The striking characteristic of the last century has been the extraordinary growth of the material means of communication - steamships, railways, telegraphs, telephones. This has resulted in the drawing together of the peoples and multiplied enormously the bonds which unite them. This has brought about a unity, a uniformity both in the material life and, in an ever increasing degree, in the minds of the peoples. Factories, wherever situated manufacture the same general type of instruments, fabrics, and other objects of general use under similar technical and industrial processes. We wear the same kind of clothes and live in about the same way wherever we may dwell. Our schools have much the same courses of study. Our newspapers, our books reflect comment and conditions much the same everywhere. A Parisian of to-day is more like the Londoner of to-day, than the Parisian of a hundred years ago like the Frenchman of his time from the provinces. In fact, to-day the cleavage tends to run more and more, not by international boundaries, but by social and economic classes.
The aim of civilization is to reduce the wastefulness which characterizes its development by organizing our labors, utilizing our natural resources and inventions, Our motto, conscious or unconscious is that of Ostwald: "Dissipate no energy." Scientists, inventors, traders, in fact all men of fair intelligence are willing to adopt any new invention or process, wherever it may originate, providing it makes for efficiency. During the late war, the fact that the inventor of the Diesel engine was a German did not prevent the Allies from using that type of motor. Ideas own no allegiance.
In spite of the growth of the material means of communication, the fact remains that we have done nothing to remove the linguistic barriers. We provide the modern man with a telephone, but he stands like a deaf-mute before it when he desires to speak to a person of a different linguistic group.
The need for an I. L. lies in the necessity of uniting minds, ideas now separated by these barriers of language. As said Prof. Donnan: "Internationalism of thought is the motto of the 20th century." Or as Prof. Jespersen puts it: "Thoughts pay heavy custom taxes on the mental goods imported from one country to another in the shape of translation costs, and chiefly in the enormous amount of time that men of all countries have to devote to the study of foreign languages. Yet in spite of all this, much mental work remains unknown outside the land of its origin"
The situation is particularly bad and becoming daily more difficult in the scholarly world and among scientific researchers. We find small bodies of men throughout the world engaged in the same scholarly pursuits, identical scientific investigations. These men need the latest information obtainable to put them in touch with one another, prevent useless duplication and allow them to efficiently organize and develop their specialties to the best advantage. Their learned publications, even though published in one of the great cultural languages, are not immediately accessible to the small bodies of savants of like interest in other language groups. They are as has been so aptly said, isolated on separate islands between which communication is extremely difficult. A decade or so ago, a reading knowledge of English, French and German enabled these isolated scholars to keep fairly abreast the latest developments. To-day he needs Italian, Spanish, Dutch, the Scandinavian and Slavonic languages, one may even add the Japanese, The chemists of Italy and Sweden are doing important work just as the chemists of England and Germany. It is an era of specialization. At the best, man can conquer, make his own but a small field of human knowledge. Intelligence is the monopoly of no one nation, or group of nations. Therefore we need every possible means of conserving our energies by facilitating the communication of thought, by making immediately accessible the ideas contained in the flood of monographs and publications of all kinds which now reach at the most only a few nationalities.
Again, each culture group, no matter how small, is obliged to create or duplicate for itself the instruments of culture: scientific and technical manuals, dictionaries, books of reference, etc. We impose an unnecessary burden for such publications, especially on the members of the smaller language groups: The Dutch, the Norwegians, the Hungarians. The publication of many of these books in an I. L. would do away with much of this burden at a small cost.
Any instrument which will reduce the labor of our overcrowded intellectual life ought to be welcomed, and it is certain to be adopted in the future as the result of intellectual and economic pressure. One should consider not only the present actual losses from lack of easy communication, but also the potential increases in communication which would result from the official adoption and consequent wide use of such a medium of expression.
