The Esperanto language is a language (almost) like any other. It has its own culture, literature and magazines, etc. However, unlike all other languages, the Esperanto language does not have its own country, nor its own people. What it has instead is a community. The Esperanto language is a supranational language that goes beyond the confines of any given nation. Esperanto is a universal language, with 2 million speakers across 120 countries! But, what is Esperanto, and what is the point of learning it? Those questions are exactly what we’re trying to answer today.
Why learn the Esperanto language, a universal language created over 120 years ago?
What Is Esperanto? Who Speaks the Esperanto Language?
Esperanto is a constructed language created by a man named Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof, also known as Doktoro Esperanto (“doctor Esperanto”). Constructed languages are the opposite of natural languages. They start with a plan, and do not develop over time depending on how people use them. You might be familiar with some other constructed languages. Dothraki, for instance, if you’re a Game of Thrones fan.
Zamenhof introduced the universal language for the first time in a book called “International Language” in 1887. He had high hopes for the language and believed that it could deliver peace to the world by eliminating conflicts that arise from linguistic and cultural differences. (Unfortunately, this didn’t work out so well. The proof? World War I.)
Why Learn Esperanto?
Since then, over 2 million people in 120 countries have learned Esperanto! However, these numbers could be higher because it is hard to estimate the number of people who speak the Esperanto language. It is also difficult to know where they are situated in the world. But, why would so many people want to learn a language that doesn’t have a nation of its own?
Reason #1 for learning the Esperanto language: It’s an international language
And that’s a good reason. Esperanto doesn’t belong to a people or nation. But it does belong to a community of people. They have freely chosen it to communicate, not with their neighbors, or workmates, but with people scattered around the four corners of the earth.
Actually, the idea of its creator was to create a universal language to get rid of the language barrier. Language barriers impede communities in their ability to understand each other. These limitations stop worldwide discussions on the same subjects from happening. If everyone spoke the same universal language, we would be able to have a good view of the social, cultural and politic issues which concern us all.
#2: It has a different culture
The culture of this language is associated with an ideal, which is for everyone to have access to the same international means of communication without linguistic discrimination.
For those wondering what this means, linguistic discrimination occurs when those whose native tongue is a dominant language—English, notably—don’t have to learn it to be understood, to have access to knowledge or even to take part in international affairs and exchanges. Nowadays, if a country wants to access the international market, it will have to use English because it is the dominating language in international business. But the fact that some must learn English in addition to their native language, puts them at a disadvantage compared to Anglophone countries. There is an imbalance within the world of international business.
Zamenhof wanted to eliminate linguistic discrimination with his new language. Everyone starts off at the same place. How so? Well, everyone must learn the language to communicate. It’s a neutral language. Actually, one of the objectives of this language is transnational education. That’s the idea that everyone should have the same access to knowledge, no matter their nationality or walk of life.
#3: It’s easy to learn
Zamenhof intended for Esperanto to be easy to learn. People can learn it up to 5 times faster than other languages! That’s because there are just 16 grammar rules, easy spelling, only one way to write each sound, and conjugation that is based on mathematical logic (unlike English which is terrible with all this). Below are some examples.
- nouns end with an o
- adjectives end with an a
- adverbs end with an e
- words in plural end with a j (pronounced as the “y” in “yellow”)
To give you an example, in Esperanto, bela means “beautiful/handsome,” granda means ” big,” and tablo means “table.” So, bela grandaj tabloj means “big, beautiful table.” In their plural form, the same words are: belaj (an adjective in its plural form), grandaj (another adjective in its plural form) and tabloj (a noun in its plural form). All three together means “big, beautiful tables.” It’s just that easy to understand and apply!
Easy grammar rules
Vocabulary is changed by adding a suffix (a change made at the end of the word) or a prefix (a change made at the beginning of a word):
- to say the opposite of a word (just as we do with “impossible”, and “unbreakable”), we add mal at the beginning of it. So, bela, which means “beautiful/handsome,” becomes malbela (“ugly”).
- for diminutives (words that are changed to make them seem smaller or cuter, such as “droplet” and “doggy“), we add et just before the final o (because, as said previously, all nouns end with an o). Libro means “book”, libreto means “booklet.”
- for augmentatives (words that are changed to make them seem bigger such as with “supermarket” and “grandmaster”), we add eg at the end of words. Rivero is “river,” riverego means “large river.”
The language is also efficient because it doesn’t have a lot of words. For example, to express a group of the same kind, such as a herd of cows, just add aro to the end. Bovino is the word for “cow” and bovinaro means “herd of cows.”
To learn this language, you just need to memorize a few hundred words (nothing compared to most other languages!) and understand its logic. Then, you can use some simple math to build lots more vocabulary and start communicating in no time. Nothing too complicated!
#4: You can use it to travel around the world
The last reason is that, if we all speak the same language, it can only bring us closer together… And as a matter of fact, it already does! Learning Esperanto gives people access to something called the Pasporta Servo.
The Pasporta Servo is a low-cost accommodation service or network for Esperanto speakers across the world. If you’re learning Esperanto and are traveling anywhere in the world, you just need to contact other Esperanto speakers. This will allow you to meet many new people. And you can stay with them for relatively cheap. Not bad at all!
How to Learn the Esperanto Language
If, like me, this has made you want to learn Esperanto, there are many online resources that can help. Here are some free Esperanto websites and resources:
- A free website for learning Esperanto, available in various languages: lernu! It also has a great Esperanto to English/English to Esperanto dictionary.
- The Universal Esperanto Association: UEA
- The Esperanto accommodation service: Pasporta Servo (you have to know a little Esperanto before you can use it)
- The written Esperanto alphabet, Esperanto grammar, and much more
- Listen to the Esperanto alphabet here!
- The Esperanto Association of Britain has some great resources. Plus it can be a good place to connect with other Esperanto speakers. They host regular events and courses.
All of the websites above provide resources (books, magazines, audio files, etc.) for learning the language, or, at the very least, a way to get exposure to it.
Esperanto to English dictionaries
- Esperanto Panorama is a very comprehensive Esperanto-English dictionary that’s easy to use. Use your keyboard search function (Ctrl + F or Command + F on Mac) to find exactly what you’re looking for.
- If you’d like to add a print Esperanto dictionary to your collection, we recommend Benson’s. Get it on Amazon here.
- People who already have some knowledge of Esperanto will love Vortato. It’s a “traditional” online dictionary, not an Esperanto translator. Instead of translations, you get definitions of the Esperanto words you look up.
- There are even picture dictionaries for learning Esperanto, which are great if you want to get your kids interested in the language. For example, Mil Unuaj Vortoj – First Thousand Words in Esperanto.
Video Recap: Why Learn Esperanto
Watch the video below for a quick video recap of these 4 main reasons why we think the Esperanto language is worth learning.
While you’re there, be sure to subscribe to our channel for more language learning videos.
One last thing: we’re thinking of developing an app to help you learn Esperanto. Let us know in the comments if it’s something you’d be interested in! We’ll keep you updated 😉
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