Canadian language police prepare for unrest as 200 attend Esperanto Congress in Montreal

Dennis Baron debaron at
Fri Jul 18 02:06:12 UTC 2008

There's a new post on the Web of Language:

Canadian language police prepare for unrest as 200 attend Esperanto  
Congress in Montreal

The Seventh Pan-American Esperanto Congress is being held this week in  
Montréal, a city where French enjoys strong legal protection and  
nonfrancophones risk fines if they defy the language law.

Since the passage of Loi 101 over 30 years ago, all advertising in the  
province of Québec must be in French, all signs must have French  
lettering that is bigger and more prominent than any other language,  
and anyone can insist on being served or spoken to in French.

While tourism flourishes in Montréal, and English and French generally  
co-exist peacefully in the city most of the time, violators of the law  
protecting French are routinely brought to justice. Esperanto speakers  
might well fear running afoul of the official language law, because  
over the years they have been persecuted for subversive activities in  
a number of countries.

But while the goal of Esperanto is to achieve peace and understanding  
through an artificial language, not a natural one like French,  
Montréal is actually rolling out the red carpet for the Esperanto  
conference-goers, an indication that French Canadians will support any  
language that’s challenging the position of English as a global  


It’s not Québec’s language law that threatens Esperanto. The impact of  
official language legislation pales in comparison to the threat of  
indifference that Esperanto faces not just from Canadians but from  
most of the world’s population.

The language has anywhere from a few hundred thousand to a million or  
more speakers world-wide, but only 200 of them made the journey to  
Montréal. More people are likely to show up at Star Trek convention,  
or a sale at Best Buy.
Since almost everybody in the world goes through their day without  
encountering any Esperanto at all, it’s difficult to convince students  
that the language can serve any practical purpose for them.

Read the entire post on the Web of Language


Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321

read the Web of Language:

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