The linguistic situation is constantly becoming more complicated and difficult. Increasing floods of publications are appearing not only in the great culture languages but also in the small nations, as: Portuguese, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Greek, Roumanian, Bulgarian, Hungarian. Linguistic groups that were formerly content with mainly a spoken language are now awakening to an intense nationalism which finds expression in new national literatures, as among the Fins, Catalonians, Lithuanians, Serbian, Albanians, Irish. Take the Magyar language as an example. Here is a language unique in type and virtually outside the bounds of Hungary. Yet there exists in Hungary a rich and increasingly important intellectual life, but any scientific publication printed in that language alone is destined to remain unknown and consequently uninfluential however important it may be.
Consider the matter of oral discourse in the great and increasing number of our international congresses. The endeavor is usually made to restrict the papers to the three languages: E., F., G., but such restriction ordinarily gives rise to protest by other nationalities and, because as a matter of fact there are but comparatively few members of these congresses who are able to understand and communicate in even the three languages named, a good part of the papers and discussions are a sealed book to many and the congresses tend to break up into national groups that nullify the proper scope of such meetings.
As a practical example of the linguistic difficulties which attend such,congresses, I take the following from a report by Dr. Nitobe, who is one of the secretaries of the League of Nations:
"I have had occasion to mention that no less than 28 languages are in use in the countries represented in the League. (There exist 49 languages in actual use in Europe alone.) A number of them (Gaelic, Basque, etc.) will scarcely claim to be heard in the Assembly. Suppose, therefore, there are 22 languages officially employed by the 48 State Members. Apply the formula 22 x 21 / 2 and we have 231 as the number of translations to be made if each Delegation were to speak but once in the Assembly! The absurdity of such a figure is an argument for the necessity of considering the question of an International language,"
The linguistic disabilities of our diplomats at the Versailles Peace Conference are still fresh in the public mind. Each of the 70 delegates spoke in his national tongue and as a result an army of translators had constantly to be present. Owing to the former prestige of the French as a diplomatic language, an attempt was made by the French to make their language the sole official one, but without success. The fact that President Wilson, an ex-college president was unable to speak in French and would not trust his pronunciation sufficiently to read from a French manuscript, must have been a shock to those Frenchmen who urge their language as best fitted to supply the place of an I. L.
Though there grows an ever increasing amount of similarity among the nations, there yet exist, due largely to ignorance and misconceptions of the ideas, aims, and aspirations of other peoples, a tremendous amount of chauvinistic sentiments which keep the peoples apart and form a fertile field for war propaganda. In these days of great armaments we are too apt to concentrate our attention on the existence of the armaments themselves as the causes of war. Yet munitions are not stored and warships built without the will, desire, purpose in the minds of the people, Guns do not fire themselves. The ultimate factor is psychical, rather than physical. We have spent billions of dollars for the material means of offense. We have spent comparatively nothing in an attempt to make the foreigner understand us better, to influence the minds of possible antagonists.
Now the I. L. merely as a language is as well fitted for ill uses as good uses, it should not be identified merely as pacifist instrument. But the very fact that it is an international language makes it peculiarly well fitted as a means to help overcome the international antagonisms which arise from ignorance and misconception. It ought to have the support of all men of humanitarian purpose.
We have seen that in spite of our magnificent material means of communication, we yet lack an instrument which directly unites minds. We need an I. L. not only as a medium of ordinary intercourse but especially as a sort of clearing house for new ideas, a central office where scholars and scientists of all nationalities can grab an idea fresh from the mint of thought.
Admitting that we need an I. L., why cannot this lack be supplied by the adoption of one the "natural" languages; English, French, etc, as a common auxiliary tongue?
There are two main objections:
(1) That such selection "would violate the principle of neutrality which should dominate in all international relations" by giving undue advantage and preference to one linguistic group.
(2) That the swarm of difficulties in spelling, pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and diction would make even the learning of one language a prolonged and laborious task, practically an impossible task if a complete mastery is attempted.
To attain stable and enduring success, an I. L. must be of practical use, do that part of the world's intellectual labor more efficiently than is now being done by the laborious learning of foreign tongues or by multiple translations. It is not enough that the the I. L. be possible, or have at most a sentimental value. It must be of practical utility.
