Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

15 facts about Esperanto

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Interesting post, though with a typo right at the onset (corrected in the extract below):

Esperanto is the butt of many a joke, both from geeks and the general population alike, calling it a fake language or mocking those who choose to learn it. While it may not have the history that other languages do or be as easily found in colleges and high schools around the world, it often doesn’t get the credit it deserves as a real, well-planned out language that’s one of the easiest to learn and use in the world. Learning a bit more about this language showcases just how interesting it really can be, and may motivate students of language to give it more serious thought in the future.

  1. The full name for Esperanto is Doktoro Esperanto. “Esperanto” translates to “one who hopes” [from the verb “esperi” (to hope) – LG] and is drawn from the pseudonym L.L. Zamenhoff, the creator of Esperanto, used when he published his first book on the language called Unua Libro in 1887.
  2. Dr. Zamenhoff created the language to help promote peace and diplomacy. He thought that by creating a politically neutral language that was easy-to-learn that he could help forge better relationships between nations and greater international understanding. While many around the world speak the language today, Zamenhoff’s dream was never realized and Esperanto has been used to divide people just as much as unite them as you’ll see later in this article.
  3. Estimates of Esperanto speakers range from 10,000 to two million active or fluent speakers. Different studies have come up with widely varied results but scholars generally agree that the number tends towards the larger of these two figures. For a language with no nationality, this is a surprisingly large number of speakers.
  4. Esperanto has native speakers. You might think that a language that was created around the turn of the century and that isn’t the official language of any nation wouldn’t have any native speakers– but you’d be wrong. Some parents who speak Esperanto teach it to their children as babies, meaning that they grow up knowing the language and are native speakers.
  5. Esperanto is currently the language of instruction of the International Academy of Sciences in San Marino. This scientific association and school, located in the Republic of San Marino, was founded in 1983. Today it holds a number of scientific conventions in San Marino and throughout Europe as well as awarding degrees at all levels. If you visit the academy’s website, you’ll find it is entirely in Esperanto, as this is the official language of the school, intended to keep all cultural and linguistic biases in check and to help students and scholars focus on science instead.
  6. All singular nouns in Esperanto end in o, all adjectives in a, all adverbs in e. This makes it simple to know what any element of a sentence represents, without having to know its exact meaning—part of what makes this language so easy to learn. For example, hundo means dog, felica means happy and rapide means quickly. The same rules apply to all nouns, adjectives, and adverbs.
  7. Esperanto has its own flag. You can recognize something as being in Esperanto, or someone as an Esperanto speaker when you see this flag. A green ground with a white square and a green star represents the language and its speakers. The flag was created in the late 1800′s as a mean to quickly identify books and other materials printed in the language.
  8. Studying Esperanto might help you learn another language more quickly. One study compared students who took four years of French with those who took one year of Esperanto and three years of French. The students who took Esperanto first, despite having fewer years of French instruction, were more fluent than those who had four years of instruction. This suggests that having a basic understanding of this language could be a real asset in mastering other European languages. [See this Wikipedia article for more info – LG]
  9. Esperanto inspired a lot of hatred of its speakers. Starting in the 1930s, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin murdered many Esperanto speakers because they didn’t represent the nationalistic ideals those leaders hoped to inspire in their countrymen. Hitler derided Esperanto in Mein Kampf saying it that it was created as a universal language to unite the Jewish diaspora. Stalin called it “the language of spies”. Joseph McCarthy accused speakers of being Communists. During WWII the Japanese government persecuted and sometimes executed speakers. While today Esperanto’s existence is a bit of a joke, only a generation ago speaking this language could have been a life or death matter.
  10. In the early 1920s, there was a proposal for the League of Nations to accept Esperanto as their working language. It almost went through, with ten delegates accepting and only one dissenting. The dissenting voice was that of the French delegate, Gabriel Hanotaux. Hanotaux felt that the French language was losing its position as the international language and saw Esperanto as a threat to its position (a threat that would very soon be replaced by English, especially when it comes to tech-related words.) While the proposal was never accepted, the League did acknowledge that the language was worth learning, recommended that its member states include Esperanto in their educational curricula.
  11. Most Esperanto root words are taken from Italian, French, German and English. A select few words come from Latin, Greek, Lithuanian Russian and Polish, as well. This connection to other living languages is a big part of what makes Esperanto so useful in studying any of these European languages.
  12. World Congresses on Esperanto have been held every year since 1905, except during the 2 World Wars. Esperanto speakers have gotten together to discuss the language since it’s origins, with only short breaks for major conflicts. The World Congress of Esperantochanges locales every year, with meetings held on every continent except Africa and Antarctica. Attendance varies from year-to-year, but most bring in thousands of members all who speak the language and want to better understand how to promote and spread its use.
  13. Esperanto is the only language with no irregular verbs. French, by comparison has 2,238, Spanish and German about 700 each. Imagine not having to remember any irregular forms! Any student of language knows just how much easier this can make speaking a language. Also helping to make it easy to learn? Esperanto has no grammatical genders and all words are pronounced phonetically.
  14. In 1907, Esperanto speakers split into two groups. One group favored the existing language of Esperanto while the other felt it needed improvement. This group pushed for a new language called Ido. The languages are very close and may even been mutually intelligible, though there are differences in word formation, grammar, and grammatical function.
  15. One of the first movies made in all Esperanto was called Incubus. This black and white film starred William Shatner in his pre-Star Trek days and featured cinematography by academy award-winner Conrad Hall. The film was done entirely in Esperanto and dubbing was not allowed to keep the other-worldly feeling created by the familiar but strange Esperanto. The film was lost for many years and was only found, restored and re-released in 2001. William Shatner was not a speaker of Esperanto, and his pronunciation of many of the words is off, a fact many Esperantists took note of.

If you’re interested in taking a closer look, check out Lernu.net. Under the “Course” link you’ll find a series of lessons. Hover the mouse over the Esperanto sentence to get its translation, click an Esperanto word to get an explanation of it. The site works in multiple languages, but my link is to the English version since you’re reading this post in English. However, you can choose another language from a dropdown list at the bottom of the page.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 March 2011 at 9:43 am

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