I have a question about Esperanto, please bear with me. The text below is quoted from the book What Language Is (And What It Isn't and What It Could Be) by John McWhorter. He's writing about colloquial Indonesian. "...Because Standard Indonesian is already so approachable, when it has undergone yet another streamlining it is one of the smoothest rides on earth." "...Papua, although this is little known worldwide, is part of Indonesia, such that the language all people speak other than one of their native ones is not Portuguese, Dutch, or English, but Indonesian. More properly, they speak a colloquial version of it, of the kind that eschews what is complicated in the standard." "It was the only place I have ever been where I could not take advantage of the fact that, where an American is likely to travel, most people speak English or, if not that, then French or Spanish. What they speak in Papua other than the obscure indigenous languages they learn on Mommy's knee is Indonesian. English is something some learn in college if they are so inclined. Even public servants often know only just enough English to manage elementary exchanges." "So--even for a one-week stay, it became clear to me that if I was going to be able to operate as a human being rather than as a squinting mute, I would have to speak some Indonesian, of which I knew precisely none when I got off the plane. I did have a handy little phrase book with a word list at the end (Lonely Planet's--highly recommended), and because I was at a linguistics conference, I had Anglophones with decades' experience in the region to consult. So I got to work from the second I hit the hotel (where few of the employees could even really be said to speak English). And the glorious thing was that there wasn't much work involved." "Because Indonesian as it is actually spoken is the result of the Persian conversion twice over, learning to communicate was thrillingly close to just, of all things, learning words and stringing them together..." "...All I had to do was memorize some key words. Not the kind of vocabulary that language textbooks routinely present as "basic," mind you. Occasions never arose for me to engage in discussions about mothers, cousins, forks, spoons, yesterday, tomorrow, whether anything was good or bad (even there okay is understood and that will do), whether or not it was raining, or what color anything was ("No, I want that yellow food!")." "I found want, need, buy, not, may, go, I, you, eat, drink, here, there, up, down, thank you, please, what, just a second (so I could look in my phrase book), and the numbers from one to ten, and I don't speak Indonesian most helpful (but if you get too confident in saying that last one, they assume you're lying and keep talking, so say it slowly with a dutiful look of slight alarm)." "With those words plus a few others I no longer recall-well, okay, one of them was the word for water, which is, go figure, air--after just two days I was, as they say, "getting around." "...My final experience was one familiar to many of us--I had a bottle of air (i.e., water) in my bag as I went through security in Jakarta on my way to Hong Kong. The screener stopped the machine and after a few beats I said, What?--a word I knew. He said, Air. I said, Saya minta minum di sini? Those were the words for I, may, drink, and here, and I didn't need a stitch of case marking or conjugation or dishevelment to put them together. Wangling even that simple sentence in French, Spanish, German, Russian, Arabic, Hebrew, Navajo, Tukang Besi, Leti, Mandarin Chinese, Akha, or even colloquial Sinhalese would have required extensive tutelage beforehand, far beyond just learning some words (remember, in Chinese and Akha, you have to do the tones). But in colloquial Indonesian the security guy understood me perfectly and said okay. I drank gratefully." "All of this is possible because of the blessings of a thoroughly oral kind of language, never committed to the page, and thought of as "not real Indonesian" by the people who speak it their whole lives long. Yet the ease of learning it made Esperanto, with its European-inspired suffixes for tense that make it hardly a plausible "universal" language for Chinese or even Indonesian speakers, seem like a parochial stunt." "To say May I drink it here? in Esperanto would mean pushing out Ĉu mi povus trinki ĝi ĉi tie? The -us ending is the conditional, as in could I rather than can I. In asking if it's allowed that I drink the water, I indicate that I regard the action as hypothetical. But in colloquial Indonesian people make equivalent requests 24/7 without having to indicate that they know the future hasn't happened yet. Ĉu is the particle that you use when asking a question--but only the kind of question that solicits yes or know, as opposed to What do you want? which solicits the identification of a thing. Esperanto requires that you distinguish the two kinds of question, which only seemed necessary to Esperanto's inventor, Ludwig Zamenhof, because he grew up speaking Russian, whose li works the same way. In colloquial Indonesian you don't have to specify that you want to drink "it". For instance, given the context at security, there was no question as to what "it" I wanted to drink. Drink--minum--alone was fine. What else would I have wanted to drink, my iPod ?" "The Indonesian dismissed as "slang" is actually a human language that does without most of what is decorative but unnecessary in how we express ourselves in "normal" languages. It would be an ideal universal language, which all humans regardless of linguistic background would find relatively easy to learn and use..." - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Ok, that was longwinded, but it sets up my query. Do Esperantists at their conferences ever discuss streamlining Esperanto ? What kind of reception is there to that kind of thing ? Is preservation of the original treasured above making the language even easier for any given learner irrespective of mother tongue ? I don't study Esperanto, but remain curious about it. It just seems to me that a lot more could be done to pare it down towards the prospect of the original intent.