About fifteen years ago, the monorail method of railroad transportation was demonstrated to be practical and it was freely prophesied that such method would shortly supplant the existing double rail system. Such has not proven the case. The scheme may be practicable in theory, but for some reason does not yet seem to fill a real economic need. Even upon the official adoption of an I. L. that there would be an immediate scramble for books in that language is not to be expected. Yet it would fill a limited but very real need from the very start. The utility of an I. L. lies largely, at present, in the scientific, scholarly, economic and social (or sociological) fields. It is also of great value as an intellectual stimulant and moral awakener. But it is to be expected that it will always remain very secondary and ineffectual in works of chiefly literary value, where the importance lies rather in the sentiment and diction rather than the new thought to be expressed.
A recent writer has suggested that the future official I. L. might well begin by translating some of the books of Victor Hugo. If he means that as a pleasant and useful text by which the student can learn the language, perhaps yes. But if he expects that the general public would turn eagerly to any merely literary translations, especially when translations already exist of such works in its own tongue, decidedly no. This was and is the mistake of the Espists in putting emphasis upon the translation of purely literary matter. The public does not want and will not read such material. It already has a superfluity of such works in its own language. The intellectual curiosity which will lead the student to wade though a work in a strange tongue, however easy it may be, is not widespread though it does exist in a very limited degree. The scholarly man, the technician in search for some new facts to add to his particular field of research even now utilizes his linguistic knowledge, though this knowledge of foreign tongues is hardly ever more than sufficient to cover more than a bare reading knowledge or one or two languages. The ordinary man rests satisfied with his national tongue, because of the difficulties of thoroughly learning any foreign tongue. It is not to be expected that the translation of literary works into the I. L. can be depended upon to attract any great interest to the language.
The field to be tilled by the I. L. lies in the quick dissemination of current thought, which may or may not have literary value. The books or pamphlets translated need not be those alone which interest only the specialists. There are constantly appearing books and serious articles on matters of general international import which should have the attention of intelligent men and are therefore well worth translating into one key language. As a practical example, I may state that during the past few weeks I have read books by Lothrop Stoddard and Hilaire Belloc which would be well worth while translating into a sole auxiliary tongue, not only because of the interesting international questions discussed, but also because the limpidity of the style lends itself readily to translation into the logical language of the I. L.. Take, for example, the book by Professor Keynes on "The Economic Consequences of Peace" which appeared during the momentous days of the Versailles peace conference. Would it not have been highly beneficial if this work could have been available for the consideration of all peoples through one immediate translation? I speak of these authors, not because I agree in all respects with their conclusions, for I do not, but in order to illustrate the nature of the service the I. L. can render to mankind, There is also, I believe, an excellent market for an international magazine, or magazines, which could act as a medium for the translation of articles of general social and scientific importance selected front the multitude of nationalistic journals. The number of such worthy articles may not be large, but their immediate translation would be a real service. Such journals might also serve for the publication of important public statements and documents.
I shall not here attempt to more than mention the value of an I. L. in ways of ordinary communication, such as in commercial affairs. A great amount of such communication is at present carried on by means of hired translators who cost a lot and are not always immediately available; this work could be done more efficiently and directly did a widely recognized I. L. exist.
As an example of the need for a language which all can master as an aid to travellers, we are all familiar with the plain man's exasperation at the diversity of tongues which causes, especially the English speaker, to raise his voice (sometimes in profane ejaculations) when he attempts to communicate with the foreigner, in the vain hope that by so doing he will somehow or other be understood if only he shouts loud enough.
There should always be borne in mind the indubitable increase of intercommunication which would result especially from official recognition of such a language. Practically all new devices to improve intercommunication seem at first to have only a limited field of usefulness - necessity grows with use.
Some of the most valuable utilities of an I. L. would come from its introduction into the schools. Aside from it's general use as a means of communication, such a language as Ido, founded as it is on international words, the very quintessence of modern languages, offers a solid basis on which to easily and quickly acquire other languages, especially those of the Romance group. To the experienced Idist, a French or Spanish text is almost intelligible at sight. It would be of no mean help in the acquirement of the Latin. To the Germanic, Slavic and Scandinavian races, it would afford a pleasant and easy introductory step, a point of departure for the study of any Romance language and the Latin. The grammar of Ido, founded upon logical principles, without the exceptions and anomalies which swarm in all natural languages, would forcibly impress upon the minds of the students the necessity for and principles of grammar. An apparently small but valuable service is the drill which the student receives in distinguishing the parts of speech through the constant repetition of uniform word terminations.
