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Constructed International Auxiliary Languages

4th August, 2015 I by Caleb Eckenwiler

As countries rise to the status as world powers, their languages become popular, and after these countries fall, their languages slowly become less popular and well known. English and French have been used recently as quasi-universal languages, and in the past, Latin and Ancient Greek were used as the international languages of communication. However, using one of these languages demonstrates a power dynamic and indicates that the countries that speak these languages are dominant. For example, English is used because the hegemonic world power, the United States, speaks English. However, there has been a large negative reaction to using a natural language as the international language, as that indicates favoritism towards the dominant world powers. As a solution, many have suggested constructed languages.

Constructed languages are artificially created languages that tend to be much simpler and easier to learn than natural languages. The languages are also known as auxiliary languages to indicate that they are not there to replace a people’s natural tongue but rather to provide the peoples of the world with an additional means of communication that can bridge cross-cultural and lingual barriers. These auxiliary languages are learned as second languages and do not supplant natural languages as a child’s primary tongue.

International Auxiliary Languages, often abbreviated as IAL or auxlang, have grown in popularity over the years. Esperanto, an auxlang, is the most popular constructed language in the world. Created in the 1880s by L. L. Zamenhof, Esperanto is now spoken by over 2 million people across the globe. Zamenhof created Esperanto because as a child, there were four distinct communities in his city, and each community had its own distinct language. He believed that the language barrier caused people to look at those who did not speak their language as outsiders. He intended to create a language that had no cultural foundation but was constructed purely so that two humans could interact despite not sharing a first language. He hoped that his created language could transcend the dominance factor associated with popular languages and would become an internationally spoken form of communication between two parties.

Another IAL is Ido. Ido was created in 1907 by the Delegation for the Adoption of an International Auxiliary Language. However, Ido is not as popular as Esperanto as an ISL, and there are fewer than one thousand speakers in the world.

A third auxlang is Interlingua. Developed by the International Auxiliary Language Association, Interlingua is broader in scope than either Esperanto or Ido. Interlingua draws words and roots from more languages than Esperanto or Ido. Both Esperanto and Ido are based primarily on European languages and fail to include languages such as Arabic, Japanese, and other languages not located in Europe. Interlingua is an attempt to combat a Eurocentric auxlang community by including words and roots from the Middle East and Asia. These three IALs have yet to gain major traction with the world today, yet they are steadily growing.

Are you interested in learning an auxiliary language? Let us know how you’re progressing with the language you’ve chosen!

One response to “Constructed International Auxiliary Languages”

  1. Bill Chapman says:

    I think that the distinction between natural and artificial language is more apparent than real. My own experience after many decades of using Esperanto is that a planned language can be “internalised” as well as any mother tongue.

    I have found Esperanto of a lot of use when travelling on my own, to get my bearings within a country. Esperanto may not be perfect, but I’ve used it successfully in Africa, South America and Europe, and it does the job, serving as a unique common language on my travels in, for example, Armenia and Bulgaria.

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