Esperanto is a constructed language – an auxiliary language, created during the 1870s in Poland for the purpose of improving international communication. Esperanto truly is unusual – its creator, L.L Zamenhof lived in a part of Poland where there were many different linguistic cultures who found it hard to communicate, so Esperanto was supposed to help the problem along – but the unusual aspect of this amazing language comes from the fact that there is no a widespread community of Esperanto speakers who can instantly connect with each other as soon as they start talking. Esperanto truly provides a way for people to connect and also helps overcome a linguistic barrier.
Say, for example, a speaker of Russian and Chinese want to communicate, but neither of them speak each other’s languages. Usually in this case, people tend to use English, but Esperanto is a much more efficient lingua franca – a completely monolingual speaker of Esperanto can gain reasonable fluency after only 4 months of study. Grammar is stripped to its barest in Esperanto and a lot of more complex language features you’d probably find in French or Polish are completely absent.
Esperanto isn’t the first of its kind though; several other auxiliary languages have hit the scene before. Volapük was one such language which was supposed to make cross-cultural communication easier, and, in fact, several conventions for held for the language, all of which were conducted entirely in Volapük. Of course, Esperanto is certainly a lot longer lived, mainly because there was less disagreement involved with speakers in terms of its use.
So why is Esperanto so easy, and what’s it like? Well, Esperanto takes most of its grammar and vocabulary from Romance language like French and Spanish, a small amount from German, and a small percentage from Slavic languages. The simplified grammar of the language is what really makes it an absolute masterpiece of simplicity, ‘I have to go to school’, in Esperanto, would be ‘Mi devas iri al lernejo’ – verbs always take the same form regardless of the subject, so in the present tense ‘devi’ (‘to have to’) is always ‘devas’. Even nouns are constructed in a logical manner; ‘lerni’ means ‘to learn’ as a verb, but if you add the suffix for ‘place’ (‘-ejo’) onto the end, you get ‘school’, ‘lernejo’.
Word classes are a lot easier to spot as well in Esperanto; adjectives almost always end in an ‘a’, nouns in an ‘o’, infinitive verbs, an ‘i’, and adverbs ‘e’. This is also why I think teaching Esperanto to children to introduce them to learning foreign languages is a great idea – a child’s brain can get used to the idea of simple grammatical structures quite nicely, as well as improving their performance in English. I saw an example in a Ted Talk by Tim Morely, who explained that in exercises like ‘find the adjectives in this sentence’, a child could translate the sentences into Esperanto, and basically just circle all the words that end in an ‘a’, since that’s the indicator of a word being an adjective. What I found interesting though, he likened French to a guitar, whereas Esperanto is a Recorder – in the sense that a lot of us learn to play the Recorder in primary school to introduce to music with an extremely simple instrument.
So I think Esperanto has certainly made its mark on the world and I think it could provide a useful replacement for English as a global lingua franca in theory – the idea being that there’s this one language that is equally as difficult for everyone to learn and could allow for neutrality when heated political matters arise in, for example, EU or UN meetings. Not only that, but Esperanto has the right to gloat about the fact that it’s the only constructed language with native speakers, about 2000 of whom were raised by Esperantist parents wanting to speak the language in their home. I just think that is truly remarkable.
La Esperanto estas bonega lingvo ĉar ĝi estas tre simpla.
Lernu la Esperanton!
I may do a part 2 to this post, explaining some more of the implications of Esperanto.
Again, sorry for the absence, all is well now~