The Mezzofanti Guild Language Learning Made Simple

Why I Won’t Learn Esperanto


Why I Won't Learn Esperanto
From time to time people ask me about Esperanto.

Is it worth learning?

What are the benefits of being able to speak it?

Will it help me learn another language?

Well… I’ve decided to answer these questions finally.

I’ve gone into quite a bit of detail on the main reasons why I have absolutely zero interest in ever learning it and why I would not recommend it to anybody inquiring about its ‘benefits’.

Now, I know this will probably stir up a beehive (I wish I could say I’m sorry but facts don’t care about hurt feelings) though I do want to make it clear that if you do love Esperanto and it’s something you’re passionate about, I’m not trying to shoot you down in flames or discourage you here.

It sounds like I am but believe me I’m not.

By all means, pursue what you love.

While I’m personally not overly interested in constructed languages generally (conlangs for short), I do understand how they’re a fun hobby for many people and I find a lot of the work put into their creation seriously impressive.

As you’ll see here, my reasons for having no desire to learn Esperanto have very little to do with it being a conlang per se (or pointless arguments about its vocabulary or syntax).

Ready?

Let’s get started.

 

1. Esperanto has always been a means to a political end

I always say that if you want to get to the bottom of what any movement is all about, look at its founder and origin first.

Who developed Esperanto and why was it developed?

If you think that Esperanto is just a basic constructed language put together by a language nerd back in the 1800’s that went viral, you’re wrong.

I also made the mistake of thinking its purpose was that simple.

Unlike other conlangs, Esperanto is 100% ideologically motivated.

It was made with a serious political objective in mind which still drives its propagation even today.

The language has always been used as a means to a political end (which is why dictatorships actively sought to suppress it in the early 20th century).

The bloke who created it, Ludwik Zamenhof, developed a political and religious philosophy (a cultish offshoot of Judaism that looked more like something straight out of The Communist Manifesto).

It’s clear that Zamenhof envisaged his made-up, simplified language as facilitating the breaking down of national and religious identity which he despised in his own community (including patriotism which he regarded as something evil). He also quite intolerantly spoke of free religious expression as a “barbarity”.

It’s this ideological baggage and taint that’s attached to the language that turns me off it completely.

Esperanto is the glossolalia of the faithful.

It also explains why so many dedicated Esperantists are by nature politically extreme.

Which gets me to my next point:

 

2. Esperantistan is an ideologically homogenous landscape

Wherever you travel, you meet people of all different persuasions.

No matter what language you learn, you’ll meet speakers all the time from the far left to the far right of the political spectrum. You’ll also meet non-believers, nominal believers, the devout and the extreme.

This is a normal thing.

This is a human thing.

The most crucial kind of diversity is the diversity of thought and opinion.

When you lose that, society’s in big trouble.

Communities everywhere around the world are filled with people who think very different things to each other and it’s this freedom that defines a healthy society.

Esperanto, being the ideological tool that it is, opposes this.

Even with constructed languages like Tolkien Elvish or Na’avi for example, if you look at the enthusiasts, you’ll find a wide array of people from all sorts of ideological backgrounds. They might be completely opposed to each other as far their opinions of the world are concerned but they come together for a common passion that they both share.

Now, I’m not saying that there absolutely aren’t any learners of Esperanto who don’t care about its politics or aren’t part of the status quo (see this depressing Reddit thread for example).

I went to NASK [North American Summer Esperanto Institute] a couple of times and felt totally isolated politically, and I’m not even the farthest right person I know. There are some great people at NASK and a lot of people willing to argue without getting offended, but a whole bunch of extreme far leftists who are OF COURSE politically correct (correct in their political views, as well as being PC beyond all reason).

I’m sure you could quite easily learn Esperanto without ever losing your mind as someone on the periphery of acceptable thought.

But since languages exist to enable us to communicate with a wider community of speakers, it’s imperative to ask yourself what kind of community are you restricting yourself to exactly?

Where’s the fun in spending time with ideological clones?

 

3. Not only does it have no culture but its adherents are delusional

Without doubt the most common and sensible reason why myself and so many others are turned off Esperanto is that it has no authentic culture.

Esperanto has no country or geographical ties to an ancestral homeland.

Unlike natural languages, you don’t learn Esperanto because you’re fascinated by a country, people group or location.

Outside of a few crackpots who decided to turn their kids into circus acts by raising them with Esperanto as a first language, it has no inter-generational identity or national/tribal history.

It’s therefore the same as any other conlang in this regard.

But…

Esperantists always and predictably fire back with:

“Umm… you’re wrong. We do have a culture. We have Esperanto music, food, events, literature… etc.

To which I reply that this shows an incredibly shallow and poor understanding of what culture actually is.

It’s exactly this kind of ignorant interpretation of the term ‘culture’ that I denounce in almost everything I do and write.

And it’s not just me:

…culture is defined as the shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs, and affective understanding that are learned through a process of socialization. These shared patterns identify the members of a culture group while also distinguishing those of another group.”

This:

“Most social scientists today view culture as consisting primarily of the symbolic, ideational, and intangible aspects of human societies… The essence of a culture is not its artifacts, tools, or other tangible cultural elements but how the members of the group interpret, use, and perceive them.

And then this:

“Culture: learned and shared human patterns or models for living; day- to-day living patterns. these patterns and models pervade all aspects of human social interaction. Culture is mankind’s primary adaptive mechanism.”

These are just a few of the excellent definitions of ‘culture’ on this page for the University of Minnesota’s Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition.

Look at the terms used to describe culture here.

Intangible aspects of human societies, patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs.

Culture is an incredibly deep and multi-layered phenomenon.

To limit it to things like music and cuisine is insanely ignorant and unfortunately indicative of how a lot of modern progressives treat culture even outside the Esperanto community.

These people limit culture to things like food, clothing and performances which means that ironically the people who are often the most vocal about cultural diversity are also usually the most culturally naïve.

Culture is infinitely more complex than kebabs, concerts and grass skirts.

The original goal for Esperanto in fact conflicts with the very nature of human cultures as defined above which serve to separate and distinguish humans as unique groups.

 

4. Esperanto evangelists aren’t just passionate – they’re fanatical

So yeah, the extreme thing.

Discussing Esperanto with an Esperantist is like discussing theology with a Jehovah’s Witness or animal rights with a PETA activist.

They have every single response memorized to the letter and argue until you give up.

They’ll try to convince you that even the gods themselves speak Esperanto.

It’s this extreme zeal that makes everything online written by Esperantists about Esperanto so horrid and unbearable to read.

But again this comes back to the ideological motivation that drives it.

We’re not just talking about a language here but a political movement.

As you probably know by now, I’m passionate about Arabic.

I like to tell people about it and share my experiences.

But if somebody gives me a reason why they don’t like it or have no reason to pursue it, I don’t go on the offense to try and convince them that Arabic is the greatest linguistic achievement in the history of mankind.

I frankly don’t care if you hate it.

Most Esperantists however are self-appointed evangelists.

 

5. It might help you learn other languages but at the expense of time best spent on the language most important to you

Any third language you learn is going to be easier than your second language.

Your fourth language is going to be a little easier than your third.

In fact, the more you learn, the easier it all becomes because (a) you become familiar with various language families and a wider range of shared vocabulary and (b) your metalinguistic awareness increases.

This means that the more grammatical concepts you get your head around, the easier it becomes for you to recognize them in other languages.

So naturally, Esperanto is going to make you more aware of how, say, agglutinative languages work.

But it won’t necessarily save you any time and in fact is more likely to delay your real goals of learning the language you actually want to learn.

It would be like learning the guitar because you really want to learn the violin.

Sure you’ll learn about music theory, get a bit of familiarity with a string instrument that’s kinda similar but at the end of day, if you spend 6 months learning the guitar, that’s 6 months you could have been investing into the violin.

More importantly this is time you should be spending with your target language community.

This is the time that you should be using to acculturate.

My first language took years for me to pick up serious momentum and I was really slow at first but those first months and years were the most important, formative years for me in terms of acculturation.

The whole process of spending time with the target language community even though you’re grappling with difficult, new language concepts, is so incredibly important.

Not just important. Crucial.

And instead you want to hang out with a political cult and learn a practically useless conlang?

Talk about epic time wasting.

 

6. Esperanto has failed – not that we needed it anyway

Zamenhof and his followers envisaged a world where Esperanto was the global second language; the lingua franca with no baggage or bias.

It’s so easy that even an illiterate peasant could pick it up quickly, bridging the communication gap and ultimately breaking down hostility between all peoples.

A true international language.

The common argument against this of course is that we already have that.

It’s called English (and to a lesser extent languages like French and Spanish in the former colonies).

Esperantists are uncomfortable with this fact.

They’re uncomfortable with the reality that one of the natural byproducts of colonialism was the very thing that they’ve been trying desperately to achieve. Yes, English is a “harder” language grammatically but despite its relative difficulty, it’s still accomplished what Esperanto could not.

We no longer talk about England as being the final authority on what constitutes correct or incorrect English either – there’s American English, Australian English, South African English for example.

Linguists now agree that there are many other varieties such as Indian English and Singaporean English as well which are an authority unto themselves.

The Internet is basically unusable without English too.

The Esperanto dream has been fulfilled naturally whether they like it or not and people in every corner of the world are under increasing pressure to learn English simply to function in the 21st century.

