Information about the International Language
As a long time supporter/speaker of Esperanto, people are always asking me questions about Esperanto. Often these questions are based upon misinformation, due to the media's general dislike of the language and/or the concept. (ex. Murphy Brown said, when someone said something unintelligible,"What is that, Esperanto?") Hopefully this page will help people get a better concept of what Esperanto is than they had before.
Table of Contents
What is Esperanto?
Why learn Esperanto?
Yeah, but what about...?
What does it look/sound like?
So who do I contact?
The World of Esperanto Online
Did you know that . . .
Esperanto is an international language, created to facilitate communication amongst people from different countries. In practical use for more than a hundred years, Esperanto has proved to be a genuinely living language, capable of expressing all facets of human thought. (Axel Belinfante)
Esperanto was created in 1887 by Dr. L. L. Zamenhof to be a second language that would allow people who speak different native languages to communicate, yet at the same time to retain their own languages and cultural identities. Zamenhof grew up in Bialystok, Poland, where different peoples were not separated by a geographical barrier, but a cultural and language barrier. While he realized that a common language would not end the cultural barrier, it would enable ordinary people, not politicians, to have cross national conversations. To this end, he created Esperanto, a language that would be easy for most people to learn, due to it's logical, regular design.
It Makes Sense
- Esperanto has 16 regular and exception-free rules of grammar and a regular phonetic spelling. Unlike many other languages, you can depend on the rules to be constantly applied, instead of sporadically Because of these factors, it is more quickly and easily learned than any other languages.
Become a Polyglot
- Studies have shown that students who learn Esperanto as a secondary language first, learn a third more easily and quickly than if they had learned another language instead. (In case you are wondering a polyglot is a person who speaks four or more languages.)
Make new friends
- Esperantists are mostly people who made a conscious decision to make themselves accessible to international friendships. This may sound cheesy, but I have never met another Esperantist who didn't want to be friends. (Which is not to say that I am friends with every Esperantist I ever met, but that the choice was made after the first encounter.) It is probably best evidenced by the constant activity on the pen pal columns of Esperanto magazines.
See the world
- People often use Esperanto to aid them with travel in other countries. They can arrange to meet up with an Esperantist in another country and see the real country rather than the tourist bus tour. You can get an uncensored view of the country. There are a variety of services available to help Esperantists connect with those willing to host them, including Pasporta Servo, an international hosting network for Esperanto speakers, is administered by the World Esperantist Youth Organization.
If you recognize that the language problem exists, then you have to begin to look for the best solution possible. Various answers have been offered over the years, including "Everyone speaks English (present)/ French (past)/ Japanese (future?)", "Why not create a simpler version of some already dominant language?", or "We'll just get more translators, more machines to handle the problem." None of these solutions offer the positive benefits that Esperanto does. Don Harlow has already written a better reply to these and other arguments against Esperanto than I could.
Although I believe that the only real way to see the language is to look at a real piece of literature, I have copied and translated into English a little paragraph I like, by Duncan C. Thompson, a Scottish Esperantist, on whether he speaks English:
Dependas, al kiu oni demandas. Laux li, la angla estas lia denaska lingvo. Laux iuj angloj, li tute ne kapablas paroli la anglan.
Laux li, tiuj angloj tute ne kapablas auxskulti la anglan.
Depends on who you ask. According to him, English is his native language. According to some English people, he is incapable of speaking English. According to him, those English people are totally incapable of understanding the English language.
Note: If you see some funky characters in the middle of esperanto texts that is because they are written in using an ISO-8859-3 font, which supports Esperanto supersigned characters. If you wish to use as well to see them properly you also need to use this type of font with your browser. Most people use a universal system of denoting these characters, namely following or preceding the standard letter with an x (which doesn't exist in Esperanto) or ^ to signify that it is a supersigned character. Example: cx, ^c, and c^ are all used to signify . Don Harlow has written an explanation of the characters and typography of Esperanto that is a little bit more in depth than mine.
If you are interested in hearing how Esperanto sounds, Axel Belifante has put together a couple of sound bites on his home page (under audio) and as part of the Hyper-Course. There is also a collection of sounds illustrating how each letter is pronounced available.
Those interested in learning more about Esperanto here in the US, can contact:
the Esperanto League for North America
PO. Box 1129
El Cerrito, CA 94530-1129
There are many other
national Esperanto organizations ready to help you start off. If you don't find your country there, send a message to the Universala Esperanto-Asocio (World Esperanto Association) with this as the main message: "Mi volas trovi Esperanto-instruiston aux organizon en mia lando. Bonvolu sendi al mi informon kiel kontakti iun. Mi ne parolas Esperanto, do faru la informon klare kaj simple. Mia adreso estas:" (then write in your name and address)
Or if you are ready to start learning now, there is a ten lesson e-mail course available from these administrators:
English version: Mark RAUHAMAA Marko.Rauhamaa@tekelec.com
Chinese version: ZHONG Qiyao email@example.com
French version: Ken CAVINESS (firstname.lastname@example.org)
German version: Steffen PIETSCH email@example.com
The World of Esperanto On-line
The Internet's international nature has made it popular among Esperantists, who too often have had to depend on slow snail mail and expensive phone calls to communicate with some of their friends. Because of this, there are a wide selection of materials available on-line for Esperantists and others interested in Esperanto, from original literature to Internet Relay Chat.
William Shatner starred in the only sci fi movie made in Esperanto, "La Inkubo". Never heard of it? Don't feel bad, according to rumor, he, along with most Esperantists, chooses not to remember he did either.
Esperantists make up the largest non-political grouping in the British parliament.
8 Nobel Laureates have been Esperantists
Twice, the largest sets of private signatures collected on private initiative for an international petition were collected in 1948 and 1966, for the UN in support of Esperanto.
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Daniel Tarschys is an Esperantist.
Science Fiction writers, Harry Harrison and Phillip Jose Farmer each use Esperanto as the common language in the Stainless Steel Rat and the Riverworld Series, respectively.
A metro station in Barcelona will soon be named "Dr. Zamenhof."
More than 2200 Esperantists spent a night in Gresilon Esperanto Castle in France in 1993.
Esperantists have continually suffered oppression from totalitarian governments
Leo Tolstoy helped found the Esperantist Vegetarian Association in 1908.
In 1993, more than 4900 people (mainly non-Esperantists) visited the International Esperanto Museum in Vienna. The museum contains some 21,000 bound books and 12,000 photos.
My thanks to Don Harlow and the Esperanto League for North America for the information which they provided for this document.