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What do you think of Esperanto?


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I've known about Esperanto for a few years now but I'm still unsure what to make of it. In my opinion, the true beauty of knowing a foreign language is how it can make another culture accessible to you. I also like knowing about language in a historical context. Obviously Esperanto doesn't have much of a heritage, since it was mainly created for business purposes. On the other hand, I read an article earlier about how learning Esperanto can make learning to converse in a foreign language much quicker and more effective, and it can act as a "practice" language. I'm divided.

What do you think?

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For me, there is not much 'incentive' to learn a language if I can't do anything with it. I study or studied French, English, German, even Latin, to be able to read literature written in those languages. Which is why I would like to learn Italian and Spanish too. Esperanto has, as far as I know no real literature.

Other reasons might be to get to know the culture, as you said, or to speak with people in their own language, which I believe is an act of kindness or respect. However, nobody has got Esperanto as a native language, and it's not associated with any specific cultures.

That being said, I do am curious how it works, and if I can see a use, it might be added to my 'to learn' list :-)

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I have known about Esperanto for a while.  I really like the overall concept of creating a language just for business communication that would not give any particular nation or cultural group the advantage of being native speakers.  It kind of amazes me that it never caught on in any significant way. 

On the other hand, I read an article earlier about how learning Esperanto can make learning to converse in a foreign language much quicker and more effective, and it can act as a "practice" language. I'm divided.

What do you think?

I hadn't heard about that before.  I would still prefer to put my energies towards a language that I would use, especially given the time and effort it takes to tackle languages and to become proficient.  Plus with Esperanto there would not be opportunities for immersion and cultural enrichment. 

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I think esperanto is a wonderful idea, but I don't think it's very useful in practice. I agree with LauraM's point about no cultural enrichment.

I'd rather spend time and effort learning a "normal" language. I don't like the way Esperanto sounds and looks anyway.

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As much as I like the idea behind it, it just never took off. According to estimates there are no more than 300,00 people that can actually talk Esperanto and there is little reason in learning a language that hardly anyone uses. Some could call it ironic because I'm currently learning Icelandic which also has about 300,000 speakers, but Icelandic is a 'real' language in the sense that it has cultural value behind it, and part of why I'm learning it is because I am very interested in the Norse culture and in particular the Icelandic sagas, but with Esperanto there's no 'native' resources which just puts me off.

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I can very well understand your reasoning Medza. Icelandic must be very fascinating. If you could share some knowledge about this "exotic" language, I would be most grateful! I am pretty sure other people would love to learn about it as well.

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I like how Esperanto avoids irregularities. In concept, it's a brilliant language. However, it's useless in practice, because you won't be able to find many people who speak it. There's no culture tied to it either, further reducing any incentive for learning the language. The culture helped keep me relatively immersed in Spanish and Japanese (and in the case of the former, the threat of bad grades if I didn't study diligently).

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I think that although Esperanto is extremely regular and logical, it is also very Euro-centric and uses word roots derived from European languages especially Romance and Slavic. For example "patro" for "father" would be immediately recognizable to anyone who speaks a Romance language or any other European language like English that borrow extensively from Latin and Latin-based languages. It leaves speakers of languages like Chinese, Japanese and Korean at a disadvantage.

As such, learning Esperanto might be more of a quaint curiosity or interesting hobby but I doubt it will ever become a world language.

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I think that although Esperanto is extremely regular and logical, it is also very Euro-centric and uses word roots derived from European languages especially Romance and Slavic. For example "patro" for "father" would be immediately recognizable to anyone who speaks a Romance language or any other European language like English that borrow extensively from Latin and Latin-based languages. It leaves speakers of languages like Chinese, Japanese and Korean at a disadvantage.

This is mostly what I came here to say. The idea behind Esperanto is certainly lovely, but it failed in the execution. In addition to what you mentioned about the vocabulary, the sounds are too many and too difficult, unless you're a native speaker of Polish (like its creator, Zamenhof). I remember there was another invented language that aimed to use only the most common sounds across the world—something like p/b, t/d, s/z, a, e, o, etc. Unfortunately, I can't remember what it was called and my googling comes up short.

The gendering is also needlessly complicated, not to mention easily construed as sexist. All nouns are, by default, male unless a female suffix is added. How easy it would have been to create a sex-neutral language (and there are plenty) and just use male and female suffixes when needed!

Here's a pretty harsh piece against Esperanto: Ranto. While I think the author is a little bit too enthusiastic in his distaste of the language, he does bring up valid points.

I feel that one of the biggest problems with Esperanto, however, is the impossibility of improvement. As far as I recall, Zamenhof was adamant about the language not changing, so that speakers of any generation would be able to understand each other. But this also means Esperanto is stuck. People have discovered dozens of flaws over the years, and there is no way to officially fix them.