English has succeeded where Esperanto failed miserably.

Now, I’m actually opposed to having a global language personally. This includes English.

We’re rapidly losing endangered languages and more than half of them will be lost forever by the end of this century.

For that reason combined with the fact that we already have an international lingua franca whether we like it or not, a constructed medium like Esperanto is absolutely unnecessary.

So now you know why I won’t learn Esperanto.

***

Disclaimer: All points shared in this article are my own opinions, perspectives and reasons for choosing not to learn Esperanto.




Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic) and simplifying language learning.
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  1. Wow, you certainly don’t mince words, do you? 😉 I totally agree with what you’re saying and the little I knew about Esperanto matches up with what you’ve said here. I find conlangs to be fun in theory (for example, I have a good time looking at some of the Slavic-based ones just for the fun of it because I’m a total language nerd), but not something I’d ever want to speak in practice. In real life, I want to speak real languages with real people. 🙂

    Reply
      1. So you two finally agree on something?! Most amazing discovery of this whole article. Lol.

        Actually this was a good read. I love romance and slavic languages. So I personally find Esperanto to be a kind of mental challenge and a little bridge between the languages in my mind. I enjoy it and will continue to pursue it.

        Culture is an interesting word. How do we define it? Well, Donovan as a fellow vagabonder, I think at least we can both appreciate the idea of staying for free with hosts willing to meet us only for having a sharred passion -in this case, Esperanto. I.e., Esperanto can save us money. English is good for making money. But if I can save with Esperanto and meet locals, I can only say this : I’m down. That’s American for yes. 😉

        Love the articles sir. Please more on Arabic, Russian, Hebrew (still waiting for a how to Hebrew article by the way) and using Audacity and other tools. I read em all.

        Reply
    1. I have actually been debating with myself on whether I should focus on Esperanto or French. I have experience in both of them. Which one do you think I should focus on?

      Reply
      1. if you are bilingual: Frech, but if you are monolingual: Esperanto.

        Reply
        1. I agree Guille. I’m struggling to learn to speak Spanish. (I speak only 1 language.) Esperanto was suggested to me, as a learning tool. After reading this article I feel a little better about Esperanto. I’ve decided to learn it. Thanks.

          Reply
    2. I’m not especially interested in Esperanto as a movement. However there are two issues that you do not address.

      a) there are only a few languages that have very much track record as a pivot language for purposes of translation: English,French, Russian, Arabic. Esperanto has been researched for that purpose.

      None of the existing pivot languages are really all that good for that purpose, Including english. is being built for the ground up for that purpose to facilitate automatic translation.

      What we know right now: the google translate team found it much less work to get Esperanto working than ANY other language they put into their list of supported languages. As someone that has played with this: Esperanto to English works much better there than English to Esperanto even though there has been _much_ more effort to get English to go to their intermediate working well.

      Automatic translation is a hard problem. I think we are still ways from getting this working as well as human translators and it would be much easier to use Esperanto as a front for UNL than English. English is just too ambiguous for that purpose.

      This may generalize to human/machine communications

      2) Yes, folks are attempting to use english as the lingua franca and it has gotten further than others prior to english. There are about 1 Billion folks attempting to learn english right now. How many will ever get to B2 fluency even after lots of work?

      The research suggests your claim that esperanto is a diversion is not true, at least for folks wanting to learn a language close to esperanto(English, spanish or french say). That effect was strongest for the folks that have the most trouble learning languages. I do not think that research is yet compelling but it at least needs more study. what I found: There was a lot about english grammar I just didn’t get until I learned a bit of esperanto. In my case, I studied German and Russian and got to where I could read them a little but never had any luck with listening/speaking skills. I am attempting to learn spanish now and saw the same pattern emerging. Using esperanto as a tool to help me learn spanish seems to be working. Do I think that is ready for prime time or for everyone? No. Do I think all the research that needs doing in that area has been done? No. Your unsupported claims are NOT helpful though.

      c) right now there are over a billion folks that speak a minor language and have no access to the web via automatic translation(they speak a language with no support in that area yet). I think a niche the esperanto community has not yet developed is being a language that can be learned with fairly language neutral tools and used to learn a world language like English, Spanish or French.

      Reply
  2. I am one of those who LOVE Esperanto and it’s community. I actually love it so much that I hope we never achieve the original gol. If Esperanto gets as widespread as English, we’ll loose a unique community of tolerance and diversity.
    Your article is well written, you have thought things through!

    Reply
    1. Cheers, Bergino!

      That’s an interesting perspective I hadn’t looked at too – wanting Esperanto to remain a minority rather than widespread language.

      Reply
    2. Tolerance and diversity????? I call BS! a more intolerant community will not be found, especially if the person who’s looking for this vaunted “tolerance” happens to be a conservative, especially a Christian conservative. They will be sorely disappointed. and as for diversity, again, I call BS. When right-wing or conservative Christians are RUN OFF OF the largest online learning site by ONE PERSON*, this is not a recipe for tolerance OR diversity. You are fooling yourselves.

      *So far, over a dozen people have contacted me saying they have been run off of Lernu.net by the megalomaniac administrator, Erinja, because of her bullying and heavyhandedness and double standards. Three of those people were so disgusted, they abandoned the idea of Esperanto all together. Maybe if you all would admit TRUE tolerance and TRUE diversity in your so-called “community” you’d grow a lot more and a lot faster.

      Reply
      1. Douglas, I certainly agree with you. I spent a lot of time learning Esperanto up to, perhaps, an intermediate level. I was a member of Lernu for many years. And I remember Erinja, and not with any particular favor. She knew the language and she could teach it. But she was a typical liberal idealogue who preached diversity and tolerance, but did not always practice it. Worse than Erinja were some other Lernu members. I enjoyed posting comments in Esperanto for the practice it gave me. I had no desire to impose my religion, my ideology, my worldview on anyone. And I didn’t really give a damn whether I was conversing with an atheist, a Catholic, a Jew, an American, a Brazilian, a Japanese, or any one else. I was in it for the language. I wanted to learn Esperanto and learn it well. Eventually I decided that Lernu was a poisonous environment and a losing cause, and I left it. I did not get “kicked” off the site. I left it because I became disgusted with it. But here’s the thing: I still like the language and if I could find some like-minded people, I would return to studying and learning it.

        Yes, I feel that as a right-winger, I was run out of Esperanto. I wasn’t ostracized. I wasn’t run off. I — and I see that I have a lot of company — was just made to feel unwelcome. Maybe we could get together and form our own group and begin again with Esperanto. Let me know if you have any ideas or any interest in doing this.

        Reply
        1. Hi, Jan!
          I’m glad it wasn’t just me! LOL. I used to avoid the word “mojosa” for “malacha” but since I learned that “she” hates mojosa, I’ve pretty much abandoned ‘malacha’. Ha.
          anyway, not sure how a conservative group on Facebook would go, either.

          Reply
          1. Exactly my own experience too. At the time I was apparently extreme right-wing (really just pretending for the purpose of my own research into mass mind-control) and all sort of nasty-peculiar things happened to me. Real ugly online persecution.

    3. My experience with Esperanto was very different. I was always struggling with English, could not learn it, despite everybody saying it is an easy language. After I’ve learned Esperanto, self-taught, I was able to open my mind and learn English. I am not using Esperanto as much, because I am busy working, but I miss eat a lot, especially reading the books from Hungarian author Istvan Nemere and some other books. I wish it could be wide spread to replace English, I don’t like the idea of English being the dominant language. English speakers are total jerks when they think everybody should naturally know to speak it. I live in the US, I am Brazilian, I know that is true.

      Reply
  3. A few years ago we asked Esperanto speakers online about their primary reason to learn Esperanto. Most of them (68%) answered friends and an interest for language (ideology 32%). For people born after 1970, friends and fun was the most important reason to keep using the language. Much has changed since 1887.

    Reply
    1. Thanks for chiming in.

      In the case of your survey, even 32% of people learning Esperanto for ideological reasons is still a huge number.

      Reply
      1. In South Asia, people learn English to earn a living, support their families, and be a part of the consumerist culture. (Is not it ideology?)

        Back in the 1970s, many people learnt Russian because they sympathised with the USSR. (Ideology pops up again!)

        I want to learn Sanskrit someday because I believe learning is good. (Ideology strikes again.)

        Fukuyama was wrong. We are not in some post-ideological world. Slavoj Žižek (he is no longer a hero of mine) is right. Ideology is not the color on the glasses through which you see the world. It is the glasses you have already put on. You may like listening to him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pk8ibrfXvpQ (Do not worry. It is short, less than 3 minutes long.)

        Reply
        1. I used to read Žižek back in college.

          The difference between the examples you listed here and Esperanto is that people in South East Asia don’t learn English to further a political cause. They learn English as you say, to earn a living.

          And same with the Sanskrit example. Unless you’ve converted to Hinduism and want to convert people, then I doubt you’re learning it to further a political cause.

          Reply
          1. I learned esperanto to further my studying of languages. I don’t have a political agenda and as an engineer think of the language as a possible tool for efficient communication. How much money is wasted at the UN for translators? This language could at least be used for diplomatic purposes. Not sure why culture matters with this language as if I want that I can immerse into the country language of my choice. The culture aspect of esperanto; I think is more to show the ability of the language to express the same concepts of an organic language while still being simpler to learn.

