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emerson alcott wrote [ snip]:>>What the hell is Loglan/Lojban?
 
>
> Lojban is a descendant of Loglan.  Both are extremely difficult to
> learn and use (as Lojbanists themselves admit).  Neither was intended
> as an actual IAL, rather, to test the hypothesis that a language shapes
> the way one thinks.
 
True, to an extent.  The initial aim of Lojban was to test the Sapir-Whorf
hypothesis, as you say, though how anyone might assess the results of such an
experiment is abyone's guess.  Its use as an IAL was a kind of a spin-off, sort of
"Hey, we've got this great language, why not use it to talk to people from
different countries" ;-)  The advantage of Lojban as an IAL is not ease of
communication, it's accurate communication.  As for "extremely difficult" - Lojban
is certainly more difficult than most conlangs (at least for Indo-European
speakers - maybe Chinese would find it easier).  On the other hand, it is still
much easier than almost any natlang, unless, maybe, it's the one next door (e.g.
Italian for Spanish speakers).
 
As an example, in my first year at university, I took a course in Chinese which
must have totalled about 150 hours of instruction, plus a similar amount of
personal study.  This left me with the basic grammar and a vocabulary of about
2000 words - enough to get the jist of popular newspaper articles and hold an
extremely limited and artificial conversation.  Now, if I had spent just half of
those 300 hours studying Lojban I would know ALL of the grammar and vocabulary and
be completely fluent in the language.  I would also know a language which, IMHO,
beggars most others in terms of clarity and expressive power.
 
What makes Lojban difficult is its unfamiliarity - there are hardly any words
which are exatcly the same as a word in a natlang (though nearly all of them bear
some resemblance) and the grammar is like nothing else on earth (again with the
possible exception of Chinese).  Nevertheless, while ease of learning is obviously
important, it's not top of the list for Lojban, and it presumably struck the
creators of the language as worthwhile to sacrifice some ease of learning in
favour of having a more powerful language.  The unfamiliarity also serves the
function of challenging people to think in different ways, which is part of the
Lojban goal.  I admit that most people will prefer an IAL that is easy to
understand and learn, but unfamiliarity has its benefits as well.  Learning
Chinese drove me up the wall, and I still can't understand the bloody language
(and can only remember such drill-sentences as "Women duo hen dao duanlian" - "We
all get up very early and do physical training"!) but it was still a much more
enjoyable and worthwhile experience than German, which bored me stiff because it
just felt like English with better spelling and a lot of illogical grammatical
rules.
 
To come back to the question of which language to learn, it all depends on what
you want:
 
If you want the IAL with the most speakers, learn Esperanto.
If you want the one that's easiest to learn (for Euros) go for Occidental or
Interlingua.
If you want to stretch your mental muscles a bit, learn Lojban.
If you want to speak at 500 wpm, learn RLR.
If you want to boldly go where no one has gone before, learn Klingon.
 
co'o mi'e robin.