Appended to Zamenhof’s first brochure in 1887 was a sheet asking anyone interested to sign a promise that he or she would learn Esperanto when ten million other people had also made that pledge. Once again Zamenhof demonstrated his practical view of human nature, recognizing that a universal language is exactly the kind of visionary project that people will embrace only once everyone else is embracing it too. Almost 120 years later, Zamenhof’s dream has not yet hit its quota. Still, to dismiss the Esperanto project as a failure is too easy, and perhaps too cynical. Of the hundreds of planned language schemes born out of the polyglot polemics of turn-of-the-twentieth-century Europe, Esperanto is the one that has endured long enough and spread far enough to take on a continuous and collective life. There is something tender and hopeful about the modern-day Esperantists, who read, write, sing, and, yes, talk dirty in nia kara lingvo (our dear language) even without the assurance that ten million people will soon be joining them. To be an idealist in the nineteenth century was easy. To be an idealist in 2006 requires a very tough, very stubborn kind of faith.
Okej, ne estas nova tezo. Sed estas legindas.