2015-07-07

Why Learn Esperanto?

I can't think of a more fitting first post for my Esperanto journey than to describe why people, and specifically I, choose to learn Esperanto.

First, I really identify with the five traits of Esperanto on Lernu.net, especially the third and fourth ones.
  1. Esperanto is international
  2. Neutral
    • Not owned by any country or political system 
  3. Provides linguistic equality
    • There is often a power shift when someone speaks their mother tongue with someone who is speaking that language as a second language. Often, the first person can express their thoughts easier, more precisely, and sometimes dominate the conversation or talk circles around the other person such as during a disagreement. With Esperanto, both people are speaking Esperanto, a second language.
  4. Relatively easy
    • This is huge and part of the reason Esperanto is being taught in some schools. 
    • This is but just one example of what makes Esperanto easier to learn than other languages: Conjugating Verbs in French versus Esperanto 
  5. Esperanto is a living language
    • Like other languages, Esperanto evolves and has the richness and depth to be used to express our emotions and philosophies, for music and poetry, for business, etc. Some international companies have adopted Esperanto as their language of business.
Esperanto is regular and does't break rules, e.g., adjectives end in 'a', nouns end in 'o', etc. This regularity makes it easier to deepen one's understanding of grammar and that knowledge can then be applied learning difficult languages, with more ease.  Here is an excellent Ted Talk by Tim Morely about the effectiveness of Esperanto to prepare students for learning other languages. The Ted Talk likens this benefit of learning Esperanto similar to teaching children how to play a recorder rather than giving six year olds more difficult musical instruments. More than the tangible benefits though, I am studying Esperanto mainly due to the linguistic equality it provides, from the experiences I've had talking with people, and the enjoyment of learning about different cultures, often from people who don't know English.

Not everyone learns Esperanto due to these philosophies and reasons. As Esperanto is relatively easier to learn, it helps build confidence with languages. For the person or child learning their second language, Esperanto can help them get comfortable in just a few weeks to start using it. For instance, I felt I knew Esperanto better in just a few weeks of study than years of French study.

2 comments:

  1. Like you, I'm enchanted by the "interna ideo", the "internal idea" or perhaps better the "inherent ideal" of the language, that people of all nations should be able to meet and speak with each other on a level playing field, i.e. a language that belongs to no one and therefore to everyone.
    Of course, Esperanto is still only spoken by a small number of people in the world, and I don't disagree with those who say we should appreciate the language and the culture (the community of Esperantists and the rather impressive literature that Esperanto has created) for what it already is. But I still hope it will grow as an international, neutral language.
    And as you mention, there are other good reasons to learn Esperanto, even if it's just to give children the confidence that they *can* speak another language instead of drilling them with French, Spanish or German verb conjugation for weeks.
    And one more thing -- a recorder is a good instrument for children, but can also have richness and depth:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKXH9dbXE8g

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to comment.

      A friend asked me the other day why I was learning Esperanto as, not knowing much about it, he viewed it as a dead language. He seemed very surprised when I said that just over a month of Esperanto being available on Duolingo, 58.5k users have signed up. For comparison, Ukrainian has 41.9K users.

      Curious, I just looked up statistics on Lernu as they've been around for years (http://en.lernu.net/pri_lernu/statistiko/lernu_landoj.php?ordo=nombro) and saw that a total of 198K people have signed up on their website.

      Both sets of numbers are encouraging to me, but more than that, even if I never met new people who speak Esperanto, my life has already been enriched by all whom I have met so far.

      That recorder music link was wonderful as well. :)

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