The Esperanto currency

July 8, 2009

Hiroshi Watanabe, president of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, saw his share of dollar buying intervention during decades at the nation’s finance ministry.  But the market veteran says despite prevalent talk recently, a shift away from the greenback as the world’s reserve currency may be great in theory, but like the language of Esperanto short on daily practitioners.

“Esperanto is a very good language, but no community uses it in its daily life, ” Watanabe told the Reuters Japan Investment Summit.

“That’s the same situation that applies to the currency… I don’t see any other currency that can take the position to replace the key U.S. dollar.”

China, Russia and Brazil intend to push at this week’s Group of Eight summit for a new global reserve currency as an alternative to the dollar.

G8 sources say they do not expect serious debate by world leaders on the issue, which potentially could affect the value of trillions in dollar-denominated assets held by world nations, including China and Japan.

The euro, a basket of currencies like the IMF’s Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), or even the not-fully convertible yuan have been touted as future replacements.

Watanabe says this will not happen any time soon, although he notes a loss of dollar sheen. 

“The dollar should remain the key currency for the time being, but we have to admit that the dollar is over its peak,” he said.

“SDRs can be used for book-keeping the liability of an asset by the IMF of World Bank… but in the case of settlement, it is not so easy to use that kind of hypothetical unit.”


 Photo credit: REUTERS/Toru Hanai


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Hiroshi Watanabe’s comment that “Esperanto is a very good language, but no community uses it in its daily life” deserves a clarification.

Esperanto was designed as an auxiliary language and has been in continuous use in that role for over a century. Although I do not use Esperanto inmy workplace or in my local shops, I do read or speak it every day.Esperanto plays a role in the lives of thousands and thousands of people,

Posted by Bill Chapman | Report as abusive

The Euro was referred to disparagingly as “Esperanto money” – well, despite everyone’s predicitons that it would cause all sorts of problems, the Euro works very well. Esperanto also works well, and I would say it is used by a community – certainly by an on-line community.
History shows us that international currencies and international languages come and go. Sometimes they stay a long time. No doubt Julius Caesar would have thought there wouldn’t be a viable alternative to Latin. So be a little more open-minded is my advice – and check your facts on Esperanto. Google it and be amazed!

Posted by Elizabeth Stanley | Report as abusive

Bill speaks truly. The purpose of Esperanto is neither intracultural communication nor personal writings, but easy intercultural communication. I read almost more news in Esperanto than in English. I would welcome the spesmilo as a currency, though 😉

Bill parolas vere. La celo de Esperanto estas nek interkultura komunikado nek propraj verkoj, sed facila eksterkultura komunikado. Mi legis preska? pli da nova?oj esperante ol angle. Mi bonvenigus la spesmilo kiel valuto, kvankam 😉

Posted by Colin Dean | Report as abusive

It’s unfortunate that only a few people know that Esperanto has become a living language.

During a short period of 121 years Esperanto is now in the top 100 languages, out of 6,800 worldwide, according to the CIA World factbook. It is the 17th most used language in Wikipedia, and in use by Skype, Firefox and Facebook.

Native Esperanto speakers,(people who have used the language from birth), include George Soros, World Chess Champion Susan Polger, Ulrich Brandenberg the new German Ambassador to NATO and Nobel Laureate Daniel Bovet. According to the CIA Factbook the language is within the top 100 languages, out of all languages, worldwide.

Confirmation of this can be seen at -8837438938991452670 A glimpse of the language can be seen at

Posted by Brian Barker | Report as abusive

Let me mention the fact that there is a worldwide community of Esperanto-speaking Internet users (thousands of people), who does exchange and discuss ideas daily in different topics, using Esperanto as their common, interethnic language.

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas:

“I see Esperanto as a possible viable alternative to today’s languages for international communication.”

“Ignorance and prejudices may prevent useful solutions.”

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas is a guest researcher at the Department of Languages and Culture, University of Roskilde, Denmark and visiting professor at Åbo Akademi University, Department of Education, Vasa, Finland:

Posted by Stefano Keller | Report as abusive

I think the Esperantists are too sensitive. The statement seems pretty correct to me and actually complimentary of Esperanto.

