josef Hrdlicka from Olomouc celebrated Mass in Esperanto for the campers.
The camp can have a positive influence on the outlook of the young people who come to it. It was at the KET that Beata, a nineteen-year-old Polish girl, got to know a German for the first time in her life. She says that it changed her attitude towards her western neighbours. Up till then, she had learned about Germans mainly from watching war movies in which they were portrayed as cold and cruel.
The road from Sebranice to Litomyšl passes a field with a group of antenna masts. All the campers know that they were built by the Communist regime to jam Western radio broadcasts. "In my family we always listened to Radio Free Europe", says Anika from Slovakia, "even if it was often hard to pick up. We never lost hope that one day everything would be different." She was raised in a Christian family. "My parents were determined that I should attend religious education classes. Because of that my father, who was a teacher, and my mother, who was a kindergarten worker, had to give up their professions. In my school reports there was always a note: "Attends religion classes". We all knew this would make it virtually impossible for me to attend university." For Anika, Esperanto is now "a means of fulfilling God's loving plan".129
Marcela (18) from Bratislava comes from a totally different background. "My parents are atheists. I started to get interested in religion only two years ago, because the materialistic attitude which I was taught didn't satisfy me. Now I am here to learn something about the Catholic Church. My parents were furious that I came to this camp." Six months after her visit to Sebranice, Marcela was baptised.
An older camper, Ladislav Mlejnek, tells how he too comes from a family of atheists. Discovering the ideals of Ludwig Zamenhof was "the first step on my journey to the Church". At 22, he went to a meeting of an Esperanto club where another young member invited him to come to Sunday worship. "I went willingly and with eyes and ears wide open I experienced something I had never known before. These people respected and loved one another, there was a family atmosphere, some people prayed aloud, praising God in speech and song."
Given a degree of talent for languages, it is possible to make yourself understood in Esperanto after just a few months of regular study. However the beginner faces a few problems. Jindra (17) learned the elements of Esperanto by doing a correspondence course just a few months before going to the camp. She recalls:
Until I went on the camp I thought that Esperanto was a dead language. I couldn't see how it could be a means of international understanding. I heard Esperanto spoken for the first time by my friends Kalný and Mlejnek at the main railway station in Prague on the way to Sebranice. At first I didn't understand what they were talking about, but later I was able to pick up a word here and there and eventually I actually understood them. Great, I told myself, I understand Esperanto. But then I struck another problem: how to answer questions in Esperanto! Part of my brain clicked into action and solved the problem: do a quick mental translation from Czech to Esperanto and from Esperanto to Czech. Eventually, I got a result that way every time and later on the lessons in Esperanto at the camp helped me improve my fluency, especially the conversation. I'm pleased to say that thanks to the time I spent on study and the all-Esperanto environment, I can even think in Esperanto.130
At school, Pavel (28) only learned Russian and afterwards he quickly forgot it. He tried teaching himself English but without much success. His parish priest encouraged him to learn Esperanto. Even that took a while to master, but finally, by his third KET, he could speak it fluently. Andrea (18) got there much more quickly: after six months' study she now speaks Esperanto better than German which she learned at school for four years.
Through a single easily-learned second language people are brought together by the shortest route. At Sebranice friendships are formed, many of them life-long. Young Czechs and Slovaks often see each other again only a few months after the KET at weekend events. Participants from other countries often have to wait until the following summer, if they don't happen to meet beforehand at events organised by the wider Esperanto movement.
It is precisely because Christian Esperantists make up only a relatively small minority that they form a worldwide community in which each one has many acquaintances and friends. The generally achieve understanding without great difficulty. People find a kind of home within the Christian Esperanto movement. Everyone who remains loyal to that community will meet many old friends again at camps and congresses in the future. This practical use for the language probably guarantees the Christian Esperanto movement 's continued existence.
Only the widespread adoption of Esperanto could substantially alter this situation. It would weaken the present unity among members of this minority, but at the same time it would open a new world of international contacts to countless numbers of people. We now consider the arguments for and against this development.
