15 September 2009: Esperanto approved by Brazilian government as optional high school subject, mandatory if justified by demand
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Well, this certainly is interesting, and appears to be quite a big score for Esperanto. I noticed this today on Meneame in Spanish, where the number of comments on the thread has approached 200. I've written before that there seems to be something about countries that are in a kind of linguistic third place that gives them a tendency to support ideas that other countries might not. Two languages that take second place after English depending on location are Spanish and French, and there doesn't seem to be a great deal of interest in IALs (no greater than the average population) amongst them, but countries with languages such as German and Portuguese and Russian, languages that are strong in their own right but nowhere close to being able to challenge English, seem more open-minded to the idea. At the same time, countries with very small populations usually seem reserved to the idea of learning other languages for practical reasons alone and will simply learn those that are most useful.
Sweeping generalizations, true, but this is the impression I've gotten over the years.
Now for most of the article in Portuguese on the decision by the Brazilian government:
As the Senate prepares to vote on the controversial electoral reform, the Commission on Education, Culture and Sports of the House approves on the afternoon of Tuesday September 15th an unusual project that includes Esperanto as an optional subject in high schools in Brazil.If you look at the Esperanto Wikipedia's page on the senator you can see that his support of Esperanto isn't simply a recent phenomenon.
The bill, authored by Senator Cristovam Buarque, candidate for president in 2006, includes a paragraph in article 26 of the Law of Directives and Bases saying that classes in Esperanto are warranted, but that "offering them becomes obligatory when the demand justifies it". Schools have three years to conform to the law.
In justifying the project, Buasque, who was the dean of the University of Brasília (UnB), says that "if the school wants ot be an agent of peace", the teaching of Esperanto "can be an important factor, not only by the language that it offers but also by the spirit of pacifism that it symbolizes." The senator also cited the creator of the language, the Polish Ludwig Zamenhof, recalling that his objective was to create an "international lingua franca", but states that "the dream (of Zamenhof) will certainly not be realized, because English will be the vehicle of linguistic integration in the world. Until then, according to Cristovam's rationale, "Esperanto is an instrument of communication among hundreds of millions of people around the world and more than that, it is part of an immense movement for peace."
Gerson Camata and Roberto Cavalcanti voted against the bill. Camata said that this project is "useless", because those who learn Esperanto will not have anyone with which to practice the new language. Still, the text was adopted as a final decision (not needing to go through the floor of the house) and goes straight to the board.