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One of the big questions for me about an IAL is: who is the language aimed
at? Who wants to make use of it? So for years I've kept an eye on the
"deziras korespondi" columns in the Esperanto magazines to see who's out
there looking for contacts through the language. Unfortunately, in recent
years those columns have tended to shrivel or disappear -- not because
there isn't anybody out there looking for pen-pals, but because most of the
magazines now charge for such announcements, by the word. (When I edited
_Esperanto USA_ we had one of the biggest pen-pal columns around -- largely
because we didn't insist on payment for a notice. This occasionally led to
problems, such as the month in which I received 150 pen-pal requests from
all over Poland because we were mentioned in an article that had appeared
in a magazine there...)
 
Enrique ELLEMBERG maintains a list of wannabe pen-pals who send names and
info to him over the net. It's not too well advertised yet, but its
clientele seems to be growing. This month, there were fifteen individuals
advertising. For those interested, some statistics:
 
(1) Seven countries are represented: Argentina, Brazil, France, Korea,
Pakistan, Russia, USA. Russia dwarfs the others, with eight; the USA is
second with two; all the rest have one each.
 
(2) Ages range from 12 to 62. Median age is 20 years; mean age is 23-1/2
(the 62-year-old Frenchman, well outside the standard deviation, brings the
mean up considerably; without him, it would be under 21). Incidentally,
these are largely the same figures I've been seeing for the past forty
years in the pen-pal columns -- an interesting counterweight to the
pervasive legends about the greying of the Esperanto movement.*
 
(3) Women outnumber men in this list 3:2.** This is noteworthy because, in
the extra-Esperanto IAL movement, women are remarkably rare. For instance,
last time I looked at the Auxlang subscription list, there was only one
obvious woman on it (I found one other through "finger"); and Gaston
Waringhien pointed out a long time ago that during its first quarter
century of existence _not one woman_ contributed to Occidental's
_Cosmoglotta_.
 
(4) I didn't do a special study of interests announced, though I was happy
to note that two of the fifteen, one in Argentina and one in Russia, were
interested in science-fiction (when I was a kid, we fans of "that Buck
Rogers stuff" were scared to come out of the closet). No one evinced a
special interest in planned languages/IALs, or, that I noticed, even
languages in general as a particular field. Computers seemed to be a
popular interest -- not to surprising, given the medium.
 
---
 
*On the other hand, the average age of participants in the Esperanto clubs
and congresses I've visited seems to be somewhere between 45 and 65.
However, this does not indicate a trend, because this average age doesn't
seem to have changed significantly over the past forty years. As a kid in
the Los Angeles Esperanto Club, back in the early sixties, I used to think:
"What am I doing here with all these old duffers?" Now I'm one of them...
 
Incidentally, just after writing the main part of this, I received a
separate e-mail, asking for pen pals for a group of kids in the school at
Montoire, France, where apparently Esperanto is taught in two levels. There
were seven boys and two girls in the first (12-years-old) level, and five
girls (14-years-old) in the second level.
 
**Given the ages of those involved, perhaps "girls outnumber boys" would be
a more appropriate way of expressing this.
 
 
 
 
-- Don HARLOW
http://www.webcom.com/~donh/
(English version: http://www.webcom.com/~donh/dona.html)