6 Arguments for and against Esperanto
6.1 Language in the Church
During the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) heated discussion arose about Latin. Some contributions were positive. Cardinal James McIntyre of Los Angeles said:
Latin is a medium well suited to demonstrate the universality of the Church... it can be seen to be an effective means of communication, rising above nationalism and any political pressure. It is still both a useful and a universal language.131
Other priests, bishops and Cardinals took a more critical view of the long-term use of Latin. Bishop Francis Simons of Indore, India declared:
It is untrue to say that the clergy understand Latin perfectly. It often happens, even during Papal audiences, that those who do not speak Italian or French have to have interpeters and many bishops now taking part in the Council are using Latin for the first time. The Council, like any large international conference, could have arranged simultaneous translation into the most well-known modern languages. For many years now correspondence with the Roman Curia has, very properly, been in modern languages, which proves that Latin is not essential. Most of the clergy read the most important Church documents and some of the Fathers of the Church entirely in their own languages. Many theological works are published in modern languages.132
Mons. J. Maalouf from Baalbek in Lebanon complained that many of those taking part in the discussion did not understand Latin well enough and therefore it would be wrong to rush through the approval of any important document. He himself spoke French, excusing himself for not having a good command of Latin, but confident that if he were to speak in Arabic most of his hearers would understand nothing.133
Cardinal Richard Cushing of Boston (1895-1970) also regretted the language barrier:
I'll never forget this Council! I had no idea what anyone was talking about because I had never listened to speeches in Latin. It was all Greek to me! I don't know how many more of those taking part were in the same boat as I was. I was sitting between two elderly, excellent, Italian Cardinals. They didn't know any English, nor I any Italian.134
This was the council that permitted the use of the mother-tongue instead of Latin in the Catholic liturgy. Though that permission was not meant to abolish the use of Latin in the Church, this is what happened.
Some theologians remind that Latin has not always been the official language of the Catholic Church:
Deep and impassioned emotions were - and for some still are - bound up with the use of Latin in the mass, the valid ones mostly having to do with aesthetics. Some Latin diehards also cite tradition, but their ground is not strongly tenable. As the famed Father H.A. Reinhold would insistently remind, Latin was not the language of the first mass, the Last Supper; Hebrew and Aramaic were. Similarly, Latin was not the language of the masses of Saint Paul; Greek was. Latin was not even the language of the mass of the early Roman Church; for a couple of hundred years Greek was. Latin was actually a third-century innovation to the mass (...).135
Nevertheless, the decision of the council was not obviously necessary; we have the example of the Russian Orthodox Church, which still uses Early Slavonic. Indeed, there are now bishops and cardinals who are disappointed at the results of their decision.
Cardinal Ratzinger at the end of 1999 called on the bishops to 'recover the Latin Mass'. In his view the 'wild creativity' that followed Vatican II 'destroyed the mystery of the Sacred'. The old Latin liturgy, on the contrary, 'is not dangerous traditionalism, but a desire to share in Divinity.'136
The followers of the schismatic bishop Marcel Lefebvre137 express their views more strongly than does Ratzinger; they insist that the mother tongue is not appropriate to the mysterious actuality of the Mass. According to them, the use of the vernacular makes the liturgy and the eucharist seem more comprehensible than they truly are.138
In February 2002, Pope John Paul II sent a message to a conference being held at the Salesian University in Rome, where he emphasized that Latin remains the official language of the Catholic Church, and expressed his desire that "the love of that language would grow ever strong among candidates for the priesthood." He pointed out that the use of Latin "is an indispensable condition for a proper relationship between modernity and antiquity, for dialogue among different cultures, and for reaffirming the identity of the Catholic priesthood."139
The Brotherhood of Peter, tradition-minded Catholic priests, used arguments from the writings of the German Cardinal Frings (1887-1978) to support the use of a single language and liturgy in the Church. The following is an extract from their Homepage:
Recently, when I returned from my travels to Japan and Korea, I was asked what had most impressed me. I had to reply: the vastness and catholicity of our Holy Church. Because everywhere I found the same faith and the same fidelity to the representative of Christ, the Pope in Rome. And when in Hiroshima and Seoul I celebrated a Pontifical Mass, or when in the chapel of the nuncio in Tokio I said Mass and raised to the Diaconate American and European theologians, everywhere I followed the same ritual, the same words as at home in Cologne.