Some scientific educators have objected to language study as a means of mental discipline, because it leads the student to guess, instead of arriving at conclusions by exact analysis, by induction. In our mother tongues, we are ordinarily inclined to express our thought through accustomed sentences, not by building up our thought word by word. The weird sentence formation of the Latin, the constant succession of purely idiomatic expressions, the ambiguous use of words, the large amount of useless verbiage introduced chiefly for dictional purposes especially in literary matter tend, so it is asserted, to soften the mental tone of the student because, in translation work, he often merely wildly guesses at meanings, at constructions. The regular grammatical forms, the use of words in one definite sense, the lack of idiomatic expressions, found in a properly constructed I. L. does away with this objection because it compels the student to express his thought in logically constructed sentences. Such exercises are very valuable not only to the student but to the adult. It is a true intellectual gymnastic.
Such study is valuable not as an intellectual tonic but from the moral side. The direct personal interchange of letters, even picture cards, with foreign students not only quickens and awakens the interest of student in the customs, life and thought of other peoples, but it broadens his feelings of kinship with the rest of mankind. The natural tendency to picture foreign peoples as different, strange and inferior to one's own particular nation would tend to be corrected. The direct contact, so to speak, with all humanity would broaden the mind and soften the misunderstandings and asperities so often brought about by politicians and selfish economic parties, especially in these days when foreign news is so often used as means of propaganda. A better understanding of the real thought of the ordinary foreigner would enable him to discount at its real value some of this propaganda stuff served up under the guise of news.
Two lessons a week, of an hour each, for a single year would enable the student to obtain sufficient command of an efficient I. L. for all practical purposes such as he could not gain over a living tongue with years of study.
Apart from the above, it may also be urged that there exists no organized movement to adopt any one language as an official auxiliary language and that until such demand gain enough momentum to promise even a slight probability of success, such considerations are futile. The active advocacy is confined to a few scattered persons, chiefly literary people enamoured with their own language. There exists in all of us a powerful, unthinking sentiment which leads us to prize and appreciate our own particular language. One does not find the Germans advocating the adoption. of the French, nor the French the English, nor the English the French. Yet if such a movement is to succeed, it must necessarily get its main strength outside of the particular linguistic group whose language is to be adopted.
When it is proposed that some one national language be adopted, there should be taken into consideration other questions than the particular linguistic qualifications of a language. We cannot lightly run counter to the fact that such selection is bound to wound patriotic sensibilities which with or without justification play a determining part in the world. Every such project is bound to be still-born because it arouses jealousies and antagonisms in the political, social, religious and other nationalistic sentiments of peoples The advantages which are sure to result to one group by the adoption of their particular language and the consequent disadvantages which are certain to other linguistic groups are by no means fanciful or unimportant. Consider for a moment what it would mean to have English chosen as the official I. L. and every scholar throughout the world set to learning English as their secondary language. English manufacturers and traders would thereby gain a tremendous advantage in pushing their trade in foreign countries because they could make themselves readily understood. Take the South American trade: Would the Germans, the French readily accept the intense propaganda of the English tongue? Furthermore, English civilisation and ideas in all departments of life would gain a distinctive power which, however acceptable that would be to Great Britain and the United States, would not win the approval of the Latin countries. Think how the United States bears the impress in her whole national life, political, social, religious, material, of that of England, not merely because a large number of Englishmen first settled here but because English is the common tongue of the two countries. Had Spanish or French gained the mastery, our whole national life would have run to the Latin type of civilisation.
We must adopt a language which is as neutral as the metric system, a language which will conciliate or be indifferent to all parties, all opinions, all creeds.
