Esperanto, To Aid Education Reform

Allan C. Boschen


Amidst vast and intense social and economic dislocations and budget crises we agonize over ways to improve our education base-to ferret out deficiencies and bring it into step with the needs of the times (a strategy, furthermore, to check the further decline of society). Educational philosophies are under close scrutiny, as also the bare nuts and bolts. Here we are suggesting that these analyses go just a bit deeper than we are in the habit of doing on such matters, more in the manner of an Engineering Analysis. Something akin to a Time and Motion Study is suggested, and in this vein a profound consideration of language itself, as the lowest base of communication-and of education. How do the gross irregularities of language impact the learning process? In what ways and to what extent could a scientifically designed language aid the process? A close look at Esperanto is offered. It is the one such language that has stood the test of time, in continuous and extensive use by a worldwide speaking, reading, and writing community.

In the material realm, technology brings us ever more fabulous inventions to better our lives. Yet in human relations we are ever at an impasse. How curious that here we do not have analyses comparable with that for design and development of material devices. Indeed, Dr. Albert Einstein, in numerous public lectures during the years following WW II, stressed that the underlying root of our greatest problems is that social evolution has not kept pace with technology.

Dr. Einstein was thinking primarily of the threat of nuclear war, and even the insanity of any war. However, this theme carries over into other concerns. One of these is the need for an international language which can bridge effectively among the many national languages. Scientific analysis would reveal that a language can be orders of magnitude less difficult to learn, if designed to be so. What an opportunity for capital investment! Within one generation it could eliminate the need for translation at the upper levels of all commercial and intergovernmental activities. This is another issue, however. The thrust of this paper is for the application of this same language in education, to simplify and enhance the learning process-in the introduction to reading, the introduction to grammatical concepts, the extension of personal relationships with children of other cultures in social studies, the study of the great literatures of other lands, the study of foreign languages, and in engineering education, at home and abroad.

Some Concepts in Education Reform

In Massachusetts' new Education Reform, language is recognized as a central and vital element to a degree heretofore unimagined. Yet this has not engaged an analysis commensurate with that of Hi Tek, to which engineers regularly commit themselves-suggesting the need for a new field, ``Educational Engineering''. It does not consider at all the fact that everyday language, essential to everything that we do, is a mish-mash of illogic and confusion. It does not ask what this does to the natural logic base with which every child is born (as demonstrated in the `analogizing' that babies do as they begin to talk), nor does it ponder the added difficulty of mastering the language itself due to its illogic.

The Education Reform suggests the introduction of a second language in preschool. Should this be just any language? The superposition of one mish-mash upon another? Too lightly do we observe how `easily' a small child `learns' a language, but how much of value is assimilated, beyond making various sounds, undistortedly? And when a child is effectively exposed to one foreign medium, will this significantly enhance its later development in others? Or will the results in those others still sound just as sloppy or humorous to native speakers? (15)

An in-depth technical analysis is suggested, which begins not by swooning over the child's immense intellectual power and fantastic amounts that the human mind can assimilate and organize, but by noting that organized material is far more readily accepted in comprehension by the child than is a mass of unrelated facts, just as with adults. As a simple example for reference, consider data compiled into tables, and pages of tables, portraying their interrelationships by use of an additional dimension for each relationship. How well could we handle a complex mass of data on an engineering project if it were not so organized, but scattered about? We first would organize it! Thus also with the small child. It observes relationships among words, the usual form for the past tense or plurality, for instance, and applies these forms across the board. We dismiss this `baby talk' as `cute'. However, the need to correct and recorrect gross errors certainly slows the child's progress. Also, it discourages and inhibits its further adventure from time to time. Of course we cannot rebuild the language from the base up to simplify the baby's early development. Perhaps these impediments are of little account anyway, but as the child goes another big step, learning to read, the confusion and inconsistency is not merely continued, but magnified. Some children are able to master this quite readily, but others are deeply frustrated. Some lock into it as a challenge, others find that other matters are more enjoyable. So serious is this confusion factor that controversy over the value of phonics rages on and on. Thus the great invention of the Phoenicians (to write words according to their sounds) is so corrupted that many people would disregard it completely, to make learning to read even worse than it was by the use of pictographs, in ancient times. The look-say advocate readily acknowledges, however, that his case would dissolve completely if the phonics were consistent. (14)