Joseph Cardinal Frings, 05. 07.1957140
Things have changed. At least a German Cardinal no longer uses the same language in Seoul as in Cologne. The Latin language has shown itself to be too difficult to serve effectively the unity of the Church. According to an article in 'The Guardian' on the 16.10.1999, the Vatican's chief latinist, Abbot Carlo Egger stated:
Latin now stands very little chance of survival in the Catholic Church. The simple truth is that many, too many, bishops no longer know how to speak it.141
At a meeting of 155 cardinals in Rome, 21-24 May 2001, Cardinal Jorge Maria Mejia from Argentina began his address in Latin, thereby causing confusion especially among the interpreters. When he continued his speech in Spanish, the audience applauded. "Don't be frightened", he said, "I do this only so that Latin may have at least a symbolic presence in this hall."142
In this "extraordinary consistory”, the Latvian Cardinal Janis Pujats was the only one who delivered his speech entirely in Latin. Cardinal Meissner from Cologne reported that afterwards a bishop asked him whether the language was Latvian.143
The Catholic Church is now multilingual. It mostly uses the six most widely-spoken vernaculars of Catholics - Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, Italian and German. In these languages one can read the website www.vatican.va. The Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano is published weekly in these six languages; there is also a monthly edition in Polish.
Vatican Radio broadcasts its programmes in 47 languages, including Esperanto, but not in Latin. And in even more languages - 60 of them - Pope John Paul II gives his Easter and Christmas greetings.
Bishops and Cardinals of the whole world manage to understand each other, sometimes with the help of interpreters, sometimes by knowledge of each other's national languages. But this does not always work perfectly. Here is a quote concerning the German bishop Hermann Josef Spital, in 1999:
The Bishop of Trier is definitely not fluent in Italian, French, English, Polish or Spanish. But these languages are spoken in the Vatican. Spital regularly attends the meetings of the Pontificium Consilium de Communicationibus Socialibus. This is the Papal Committee on Communication. Spital, as German bishop for mass Communications, is a member of this Vatican Committee with voting rights. But in the Vatican Spital depends on native speakers of German, and on the kindness of the men and women in charge of communications who are able to speak German with the visitor from Trier. During meetings someone interprets. But when informal discussions become heated, Spital is a linguistic outsider. Definitely not an agreeable experience.144
The ordinary faithful are similarly kept apart by barriers of language, as is shown in this excerpt from the newspaper "Tag des Herrn" 14/1997. The paper interviewed Alfred Hoffmann, director of the office of the diocese of Görlitz, a German town beside the Polish border.
Interviewer: Ever since the diocese was founded there has been continued attention to the role of Görlitz as a bridge between German and Polish Catholics. But so far it seems that not a single parish has had actual contacts with Poland. Do you see any chance of a change?
Hoffmann: As I see it, the great difficulty is language rather than any mutual distrust. My Polish neighbours are close to my heart, but I always see this problem which frustrates real exchange.145
Sometimes Christians make light of language barrier. The homepage of Missioners of Steyl [Divine Word Missionaries] is a good example:
Nevertheless the Missioners of Steyl in 62 countries, who have to struggle with all imaginable difficulties, except one: they never suffer difficulties in being understood, whether in terms of language, race, or culture. Their mother-tongue is the name of their Order - "Word of God." Regardless of language, this is the means by which they think, act, dream, that they bring understanding and peace.146
In the youth gatherings of the Taizé community international understanding is arrived at, sometimes well, sometimes not so well, sometimes not at all. A major feature of the summer gatherings is the daily large-group Bible study session. The session for adults - people over 29 - is usually in French translated into English, or vice-versa, depending on the language in which the brother lecturing is most at home. But only about 10% of those present are native speakers of one or other of those languages and it does not seem likely that more than another 10% can follow a theological discussion in either one of them. The solution is to try to find among those present honorary translators for eight or ten other languages. The rest then sit in front of them and hear each sentence first in French or English and then in their own language.