The history of the natural languages presents not a reasoned growth but a pract0ically uncontrolled development wherein strange methods of expression have been grafted on the original languages by the influence of a higher or contiguous civilisation the conquest of arms or trade relations. Recent decades have seen the deliberate coining of a large scientific and technical vocabulary much the same throughout Europe. But the main body of the words in common use are largely the result of fortuitous incorporation into the language. A word or phrase of local usage spreads to general use. Oftentimes the slang expression of to-day becomes the cultured speech of tomorrow. Or, if you will, the "slang" of the upper classes becomes imposed upon the people as the only correct speech.
It is true that development has generally been in the direction of a grammatical simplification in comparison to the Greek and Latin conjugations and declensions yet, because of the invention of printing and the consequent solidifying of present forms, it is improbable that the immediate future holds likelihood of any great degree of further simplification, however that might result in betterments. Because some 16th century writer confused the Anglo-Saxon word igland with isle, we have since all conscientiously spelled "island" with an "s" and are likely so to do for the indefinite future such is the conservatism of the human race.
Aside from irregularities and exceptions to the grammatical rules (1) another even greater obstacle is the use of proper diction. We construct our sentence according to fixed modes of expression which can only be learned by a lifetime of careful use. Take, for example, the illogical, idiomatic use of prepositions found in every natural language and almost in every sentence, a constant source of error and misunderstanding.(2) The ways of expression in our great cultural languages are absolutely fixed and any great deviation from common usage is regarded as improper - "baby" English, French, etc,
Any language which aspires to the role of an I. L. must be free from this rigidity in order that it may bend itself to suit the linguistic needs of different peoples in their varying methods of expression.
We see the students in the higher schools now giving more than half of their study period to the acquirement of a smattering of other languages, time needed for other subjects of high value, such as natural science, history, political and economic questions. It would seem the part of wisdom to conserve as far as possible our limited time for study and devote it to subjects of more urgent need, especially in the colleges and universities. Doubtless we have considerably improved over the time when only the grammar of the languages was chiefly taught, yet the results to-day are qualitatively insufficient to give the student much more than a more or less accurate reading knowledge of a foreign language. Said Professor L. Pfaundler: "If one is possessed of a little natural talent, one can by dint of industry and much loss of time easily get so far as to read or understand a paper or a letter in a foreign language, but when it comes to writing (replying) the task is incomparably more difficulty." To write and speak a language fluently and correctly is a most prolonged and difficult task. One would imagine in listening to the ordinary person advocating a natural language (other than their own) as an I. L. that these people were natural linguists. Pin them down to their actual knowledge of a foreign tongue and we find how truly pitiful is their equipment. I appeal to the readers personal experience, not to his theoretical ideas. How many educated people of your acquaintance, even those who have continued their linguistic studies in college, have a competent reading, writing and, speaking command of a foreign tongue? Apart from those who have learned such a language naturally and those who have specialized in a language by years of study, there exist very, very few. They may be able to read more or less well, but of writing and speaking, the less said the better. (3) It is well to keep in mind the reply of Schuchardt, the famous linguist, to the question of how many languages he knew, "Scarcely my own." (4)
On the other hand, if the claims of the advocates of an artificial I. L. are valid, we have in such a language an instrument by which we can communicate both by writing and by speaking with foreigners of whatever nationality after only a few weeks or at most months of study.(5)
In addition to the general statements made above, it may be worth while to examine briefly the fitness of individual languages to assume the function of an I. L.
It has sometimes been suggested that the principle by which an I. L. should be selected should be that of "equal difficulty to all."(6) Because of the interrelations of many European languages, particularly because of the incorporation of Latin root words, any Latin type of language must be easier to learn and use by peoples from the Romance group than by peoples whose languages are not so directly related. Now as a great cultural language which preeminately offers "equal difficulty to all" and therefore great neutrality, the Russian might be considered.,
If we may trust the testimony of those who have conquered its difficulties, the Russian is a language of extraordinary flexibility, has a phonetic orthography and high verbal capabilities. Its highly developed systems of prefixes and suffixes, its power of word-combination (like the German), makes it an instrument of expression superior to many other languages. Said Prof. William Lyon Phelps: "Here is a language before which the English, the French and the German seem only dialects." (We are apt to be so enamoured with our own language, that we do not stop to consider that other languages may have points of superiority.)
