Pandunia: a real-world Common

In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that our world is more connected than ever. Yet we also remain divided in many ways – politically, ideologically, culturally, and most of all, linguistically. Politicians and scientists, when they need to communicate with their counterparts in other countries, must rely on translators unless they share a common language.

English has stepped in to fill the role of de facto language of international exchange. This does ease communication, but English is unfortunately not a very good candidate in many respects. Its grammar is fairly simple (somewhat idiosyncratic, but no more so than other natural languages), but its words are difficult to pronounce for non-native speakers, and its writing system is notoriously irregular. As a result, learning to speak English with proficiency is time-consuming and expensive for those who don’t speak it natively. 400 million people do speak it natively, and can therefore participate in international forums with little cost or effort, but this tends to reinforce historical inequalities rather than alleviating them.

What if there was a different language of global communication, that was trivial and affordable to learn for anyone of any background? While most dismiss this as an unrealistic dream, many people think such a language exists, and its name is Pandunia.

Unlike most languages you’ve probably heard of, Pandunia did not evolve naturally. It was constructed by Risto Kupsala between 2007 and 2021, with the goal of making it as easy to learn as possible for as many people as possible.

It contains only 24 letters from the Latin alphabet, each of which always represents the same sound. There’s no ⟨th⟩ sound, no subtle difference between ⟨v⟩ and ⟨w⟩, and no three different pronunciations of ⟨ie⟩. As a result, its words are easy to pronounce, and its spelling is trivial.

Its grammar can be described as a simplified cross between English and Mandarin Chinese. There are no verb conjugations or pronoun declensions, irregular or otherwise. Sentences always go subject-verb-object, regardless of whether it’s a statement or a question. Learning it is a breeze, because once you learn how to express the most basic concepts, you can say anything else by just using different words.

Its vocabulary comes from languages all over the world, and most of its words are already used internationally. Many of them come from Greco-Latin scientific nomenclature or Arabic religious terminology, the rest mostly coming from Chinese or Sanskrit. In addition to choosing basic words that are as globally common as possible, Pandunia always uses local names for countries, cultural artifacts, and regional plants and animals. For example, the Pandunia word for hippopotamus is “gubu”, which is based on the corresponding word in Fulani, Kikongo, Sesotho, Setswana, Isizulu, Kinyarwanda, and Amharic.

Because it’s so simple and international, Pandunia would be perfect for a global language. People from all over the world would be able to read scientific papers, international laws, and Wikipedia pages without spending years studying the language they’re written in, or worrying whether the version they’re reading was translated accurately. Of course, before that can happen, there have to be scientific papers, international laws, and Wikipedia pages written in Pandunia. And before that, it has to become established as a language with active speaker base.

So if you like the sound of this, then I strongly encourage you to get involved and learn Pandunia. With enough people working together, we can make Pandunia something like a real-world version of the “Common” languages that are so common in fantasy and science fiction stories but so badly needed in real life. Most Pandunia discourse currently takes place on the Pandunia Telegram chat or the Pandunia Discord server. The official website, www.pandunia.info, contains links to those as well as the most comprehensive learning material. Here are some basic phrases to help you get started:

Hello.salam.
Good morning.salam suba.
Good afternoon.salam dia.
Good evening.salam sham.
Goodbye.salam chuti.
Nice to meet you.mi suka miti tu.
How are you?tu bon?
Good.bon.
Bad.dus.
Yes.ya.
No.no.
Please.ching.
Thank you.shukur.
You’re welcome.no yau shukur.
Sorry.maf.
Do you speak English?tu basha english, he?
I speak a little Pandunia.mi basha un giota Pandunia.
I understand.mi aha.
I don’t understand.mi no aha.
My name is …mi be nam …
What is your name?tu be nam ke?
I am from …mi ze …
Where are you from?tu ze ke?

At some point, I’ll translate this whole site into Pandunia. Probably not soon, though.

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