The organizers in Taizé try to keep the smaller discussion groups international, expecting the members to understand each other with the help of English or some other language while anyone who can helps with translation. In the summer of the year 2000 three esperantists from Germany and Poland who were taking part in the Young Esperanto Ecumenical Camp found themselves in a group of that kind along with non-esperantists from Russia, Germany, Italy and Spain. With the help of English everyone could more or less say who they were, but when it came to discussion of the set topic - the Book of Jonah - or to theological questions such as "What is God?" most of them were quite at a loss.
The translation-power of some of the members was called on to solve the problem. It was found that the only way to enable a Spanish woman to understand a Russian was the following: Natasha from Russia spoke Russian, Stanislaw from Poland translated what she said into Esperanto, Reinhard from Germany translated from Esperanto into English and finally José from Spain translated into Spanish so that Carmen could understand. This indirect communication has serious disadvantages. It requires extra time, it risks inaccuracy or even error and, perhaps the most serious objection, it puts distance between people. On the other hand, it should be remembered that when speaking in a foreign language one is able to say only as much as one's knowledge of the language permits, and quite often this is insufficient to provide an interesting conversation.
Other presentations and workshops in Taizé demonstrate the usefulness and also the shortcomings of the English language. When Filipinos or South Africans presented themselves in English, certainly everyone was pleased to come to know something about these peoples even though not everyone understood every word. But it was definitely less useful for some other working groups in which language knowledge was essential. For example, the film "The Risen Christ" was shown to those interested. This consisted mainly of an interview with the theologian Pére Gustave Martelet, in both English and French. Afterwards the two discussion groups were brought together for a bi-lingual discussion. Anyone who expected a lively discussion in English was mistaken. It was a notably quiet gathering, mostly speaking French, since it seemed that there were more native speakers of French than of English. Those who had different native languages remained silent. Not many people are both willing and able to discuss the Resurrection of Christ in a foreign language.
Every new year the Taizé Community also organises an international Youth Congress in which more than 50,000 take part. In the new year 1999/2000 this took place in Warsaw. The Community afterwards published a brochure in German reporting the impressions of German participants. In 50 brief reports 10 mention the language barriers- principally because so often not even the most basic conversation was possible.
Some participants, like "Stephanie from Regensburg" however saw the situation more idealistically. "Our host family spoke neither German nor English, but still we managed to understand one another very well, and they constantly found ways to make us happy."147
Others were disillusioned. Here is a comment by "Gregor from Frankfurt."
I was looking forward with curiosity to exchanges with people from central and eastern Europe. During the meetings I recognised that language barriers still exist. The people speaking Slavic languages often have to simply stay together. Hardly any western Europeans speak a Slavic language. The few Polish or Russian words are not enough for real conversation with other participants or with the host families. I regret this.148
Nowadays it is clear that almost all people agree that it would be well to do away with these language barriers. But only a few recognise that there is a proven, practical solution: the use of a neutral international language.
6.2 The language problem in the European Union
On the 8th of December 2000 the Council of the European Union accepted the "Charter of Fundamental Rights"149 according to which the European Union "is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity". The Union "shall respect cultural, religious and linguistic diversity" (Article 22). Further, "every person may write to the institutions of the Union in one of the languages of the Treaties and must have an answer in the same language" (Article 41 No. 4).