Yet, in spite of all that can be said of the beauties of the Russian tongue, we cannot seriously consider Russian as a proper selection as an I. L., because it is a well recognized fact that the learning of Russian is a practically unsurmountable task for the majority of Europeans.
This is an example, however, of where the principle of "equal difficulty" leads, The principle we must go by is that of "efficiency" rather than "difficulty." If one people, or group of peoples, have a higher natural facility in the acquirement of a certain type of language than others, so much the better, provided the less fortunately situated peoples are not thereby intentionally discriminated against in the application of all around efficiency. We do not expect that all workmen be equally gifted or their tools of equal dullness.
The German is recognized as a strong, powerful language. Its power of word-combination for the succinct expression of ideas is unsurpassed in any language. The contributions of German to philosophy and science cannot be neglected by any one who aspires to a broad culture. The spelling, and the pronunciation of the German, aside from the gutturals, are not as difficult to learn by the English speaker as that of the French. It has many less verbal irregularities than the French. Yet it is commonly recognized as a language illfitted to serve as an I. L. because of its difficulties to non-Germanic races. It has found little extension outside the fatherland. The grammar has many archaisms, a multitude of case forms for nouns, complicated adjective formation, and the like. It possesses a neuter gender, but it is not used consistently, as in the English. "Why" asks the English student impatiently "should the moon be masculine, the sun be feminine, and the word for woman or wife be neuter?" There are no logical explanations to such questions. We simply cite the fact that grammatical gender is arbitrary in European languages. It is just these vagrant, purposeless linguistic forms that bewilder the youth, that make thorny the path of knowledge and lead our learned linguistic Professors to regard a language as some highly mysterious thing with which it is dangerous to interfere. The German vocabulary is unique in type and difficult to learn for the Slavic races, for the Romance group, and even for the English and Scandinavians.(7) Its heavy involved method of sentence construction, together with the abstractness and imprecision of many German words, makes the language almost an anachorism amongst the great cultural tongues. There is an old saying to the effect that "one can learn Spanish in 20 weeks, French in 20 months and German in 20 years," Although there is here an exaggerated shortness of time for the learning of Spanish and French, it does show fairly well the relative difficulties. No language which is exceedingly difficult for a majority of Europeans stands any chance of selection as an I. L.. Admitting the many strong points of the German and the value of its literature, it is impossible of selection not alone by reason of its lack of facility for the majority of Europeans but at the present time because of the political situation. It is well to bear in mind the lesson that this "political situation" has for the advocates of any other linguistic or nationalistic group, however impossible enmity may seem at the present time. In this country, the proportion of students studying German is now very small indeed in comparison with the number before the war. In the years to come, it may be some other language.
Although rarely mentioned as a candidate for the I. L., the Spanish is certainly worthy of standing in the front rank, if languages are judged on their merits. The phonetic spelling and regularity of pronunciation are great and undeniable advantages over the French and the English, and no language can hope for success which does not have these characteristics. It is, taken as a whole, easier of acquirement, at least among the English, than is the French. It is, unlike the French, a language constantly increasing in use with the great development before it. To-day, it is the language of all the nations of the South American continent, except Brazil, and of Central America. Many of these nations have a promising future both by reason of natural increase in population and increase in cultural values.
However, like other European languages, Spanish has a multitude of grammatical irregularities, grammatical gender, and fixed forms of sentence construction which will always present great difficulties to non-Spanish speaking groups. It is very easy to exaggerate the facility of acquisition, especially for speaking and writing, I give the following bit of practical testimony:
"Some weeks ago," he said, "we advertized for a salesman to work in Spanish countries. Of forty-three applicants, thirty-eight were simply useless because they couldn't speak Spanish decently. Every one of them thought he could, having been 'educated' in our college 'language courses!' Of the other five, four were not competent salesman. The fifth man got the job he had learned to speak Spanish in Germany." (G. P. Purnam, "The Southland of North America.") Yet American schools and colleges are specializing in teaching Spanish!