The merits of spelling reform, or an initial teaching alphabet (ITA) could now be addressed. This would be redundant, however, in the context of introducing another language at preschool. For Esperanto, as that language, would also introduce the art of reading just incidental to learning the language itself. It would serve this purpose even better than would an ITA, furthermore, for there is nothing here to learn and then unlearn and cast aside, but a second language to be further built upon and applied to good purpose throughout the school years and thereafter.

The Simplicity of Esperanto

Esperanto is 4-to-10 times less difficult to learn and will, as one of the languages offered, reduce the expense and increase the practicality of language programs at all levels. What makes Esp-o so easy to learn? (Compared to other languages, of course!) Its logical and consistent structure and absence of redundant complexities: spelled the way it sounds, no irregular verbs, consistent use of affixes, and more. In English, for instance, `un-', `in-', `ir-', `im-', ... mean ``the opposite'', and you must select the proper prefix from among these for each word to which it would be applied. If you are `unable' ... (not `inable'), then you have an `inability', (never an `unability'). In Esp-o, on the other hand, there is only one prefix to mean the opposite, and it can be applied to any word where the result makes sense. Likewise for all the many other affixes. (See Figure 3.)

Misconceptions About Esperanto

Progress in the application of Esperanto has been seriously impeded by a number of misconceptions.

Let us put the record straight!

(1) Esperanto is not intended to replace other languages, but to bridge among them, to serve as the second language for everybody.

(2) It will not wipe out the languages of smaller nations, but will protect them from further encroachment by the larger nations.

(3) Artificial/natural (2). `Artificial' suggests `inferior'. The only thing artificial about Esperanto is that it was artificially designed-a `work of art'. It is in no way inferior, but rather, for its intended purpose is far superior. On the other hand, how `natural' do most people feel as they (try to) use a foreign language? One could feel far more natural with Esperanto than any national language, after a given period of study.

(4) ``...not based in a national culture.'' This is often heard in tones that suggest a deficiency. However, for its intended role this is a definite advantage. When using Esperanto, one does not have to divest himself of patterns of expression that would produce a `foreign' aura in national languages other than his own. This feature is particularly apparent in translated literature. Thus Esperanto is said to be ``the natural translation language''. (3) Then too, Esperanto has now grown its own international culture. (2)

(5) Nuance. The idea of a `simplified language' suggests a sacrifice of nuance. To the contrary, Esperanto has shades of nuance that speakers of English wouldn't dream existed. Simplification, here, is not a matter of stripping anything away, but one of organization. The more important consideration on this is that nuance, in Esperanto, is far more readily available to its speakers and writers because it is not so much a matter of the subtle choice of words as it is organizational design. The result, moreover, is not a `tinny', or `mechanical' sounding language, but one that is elegantly beautiful! The most vivid example of nuance in Esperanto, perhaps, is the compound verb.

The Compound Verb. The compound verb corresponds roughly to the perfect tenses of English, which, however, has only three: the past-, present-, and future-perfect. In Esperanto, on the other hand, there are a total of 54 possibilities, derived by use of only three structural elements in addition to the six endings of the simple verb. In addition, 24 unique kinds of nouns, adjectives, and adverbs can be derived from the same verbal structures. The compound verb is not often used; as in English, the simple verb usually suffices. However, the added definition is there, readily available and easily derived, when needed.

(6) The Practical Use of Esperanto. The most prominent application of spoken Esperanto at this time is in tourism. There is a worldwide league of speakers of Esperanto, and it has delegates in hundreds of cities, all over the world, who are listed in its `Jarlibro' (Yearbook). Thus Esperanto people easily can find each other for foreign travels or correspondence. They have friends to visit wherever they go, friends with whom they can converse, in depth. There are resorts run by Esperanto people, for Esperanto people.