This charter confirms the principles which the European Union (or its predecessors) have endeavoured to follow from the beginning. After the European Economic Community was founded in 1957, its Ministerial Council decided by a decree of 15.04.1958, that "The official languages and the working languages of the institutions of the Community shall be Dutch, French, German and Italian."150 This decree was brought up to date after the accession of other states, so that after Finland and Sweden acceded in 1995, the working languages of the Union increased to 11. (By the Treaty of Amsterdam of 02.10.1997 Finnish and Swedish were added to the "languages of the Treaty" referred to in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.)
By now there can no longer be any doubt that the European Union will be progressively enlarged. The booklet "Europe speaks 100 languages"151 lists 87 European languages. Some are small, even tiny, for example Votish with about 10 speakers, and Livish and Ingrish with about 100 each. Consequently their speakers would be delighted if the EU were to do something to support the use of them in their regions - if that is at all possible - in order to prevent their complete disappearance. But there are also many languages in Middle and Eastern Europe whose speakers can confidently insist that after accession to the EU their language should have the same rights as Danish, Greek, etc.
And indeed the EU has already foreseen an increase in the number of working languages. In an article in the German newspaper "Die Welt" of 15.03.2001, the Vice President of the European Parliament, Ingo Friedrich, wrote:
Language is the direct expression of one's own identity and cannot submit to economic considerations. It is therefore not realistic to abandon the present system in which every document of the EU is translated and printed in each language. This system will continue also in a 27-member EU.152
He added, however, that in the matter of interpretation during meetings, reform can be envisaged.
The European Commissioner, Michel Barnier, expressed a similar opinion when, on the 5th of June 2000 he answered citizens' questions about enlargement via the Internet. Eight of these questions were concerned with the language problem:
Questioner: How do you think the language issue should be organised in a Union of up to 30 members?
Barnier: The principle of language equality in the Union will be very important, even after enlargement. This is about Europe's cultural diversity. As for the practical organisation, we will find a way of solving it.153
But in reality the principle of language equality is frequently bypassed, usually for practical reasons. A few examples follow:
Surfing the web pages of of the European Union at www.europa.eu.int, one finds that not every document is posted in each of the 11 official languages. Many are available only in English, or in English and French, or sometimes in a few other languages. And - though this seems paradoxical - even the words quoted above by Michel Barnier - "the principle of language equality in the Union is very important" - seem to be on the website only in English.
In the past, German firms have often complained that there were long delays before the EU published requests for tenders in German, thus putting them at a disadvantage.
Informal meetings of EU bodies commonly take place without interpretation into all the official languages. (This practice caused some scandal when, in July 1999 under the Finnish Presidency, only Finnish, English and French were offered during a meeting of Ministers. As a protest, German and Austrian Ministers boycotted the meeting.)
In the European Young Scientist competition, those taking part may write their entries in any of the official languages, but the single-page resumé must be in English, and competitors are informed that the working-language of the jury is English.154
When a firm requests a subsidy from the EU for something like a research project, they must write at least part of the request - for instance, a technical summary - in English.155
During an information meeting on scholarships in the EU held in Wiesbaden in October 1995, those present were told: "In theory you may write your request in any of the official languages. However, we ask you not to do so, but to write in English, because we must translate everything, and we do not have the resources." Three weeks before the closing date, the German Information Centre posted out the forms in English with the note: "It is not yet possible to know when they will be available in German". The forms stated that the project summary should "preferably be in English".
The European Commission has proposed on 5 July 2000 the creation of a Community Patent. The main aim was to reduce the cost of patenting an invention in Europe. The Commission noted:
The arrangements concerning translations of the patent are a particularly important aspect in terms of the cost of the Community patent (...). The cost of translating the patent into all the official languages of the Community would entail a risk of the entire Community patent project foundering, placing as it would too heavy a burden on inventors, above all small and medium-sized enterprises. Such a burden would discourage them from using the Community patent and give them an incentive to seek protection only in certain European countries. With the enlargement of the Union, compulsory translation into all the official languages would have even more negative effects in terms of cost.