That being said, given that it's fairly easy to learn to read and write it if you speak a European language, I don't think it's a complete waste of time. There are healthy Esperanto communities on the internet, and speaking in a "neutral" language with people across the world—people one otherwise wouldn't be able to communicate with—is worthwhile.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't know much about it but as far as I know something about it I can't really say that I like it or that I think it is useful or even necessary. It is a very Western artificial language and when you keep in mind who the target audience is I think we always have a simple to learn language with English.

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I'm not keen on the idea of a language constructed to be understood by all. It has no depth, no feeling and no context really. It's too clinical. And there is no real need for it since most people who want to work at an international level already can communicate in English. They have made the effort to learn English so why learn yet another language?

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  • 4 weeks later...

Although I can't speak Esperanto fluently, I don't think it's completely useless. I, too, read the article, or a similar one, about how Esperanto can make it much easier to learn your target language. It may not be as culturally rich as actual natural languages, but there are Esperanto groups you can join and, so I've heard, a "couch surfing" site/service especially for people who can speak Esperanto. I've also heard that it's a lot more popular in Europe than elsewhere. Maybe it helps that I have a friend who is (mostly) fluent in Esperanto? I don't know.

If it's a sheer numbers game, why would you EVER want to learn something like Basque, Yiddish or even English? Mandarin Chinese has way more speakers, we should all be learning that.  :angel:

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Esperanto as a concept is nice. But ultimately, you'd have to think about the people who want to learn different language and their reasons for picking one. Most would say it's to learn more about the culture and the people of the language, with hopes of being able to converse with it. It also works in a circular manner in that learning more of the culture/people leads to a greater motivation of learning the language.

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I like the concept and idea as well; constructed languages are very interesting.

I've always wanted to do something with it; write a film script, write songs, things like that, only using Esperanto.

I do see why it failed to become the worldwide language though. Why would I learn a language if I'm not entirely sure I can use it? Say I'm in the Netherlands and I want to trade in France, would I learn Esperanto, without knowing if the French are also willing to do so? Or do I just learn French, so that I know for sure I'll be able to work there? It's fairly obvious that without certainty, the risk is too great.

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I think a universally spoken language is a great idea, but it is impossible to put in practice. I think the "Esperanto" that has some chances to happen is English, not a new language.

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I only learned about Esperanto in linguistics class about a year ago. However, besides from what all you have said, an article I read was about how some want Esperanto to become the official language for the EU countries - making the EU more of a nation with all citizens speaking the same language. Why it would have to be a completely new language, I don't know, since using English instead would be more workable.

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Esperanto has a fundamental problem where it's hard for it to be practical. I know it's designed to be the most practical and logical language, intended for universal use, but how do you get people to popularize it so that it becomes worth knowing? At this point it's hard to think of it as more than a novelty.

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I was really interested in learning esperanto when I was 17 years old, I actually met a 19 years old who spoke this language quite fluently... the guy was a genius!  He could also speak english very well, his mother language was spanish and he was trying to learn japanese as well.  I think he's now living in Holland :)

I'm not big fan of the language, but I've to admit I love how easy this language is to learn. Which isn't surprising, because that's why this language was created in the first place; to make it easier for everyone to communicate. Sadly this language isn't very popular, it wasn't back when I was a teen, and it definitely isn't now :(  I guess it needs a better marketing  :laugh:  Because there are a lot people out there who don't have the slightest idea this language even exists.

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Wow, this is the first I ever heard of Esperanto, but I find it very interesting. I'm doing some reading on it now and I'm hooked on it! Seems like natural globalization effort although not more that 2,000,000 people either speak it or are fluent from what I'm reading. Still, its a very good idea to come up with an internationally spoken language that transcends race and nationality.

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Wow, this is the first I ever heard of Esperanto, but I find it very interesting. I'm doing some reading on it now and I'm hooked on it! Seems like natural globalization effort although not more that 2,000,000 people either speak it or are fluent from what I'm reading. Still, its a very good idea to come up with an internationally spoken language that transcends race and nationality.

That's the whole point behind Esperanto, being able to transcend race and nationality. People lament that it has "no culture", when that's actually the whole point behind it (although, there is Esperanto culture, just not NATIVE). Most people, at least those who only speak one language, tend to think that their native language is THE BEST. Instead of everybody fighting over which is the best, or forcing them to speak the language of their hated enemy, you make everybody speak a language that's more or less in neutral ground.

I'm not arguing that Esperanto is the best solution or the greatest conlang. It is, however, the one you'll probably have the most luck with in finding another speaker. Although, you might be able find an Interlingua speaker if you look hard enough, or even Klingon if you go to a Star Trek convention (those two being the next most widely spoken conlangs, according to Wikipedia).  :grin:

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I have heard from some respected polyglots online that learning Esperanto helps you learn another foreign language much faster.

I was never interested though. As many have mentioned here I would have no motivation to learn a language that has no country I can travel to and speak it. And of course it never did become an international lingua franca and it never will. I just think my time would be better spent learning a "real" language.

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