Alternative to 'natural' languages Esperanto
Thanks for your article "Europe's expansion sparks fear of linguistic domination" (Aug. 2). The article adroitly points up the big linguistic problem facing Europe, but fails to mention Esperanto as a solution. This rule-guided language without exceptions was designed by L. L. Zamenhof in 1887 to provide a non-national language for international communication.
In 1922, the League of Nations would have voted to support teaching Esperanto to all the children of the world except for the opposition of the French who claimed that French already was the international language. Consequently, we continue to use only "natural" national languages rather than shift to a common, second, "designed" language a solution that would have promoted international communication while preserving national languages.
The view that using English is an appropriate solution to the problem is flawed. Less than 6 percent of the world's population uses English as a first language. Furthermore, the English language is difficult to learn even for native speakers because of its blatant shortcomings such as unexpected spellings and lack of regularity in verb forms ("go," "went," and "have gone").
The article "Lost in the shallows, whales refuse rescue" (Ideas, Aug. 1) tells of the recent beaching of whales on Cape Cod, Mass. While theories were given as to why dozens of whales beached themselves, the most obvious theory was missing.
The Bush administration has decided to waive environmental regulations so that the Navy can use a powerful sonar system, which is the Navy's low-frequency active sonar program. Because it operates at a lower frequency, its range reaches much farther. These sonar signals are extremely loud and a potentially deadly situation for whales, dolphins, and other marine life. Putting aside the military wisdom of this sonar which is still in dispute the environmental dangers are becoming increasingly clear. Whales and dolphins depend on their sensitive hearing for survival.
Two years ago, whales stranded themselves and died on beaches across the northern Bahamas during a US Navy military exercise. The Navy's own report concluded that it is "highly likely" that the stranding was caused by the use of mid-frequency active sonar. This new sonar uses an even lower frequency and is therefore more disruptive and deadly for marine life.
As a graduate of the Columbia master's program in journalism and as a former teacher there, I endorse William Babcock's encouragement to journalism schools to increase the intellectual rigor of their courses ("The j-school debate," Opinion, Aug. 1). But I challenge his offhand implication that Columbia's curriculum is merely a tool to beef up students' Rolodexes with media contacts and teach them to craft snappy leads.
The intellectual rigor demanded by such model teachers as Melvin Mencher, Penn Kimball, and Larry Pinkham from the 1960s into the 1990s helped produce thoughtful, ethical reporters and editors, not scribes.
Columbia's president, Lee Bollinger, is on the right track when he urges Columbia's journalism school to strengthen its offerings. God forbid those offerings should fall into the hands of communications theorists who have never been journalists and whose livelihood depends upon publication of obscure research projects for academic journals.
Executive director, Minnesota News Council
The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. We can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.