      2. Yes, 32% is relatively much. Still, for something (here: a language) that exists for ideological reasons, and whose loudest and most annoying proponents constantly preach ideology, 32% may also be regarded as relatively little. Especially compared to your claim that 100% are “ideological clones”.

        My bet would even be that the 32% also disagree upon which ideology is the best one. Even the president of the Universala Esperanto-Asocio talked about esperantists as a group of disagreers in his closing speech at this year’s World Congress. And he applauded that situation, as do I and presumably you as well.

        Today, many Esperanto ideologists focus on every language’s right to exist. In our survey, the respondents on average spoke close to 3 languages in addition to Esperanto and their native language. (This is also somewhat different from your implied claim that learning an additional language is all about “restricting” onself to one community). There is also an ideology about simply using Esperanto without any traditional goals. Anyhow, the Esperanto community is far less uniform than you seem to imply.

        My impression, though, is that most speakers of Esperanto don’t really care that much about the issue of ideologies, they just want to meet friends. The traditional goal of making Esperanto the dominant second language, by the way, seems to be considered unrealistic by most speakers today. (And the religious philosophy that you mention, plays no role in the Esperanto speech community.)

        Still, I assume that most people, Esperantists and others alike, also those who learn languages because they are interested in grammar (that’s why I learnt Esperanto), can sympathise even with the more traditional “regard other humans as your equals” ideology and the “something is unfair” ideology. And yes, there are situations where it is very frustrating for some of us non-native speakers to use English when dealing with native speakers.

        Reply
        1. Generally well said. a) I have many ideologies (Judaism, Unitarianism, Gardening, Bicyclist and Singing) and push Esperanto in all those groups. Am I diverse? b)Esperanto survived as the sole “artificial language” because of thousands of people like me. b) Other great language are great because of their great ARMIES. Nigel denies the ideologies that keep Esperanto down and Keeps Russian, English, French and German up. c) Esperanto is for those who understand history. The author is unlikely one of them.

          Reply
          1. You epitomize the very people he’s talking about. Arrogant and ideological. And surprise surprise, you’re a “globalist”.

  4. Bismi-Esperanto-al-rahman-al-rahim!

    As the Great Iman of Esperantistan, I issue a fatwa against you. From this moment, you are condemned to a life in Phobistan among barbarians—people who do not speak Esperanto. You have one chance to ask for forgiveness. Do not delay, for Zamenhof is merciful. Amen!

    Enough of jokes. Let’s return to your post. (It is going to be fun!) 😀

    Claim 1: Esperanto has always been a means to a political end.

    Supporting evidence: The bloke who created it, Ludwik Zamenhof, developed a political and religious philosophy…Zamenhof envisaged his made-up, simplified language as facilitating the breaking down of national and religious identity which he despised in his own community…It’s this ideological baggage and taint that’s attached to the language that turns me off it completely.

    My comment: First, I fail to understand, how does it logically follow that Esperanto is a means to a political end just because its founder—who has been dead for nearly a 100 years—had some strange ideas? A more convincing case would be to come up with some numbers or cases where a majority of Esperantists were witnessed actively espousing the Doctor’s philosophy?

    Second, Russian and Chinese were two popular languages among communists during the Cold War. Will you say they are still a means to a political end? How about English?

    Claim 2: Esperantistan is an ideologically homogeneous landscape.

    Supporting evidence: An anecdotal claim on Reddit.

    My comment: I am sorry, mate, but you are wrong here. Big time. I can go on and on, but two cases will suffice.

    Anecdotal evidence: I am private to leftist ideology. I have a paper copy of Quotations of Chairman Mao and I like Marxists.org. (Wait, wait! Do not laugh!) But my girlfriend, whom I met through Esperanto, has clearly told me: “I will never talk to you, if you keep on attending meetings those with your comrades.” An Orthodox Christian taking her revenge on a poor, third-world communist. But she is an Esperantist and a vehemently anti-communist one.

    Lernu Formus: Are you aware Lernu? When you have time, kindly have a look at their forums. You will find plenty of right-wingers there. Really. And that is not all. You will also find discussion on language, grammar, IT, science, the recent decision on same-sex marriage in the U.S. and many other subjects. And in many of these debates, participants show their typical online behavior are virtually at each other’s throats. (http://eo.lernu.net/komunikado/forumo/forumo.php?f=1) People from across the ideological spectrum learn and speak Esperanto. The only issue is their numbers. There must be a few dozen die-hard Buddhists, or a few dozen white supremacists, and a few hundred leftists. These numbers are pathetically small compared to what you will find in a natural language.

    Claim 3: Not only does it have no culture but its adherents are delusional.

    Supporting evidence: Several heavy-weight definitions of culture.

    My comments: I am not in a position to say anything because I do not much about culture, anthropology, and society. 🙁

    Claim 4: Esperanto evangelists aren’t just passionate – they’re fanatical.

    Supporting evidence: Some anecdotes.

    My comments: You are probably right here.

    And before I run out of space, I will say I somewhat agree with your claims 5 and 6.

    So it is 4-2. You win hands down.

    (Sorry for typos. I typed like crazy!)

    Reply
    1. You’ve rebutted my anecdotal evidence with your own anecdotal evidence. 🙂

      Yes the founder has been dead for a century but the point of what I wrote is that his ideals live on in the community to this day. In fact, if its ideological motivation was gone then I don’t think Esperanto would continue to survive as strongly as it has.

      Russian and Chinese were popular among communists true but they’re natural languages not created for the sole purpose of fulfilling a political vision. Not really fair to compare them to Esperanto.

      I don’t disagree with you at all that there are right wingers who learn Esperanto. I mentioned that in the post. I wish there was an international survey of all Esperanto speakers done so we had actual data to talk about instead of anecdotes but I’m not aware of any.

      If you can link to studies that would be awesome.

      Thanks for keeping the response positive! 🙂

      Reply
      1. Do not overlook Lernu!-forums.

        Russian, Chinese, and many other natural languages have been modified to support a political agenda. Turkey changed it script to signal a break with the past. (political) Hindustani was artificially divided into Hindi and Urdu to please some zealots. (political) Mandarin characters simplified because someone thought it would increase literacy. (political) The way people in the U.S. spell (realize, color, plow) is clearly political.

        I think, anything that is not in vogue is classified as political. Being a gay right activist in the U.S. was a political act before the Supreme Court’s decision there. Now, being an anti-gay is a political act and homosexuals are normal.

        Finally, I will have to look up some studies. Wish me luck!

        And Happy Friendship Day.

        Reply
    2. Lernu’s forums are a joke. The self-important Queen of Lernu (my title for her) and her Minions are some of the most intolerant thugs i’ve seen in online communities in a long time. Erinja (the QoL) HERSELF is responsible for over a dozen people dropping off Lernu, and 3 of them were so disgusted with the attitudes they met being “right-wingers” they have abandoned Esperanto all together. She belittles, condescends to, and is hateful to anyone who expresses conservative (especially Christian conservative) viewpoints. And if that doesn’t work, she just deletes posts she doesn’t like and as last resort, deletes accounts of people who won’t bow to her will.

      Reply
      1. She not only deletes the accounts, she also blocks access to lernu.net. I was one, who was banned there for I don’t even know what. I only defended myself against some offenses from other members – they were not banned, though it was them who had started it all. I don’t regret this site at all.

        Reply
      2. I’m a member of Lernu.net for long time. I’m there really intolerant rigth-winger (at least I hope so).

        Reply
  5. I can’t say I disagree with anything in the post -good work!

    The principle behind the language and culture seems self-defeating – it tries to be unique, yet is based on existing languages, along the lines of saying something like “let’s separate ourselves from other languages and cultures by borrowing things from the languages and cultures we’re trying to separate from.” Or “we want a ‘politically neutral language’” – this implies there’s a political motivation for making the language, not to mention it’s made up of languages that have political ideologies attached to them.

    “I wish I could say I’m sorry but facts don’t care about hurt feelings”
    You’ve been following Ben Shapiro lately, no?

    Reply
    1. Good point.

      A truly neutral constructed language wouldn’t selectively borrow the way that Esperanto does.

      Reply
  6. I don’t mind if people dislike Esperanto or want to criticise it. All I ask ia for them to be fair. Unfortunately you were anything but. I’m not sure why, but for some reason you felt it necessary to throw an insult into every paragraph you wrote. You couldn’t just say that you dislike Esperanto, you had to do your best to imply that everyone who does is some weirdo.

    Secondly, you make a lot of claims and have nothing to back them up. Where did you get the idea that Zamenhof disliked religious tolerance? The whole point of Homaranismo is to promote religious tolerance. The only link you do provide is to a reddit thread where many conservatives show that Esperanto is not composed of left wingers (how is that depressing?).

    What makes you think all Esperantists are the same and they’re all extremists? Have you personally met some? Have you gone to meetups? Have you read online forums? Where is this coming from?

    There are valid criticisms of Esperanto that can be made, but unfortunately this post doesn’t contain any.

