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Wednesday, 7 July 2004


Esperanto is a human language invented by Dr Zamenhof in 1887, designed to be the International Language. Zamenhof envisioned a world where everyone spoke, proudly, their national language and were bilingual and could speak the International Language to communicate with others. Thus Esperanto is easy to learn, with only a few grammer rules.

While not as widely spoken as Zamenhof hoped, Esperanto is spoken by people in more than 200 countries and is especially popular in Eastern Europe. It is useful for people who want pen-pals or for travellers. Esperantists can get lists of addresses and contact information of other Esperantists through the Esperanto Passport Service. More than 1200 people in 79 countries have signed up to host travelling Esperantists. Travellers get a local contact and free or very cheap lodging.

Because Esperanto is so easy to learn, some folks feel like it can be catalyist for social change, allowing workers around the world to communicate. The SAT is a progressive rognization, which uses Esperanto as an organizing tool.

The easiness to learn also makes it useful for students who must pass launguage exams. A student can become fluent in Esperanto in a year or less. Free courses exist on-line at, or you can sign up for a free correspondence course, or, if you call 1-800-ESPERANTO, Joel will be happy to help you find a class in your area. If you can round up some friends and a location, the Esperanto League for North America will find you a teacher who will come to you and teach you for free.

There is a weekly Esperanto conversation group that meets Thursdays 6:30 - 7:30 at Original Pollo's at 100 Shattuck in Berkeley and this coming weekend is ELNA's summer open house and Icnic, Sunday July 11th, 10:00am- noon at ELNA's offices, which are located at 5712 Hollis St., Emeryville. Then, at noon until 4:00 pm is a Picnic at the Emeryville Marina.


Anonymous said...

Since I've just taken a linguistics class I have to reply to your post. Though I've never taken esperato and don't know anything about it.

So you can go ahead and flame me for commenting on something I know nothing about. hehe

Anyways, is esperanto spoken and learned by a lot of people whose first language is indo-eurpean? I wonder if that is why it is easily learned in a year. When your first language shares lots of sounds/syllables/cognates as your second it's so much easier. When your writing system is almost the same, it's easier. When your grammaer structure (is it subject verb object?) is kind of familiar, it's easier to learn. When you understand the concept of conjugating verbs by changing parts of the word, it's easier to learn.

Anyways, nothing against esperanto esp, just wondering how easy it really is to learn.


Les said...

Esperanto is based on latin, which does give an advantage to Europeans. And the alphabet is based on the same one we use for English. The guy who invented it was living in a Russian occupied Poland.

Esperanto has a system of affixes. The verb endings can be thought of as post-fixes

-i = infinitive verb
-is = past tense verb
-as = present tense verb
-os = future tense verb
-us = conditional tense verb
-u = command form of verb

-o = noun
-on = direct object noun

-a = adjective
-an = direct object adjective

the word order is pretty free. I hear that esperanto is easy for some speakers of Asian languages because of the affixes and they way words are assembled by stringing affixes together.

fwiw, it's easier to learn than English. And I sometimes instant message with people living in china.

Anonymous said...

yeah..when you've learned a few languages, you figure out that english is hard to learn cuz of its french influence. i didn't think it was that hard when i was a kid, but thinking about it from grammer point of view and vocabulary, as an adult, makes me realize just how many exceptions to the rule there are...

and i hope you know i was joking about the flame war. :)


Crinis said...

Esperanto is not based on Latin! If anything, it bears a striking resemblance to Polish, in its grammar anyway. Is vocabulary is a mismash of European languages. Latin does not use affixes, and Latin is highly inflected, a feature noticably (and purposely) absent from Esperanto.

Les said...

As my esperanto teacher said, "imagine a Polish guy trying to speak latin."

the vocabulary is more than 80% latin-based.

Crinis said...

"Romance" is not "Latin" (and vice versa). Most of the vocabulary isn't Latin (or Romance for that matter). The 80% number just isn't true. Zamolhoff borrowed from all over Europe, borrowing equally from Germanic, Romance, and Slavic tongues. (in grammar and vocabulary)

A Polish person attempting to speak Latin would sound much like you or I making the same attempt, but with Polish phonemes instead of American ones. It wouldn't sound anything like Esperanto.

Also, Latin is highly inflected in nouns, verbs, adjectives, and pronouns. It inflects for 7 cases, 3 genders, and 2 numbers. Esperanto inflects only for 1 case and 2 numbers, and never for verb conjugations and never for pronouns. Latin has free word order; Esperanto (arguably) does not. Latin has three genders; Esperanto has (arguably) two. Latin has a phonotactic system; Esperanto does not. Latin does not rely on affixes to communicate meaning; Esperanto does. Etc.

Les said...

I think if you look at the 500 most commonly used root words ( ), you'll find latin roots more often than germanic or slavic, although those are certainly also there. (also for reference, the 500 next most commonly used root words: )

The idea is not that Esperanto is identitcal to laitn, but that esperanto uses many latin roots, but has extremely regularized grammer. Latin was a naturally evolved language and as such has irregularities, special cases and a whole lot of rules. Esperanto has 16 rules. It's also an evolving language. I would say it's pretty much genderless, although when it was created, words were assumed to all be gendered male unless specified otherwise. But that's not what people mean when they say "gendered" anyway. there's only one definite article (which is neuter) and no indefinite articles.

I'm not sure what inflection means, in this case.

And what my esperanto teacher meant was "imagine a polish guy trying to regularize latin."

it's not supposed to replace latin. it's supposed to be a universal second language. latin filled that role for a long time in europe. maybe that's why Zamenhof thought it would be a good place to look for root words.

Crinis said...

An inflected word changes n number of syllables to convey grammatical meaning. "dogs" is an inflected form of "dog". We all now that in English, for most nouns, a final -s means plural. The inflected form "dog's" ie -'s means "belonging to the dog."

In Esperanto, the vast system of affixes for nouns is called a derivational agglutinative grammar. For some reason, Zamenhof decided the verbal system should be analytic (and thus free of affixing). Most natural languages have more cross-over than this and aren't strictly agglutinative or analytic. All natural languages have some analytic features but many lack agglutinative features. I can't think of an example where nouns are one way and verbs are another (except Esperanto).

And Esperanto does not, contrary to the dogma, have only 16 rules. His 16 only cover derivational and inflectional morphology. No language on Earth, natural or otherwise, could sustain itself on such a constrained platform. Fortunately for Esperanto, grammars have been written to govern syntax.

Esperanto is "gender"-ed if we assume that it means both class and sex. There male and female forms of nouns. In fact, the old European tradition of calling the cases (ie classes) masculine and feminine applies pretty well. But since I don't speak Esperanto, I don't know how much this applies to modern speakers as it did when Zamenhof laid the ground-works for the language.