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. Because it would be by far the easiest of the top ten to learn, and the only one planned and intended for international use, it would really stand out, and we believe that many more people would choose to learn it. More people learning it will make it even more useful and worth learning, resulting in even more people learning it, and so on, until it becomes the most commonly spoken language on the planet.
On September 7, 2018, Esperanto Antaŭen collected the first promises. The first milestone was reached on October 16 when the 100th promise was collected. The second milestone was reached on March 14, 2019 when the 1000th promise was collected. If you have not already done so, you can add your promise to our growing list on our Promise Page.
Enough promises have been collected to prove that it is not hard to collect promises. More often than not when properly asked people will agree that idea is a good one and will promise to learn when we get 100 000 000 promises. Most (more than 2000) of the promises so far have been collected one at a time by a single promise collector working part time. On at least four days he collected more than 50 promises, and he is confident that if he worked as a full time promise collector, he could collect 10 000 promises in a year. At that rate, 10 000 full time promise collectors could collect 100 000 000 promises in one year. Promise collectors are basically salespeople for the Esperanto movement. Although we hope to collect promises as a result of social and mainstream media campaigns as well as through other channels, Esperanto Antaŭen is also aiming to raise $300 000 000 CAD (about 200 000 000 Euros) to hire 10 000 Esperanto salespeople within five years.
Knowing that the promises can be collected we are now focusing on the next step. When we have collected the promises, what should we teach, and what is the best way to teach? There is already a number of online options for learning Esperanto. Some are better than others. We are evaluating the options and experimenting to create the best possible set of tools and online learning environment so that when millions of people are ready to start learning we are ready to teach them. Esperanto is a fully functioning living language. As languages evolve competing ideas result in variations in the way it is spoken. (e.g. American English is slightly different from British English.) There are a few important decisions which should be made to ensure that we are teaching a “standard” version of Esperanto. Until a final decision is made by the Esperanto speaking community, we have arbitrarily decided in favour of one reform (for country names) that has already been widely accepted and is more commonly used than the original forms. We have also decided in favour of a second reform (to ensure linguistic equal treatment of the sexes) that is currently used by a small but growing minority of the worldwide Esperanto speaking community. As of April 1, 2020, we have five prototype lessons available for use by competent speakers who want to teach.
(For an introduction to the online lessons, visit ea-mondo.org/l-0 – call or text 780-904-0363 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for a tutor or other help.)