    Reply
    1. I entirely agree with what Robert said. I’m always surprised to see people wasting so much time writing long articles against something that harms nobody and I find this rant particularly arrogant and disrespectful. If you think Esperanto speakers are “ideological clones”, you really should ask people who use it. Esperantists disagree about everything, including Esperanto itself. And, believe it or not, Esperanto is not “100% ideologically motivated”. Many people learn it and use it for the community, to travel, to learn about other cultures, to make friends, not for an ideology. The “cultish offshoot of Judaism” you talk about is, I assume, homaranismo; the huge majority of Esperanto speakers don’t care about it at all.

      I find this part particularly offensive: “Outside of a few crackpots who decided to turn their kids into circus acts by raising them with Esperanto as a first language.” I have met quite a few native Esperanto speakers and calling them “circus acts” is really insulting. One of my best friends speaks Esperanto as a first language (as well as the language of her country) and she’s very happy her parents made this choice.

      You apparently do not want to understand that Esperanto is a language. A real living language that people use to talk, sing, tell jokes, gossip, love and argue, not for an “ideology” or a “cult”.

      Reply
      1. You’re surprised to see people writing long articles expressing their opinion and responding to questions you mean.

        I get asked what I think and here are my thoughts on the matter. If that offends you, I wish I could say I’m sorry.

        Raising your kids to speak Esperanto as a first language is cruel. How are you benefiting their future by doing that?

        It’s a sad case of crackpot parents forcing their political beliefs on toddlers (no different to parents who involve their young kids in anti-abortion rallies or gay rights protests for example). No advantage to the child whatsoever other than to show the world how devoted they are to a movement. Very unfair.

        First language development is such an important period of a human’s life and to deprive somebody of natural language development for incredibly selfish reasons disgusts me.

        Reply
        1. “You’re surprised to see people writing long articles expressing their opinion and responding to questions you mean.”

          What is surprising is that many rants about Esperanto are surprisingly angry and rarely well-informed. You have a very warped vision of “the community” that doesn’t match anything I’ve seen in real life.

          You apparently don’t want to understand. Esperanto is not just “a movement”, it is first and foremost a language.

          “First language development is such an important period of a human’s life and to deprive somebody of natural language development for incredibly selfish reasons disgusts me.”

          It may be. But it’s irrelevant, because nobody is depriving anyone of “natural language development”. 100% of native Esperanto speakers are at least bilingual.

          Reply
        2. We need more native Esperanto-speakers – parents who create them are to be honoured, not shot down. Esperanto is the best language for a child to speak.

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          1. The more comments like this I read, the more creeped out I become by the Esperanto community. It’s downright cultish.

  7. I don’t mind at all if you don’t learn Esperanto. You are the one missing out. You remind me of a man who said he would never use a mobile phone / cell phone. On the basis of dubious principles he turns uo to meetings which have been cancelled.

    I suspect that you are intelligent enough tom see the flaws in your own arguments, and I wish you well.

    Reply
    1. I’m intelligent enough to see the flaws in Esperanto and its politics.

      Thanks for the well wishes.

      Reply
  8. I wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of Esperantists are on the political left, as you say, and I agree the movement is political, that’s not a secret. But neither point is objectively bad, nor a good enough reason to dismiss the whole project as you seem to have done.

    For most of this piece you imply Esperanto is aimed at creating a monoculture. As far as I know it’s quite the opposite. It was always intended as an auxiliary, not a replacement primary language. You do say as much towards the end of the piece, that Esperanto was supposed to be “the lingua franca with no baggage or bias”, and then claim that English serves this role. So there is no bias involved in the massive advantage handed to native English speakers at birth over the rest of the world? What percentage of non-native speakers that you have met in your life do you think actually achieve the same level as a native, really? Very very few. The rest are at a disadvantage for life in education, travel, career, culture, personal prestige, you name it. Those that do attain a good level have to invest a great deal of time and resources into acquiring it. Simply put, that’s not fair.
    And then there’s the baggage. I would argue Esperanto’s lack of culture is precisely one of it’s main strengths. When used as auxiliaries, languages with cultures are inevitably assimilators. If you don’t like monocultures or the death of minority languages, then the growing dominance of English should be a cause for concern. Nothing against the Anglophone culture, but I don’t want it to be the only one alive in Europe or the world in 200 years time, and I think there is a genuine risk of that happening. Just look at the history of Irish, or consider the near future prospects of Dutch.

    Esperanto offers an alternative that is at the very least worth talking about – you are doing that here, but really not in a way that objectively weighs its pros and cons. I get it that people telling you that you have to learn a language are just as distasteful as people telling you to practice a certain religion or dress a certain way. And I can also agree that claiming Esperanto will save the world is probably a bit over the top. But I think the core principle of the movement is eminently good – a level, easy to reach playing field for all in international communication. If you think that’s far left extremism then I don’t know what to say.

    Reply
    1. You’ll never have a truly fair lingua franca. There will always be people who are at an advantage in the world. Completely unavoidable.

      Any attempt to stop this will just result in new advantages and disadvantages.

      And as I’ve alluded to in the post above, Esperanto (like all far left political movements in general) claims to be all for cultural and religious diversity and yet is totally, culturally ignorant and intolerant of non-conformity. Looking at the vision of Zamenhof himself, he only valued diverse identities where they aligned with his warped beliefs and you see this ‘fake tolerance’ alive in their community today.

      So yeah, it is extremism.

      Reply
      1. I enjoy Esperanto as a language and am learning it because it interests me but I reject its political aims and, frankly, have no real interest in the beliefs of Zamenhof or the man himself.

        I think if there is one good thing about Esperanto it is that it is a great confidence booster for the aspiring language learner, like myself, who had previously believed that they would never be able to pick up any other language. I specifically picked it up because I had an interest in Agglutination and Agglutinative languages, specifically Basque, and Hungarian, but also Quechua, Nahuatl and others as well, and wanted to get a grasp on how they functioned, while Esperanto is certainly more liberal in it’s rules than these I found that I very much enjoy this aspect of the language and my interest in natural agglutinative languages has only grown.

        As an aside, I actually like Esperanto’s lack of culture or ties to a culture, this may be something that isn’t even a peripheral concern to most people, but I feel more free to use Esperanto for my own purposes (in music/art or whathaveyou) without fear of being accused of “cultural appropriation” than I would if I were to try to learn and subsequently use Navajo or another Indigenous North American langauge. That could just be a side affect of the culture of my own country though.

        I’ll grant that many new Esperanto learners (Komencantoj) are likely drawn by Zamenhof’s utopian ideas and overall the Esperanto community may lean left, even strongly left. I’ll also grant that in any group you’ll find those who wish to exist in something of a personal ideological echo-chamber but in my own, albeit somewhat limited, experience I’ve not encountered this intolerance for ideological non-conformity that your anecdote describes. I’ve seen the recent ruling on gay marriage in America debated vigorously, and more or less civilly, by both sides of the issue on Lernu.net without the those who oppose gay marriage for any reason being ostracized or banned from posting on the forum, when I last checked it was 14 pages long. I suppose any anecdote could have an anecdote to the contrary, though, so I certainly won’t discount another persons experiences.

        Reply
      2. Wow, I didn’t expect to see so much vitriol coming from Donovan.

        I can see your points, and clearly you’ve put a lot of time into them, but your arguments are undermined by insults. Sometimes you might not be aware that you’re making them:

        > Esperanto (like all far left political movements in general)

        So, conlang Esperanto is a “far left political movement”? Come on; the majority of the 1.2 million Esperanto learners on Duolingo, for example, are not ideologically motivated. Talk to them and see:
        https://www.duolingo.com/course/eo/en/Learn-Esperanto-Online

        > is totally, culturally ignorant and intolerant of non-conformity.

        If Esperantist speakers are really so similar, have so many shared values, customs and ideas because they are “ideological clones” etc, you are undermining your own argument that there is no Esperanto culture. But I don’t really understand your point about culture anyways: everyone already has a culture, why would I *have* to learn another language for another culture? Even if Esperanto had no culture with it – not knowing much of Esperanto, I don’t know if this is true or not – I don’t see why this would be an impediment to learning it, or not make it a “real” language. Not sure why you think “natural languages” are the be-all and end-all in language; there is no reason why a conlang can’t be fun or useful.

        > So yeah, it is extremism.

        Hmm, so you’ve described its learners as “fanatics” and now the language itself is “extremism”? It’s just a language, Donovan. Do you even recognize how irrational you are being – and maybe a little fanatical about this yourself? Maybe check your hatred at the door next time before publishing a blog post.

        Best thing: go out and meet some Esperanto learners, like I did. In my experience they are a diverse bunch, even ideologically.

        I normally appreciate your blog, just had to come out of the woodwork to say something here. With love,

        Reply
    2. Interesting that you say that being a native speaker is an advantage. I’m not so sure – I know a number of non- native speakers who kinda like having a “home” private language and a language of work and commerce.

      Unless you believe that learning languages places you at a disadvantage- in which case you might be on the wrong forum…

      Reply
    3. I have never felt a greater desire for mutual respect/multiculturalism than at the 50 or so larger Esperanto events with about 20.000 participants that I was present in. Well said John.

      Reply
  9. I thought that Esperanto was bad because it`s just Polish with an Italian make up and it`s grammar and phonology are just unfit for a real international language, but boy the issue was deeper than that. Thanks for letting me know Donavan.

    Reply
  10. Well, there are good things about Esperanto. So it’s not as negative as you wrote. I studied Esperanto and got a basic level until I went to an Esperanto meeting. It seemed like a religion to me.