To remedy this problem, the proposed Regulation provides that the Community patent, once it is has been granted in one of the procedural languages of the Office156 and published in that language, with a translation of the claims into the two other procedural languages, will be valid without any other translation. (...) The proposed system is regarded as appropriate, primarily because the universal language in the field of patents is, in reality, English.157
This last example in particular shows that, contrary to Ingo Friedrich's requirement for translation into all languages, the European Union is inclined to put the principles of economising and thrift ahead of the ideals of equal rights and cultural diversity. It should be noted that the requirement that patent documents be translated into other national languages would tend to further the development of scientific terminology in these languages, and not just in English.
The way proposed by the European Patents Office may be a realistic solution for the general language problem in Europe. The question remains, is this solution desirable?
Another solution, which would respect the equal rights of national languages, would be the use of Esperanto in international communication. The enlargement of the European Union has from time to time prompted citizens - not only speakers of Esperanto - to propose this solution to EU officials. This also occurred during the above-mentioned Internet discussion with Michel Barnier:
Question (Josette Ducloyer): How do you intend to solve the language problem when the European Union enlarges ? Is it not time to create a Europe for ordinary people and start teaching an international language for communication in all the EU's elementary schools, one that is neutral, easy and accessible to everybody, such as Esperanto? Barnier: As I said earlier, our aim is to bring Europe closer to the citizen and I doubt that the use of a dead language would be a positive step in that direction.158
It is depressing to see that a European Commissioner does not know - or does not wish to know - that Esperanto long ago became a living language which is already helping citizens of Europe to draw closer together and to understand one another.
Some politicians are afraid that Esperanto aims to do away with national languages. In 1987 the Speaker of the German Parliament, Philipp Jenninger, opposed Esperanto with the words: "I prefer a field of flowers to plain greensward".159 Better known - though he used Esperanto merely as a metaphor - is the comment by Helmut Kohl in 1995 (three years later he was named an Honored Citizen of Europe): "We do not want an Esperanto-Europe, but a Europe in which each one retains his own identity".160
Nevertheless, there are members of the European Parliament who think that Esperanto is useful. Germain Pirlot, a Belgian Esperantist, has sought the opinions of many MEPs. In 1999 he reported that by then more than 20% of the 626 members of the European Parliament "believe that Esperanto could in one way or another help to solve the language problems of the Parliament."161 (Translator's note: In both the present and the previous EU Parliament, a notably higher proportion of Irish MEPs agreed with Pirlot's statement than did those from other member-states. They are all native speakers of English.)
In 1995 three MEPs from different political blocs - Marianne Thyssen (Christian Democrat), Eryl McNally (Social Democrat) and Marie-Paule Kestelijn-Sierens (Liberal) - put a written question to the European Commission about its opinion of Esperanto. Commissioner Edith Cresson gave a nearly identical reply to each question.162
WRITTEN QUESTION E-647/95
by Eryl McNally (PSE) to the Commission (9 March 1995)
Subject: Use of Esperanto
Has the Commission considered the possibility of Esperanto being taught in all schools, alongside other languages and being used in a wider context within the European Community as a whole?
Answer given by Mrs Cresson on behalf of the Commission (23 March 1995), published in Official Journal C 145, 12/06/1995 (p. 54)
In accordance with Article 126 of the EC Treaty, the Member States are responsible for the content of teaching and the organization of education systems, including the question of languages.
It is therefore primarily up to the Member States to decide which languages are to be taught within their respective education systems. Community action in this field is limited to developing the learning and spreading of the "languages of the Member States".
Cultural and linguistic diversity is one of Europe's most valuable assets. The Commission attaches considerable importance to promoting multilingualism. It has done a great deal of work in this direction under the Lingua Programme, which was designed to promote the teaching and learning of languages, and will continue with this approach under the Socrates Programme, which takes over and extends the activities of the Lingua Programme.
The Commission is of the opinion that the use of a neutral language might lead to a loss of tradition and identity. A neutral language could not possess all the cultural and historic richness of natural languages. The Commission does not intend to take any action to promote the teaching of Esperanto.