Kion vi volas, ke li diras? Ke Esperanto estas mondlingvo kaj balda? i?os la unu-nura internacia lingvo?

Posted by Robert Budzul | Report as abusive

Strange that Mr Watanabe 1) doesn’t take account of the European money neiter in its effective use nor as an alternative to the USD and a possible key money; 2) considers that no community uses Esperanto in its daily life. A lot of European counries use the European common money and certainly invoice in this currency abread: why then couldn’t the Euro be taken as an alternative to the USD ? What about Esperanto, more and more people learn it and fluently use it in their daily life : I personnaly started learning 8 years ago when I was 48 and I certainly use it more than English too much people wrongly consider as a universal language ; I even got a letter translated from English to Slovenian thanks to Esperanto for my daughter to complain in Slovenia against a fine she had to pay there. Neither the USD nor English will remain above other thinks: sic transit gloria mundi.

Posted by Paul Humblet | Report as abusive

Teachers of modern languages do not, generally speaking, teach Esperanto, and without their aid it cannot achieve its potential use in daily life. During their training to teach national languages, they are told that Esperanto is an artificial language with no culture, and they repeat this endlessly if their pupils ask them what Esperanto is. When the pupils become parents they do not ask for their children to be taught Esperanto, and so the tradition of teaching national languages as foreign languages continues from generation to generation, in spite of the fact that vast numbers of the world’s citizens cannot communicate internationally because foreign languages are too complicated, having been developed for inland, not international use. Esperanto solves this problem and would become as useful in Europe as the euro or the dollar, if only it were widely taught. Teachers in primary schools can teach Esperanto as an introduction to learning national languages using the Springboard project. This helps children to make better progress in the subject in secondary schools. Perhaps when teachers of modern languages realise the value of Esperanto they will learn it themselves. With their knowledge of languages they can reach a high level very quickly, and become excellent teachers of Esperanto.

Posted by David Curtis | Report as abusive

The interviewee said that Esperanto is not used daily in any community. This only shows that he is not at a par with recent Esperanto. We are a diaspora community, but we are a community, and thousands of us use Esperanto on a daily basis, using the internet or the phone, but mostly using online chat services, sometimes with voice communication in real time. More info at

Emerson Werneck
Public Relations and Press Assistant
Brazilian Esperanto League

Posted by Emerson Werneck | Report as abusive

There is a town in Germany that has the official name: Herzberg am Harz – die Esperanto-Stadt (the Esperanto-town). There is an Education Centre there that has the role to train Esperanto-teachers and offer language courses: Interkultura Centro Herzberg ( and there is an international community there using the language Esperanto in everyday life. And there are lots of Esperanto-speakers in everyday contact with us and thousands and thousands in daily contact with each other all over the world. Can it be considered a community even by non-speakers of Esperanto?

Posted by Zsofia Korody | Report as abusive

The problem is not at Esperanto, that has proved that it works and has at its back a life international comunity spread throughout the world that has been using the languages in all possible ways.

The problem now is at the dollar currecy that is not anymore working well at least for a number of countries, as China, Brazil, Hindia and Russia that are discussing seriously the possibility of using another international currency based on a bascket of a number of internationally reknowed currencies, including euro, yen,pound, dollar itself, and the currencies of those proposing countries for a new era in the international trading, that makes no country or economic zone more equal than the other partner as it occurs in the system sponsored by the western countries having the american currency as it basis.

José Mário Marques
Natal – Brazil

Posted by José Mário Marques | Report as abusive

I belive that Esperanto will be the communicative language through out the word and I use Esperanto more than English in my daly life, because it is outstanding, flexeble and elastic. The world community will adapt it one day.

Posted by etsuo miyoshi | Report as abusive

The comparison is not a good one. The obstacles to Esperanto is huge, you are talking about centuries of local historical culture vs habits of holding wealth and trading. People do not suddenly dis-trust their own language, but suspecting the value of the US dollar is easy, especially nowadays.

Posted by Harold | Report as abusive