    Reply
    1. Yep. I think a lot of people get the same feeling that it’s like a religion.

      Reply
  11. Something tells me that if you had to choose one IAL to support (hypothetical situation so no picking ‘none of the above’) it would be Novial.

    Reply
      1. Reading your reasons for not liking Esperanto I get the feeling you would be somewhat drawn to its lack of a political goal and inter-IAL bad blood, and that it was developed by the linguist Otto Jespersen who I’m sure you’re familiar with.

        He wrote the following about the concept of an interlanguage in general:

        “An objection which is often raised against constructed languages is that they can never be as good as natural languages. It is true that our Interlanguage is not as rich as English, not as elegant as French, not as vigorous as German, not as beautiful as Italian, not as full of nuances as Russian, not as “homelike” as our mother-tongue. But note this well, that all these good qualities, which one appreciates and praises in the national languages, are found only when they are spoken or written by natives. And the Interlanguage may very well be richer than the English spoken by a Frenchman, more elegant than French as spoken by a Dane, more vigorous than the German of some Italians, more beautiful than the Italian of the English, more full of nuances than the Russian of Germans, and more homelike than my own tongue spoken by Russians. And as our language is an auxiliary language, it can only be compared fairly with natural languages as spoken by foreigners; and then neither Ido nor Novial need feel ashamed of itself.”

        Reply
  12. Esperanto is available on Duolingo :p

    Reply
  13. “He also quite intolerantly spoke of free religious expression as a ‘barbarity’.”

    Citation needed. If you’re quoting his homaranismo work, he actually said:

    “Every offense or persecutions of people because they belong to a different ethnicity, with a different language or religion, I regard it as a barbarity.”
    “Every attempt of a person to impose their language or religion to other people when it is not absolutely necessary, I regard it as a barbarity.”

    The quotes make it clear that the barbarity is the interference with the free expression of religion, not the expression itself.

    Your characterization of Zamenhof is exaggerated but not wrong for the most part. You are wrong, though, to suggest that modern Esperanto and its community (let’s avoid the loaded word “culture”) exists wholly or even mainly to perpetuate his homaranismo ideals. His religious thinking died with him and barely any Esperantists follow it sincerely.

    There is certainly an ideological agenda in Esperanto that cannot be separated from the community as a whole — that the language can in fact be used to cross cultural and lingusitic barriers. A lot of Esperantists speak it for that reason. Others, like me, use it for personal amusement and to make friends without having any interest in some kind of political movement.

    Finally, I’m not sure which Esperantists you’ve been talking to, but I have no trouble believing that you heard crazy claims about it from the most zealous of the zealous. They don’t speak for all of us. We’re weird, but not crazy.

    Reply
  14. And the issue of discrimination, equal opportunities, economic cost, etc?
    Esperanto is the tenth expensive in time and money to learn. It is far less discriminatory by nationality and income, language immersion in a particular culture is not necessary.
    Who will pay me 60,000 euros for a monolingual English private school with native teachers for each child? Will you be?
    Read “Rapport Grin” and “Propaedeutic value of Esperanto”. You have a new course of Esperanto in Duolingo, it is free.

    Reply
  15. I’m a little unclear on what’s so bad about Zamenhof’s (and thus Esperanto’s) “ideology”. People getting along, talking to each other? (Cats and dogs living together?) It just doesn’t seem like something to be feared.

    Reply
  16. I really disagree not giving Esperanto a chance based on its old political agenda. I’ve met many people who speak Esperanto because they are language learners and it is in fact a language. As far as culture, I hope it’s known that there are people in this world who’s first language is Esperanto and to say they have no culture is uncalled for. Comparing its origins from the 1800’s to today is wrong on many levels. If the language doesn’t interest you- or if you cannot learn it in a month or so, say that. But don’t poke at issues which go much further than needed.

    Reply
  17. While on the topic of constructed languages, do you have any opinion on Toki Pona?

    Reply
  18. I had no idea Esperanto had such deep religious and political roots.
    As far as a constructed languages is concerned I think that it’s a nice idea to have a language without all the inconveniences which have little value, such as gender and the subjunctive. However, I think you’re right that any such language will never naturally become widely spoken due to it being artificial. There’s an interesting story of a man who taught his son Klingon as his first language. They spoke it exclusively at home but after a few years his son stopped using it and eventually lost fluency because English was such more useful and widely used.

    Reply
  19. I’ve really enjoyed learning Esperanto and meeting other Esperanto speakers. It has also giving me the confidence to start to learn other languages.

    Reply
  20. You make one or two good points, but I’m afraid most of the text is based in preconceptions.
    Yes, Esperanto originally had a political end, to facilitate fair and easy communication between pople of different cultures and native languages, and that’s what attracts some of us to it. But that’s a large enough point, as to attract people of very different backgrounds.
    In fact, that happened from the beginning, and the first International Congress already emphasized the difference between “Esperantism” (a political end) and the language itself, so that it defined that “Esperantist” is the speaker of the language, independently of their motivation.

    I have many Esperantist friends, and they come of the whole political spectrum. Perhaps in the Western countries there is a majority of left-leaning tendencies, but this is by no means the whole picture.
    I always emphasize this pluralism and even wrote a bog entry about it: http://www.delbarrio.eu/2005/08/el-pluralismo-del-esperanto.htm (in Spanish) to break that myth.

    No, not every Esperantist is an ardent supporter. You will find the most passionate and fanatical in a discussion, just because the ardent supporters are the ones that enter the discussions! (including those of us that take the time to respond to your article 🙂 ) So, non-Esperantists do not get to know the vast majority of Esperantists. It’s obvious.

    Yes, Esperanto has created its own culture, and not just music and literature. I’ve been at an international gathering two weeks ago, with Esperantists friends from a lot of countries, and we get the inner jokes, we understand some internal references. It’s just that non-Esperantists do not have the means to appreciate and even understand it.

    I do not understand your objections about native speakers. None of them speaks Esperanto as their only language, and the picture is quite similar to those children of immigrants that learn the languages of their parents and of the surrounding community at the same time. Do you still think (like people used to assume not so long ago) that this poses a problem for the kids? Actually, it’s just a very enriching experience. I know some of those boys and girls and they are a quite normal group of people (and I know their parents, and your characterization of them as crackpots is indeed not just unjust but quite insulting)

    Finally, as to the failure of Esperanto, it depends on the perspective. Every Esperantist agrees that we have not attained the ultimate goal that everybody would speak it, and that governments would use it at their meetings (in the same sense that you can say that the pacifist movement has failed, because there are still a lot of wars). But the very fact that there’s still a large community of speakers, that the language has created a wealth of culture, and that this has been attained just with the contribution of volunteers, without the support, or even against the will, of governments and big corporations, says something positive about the language itself, and perhaps even deserves a bit of respect

    Reply
  21. I agree on the violin analogy, but about esperanto being used for political agenda is just not true. All the esperantists i know are just hippies who want a world without language barrier.

    Reply
    1. So then it is true.

      Reply
  22. This is the first time in my life I read something like this. My father, in early 50’s was esperantist, he spoke the language fluently, had friends all over the world, and he hated communism. He learnt it, nos for ideological purposes, but for easier access to a language, and cheaper way. I speak Esperanto not for political purpose either, but because I love all languages. I already speak Portuguese (native language) English, Spanish, Esperanto; and I’m learning Catalan, Papiamento, Italian, Swedish, German, Dutch, Albanian and Romenain. I want to learn more in future. Zamenhof wrote the first Esperanto book in 1887 before, communism, before the wars, as Jew, it would be easier for him to create an easier version of Hebrew or Yiddish. What you are saying is: I will or not will learn Arabic because I want to be or not Muslin; I want or not learn French because I love/hate French wine. If my father loved the communism, he would not learn Esperanto, but Russian. Nowaday I should be learning Chinese or North Korean. Your iten 4 is completely non-sense (sorry) I speak Esperanto as I said, and I’m also evangelist, but I don’t know any single person who uses Esperanto as religion, and none who uses the Religion to pray in Esperanto. I have been seen fanatical religious people in all religions, but never heard about a fanaticial religious esperantist/esperantist religious.

    Reply
  23. 1. A means to a political end

    “Esperanto was created to create peace and harmony on Earth. This is deeply sinister and divisive. What if you wanted war and destruction? Esperanto is bad because it would be intolerant of that.”

    (As for “a cultish offshoot of Judaism that looked like something straight out of the Communist Manifesto” — congratulations on cramming so much anti-Semitism between a single pair of parentheses.)

    2. Ideologically homogenous landscape

    “So-and-so went to an Esperanto event, and not a single person agreed with him that Agenda 21 was created by the UN in order to build a giant highway from Mexico to Canada and force us all to learn Arabic and gay-marry. This proves that Esperanto is just a bunch of identical people who won’t listen to different ideas, including such valuable and interesting ideas as ‘All international cooperative projects, like Esperanto, are secretly Communist.’ ”

    3. No culture

    “People say that Esperanto allows them to meet people from different cultures. But, Esperanto is just a bunch of people at meetings who WANT to meet people from different cultures. Does that constitute a culture??? Obviously not!”

    4. Evangelists are fanatical

    “People who are keen on an idea, are keen. Too keen! So emotional, sometimes, that they write poorly-researched blogposts with dumb blanket generalizations in boldface type. Therefore they are emotional, which proves that they are wrong. Therefore the idea is bad.”

