The Esperanto Antaŭen Promise Project
In 1887 when Esperanto was first introduced, it was introduced with the idea of collecting promises. The first books introducing the language contained a page with promise forms asking for the name, address and signature of people willing to promise to learn the proposed international language if ten million people made the same promise.
We do not know how many promises were collected. We do know that thousands of people decided to start learning and using the language without waiting for ten million others.
It could be argued that Esperanto and the promise collection were ideas introduced too early. In 1887 many people never travelled beyond the nearest city. Today sometimes with less effort, people travel half way around the world. In 1887, although people knew that other languages were spoken, many lived their entire lives without ever meeting someone who spoke a different language. Today the airplane, and the internet have turned the world into a global village where meeting people who speak a different language is an everyday occurrence. In 1887, if someone was inclined to promise to learn the proposed international language, they had to find and fill out a paper form, put it in an envelope, go to the post office and buy the postage necessary to mail the form to Warsaw (then part of Russia – now Poland). Today, people can make such a promise in seconds using smart phones they routinely carry in their pockets.
Esperanto Antaŭen decided to relaunch the idea of collecting promises. The new Promise Project asks people to promise to learn Esperanto after one hundred million people make the same promise. There are about 6000 languages in the world, the vast majority are spoken by less than one million people. Calculating how many people speak a language is not an easy task and calculations vary, however if one hundred million people spoke Esperanto, by many calculations it would be one of the top ten languages in the world.
On September 7, 2018, Esperanto Antaŭęn collected the first promises. The first milestone was reached on October 16 when the 100th promise was collected. On December 13, we collected the 500th promise; we now (December 13, 2018) have 520. Just 99 999 480 to go!
The first promises have been collected by a single promise collector working part time who reports that promises can easily be collected one at a time at the rate of more than 20 per day. It is too early in the project to make any firm conclusions. However, assuming a rate of 20 per day, a Promise Collector working 200 days per year could collect 4000 promises per year. 5000 full time promise collectors could collect 100 000 000 promises in 5 years. We do not believe that an army of 5000 full time Promise Collectors collecting promises one at a time is the best approach, but we believe that it is possible to mobilize such an army. We plan to make a presentation about the project during the 2019 World Esperanto Congress in Lahtio Finland. (More than 1000 Esperanto activists are expected to attend the conference.) Many thousands of people are prepared to work to turn the dream that inspired the creation of Esperanto into a reality. Billions of dollars have been raised to fund projects with far less impact. We conclude that 100 000 000 promises can be collected, and Esperanto will become the most commonly spoken language on the planet within 10 years.