Je 02.21 atm 2002.11.23 -0800, Bjorn MADSEN skribis
>Supporters of Esperanto often claim that Esperanto has
>more than one million speakers. But I really wonder if
>such claims are trustworthy.
>Let me give just one example:
>There are only 280,000 people in Iceland. But four
>Harry Potter books have already been translated into
>Icelandic already in 2001.
>As far as I can see not even one Harry Potter book has
>been translateded into Esperanto yet.
>I just wonder why. If the population speaking
>Esperanto really is 3-6 times as big as the population
>of Iceland it should be a better business to translate
>into Esperanto than into Icelandic.

Actually, not.

Icelandic and Esperanto both have a speaking population that is (almost)
100% literate. That looks good. On the other hand, your 280,000 Icelandic
speakers live in a single place and have access to bookstores that they can
visit every day, leaf through those books, and, if they look good, buy them
(often on impulse) out of pocket with the valuta they carry around in their
wallets. Your two million (or however many) Esperanto speakers live in a
global diaspora and are generally restricted to buying books by mail, often
from some other country, with the requirement that one find some means of
paying, at a distance, in foreign valuta; impulse buying is impossible. (*)
Over half (how much over half nobody knows) live in places where even this
is not possible; Chinese Esperanto speakers (estimated in 1988 by their own
government as numbering around a million), for instance, cannot, without
very special dispensation, purchase books from abroad at all (which is why
I found, in a hole-in-the-wall bookshop in Nanjing, a shelf of copies of
Auld's "Pas^oj al Plena Posedo" in a very special, very cheap,
Chinese edition that I'd never heard of before). These are problems that
the Icelandic publishing industry does not face.

So what it comes down to is not the number of speakers but the problem of
marketing books in Esperanto. (One finds a similar situation for motion
pictures.) Unfortunately, the solution to that problem lies outside the
competence of the Esperanto movement.

Simply put, the fact that, despite such problems, the Esperanto publishing
industry is as healthy as it is indicates that, if the numbers often quoted
are untrustworthy, they might equally well be _under_estimates.

With regard to Harry Potter in Icelandic but not in Esperanto ... I can
send you by return mail the first four or five chapters (of "The
Philosopher's Stone") in Esperanto (Microsoft Word format), if you want to
read them. I know of one or two other people, as well, who've expressed an
interest in translating the book.

(And, of course, I could probably point out to you a few books in Esperanto
that are not available in Icelandic. For instance, ELNA just added to its
inventory a batch of novels from Brazil, all of them written by dead people
-- including Victor Hugo -- and channeled onto paper through Brazilian
mediums ... ;-)


(*) My Esperanto library would be nowhere near as large as it is if I did
not live thirteen miles -- 20 kilometers -- from the only place in the
United States where you can walk in off the street and buy just about any
Esperanto book that you might want.


Pasis longa voj'
Iri ĉi tien de for;
Pasis longa temp',
Sed alvenas mia hor' ...