Leaving aside the variety and heroism of its own hundred-year history, not only in European prison camps but on other continents, Esperanto's claim to be a cultural language in its own right, can be demonstrated not only by thousands of books, periodicals, videos, cassettes and CDs, but most significantly by its everyday use all over the world. When the Commission, including Ms. Cresson, was dismissed in March 1999, Viviane Reding replaced her and looks more positively on Esperanto. On the 1st of December 1996 Ms. Reding wrote to Germain Pirlot: "Congratulations on your important work for Esperanto! Multilingualism is essential for Europe. The inclusion of Esperanto in this learning of several languages could turn out in the long term to be well worthwhile."163
According to the Official Journal, C 303 E, 24/10/2000, the Commission has asked the Joint Interpretation Service to set up a working party to examine Neighbour and Relais, projects that deal with the use of Esperanto as an intermediate language in interpretation.
6.3 Esperanto and Cultural Diversity
Mahatma Ghandi regarded the English language as an instrument of imperialism and enslavement.164 During the Heidelberg Congress in 1992 on 'Education in Europe', the philologist Prof. Otto Back warned that "the English language is the Trojan Horse of the United States in Europe." It enables Coca-Cola culture and "the American way of life" to invade the lives of other peoples. Many remain unaware of what is happening to them. Young people, who are naturally open to novelty, commonly see no harm in it. But others insist that the English language can endanger cultural diversity; they are concerned that 'globalization' should not mean simply Americanization of the entire globe.
Cultural researchers point out that 'Americanization' is not simply cultural imperialism. An article in 'Die Zeit' considers the matter in depth:
No country adopts American imports without adapting them to its own cultural situation. The notion that 'Americanization' means simply the flattening out of cultural differences is mistaken. It is in fact a process of continuous, endless modification of cultural inheritance on a foundation of universal standardization.165
However, this article is entitled 'Consumption as final purpose' and concludes that the USA has "grafted onto Western Europe a new supranational ideal of existence - the egalitarian democracy of consumption", which also furthers mutual understanding between nations:
Consumerism also modifies racism and religious and cultural antagonism. Each individual, regardless of skin colour, religion or culture, qualifies as a consumer and therefore cannot be excluded from the democracy of consumption.166
The English language not only brings with it cultural changes, it may also endanger national languages. "Globalization threatens languages with the same extinction as animal species... the wave of Anglo-Americanisation is closing over us and threatens to sink the ship of the German language" according to the German magazine Der Spiegel in October 2000. The article continues with an explanation of how English now finds its way deep inside the structure of the German language:
English grammar takes root in German, the corpus of the language submits to morphological changes, foreign expressions affect the soul of the language. "To make money" is not the same thing as to earn it. Those who dislike anglicisation argue that aesthetically both the spoken and written language are being damaged.167
Movements for conservation of national languages are appearing in many countries. The German Verein Deutsche Sprache - Bürger für die Erhaltung der kulturellen Vielfalt in Europa (Association for the German Language - Citizens for the Conservation of Cultural Diversity in Europe) attracted over 10,000 members in just a few years. A similar movement, Taalverdediging - bond tegen onnodig Engels (Language Defence - association against superfluous English) has been founded in the Netherlands.168
It is, then, always interesting to look at the question of whether the introduction of Esperanto could help to protect cultural diversity.
In the past, Esperantists have not always thought it important to protect national languages. Especially in the 1920s Esperanto was also used by those who, as a consequence of the First World War, sought to combat everything nationalistic, including languages.169 Now, however, most Esperanto-speakers are anxious to preserve linguistic diversity and many believe that Esperanto has an important role. Dafydd ap Fergus, a Welsh Esperanto speaker, says this was why he learnt it, since "Esperanto is the last chance for the Welsh language."170
Again, the Prague Manifesto of the Esperanto Movement, launched during the 1996 World Congress, declares "We are a movement for language diversity".171
From what source do Esperantists draw this belief that their language can help to protect other languages and cultures? Some simply say that Esperanto is not designed to be a 'mother tongue'. Others go further.
