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UPDATED: 10:42, July 26, 2004
Tonkin Humphery: Esperanto proved to be successful
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As a language tool, Esperanto has proved to be successful and functioned as fully and completely as other native languages," said Tokin Humphery, a renowned Esperanto expert here Sunday on the 89th Universal Congress of Esperanto.

Tonkin, vice-president of International Esperanto Association, said that over the past century, Esperanto has made phenomenal achievements; China itself has more than 400,000 Esperanto speakers around 1980s.

"Thanks to the Internet, Esperanto has witnessed a quick increase of speakers, especially among young people," he said.

Esperanto, since its founding in 1887, has been always confronted with doubt and prejudice. Well-known Chinese scholar Zhou Zhiping once dismissed Esperanto as a "dream" in his critic "feathery dream in spring," claiming "that it is ridiculous to study an artificial language without native speakers."

Much contradictory to Zhou's, Tonkin accepted the "artificialness" of Esperanto, yet strongly believed the fact that Esperanto, from its very beginning, posed itself as a bridge but not a terminator.

Pointing to a Brazilian couple attending the conference, Tonkinsaid, they fell in love and got married all through Esperanto. They brought up their kids by using Esperanto."

The European Union (EU), hobbled by language barriers, is now eager to solve such problem, as when English is chosen as officiallanguage, EU may run the risk of losing its multiple identities, Tonkin said.

"China is now facing the same problem," he said, "Chinese is the language with the largest number of speakers, but has limited influence in the world. To China, English is a must. When China looks for an alternative, Esperanto may be the best choice.

"Much different from English tinged with unique lifestyle and the political orientation, Esperanto is a neutral language allowing more chances for diversity and equality," acknowledged Tonkin.

China once hosted the 71st International Esperanto Conference in 1986, according to Tonkin, which broke down many of his prejudices of China.

"China now occupied in the world an important position, it is in need of a genuine international language to better merge in theworld," he said.

To Esperanto speakers, conversing in Esperanto while maintaining their own identities is a "step forward from both sides," Tonkin said.

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