The Prague Manifesto

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The Prague Manifesto: What is it? What does it mean for indigenous peoples?

Introductory note: Esperanto, usually referred to as “the international language”, was presented to the public in 1887 as an aŭiliary, or bridge language for international communication. Because Esperanto is an intentionally created language, it offers an ease of learning and use that is encouraging to learners and helpful to people in situations in which people speak different national languages and therefore need a language in common that give them a “bridge” of communication.

Because Esperanto is an accessible language but also allows creative and nuanced expression, it has attracted supporters from many countries. Gradually, the supporters of Esperanto have created an international community with an international culture that includes the “Esperanto movement; the movement exists to make Esperanto better known, to connect the users of Esperanto, and to improve and expand aspects of the use of the language, such as language learning and publishing.

The purpose of this document is to share some of Esperanto’s culture. Specifically, it deals with how supporters of Esperanto view the place of languages in life. Below are extracts from an important document in the recent history of Esperanto, the Prague Manifesto. Presented in 1996, the manifesto describes Esperanto not as a language of a people defined by geographic or ethnic characteristics, as is the case with national languages, but as a language defined by purposes and goals. An Esperantist, in whatever part of the world he or she lives, in whatever political system he or she functions or is prohibited from functioning, speaking whatever first national or ethic language, is a person who is concerned with the international role for Esperanto that is described in the Prague Manifesto.

An expression of Esperanto culture and the Esperanto movement is Project Indigenous Peoples (PIP). The purpose of PIP is to make Esperanto accessible to indigenous peoples who still retain their original language. The goals of the contact are: ---to teach Esperanto through distance learning techniques to members of the indigenous people

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---to use the knowledge of Esperanto on the part of various indigenous peoples to help those peoples learn from each other about issues such as retention of land, retention and development of culture, health problems, drug and alcohol abuse, and similar issues that are common to many indigenous peoples.

---to allow the indigenous peoples a worldwide outlet for their culture and development.

Extracts from the Prague Manifesto, with comments: 1. Democracy We assert that inequality of languages leads to inequality of communication on all levels, including the international level. We are a movement for democratic communication.

In regard to indigenous peoples, this article of the Manifesto encourages Project Indigenous Peoples to support indigenous languages as the evolve and as they take their appropriate places among the languages of the world.

2. Transnational education We assert that an education in any ethnic or national language is linked to a specific and limited perspective of the world. We are a movement for education that broadens perspectives.

In regard to indigenous peoples, this article suggests that PIP support the study by all transnational students of multiple cultures and viewpoints, including the study of indigenous cultures. It also supports the development in Esperanto of teaching materials and programs.

3. Effective teaching We assert that the difficulty of ethnic and national languages present obstacles for many students who would benefit from the knowledge of a second language. We are a movement for the effective teaching of language.

This article applies to the situations of many indigenous peoples, who must learn the languages of nearby, politically or economically powerful groups. In supporting the languages and cultures of indigenous peoples, PIP supports the use of Esperanto as a bridge language in communication between indigenous and other groups, so that the discussion of important points, such as the retention of lands, will not be discussed in a language that is the first language of one group and the second language on the other group.

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4. Multilingualism We assert that speakers of all languages, large and small, should have a real chance to learn a second language to a high level of competence. We are a movement in favor of giving that chance.

In regard to indigenous peoples, this article can be interpreted to mean that indigenous peoples and those with whom they need to relates, such as neighbors, settlers, or government agents, will be able to speak to each other with fluency in Esperanto. Because of Esperanto’s unique structure, no other language gives the opportunity for fluent communication that Esperanto does.

5. Linguistic rights We assert that the vast differences in power among languages undermine the guarantees, expressed in so international documents, of equal treatment regardless of language. We are a movement for linguistic rights.

In regard to indigenous peoples, this article draws attention to the fact that in almost any dealing with people other than their own, indigenous persons are forced to speak a language that is not their first language. The choice of Esperanto as a bridge language between an indigenous person and a person from another language and culture would allow the use of Esperanto’s intended clarity and regularity for ease of expression while also offering a full technical and scientific vocabulary.

6. Linguistic diversity We assert that policies of communication and development, if they are not based on respect for and support of all languages, condemn the majority of the world’s languages to die out. We are a movement for linguistic diversity.

This article of the Manifesto reminds us that indigenous languages are disappearing at an appalling rate, and that part of human knowledge, expression, and diversity are disappearing with them. Policies of respect and support can help keep a diversity of languages, and therefore a diversity of worldviews, alive. Esperanto and PIP can help make those policies practical and fruitful.

7. Human emancipation We assert that the exclusive use of national languages [in other words, the exclusion of a bridge-language or –languages] erects inevitable barriers to freedom of expression, communication, and association. We are a movement of human emancipation.

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The existence and use of an international bridge language can help to tear down barriers to the intellectual emancipation and unity of all people. At the same time, a functioning bridge language, such as Esperanto, can help insure the continued use and development of humanity’s many languages, including indigenous languages. In that circumstance, the many languages and world views of the world’s people can be viewed as a rich resource rather than as a frustrating and expensive problem.

For more information about Esperanto and Project Indigenous Peoples, please contact:

Erik Felker 414 E. Cedar Ave., Apt 11 Burbank, CA 91501 U.S.A.

For the purpose of comparison, here is the first article of the Prague Manifesto, in its Esperanto original and its English translation:

Ni asertas ke lingva malegaleco sekvigas komunikan malegalecon je ĉiuj niveloj, inkluzive de la internacia nivelo. Ni estas movado por demokratia komunikado.

We assert that inequality of languages leads to inequality of communication on all levels, including the international level. We are a movement for democratic communication.