When an official Internet forum for the European Year of Languages 2001 was launched in the spring of that year, Esperanto soon became the topic that was most eagerly discussed. In a message in English, Jette Milberg Petersen opposed the introduction of Esperanto, saying: "I would fear that the other languages would gradually disappear."
Claude Piron, a translator and psychologist from Switzerland, replied:
Yes, that would be a tremendous loss for humankind. But I think the risk is much greater with the current system of international communication. For lack of a language commonly used among people of different linguistic backgrounds, everybody learns and tries to use English.
English contributes a lot to the disappearance of languages. For instance, in Singapore, many families switch to English and give up their own language - Mandarin, Hakka, Fukienese, Malay, Tamil - so that the young are cut off from their cultural roots. This is because being a native speaker of English has so many advantages. In Israeli newspapers, lately, there are a lot of job offers with the condition: "native speaker of English". The advantage is linked to the fact that English is so difficult to use really properly that only native speakers can be relied on. Since Esperanto is so much easier and is, and will probably remain, a foreign language for all its users, it is not necessary to have heard it in your family since you were a child to be able to use it at a professional level.
In many European countries today there are signs of a trend towards teaching English at an earlier and earlier age. Now small children have to learn it almost as a mother-tongue, because otherwise few manage to master it. This tendency may easily enough lead to replacement of the mother-tongue by English.
Esperanto-speakers also emphasize that their language cannot be a threat to national languages; languages are harmed when speech-elements native to one group replace speech-elements native to another. Since Esperanto is not an ethnic language it cannot do any damage of this kind.172
We do not want to involve ourselves in the sometimes emotional discussion about how far one language should be protected against the influence of another. We can, however, calmly consider the question of whether only a national language such as English can cause the damage mentioned above.
Such an investigation does not require us to imagine a future in which the whole human race uses Esperanto for international contacts. There are already plenty of people who use Esperanto practically every day, who think in that language and feel perfectly at home in this lively language community. This is the case with, for example, many European members of the Tutmonda Esperantista Junulara Organizo (World Esperanto Youth Organisation - TEJO) who use the language on the Internet, on the phone and in many international seminars, congresses, and travel via the Pasporta Servo (an international homestay service for Esperanto-speakers). The German section of TEJO publishes a bilingual bulletin in German and Esperanto. There appeared an article in this titled "Kotizo für memzorgantoj gesenkt" - literally, Fee (in Esperanto) reduced for (in German) self-carers (in Esperanto; an English equivalent would be "those who make their own arrangements").173
This phrase demonstrates something which is more often evident in the spoken language: among young Europeans who frequently use Esperanto, elements of that language may find their way into the mother-tongue. This happens most often when they are involved with Esperanto activities, Esperanto culture. It is probable that the author of that article, a nineteen-year-old civil servant, was quite unconscious of the mix of languages.
It can still be argued, however, that the influence of Esperanto on other languages is less strongly felt than that of English today, and that even where such an influence is actually apparent, it is less harmful than the influence of English.
Esperanto words often have more syllables than English words and speakers of other languages are less inclined to borrow them.
Esperanto is more flexible and often provides a variety of options. For example, an English speaker can say "Mi estas 20 jarojn agxa" (I am 20 years' old), while French speakers can say "Mi havas 20 jarojn" ("I have 20 years", the counterpart of the French phrase "J'ai 20 ans"). This suggests that it is less likely to have an effect on the structure of other languages.
Both spoken and written Esperanto are closer to the majority of European languages than is English. For example, "amafero" would better harmonize with an Italian context than "la sua love story" (found in an Italian tabloid). Similarly, "Kotizo für memzorgantoj gesenkt" is more pleasing to the German ear than "Fee für self-providers gesenkt."
Finally it should also be noted that Esperanto is not tied to any single nation; its cultural influence is not as one-sided as that of English.