    5. It might help, but at the expense of…

    “I have never actually looked at any of the scientific studies.”

    6. Esperanto has failed

    “Esperanto would mean that people wouldn’t be forced to learn the language and culture of their conquerors to get educated, and thus become alienated from their own culture. However, now that they have learnt the language of their conquerors, and all their kids are forced at great expense to speak it haltingly, that means that the conquest wasn’t really that bad and it doesn’t matter now, LOL.”

    Reply
    1. “a cultish offshoot of Judaism” = anti-Semitism?

      Wow. Congrats on making the most moronic comment here.

      I didn’t waste time reading the rest of your comment. I’m sure it was a great read though.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
      1. A pity you didn’t read further, because it *was* a great read. However, you’re right that it’s unfair to level the charge of anti-Semitism against the phrase “a cultish offshoot of Judaism that looked like something straight out of the Communist Manifesto”, when it’s clearly a comparison to early Christianity.

        Reply
  24. About the ideologically homogenous landscape, boy there is no truer complaint! As a long time speaker of Esperanto, I was constantly telling myself that I just hadn’t yet met any of the right leaning (or conservative Christian) Esperantists that just HAD to be out there somewhere.

    But in my latest foray into the “community” (a term I use very lightly now) has proven this idea to be a fantasy:

    (The following is my latest blog post on this subject)
    I will probably be an Esperanto speaker for the rest of my days. I will continue to attend our local meet-up, as long as it continues, if only in support of the others that come.

    I will not be burning any of my Esperanto books, but I will also not be renewing my membership in any Esperanto organizations; I will do no more “varbing,” and my will has been changed to divert all the assets that I had originally steered toward the Esperanto movement (the mid-5-figure range if anyone is interested; sorry, Esperanto-USA and Radio Verda) and give them to other, more worthy, causes.

    You’re probably asking why the sudden attitude change. Well, yesterday saw more knife blades to my back from so-called “samideanoj” and I’m sick of it. The totalitarian attitude of one of the administrators of Lernu.com, and the slanderous language, mockery, and bullying I have received (especially the ones that were posted after yesterday’s blog entry) from other Esperantists around the globe has shown me that the “community” (a term I now use very lightly) is not worthy of any more of my time or money. I wash my hands of it.

    Esperanto had such promise, but alas, the spirit of “more Zamenhof than thou”(no pun intended) not to mention the hypocrisy, arrogance, bigotry, slander, and condemnation I have received in the past few months over a perfectly correct, Zamenhofian, Esperanto word (albeit one that is rarely used, even though it is used in the Ekzercaro and also defined in the Universala Vortaro) has shown me that my time and energy can be put to better use elsewhere.

    I wonder, though……….would the reaction to my use of that perfectly correct Esperanto word have been different had it not been out of religious obligation but out of a sense of equality and tolerance and other such nice liberal buzzwords? I guess that will never be known for sure………however, based on some of the more outrageous comments I read yesterday, I really think it would have. It’s sad, really, that a community of people that touts itself to be oh-so-liberal and tolerant would allow such hatred and intolerance (no matter what the cause) to go unchallenged within its ranks.

    Reply
  25. I think you have some good ideas here and seem to have thought through your feelings on the matter. I am not fluent in Esperanto, but I feel there really is a benefit for the language as a tool for shaping the brain toward multilingualism, or boosting confidence for someone who doesn’t believe they can learn languages. It is a tool that would be better used if classroom instruction were more immersive, but that is another issue.

    I can say that when I studied Esperanto I spent one week on it (I was really just satisfying my curiosity more than anything) and was able to muddle through simple stories and some of the threads on the Lernu forum at the end of that time. I did spend about 60 hours that week working on it, since I tend to go all-in in an obsessive manner on projects like that, but the rate at which I was able to progress was mind boggling. Having simple, unscripted email conversations in a language you knew nothing about a week earlier is a bit of a rush for a language nerd. Admittedly, chasing that rush is probably what allowed me to have such ungodly focus during that week.

    For that reason and that reason alone; the fact that I could literally mop up the details in my spare time within a few months; I may return to it one day. Also for that reason I might would suggest its use as a first acquired language for a child if there was any anticipation of them being a polyglot. That said I would never encourage them to speak it natively, since that negates the benefits I see in it, and I would never encourage anyone to learn it if they had no interest in continuing with other languages.

    But yes, the history and grand claims made by some of the more fanatical should be separated from the language itself, and I feel that as time goes on that is slowly taking place. Internet culture has really started to wash into the online Esperanto communities and dilute some of the ideaology. It is only these communities I have experience with, so your milage may vary if you go to a physical meet up.

    As an add on, I hardly ever participate here but I have been casually following this blog for at least three years or so now. Keep up the great work!

    Reply
    1. There are other reasons to defend Esperanto: 1-leave a better world to future generations, 2-eliminate discrimination by nationality and family income. English as other national and irregular languages, is a factor in employment discrimination, it is proven that the level of English depends on the country where you live and the money spent on learning.
      There is so much to learn Esperanto for its advantages, but put a grain of sand against serious losses of time and money, inefficiency, imposed with other irregular languages. Is fanaticism defend non-discrimination regarding the international language?

      Reply
  26. Hey Donovan,
    I don’t know much about Esperanto nor have I ever met someone who spoke it, so I am not going to comment on this particular subject.
    I wanted however to thank you for coming out so bluntly and strongly with your opinion. It made me think about what I do and how I do it. At first, I thought “Yeah, but he already has a well-established website, so of course he can speak out like that, it’s easier for him”, but then I was still quite bugged by the fact that I would not allow myself to write my opinion as openly as you did yours. That’s not how I see myself. Thinking that I should wait before being able (given the permission ?) to better own my voice / territory / keyboard just isn’t right. Of course, sometimes, it’s wiser to shut up and sometimes it’s just impossible to speak out one’s truths, but most of the time otherwise …
    So again, thank you for the frankness of your article. I am not going to go into details, but you made me decide to “own my voice/territory” much more not only on my beginning website but also in my life in general.

    Reply
    1. Hey Olga.

      Thanks for the comment.

      You should always write your opinion openly and honestly, and not care if it bothers some people. Staying blunt and honest is why people enjoy following my blog.

      At the end of the day, people will respect you for it. Some may hate you (who cares really?) but others will love you.

      Here’s a good quote for you:
      “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”Churchill

      Reply
      1. Well, Churchill would have been proud of you, taking on the Esperanto establishment.

        Reply
  27. When Dr. Zamenhof first thought about creating a language, Poland was inhabited by russians, germans, jews, gypsys, polish, and all of these groups had their own language. He was always concerned about the situation of the jewish people, and an early proponet of zionism, but then he realized that the problem was not about the Abraham’s seed, but instead about the whole of humanity.

    In Germany, Esperanto was the jewish, in Russia the burgueois, in America the communist, and in Iran the baha’i language. Nowadays, the Esperanto Movement fights against a process that will kill, until the end of this century, around 3k languages and dialects, and consequently, myths, native religions, medicines, perceptions about God, the universe, and mankind, “untranslatable” things. Is it about politics? Oh yes, definitely! Is it ideologic? Well, maybe, but what isn’t?

    And, I must tell you that we actually have an authentic culture! It was constructed after many decades of international meetings. We have a vast original literature, rewarded authors and musicians. We have an anthem that glorifies the whole of mankind, and its necessary future of unity and peace (I hope it will come, because if my hopes fail, there’s only one alternative future left, and it is terrible!)

    And and last, you say that “Esperanto has failed and English has succeed”. Well, I think 200 years is not time enough to construct a lingua franca. Specially we lack some kilotons of good arguments 😉

    Reply
    1. I cannot see how Esperanto can help with saving the dying languages. Esperanto is a destructive totalitarian pseudo-religious sect. It is evil, and it is a common knowledge that Evil cannot create. Esperanto itself it not a fair creation, it is a perversion of European languages.

      The real languages, such as English, give you tangible (and also real) benefits. Esperanto just kills your soul.

      Reply
      1. Hi Elhana, congratulations for being several orders of magnitude more idiotic than this article!

        I mean, seriously, “Esperanto kills your soul” is brilliantly insane.

        Reply
        1. Funny how that’s what strikes you as crazy, and not “Esperanto will unite all of mankind in everlasting harmony”.

          Reply
  28. I speak Esperanto, I´m not an Esperantist, the same way that speaking italian doesn´t make you an Italianist or whatever. it is just a system you use to communicate with others. A very efficient one btw. (It took me 3 months to get fluency back in 2001 and it allows me to say everything I could think of).

    I love Esperanto being the size it is right now, if it goes mainstream, it would loose all the good things it provides today: free accommodation in pretty much every country in this planet; annual meetings where you re encounter old friends. Yes!! you are able to ignore people you don´t like, you know that?.

    My point is that after 15 years I have encounter NONE of the situations that you mention in your post. I never had a religious based conversation in Esperanto, not even once. I actually never heard a religious conversation in Esperanto. I´m not jewish and actually I think I don´t know more than 10 jewish guys within Esperanto and if they are, I guess I´ll never find out, (if that somehow makes a difference to you).