But you urge: "When the best language for an I. L. is spoken of, it is the English or the French that is usually referred to. "Practically speaking, it is the English when referred to by English speakers, and French, by Frenchmen. If English speakers are found urging the value of French as a universal medium, or vice versa, it will ordinarily be found that the speaker has little or no knowledge of the language he suggests (or has become so thoroughly nurtured in it as to be unconscious of its difficulties for the ordinary scholar).
Let us examine the merits of French for the role: It makes high claims for that honor and has some strong advocates.(8) The English speakers prefer it to the German, the German and Slavic races would prefer it to the English. History shows us that French has twice held the position of a universal language (in the higher social and official circles) in Europe; once during the 12th and 13th centuries and again during the 17th and l8th centuries. It is especially noted as the language best suited for polite literature, conservation and diplomacy. French prose is a model of precision and clarity of expression. The French grammar, except for its complicated verbal system, is of a modern type, much like the English. Its sentence arrangement is generally logical and clear: subject, verb, complement, and is therefore easy of comprehension by all peoples. Its vocabulary is especially easy of acquirement by all Latin races and the English. It is noted that there exist some 15,000 words which the English and the French spell in a similar manner. The significations of words are ordinarily less ambiguous than is the case of like words in English. It is not nearly so arduous a task for the English speaker to attain a fair reading knowledge of the French as of the German.
Now it is a necessary postulate of the modern I. L. that it should be not only easy to read but easy to write and speak, and these latter are not characteristics of the French.
"The orthography, fixed in the 16th and 17th centuries, is both historical and pedantic and does not correspond to the pronunciation . . . Relatively easy for the Slavs, the Scandinavians, the Hollanders, the French pronunciation is difficult for the Germans and especially for persons whose paternal language is the English," (Meillet ibid, p. 288-9).
In fact, it is utterly impossible to learn to speak French out of a book, a demand which is easily met by a properly constructed I. L.. The French, like the other European languages, has grammatical gender, which simply means that the ordinary English student wishing to write a phrase in French has to consult the dictionary every time he wishes to use a French noun. The verbal system is extremely complicated and bristles with difficulties. Says L. de Beaufront: "Even agreeing to disregard all verbs of the second conjugation (infinitive in -ir) in which the interposition of -iss- in certain tenses and its omission in other constitutes a true irregularity, there remains in the French 110 verbs indubitably irregular. The French verb être presents in itself 34 diverse finals united to 22 different roots, a total of 56 forms as variant as possible. The French conjugation, as a whole, presents 2.265 diverse forms. This is why one can easily appreciate the declaration of General Faidherbe that, "The verb is the great obstacle to our (French) colonization." " There lies before the writer a book prepared for beginners in French. It contains 18 closely printed pages of conjugations. Consider for a moment the labor necessary to an easy mastery of these tables! Yet, as seen in Ido, all verbal forms found to be necessary for the logical expression of thought can easily be printed on one page. Is it a common sense proposal to burden the youth of all lands with this veritable mountain of verbal forms for which no reason can be given except the bare fact of their existence and the plea that they are "natural"?
The proper use the syntax of the French language, even if one is a master of its grammatical irregularities and exceptions, is an affair of long training and laborious study. The French which we endeavor to teach in our schools is essentially the language of the French elite of Paris in which even the cultured Parisian sometimes errs from the correct usage and instances are not unknown of faults committed by members of the French Academy. Says Meillet (p. 214.)
"It is necessary that one should be oblivious of its difficulties in order that one may resign oneself without tremor to write even a few lines in French." (9)
"The French is a language traditional, literary, aristocratic, which can be used with facility only by persons possessing a very high degree of culture. It was created by the intellectual and social elite. It is a kind of ideal toward which the French more or less successfully strive without actually attaining," (ibid, p. 224).
It is evident from the foregoing that a reading, speaking, writing mastery
of French can only be attained by those specially trained and that it decidedly
is not a language for the masses.
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54 to 74
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Pages 140 to the end
The International Language IDO - Reformed Esperanto