Lack of a common language used by, or even understood by, all the world’s people is an important factor that separates us from others who share our planet. Overcoming this lack of a lingua franca may bring us one step closer together.

Latin and Greek were the lingua francas of the Roman empire; Akkadian, and then Aramaic, remained the common languages of a large part of Western Asia through several earlier empires. Examples of lingua francas remain numerous, and exist on every continent. The most obvious example as of the early 21st century is English. There are many other lingua francas centralized on particular regions, such as Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Swahili.

Impact statement

Lack of a common language creates language barriers which contribute to the fragmentation of people around the world. This is one of many causes preventing the wise world we want from emerging.

Solution approaches

A Case for Esperanto

Esperanto is the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. Adoption of Esperanto as a true world-wide lingua franca is one proposed solution.

Because Esperanto is not the native language of any community it would need to be learned as a second or third language by almost everyone. Fortunately the language as been designed to be easy to learn. It is totally phonetic, so the written and spoken aspects are learned together. Its grammar is simple, and every aspect of the language follows a few easily-learned rules. The system of rule-guided prefixes and suffixes enables one's vocabulary to grow much more rapidly than with any natural language. Since Esperanto is easily learned, it provides a very good learning experience as the first foreign language for all children as well as being helpful for subsequently learning most European languages.

A Case for Basic English

Another choice for a global common language is Basic English. It's the brainchild of Charles Ogden, a polymath, who, apart from translating Ludwig Wittgenstein's Tractatus, in the 1930s demonstrated that most of what we want to say can be said using around 1,000 words, extended by a few hundred technical terms.

The system had Churchill's support and has lots to commend it.

A good starting point is the Basic English website -
The Basic English dictionary is here -

Apart from the fact that English is already used as a major language internationally, a good argument, in my view, to favor Basic English over Esperanto is expressed on the Basic English and Religion page here -

Wynburne's book Vertical Translation presents the argument that teaching Basic English to native speakers can deepen the link between word and term within the mind of the user, thereby making them more eloquent and their work more meaningful.

Arguments for and Against:

The main arguments for Esperanto and against Basic English are:
A1 - Esperanto is easier than English therefore it should be chosen instead of Basic English.
A2 - To choose English is to force a neo-imperialist choice on the world. Choosing Esperanto would be fairer.
A3 - The more you try to make English really logical, the more unlike actual English it becomes


A1 - The criterion for choosing a lingua franca should not be fairness or simplicity of construction, but ease of use. It should also take into account existing usage. There are far more speakers of English as first and other languages. Basic English makes it easier to communicate in and understand English. It is easier for English speakers to extend their audience by writing in Basic English than for them to learn Esperanto. It is just as easy for non-English and non-Esperanto speakers to learn Basic English as it is Esperanto.

A2 - Juliane House has debunked the 'neoimperialist' theory of English as a lingua franca. Irrespective of the content, making a value judgement is not the same as imposing a choice. As the two languages are different (Esperanto is an artificial language, Basic English is a modified language), the fair thing to do wouldbe to put both forward. On moral and ethical grounds, Basic English tends more towards integration than Esperanto, as I previously pointed out. Choosing Basic English does not mean that native speakers are exempt from learning it. As such, there is no advantage for native speakers, and the playing field is even.

A3 - Logic is a calculus for thought. It should not be confused with the application of that calculus in language.
Thought is one thing. Language another. They are linked, but separate.
The stone is white - La pierre est blanche - kamin yest biyeli - el hagar bayyid all signify the same thing.
As Munat and Wynburne have shown, Basic English clarifies thought, rather than confuses it in practice. I have found this to be true in my own practice.
Basic English, as a modified language is less logical than Esperanto, which is an artificially constructed language.

Questions raised were:
Q1 - Is Basic English championed by non-native speakers of English?
Q2 - Why does the verb form change in the 3rd person singular in English?

Q1 - Yes it is. The evidence is here:

Q2 - It is a surviving relic of a pattern which dates back to King Alfred the Great, according to Bodmer (an advocate of Basic English).
He writes, "The simple English rule for the surviving -s flexion is this. We use it only when a word such as speak, love, type, write, bake, or conquer follows he, she, or it, or the name of any single person, quality, group, or thing which can be replaced by it."

In addition:
Charles Ogden wrote a book about Basic English versus the Artificial Languages - I've not read it, but it's worth referencing.
I'd suggest referring to this for more informed responses from 'the horse's mouth'.

Check out also:

Resources for further study

Organizations working toward solutions

Organizations and websites for those interested in Esperanto as the appropriate instrument for developing a just world community are listed here:

A call to action

If all children everywhere learned Esperanto as their first foreign language, an idea that was proposed in the League of Nations in 1920, after one or two generations all Earthlings would be able to communicate with each other using Esperanto, and all would identify themselves as world citizens.

In a related matter, it would be helpful for the United States to adopt the metric system as its official system of measurement.