The Universal Congress.

There are numerous international conferences and other events in Esperanto. The most prominent of these is Esperanto's annual week-long `Universala Kongreso' (UK), attended by 2000 to 5000 people from upwards of 40 countries, embracing a wide range of activities from early morning till midnight. The UKs are preceded and followed by a host of activities: tours and excursions, `antaukongreso', `postkongreso', youth kongreso, etc.

Conferences and Lectures.

Among the UK activities are conferences and university lectures (with college credit) on a wide range of subjects, including science and technology, all in Esperanto of course.

The Chinese Academy of Science conducts a biannual international conference on Science and Technology (in Esperanto) and publishes a quarterly journal, ``Tutmondaj Sciencoj kaj Teknikoj''.

Other Applications.

There are many regular radio broadcasts in Esperanto with schedules listed in the Esperanto press. - International consortiums advertise regularly in the Esperanto press. Some have their own brochures in Esperanto about various products. - Many people use Esperanto extensively with pen pals, stamp collecting, ham radio, etc. Many get great pleasure out of Esperanto magazines from various countries.

A great potential for the further application of Esperanto is technical education in third world countries, where students are `locked out' because appropriate textbooks do not exist in their languages. (6, 7) Before they can begin a technical education they must learn another language. - Yet another potential is the publication of technical literature for the installation and maintenance of complex industrial systems, as well as consumer products, in third world countries. Maintenance manuals must be translated to an appropriate language, sometimes not the language itself of the people who will use them, as in the case of former French colonies in Africa (8). Then the maintenance people must learn that language well enough to use the manuals, but still serious and expensive mistakes will be made because of misunderstandings. With Esperanto, the manuals would be far less expensive to translate, the language would be far easier to learn and would be learned better, fewer mistakes would be made from misunderstandings, and the same translations would be appropriate for many different countries.

The greatest potential in this country for application of Esperanto is in the direct enhancement of education, the subject of this paper.

Some Specifics on the Application of Esperanto in Education

(1) Esperanto is completely regular: one-letter/one-sound; no irregular verbs; well defined, consistent, and extensive use of affixes. Thus it is 4-to-10 times less difficult to learn than any ethnic language. Therefore it is ideal as the introductory foreign language. It is also the language from which more students could gain a useful and meaningful exposure and which all students could learn better and more quickly.

(2) Esperanto has elegant literature in prose, poetry, song, and technology, both original and translated, with a worldwide base in over a hundred periodicals and many thousands of books; also a worldwide body of users. Thus it is a very useful educational tool for social studies and for general international information gathering.

(3) Esperanto is an excellent tool to reinforce a small child's natural tendency toward logical thinking; also to introduce reading in preschool, as detailed earlier in this paper.

(4) Esperanto is `grammar coded', see Figure 3. This is a great asset for Esperanto as an international language. It also makes Esperanto a most excellent base for introducing grammatical concepts in school.

(5) Esperanto is also appropriate for engineering education. At an orientation session the speaker, attempting to impart an appreciation for the humanities, was heard to say, ``We really ought to be offering a foreign language, but it would take so very much time that we couldn't possibly do it justice, our curriculum already so crowded.'' They could, with Esperanto! See also, ``What is ... this to IEEE ...'', below.

Some Details on the Structure of Esperanto


The pronoun is one example to demonstrate the simplicity of Esperanto. The case structure for Esperanto pronouns is similar to that in English-nominative, objective, and possessive. The critical difference from English is that the differences among the cases are uniform. After learning the nominative, the objective or possessive is gained by the addition of the ending `N', or `A', respectively. This is the same `N' as used to define the objective case for all nouns. It is the same `A' as used to define any adjective, whereas the possessive pronoun functions as an adjective. See Figure 1.