    It´s just people like you and me who have interests, hobbies, jobs, very different backgrounds and most probably are into languages.
    Me and my friends created the Esperanto football team 3 years ago, I´m the captain of the team and we play official international matches once a year with other teams related to the NF Board, it´s so much fun. What I´m trying to say is that you can do pretty much what you want to do with it and no one will ever say anything to you.

    I don´t know, your post is all wrong, man. And if I didn´t know about Esperanto, I would probably agree with you, you write well and I guess no one could really tell about your ignorance about the real facts of Esperanto because it does look like you know what you are talking about.

    I mean, that´s ok, people will hate things without really knowing the details, I´m ok with that, I´m not trying to convince you to change your mind, actually you do look like those fanatic “esperantists” but the other way around.

    You just have a very negative vision of something you don´t really know, I think that´s not the first or last time that´ll happen. But the fact that you actually wrote a super extensive post to explain why you DON´T want to do something, doesn´t make much sense to me. I would never spend an afternoon gathering information to inform people why I won´t get into a specific activity. Lol!

    Therefore, my impression is that you are just like the guys no one likes within Esperanto, you try to convince others that Esperanto is evil and not good for anybody, that´s the exact same thing fanatic esperantists do but the other way around, they try to convince people to learn esperanto.

    Do you see how this is hilarious? a neutral guy who doesn´t give a damn what you do with your life would never try to convince anybody to make a particular decision. If you did speak Esperanto you would be the kind of douche that would write a super extensive post to convince you to learn Esperanto. lol again!

    Conclusion:
    You are just an extreme Yin , being a fanatic esperantist an extreme Yang.

    That´s all it really comes down to.
    I´m sorry, mate.

    Good luck!

    Reply
    1. Well said, Gonzalo ! What you wrote pretty much sums up my feelings on this post. Thanks!

      Reply
    2. “You spent a long time writing a negative article about something I like? Well that just proves you’re stupid. Here, let me write a long rambling comment about how you’re wrong. Self-awareness? What’s that?”

      Enjoy your cult. And making up stories about how great your life is on the internet.

      Reply
  29. I’m just worried about two things.

    Such bad ideas are uttered by someone who majored in Applied Linguistics. Seemingly you have no idea what a language really is.

    Your lack of critical thinking might severely affect your relationship with those Arabic speakers or those who listen from you about the Arabic world.

    Please don’t learn my language, Korean. I don’t want my language ruined by such a horrible mind.

    Reply
    1. For an Arabic or a Korean learning Esperanto is easier to learn English, from any point of view: time, money, neutrality.
      What could be more neutral and use words still Arab and Asian languages (and Americans, Australians, …)? Yes, but we are comparing existent languages are: English – Esperanto with and behind a culture, literature, translation, music, etc.
      Esperanto is better than English in all respects but one: number of speakers. But it takes longer and costs more money than they all learn English than they learn Esperanto all. Moreover, all new born human from now do not know English or Esperanto, and costs everyone less time and less money to learn Esperanto than English.
      Esperanto discriminates more to Korean than to Western European, but English discriminates much more, 10 times more than the difference in time learning from each other. Please, read in Wikipedia the Propaedeutic value of Esperanto.

      Reply
  30. Not an uninteresting article, but I do agree with most of the points you raise.

    It might just be that my personal experience as an Esperantist (have just been one for a little over a year now) is limited, but I have so far found very little ideological fanaticism. Instead I’ve found friendly people sharing a linguistic interest, more than anything. I haven’t spoken to anyone so far who even believes in the “fina venko” (final victory; when the whole world speaks Esperanto as a second language—I do admit that term sounds a bit cult-like and I don’t like it very much but I think it is misleading and perhaps mostly used ironically); certainly not its likelihood, and probably not its desirability.

    And I do think English has not yet succeeded as a lingua franca in the sense that, as far as I can tell, it has not given equal opportunity to all. When you speak to, for example, many Asians (let’s say speakers of Mandarin Chinese or Japanese), you will find that their English is usually very limited. I’ve met several Chinese people who have such a hard time with the language, that they just cannot keep up in western international settings. It’s true that Esperanto probably also is less easy for people with linguistic backgrounds other than Romance, Germanic, and to a lesser extent Slavic languages, but it is still easier than English, for them too.

    Anyway, those considerations—allowing everyone to have equal opportunity in the internationalized world—are why I am in favor of a universal lingua franca. I understand your argument that we’re losing languages, and that is unfortunate (although I personally tend not to feel as bad about it so long as they are first described scientifically/linguistically), but that’s another aspect of the story. The idea of Esperanto, at any rate, is of course that it would merely be a second language—peoples would still have their own primary language(s).

    I will have to think a bit more about your arguments about culture. I agree that there’s more to culture than food and clothing and music. Personally, my argument would sooner be that the lack of culture can be a selling point for Esperanto, but this depends on each person’s individual perspective, of course. I myself learn languages out of linguistic and esthetic interest, not for cultural reasons. Not even to talk to people, per se.

    As for your fifth point about it not saving time… for me the most valuable thing Esperanto did in my language-learning pursuits was that it showed me that it is indeed possible to learn a wholly new language from scratch to a conversational level. Sure, it won’t be this quick again with other, more difficult languages, but that’s just a quantitative difference. I was getting a bit frustrated and demotivated by my lack of success after many years of trying to learn, for example, Japanese. This feeling has been diminished by my success at Esperanto, and I feel more confident now. The same is true for my fear at actually starting to speak a new language. I am looking forward to getting back to other languages once I feel I am sufficiently fluent in Esperanto.

    I might be confirming your idea that Esperantists are argumentative etc. (I do hope you weren’t trying to poison the well), but I hope it’s alright in this setting for me to speak out a little, given that you yourself were making arguments in your post. Of course, I do think it’s fine if you’re not interested in learning the language yourself; I’m just sharing my personal opinions.

    Even though, as I said, I don’t agree with most of what you wrote, I’m still appreciative of (most parts of) your post. Thank you for writing it.

    Reply
    1. Oops, I made a critical typo in that first paragraph. It should have been “disagree”. I apologize.

      Reply
  31. I agree with many of your points on Esperanto but I’ve never really understood why it gets criticized for not having a culture? If a language was invented as a easier means of international communication, then shouldn’t it try to be culturally nuetral?

    Reply
  32. You do realise that sooner or later, you were going to get a real anthropologist here who COULD and would critique your cherry picking and non-contextual use of definitions of culture.

    So here I am.

    PhD from ANU in Canberra. Been working as an anthropologist (paid) for almost 20 years. Oh, and I speak an agglutinative Australian Aboriginal language. Something most ‘language’ enthusiasts wouldn’t dare to try – they can’t be bothered living in a remote area.

    I can accept that you don’t want to waste your time learning Esperanto. No qualms there.

    However, I do want to take exception with your use of the term ‘culture’ to advance your argument.

    You appear to be attempting to claim two things: that esperanto has no ‘culture’ and that it is suspended in some kind of cultural vacuum.

    Really?

    Esperanto is both a product of culture AND a sub-culture. How can it be anything else? It arose at a certain point in time, was ‘authored by’ and informed by the culture in which it arose. It is a cultural artefact that does not exist in a vacuum, but, like other forms of cultural knowledge, interacts with, negotiates and operates within tropes, flows, rules and norms of the cultural contexts in which its speakers/adherents are situated.

    That is still exists today means that it is negotiated through the contemporary cultural contexts of its speakers/fans/adherents. It is, like any other language, EMBEDDED in culture.

    I would argue STRONGLY that there is a culture associated with it (PhDs have been written on this) using the definitions you’ve wheeled out.

    The definitions themselves are broad. Think about that. Re-read the quotes you’ve used then go away and think a little more deeply about this.

    Let’s think about what culture is and how it is used politically at many levels by THE SAME individuals who claim membership to multiple cultures. Am I Australian (yes)? Am I female (yes)? Am I a Northern Territorian (yes?) am I an atheist (yes)? Do I identify with these groups who have readily definable “…shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs, and affective understanding that are learned through a process of socialization. These shared patterns identify the members of a culture group while also distinguishing those of another group.” Yes

    Can we identify those groups to which I have said I am a member using the definition you quoted?

    Yes, of course we can.

    The ultimate use of culture by humans (feel free to read Geertz or whomever) is say who is IN and who is OUT. No big deal. The things (the artefacts) are those unique properties that give a particular culture its uniqueness.

    Sorry, but Esperanto HAS a culture. You’ve actually identified some of the unique parts of it in your critique. I’ll leave you to figure it out. Like culture itself, they’re slippery. They’re not ‘in your face’. They’re subtle and sophisticated.

    But they ARE there. You’ve actually spelled a few of them out.

    There is one other point that I’d like to discuss. The dominant political/ideological force in the west is ‘right’ wing conservatism. You seem to be a little upset that in one subculture, there are people of the opposite ideo-political position. Apart from overlooking that this is indeed an artefact of Esperanto culture, I find it amusing.

    True ‘right’ wing conservatism does not exist. It cannot exist. It’s a fallacy, antithetical to human culture, and antithetical to one most important reason that humans exist today: cultures change. Always. Every day.

    To be human is to adapt and change.

    If we were truly social and political conservatives, we would all be extinct.

    Reply
  33. You aren’t obligated to learn any language. I just wonder why you felt it was necessary to defend your personal choice. Some of your arguments are accurate, but most are only approximately true, but it really doesn’t matter. It’s your thought process, to which you are entitled.

