Esperanto – a lingua franca in use
A case study on an educational NGO
A lingua franca can be a mediation choice for people who do not share a common language. Esperanto, a planned language, functions in this way as the working language in an educational non-governmental organization. The main characteristics of this use are described on the basis of interviews, field notes and spontaneous conversations analyzed using the methods of Conversation Analysis. It is shown that Esperanto functions as the dominant means of communication in the NGO, but also that the use of other languages is not excluded. A typical feature of Esperanto communication is the use of repairs: Esperanto speakers assist one another when faced with lexical gaps and they correct each other’s mistakes. Humor is ubiquitous and is mainly language-based, taking forms including wordplay and culture-specific allusions. These two features are closely related to speakers’ attitudes such as group identity and metalinguistic awareness. It is suggested that Esperanto is a valid option as a lingua franca outside of the private sphere, where it has predominantly been used until now.
Keywords: Esperanto, lingua franca, Conversation Analysis, repairs, humor, group identity, metalinguistic awareness