The Correlatives

The correlatives are a unique family of words which in tabular format demonstrate power-in-simplicity as a concept. See Figure 2. The top line translates to `something', `what', `that', `everything', and `nothing'; the other lines correspondingly.


Ideas are intricately interrelated, but these interrelationships are not extensively reflected in the words used to express them in English; they are, in Esperanto. For instance, the pronouns and the correlatives already mentioned. Family relationships are another excellent example; compare father, mother, brother, sister, son, and daughter with patro, patrino, frato, fratino, filo and filino, respectively. For animals, there are a variety of words to indicate the female and the offspring, in English, and one must remember which words go with each species. Not so in Esperanto; the name of the species takes the suffix -in- for the female, -id- for offspring, -idin- for female offspring, etc. In Figure 3 are listed 23 affixes that are used extensively and consistently to multiply the power of Esperanto vocabulary. These affixes may be added alone or in combination to any word, if the resulting word makes sense.

Test Your Language Ability

Esperanto estas la moderna kultura lingvo por la tuta mondo. Simpla, fleksebla, belsona, gi estas la praktika solvo por la problemo de universala interkompreno. Esperanto meritas vian seriozan konsideron. Mi estas instruisto. Mi instruas la internacian help-lingvon. Mi kampanjas inter studentoj, por instigi ilin lerni gin, por ke ili povus komuniki dum ciuj el siaj eksterlandaj vojagoj. - Ankau, mi portas mian kampanjon al internaciaj organizoj (ekzemple, la Instituto de Elelktraj kaj Elektronikaj Ingenieroj (IEEI)), kaj siaj membroj (ci tie la individuaj ingenieroj). Ili povus apliki Esperanton por plifaciligi siajn internaciajn aferojn, por pliguindigi siajn vojagojn, kaj finfine por helpi plipacigi la mondon. Ili povus helpi enkonduki Esperanton generale en la lernejojn. Mi multe guas instrui Esperanton. Inteligenta persono povas lerni Esperanton rapide kaj facile. Nu, cu vi? Estu mia studento! Lernu Esperanton per mia korespondkurso! Au almenau estu informita pri giaj potencialoj kaj helpu oportune.


Esperanto is the modern cultural language for the whole world. Simple, flexible, melodious, it is the practical solution for the problem of universal understanding. Esperanto merits your serious consideration. I am a teacher. I teach this international auxiliary language. I campaign among students to inspire them to learn it, so that they will be able to communicate in all of their travels abroad. Also, I carry my campaign to international organizations (for example, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)), and their members (here the individual engineers) . They could apply Esperanto to simplify their international affairs, to make their travels more enjoyable, and in the long run to help make the world more peaceful. They could help in the general introduction of Esperanto into the schools. I very much enjoy teaching Esperanto. An intelligent person can learn Esperanto rapidly and easily. Well, how about you? Be my student! Learn Esperanto through my correspondence course! Or at least be informed about its potentials and help in any way that is opportune.

What Is All of This to IEEE and ASEE?

IEEE is itself an international organization and has its own problems in international communication. Membership outside the United States is growing, for which demands for technical materials in other languages is growing. For each language this is very expensive. Translation to Esperanto would be easier, less expensive, less subject to error, and would reduce the demand from other-language groups, particularly in those areas where Esperanto is already being used increasingly.

IEEE and ASEE, as educational organizations, have an interest not only in the continuing education of members, but also the precollege education of future members and other people. Many members are professors in engineering colleges, where Esp-o is particularly appropriate for the curriculum, to reinforce communication skills, in English and beyond. (See also item 6 under ``...Application Education.'') Also, members have occasion to travel abroad from time to time for their employers, for personal business and for recreation, as well as for IEEE and ASEE. The Esperanto network can be very helpful.

