During the past week I happen to have received two thick manuals: a supplement printed in 22
languages for the owner's manual of my car - and instructions in 19 languages for operating a
camping stove. The polyglot manual for my Epson printer/photocopier/scanner, here on the shelf
next to me, is the size of a large paperback.
I needn’t go on: we all know the economic arguments - but have we considered that lobbying
efforts to promote an IAL might be better directed along the same lines?
Fifty-one of the world’s one hundred biggest economies are corporations rather than countries.
Corporations are always looking at the bottom line, and for costs that might be stripped out. On
the other hand, taxpayer-funded services are often only scrutinised in the case of economic
Moreover, the international organisations (UN, EU etc.) have large numbers of well-paid translators
and simultaneous interpreters working for them. How many are going to embrace a concept that
would eventually put them out of a job? There are also armies of foreign language teachers in
state education systems, and associated publishers and media advisers.
For eighty years or more, Esperantists and others have been lobbying agencies under the aegis of
the League of Nations and United Nations in order to get an IAL officialy adopted. The economic
imperative has continually increased but there has been little or no movement.
Has anyone ever tried approaching the big transnational corporations? I can’t help thinking that
they might be attracted by the notion of a very simple "pidgin level" IAL sufficient for most
practical purposes: advertising slogans, "Reality TV" programmes, tabloid newspapers and
instruction booklets for the ever-increasing number of gadgets.
But what about a universal language capable of expressing great poets and the world's Sacred
Literature? Yes, most essential - but that could be developed unofficially and gradually rolled out
later. The best of languages past and present, and even of the work here and on other Internet
forums, would gradually be incorporated IMHO.
The infant starts with babbled speech sounds, later utters comprehensible words, and then begins
to speak grammatically. This is also the order in which new mundane languages have been
formed. Why should the IAL be any different?
Perhaps the IAL has hardly progressed because the concept is deemed so difficult, revolutionary.
However, the scientific method has allowed many an intractable problem to be deconstructed into
its component parts and rebuilt as a working model.
The self-interest of the corporate world might suggest that it commissions a panel of global
experts from relevant fields - linguistics, economics, the social sciences, education and the media
- to do just this.
Antony Alexander http://langx.org