Starting a Course on Esperanto

There has usually been a problem of logistics in trying to establish a formal course on Esperanto in a school. It is a matter of getting the school administration interested, having a qualified teacher available, and getting a group of students sufficiently interested. If the administration is sufficiently motivated to offer such a course and grant credit for it, it can probably get one of its teachers to take appropriate courses. A good foreign language teacher, on the other hand, could easily teach a beginning level course even as he/she began to learn the language, by using taped materials-it is that simple. A student body can easily be recruited, if a school is interested enough to grant credit and conduct an information campaign, and if teachers are sufficiently enthused. Then there is the hazard of a change in administration at some critical point.

The crucial problem has usually been that misinformed people tend to consider such a course to be of marginal benefit. (See the section on misconceptions, above.) They don't oppose it, but neither do they go out of their way to support it. Thus its success has rested upon the enthusiasm of one or a very few people. In the context of this Education Reform, perhaps all of this can change.

Courses for Teachers

Courses are taught at a number of colleges, around the U.S. The most prominent program for teachers (and others) is at San Francisco State University, where people come from many countries every summer, for the three-week intensive program at four levels. Another is at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, a one-week summer program at three levels.

Course Materials

There are a great many textbooks and dictionaries on Esperanto, as well as books and magazines in the language. There are also many excellent taped courses. These materials, as well as catalogs listing and describing them, are readily available from:

The Esperanto League for North America

P.O. Box 1129

El Cerrito, CA 94530

(415) 653-0998

Lesson One of a FREE ten-lesson postal introductory course can be had by sending a stamped self-addressed envelope (SASE) to the above address, or to:


585 Shaw Road

Windsor, MA 01270


  1. Pei, M., ``One Language for the World,'' The Devin Adair Company, New York.

  2. Gregor, D.B., ``The Cultural Value of Esperanto,'' Modern Languages, December, 1965, London.

  3. Auld, W., ``A Natural Translation-Language,'' El Popola Cinio, August, 1989, Beijing.

  4. El Popola Cinio, various issues, Beijing.

  5. Witkam, A.P.M., ``Distributed Language Translation,'' Buro voor Systeemontwikkeling, Utrecht.

  6. Jones, R.K., ``Esperanto for Engineering Education'', September 1986.

  7. Dodge, E., ``Esperanto, Instrument for Mental Training,'' Education, January, 1941.

  8. Boschen, A.C., ``To American Industry: Immediate Dividends from Esperanto,'' a presentation to IEEE, Berkshire Section.

  9. Lins, U., ``Outline of the History of Esperanto in China,'' Centre for Research and Documentation on the Language Problem, London.

  10. ``How European Businessmen Use Esperanto,'' Business Abroad, July 11, 1966, New York.

  11. ``IEEE Papers on Esperanto, the International Language,'' compiled by Allan C. Boschen, 1988, Pittsfield, MA.

  12. ``An Anthology of Articles and Documents on Esperanto (Supplementary to `IEEE Papers on Esperanto''', a collection of some 130 items, currently under preparation.

  13. Boschen, A.C., ``Spelling Reform for Introducing Reading to Children'', 1993.

  14. Smith, Frank, ``Reading Without Nonsense,'' Teachers College Press, Columbia University, 1985, New York and London.

  15. A clip from the ``60 Minutes'' TV program, ``Lost in Translation''.

  16. ``Esperanto,'' A Video featuring Steve Allen.

A.C. Boschen, BSEE, M Ed

585 Shaw Road, Windsor, MA 01270 General Electric Co., Field Doc - Engr, Wrtr (retired) Teacher of Esperanto, the International Language

Allan Boschen was born and grew up in Montana; served in the U.S. Air Force in India during WW II; BSEE from Newark College of Engrg (now NJIT); M Ed from North Adams State College; worked as digital systems engineer and writer for GE and other companies, traveled extensively in North America, Europe, and Asia on engineering and on Esperanto; active on PACE and on student activities in the Berkshire Section and Region 1 of IEEE; taught Electricity, Math, and Esperanto at Hoosac Valley High School; taught Esperanto at Berkshire Community College and at The Experiment in International Living; continues to teach Esperanto in formal and impromptu courses.
Thu Oct 5 17:35:23 PDT 1995