    Esperanto has not and probably will not achieve the goal that Dr. Zamenhof had in mind, so you are partly right that it is a failure in that sense. However, making up a language that actually has native speakers is quite an accomplishment. There are more Wikipedia pages in Esperanto than in Danish, and there are more books in Esperanto than in Icelandic. William Auld was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999, 2004, and 2006 for works in Esperanto.

    To borrow a turn of phrase, Esperanto failed at being a floor wax, but it turned out to be a great desert topping. So it is not only a failure, it is a huge success. However, you don’t want to learn it, and that’s okay.

    Reply
    1. “You aren’t obligated to learn any language.” FALSE, If you want to work in education, tourism, culture, … you do not hire if you do not know English at high level, that is discriminatory by nationality and income. In the EU it goes against the fundamental rights of citizens (art. 21 and 22). Esperanto language helps reduce all these drawbacks to impose English, French, Spanish or Chinese.

      Reply
      1. You said, “If you want to work in…” and that’s what I mean. Essentially, you said that the requirement to learn any given language is contingent on other choices. If he chooses not to live in Punjab, he doesn’t need to learn Punjabi. If he chooses to live in Esperantia [grin], or if he chooses to do things that require Esperanto, then he needs to learn Esperanto. Otherwise, it’s just his personal choice. One of the nice things about Esperanto is that as an auxiliary language, unlike national languages, you don’t have to learn it if you don’t want to.

        Reply
  34. Mi tre amas Esperantan lingvon. Mi ankaŭ legis viajn vortojn kaj kredas ke vi havas vian kredon.

    Mi ne estas la unua ulo kiu esperantiĝas sen kredi la tutan filozofion. Fakte, Esperanto estas lingvo. Vi ne devas akcepti nenion se vi vere volas uzi la lingvon.

    Mi uzi kaj tre ĝojas la lingvan sperton. Mi nun faras la multanojn kurso de Boris Kolker kaj estas tre kontente kun la libro kaj lecionoj.

    Ĝis.

    Reply
    1. Mi estas komencanto, sed mi povas legi vian poŝton.

      Reply
    2. As a native speaker of English, I learned to read, write and speak English at a fairly high level as a maximum-security prisoner by doing pro se legal work in federal civil-rights actions. (See, e.g., Pratt v. Sumner, 807 F.2d 817 (9th Cir. 1987).) I studied classical logic for the sake of analyzing and tearing down the arguments of my opponents’ government attorneys. I am not impressed by ranting. As a form of argumentum ad hominem, the argument that I am not worthy of the laws of the group, of the country, and that I am only worthy of the exceptions to the protections of the law, was the constant drivel that I heard leveled at me and at all members of my class, both then and now.
      I have given up on law. I understand that no law book ever jumped off a shelf and stopped anyone from doing anything. I understand that the law only takes on its life through people. There are good people who do good things, and there are bad people who do bad things, and the law is largely irrelevant.
      I was raised in Nevada near Las Vegas, and I am very aware that I lack a culture. I have visited some culturally rich cities and lived in them for a while (such as the Bay area in California), and I am very conscious that the culture that I grew up in–with its casinos, cops, mobsters, whores, politicians and Mormons–is not much of a culture.
      I am interested in learning foreign languages like Mandarin to get a better understanding of China’s rich and ancient gems of internal martial arts. I am interested in learning Spanish as a matter of personal mobility in a world where one sixth of the world speaks Spanish. I am interested in learning Russian as a growing and important force in international commerce and personal opportunities. I would even give Hindi the same consideration.
      However, I am interested in Esperanto for a very practical reason: it is the only language with high-level speakers, readers and writers in virtually every corner of the globe. Although Esperanto does not have the same large number of functionally illiterate native speakers of English that can be boasted of in the United States, any good speaker and writer of Esperanto is going to have a better conversation. English may be more useful, in a practical sense, but a conversation in Esperanto, especially in writing, may be more enjoyable.
      Hundreds of thousands of new Esperanto speakers, readers and writers are being hatched right now. It is an exciting time to learn Esperanto.
      Ironically, I have entertained similar negative views about a language as the blog author has of Esperanto — but precisely about the language that he loves: Arabic. I have violent feelings about learning or respecting a language used by mass murderers of Christians. (As a white maximum-security ex-con, I am no stranger or saint in the world of racism, even though I now disavow racism as a Christian.) I do not know that I will ever learn Arabic. But, most likely, I will do so a little when I meet my first Arabic friend who converses in Esperanto.

      Reply
  35. I cannot see how Esperanto can help with saving the dying languages. Esperanto is a destructive totalitarian pseudo-religious sect. It is evil, and it is a common knowledge that Evil cannot create. Esperanto itself it not a fair creation, it is a perversion of European languages.

    The real languages, such as English, give you tangible (and also real) benefits. Esperanto just kills your soul.

    Reply
    1. The idea of Esperanto “saving” small/dying languages is based on the premise of enough people speaking Esperanto as an auxiliary language for it to be usable worldwide, which I certainly grant is not very likely. If people could learn Esperanto instead of being pressured to learn (say) English, then English-speaking culture wouldn’t come to dominate and eventually erase local cultures and languages….that’s the thought, anyway.
      Naturally, since Esperanto doesn’t aim to *replace* anyone’s “real” language, it won’t steal your soul or deprive you of the nourishment you get from English (personally, as a native English speaker, I love our crazy language and the etymologies and histories of the words and sayings, etc.)
      I won’t address your claim that Esperanto constitutes a “destructive totalitarian pseudo-religious sect” because it’s too far from what I recognize as reality for me to be able to say anything meaningful to you about it. Historically, it’s been Esperantists who have died at the hands of destructive totalitarian regimes, not the other way around.

      Reply
      1. And die again they shall if they ever try to impose their ideology en masse. Communists were also killed by totalitarian regimes. But look at the regimes the communists themselves created when they got into power. You’ll get no sympathy from me.

        Reply
    2. Nice to read a thought-out, nuanced opinion for a change.

      /sarcasm

      Reply
    3. This statement is too extreme to be true: “Esperanto is a destructive totalitarian pseudo-religious sect. It is evil, and it is a common knowledge that Evil cannot create. Esperanto itself it not a fair creation, it is a perversion of European languages”

      It can’t’ be evil, because it created. William Auld was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize in Literature for his Esperanto-language works.

      I think someone needs to cool down and meet some real esperantists.

      Reply
  36. Well it’s up to you. The problem is your diagnosis of its political motivations are hopelessly outdated. Like everything else in culture almost all political content (or political content that doesn’t reflect the currently dominant ideology) has been almost entirely stripped away. There was indeed a time when Esperanto had even been adopted by a worker’s movement, though that was not part of the regular Esperanto movement which was about as political as a harvest festival.

    Your ‘many Englishes’ argument is spurious too. I hear this so often and from so many alleged ‘linguists’ who ought to know better. In truth English only functions as some kid of bloc when the differences are skated over. The places where it is a first language have quite a few differences, but not enough to create a barrier. On the other hand in places where it has fairly deep roots and is spoken relatively well, like India, there is still too much difference for it to be comparable to standard English. The grave mistake so often made is in accepting as the truth the myth that the world speaks English. The standard of English throughout Europe (the usual example given of ‘good English’ as a second language) ranges from good to fair to chronic to non-existent, at 5%, 45%, 25%, 25% respectively. The brute lies repeated about the level of English competence throughout the world sometimes beggars belief. The situation currently gives native English speakers the whip-hand in so many international arenas. Anyone promoting this situation is really a menace to international development. Particularly since its basis is utterly false.

    Personally I’m not all that interested in the alleged ‘special culture’ of Esperanto, but what you’ve missed is that Esperanto somehow manages to allow you to speak with many people in a way that helps you see their cultural position, without having to learn ten or more languages. You won’t get to see this because you’re too afraid to have a go at it. That watery McCarthyism of yours, which makes you see the word ‘Esperanto’ as ‘Communist’ (not that the latter is particularly if a person is not drenched in 90 years of U.S. propaganda) does you no credit.

    Reply
    1. Strongly agreed! Well stated.

      Reply
  37. Totally ill-informed diatribe. Almost every assertion quoted as “fact” has no basis other than the writer’s personal prejudices. What is there to say in reply?

    The biggest error is the frankly ludicrous claim about “Esperantistan” being “ideologically homogeneous”. By his own admission, Donovan has not learned Esperanto and will never learn it. How then can he make a judgement about the Esperanto community and its imagined “ideology”?

    Of course, there are a minority of fanatics and proselytisers among Esperanto enthusiasts, and presumably Donovan has met some of them and based his views on his dealings with them. He quite obviously hasn’t met the majority of enthusiasts – particularly from other countries who don’t have English as a language – who have no interest in ideology of any kind, but simply enjoy being part of a world-wide community.

    Esperanto speakers are the most diverse group of people you could wish to meet, united chiefly by an acceptance of diversity. That is something that Donovan Nagel could learn from, before criticising something of which he clearly has a poor knowledge.

    Reply
    1. I agree. He may as well have addressed the local trumpet club about why he isn’t going to learn the trumpet, without even knowing anything about trumpets or trumpeters. The entire concept of the article is foolish beyond belief.

      Reply
  38. Sorry, I take no offense to these views, nor am I a passionate believe in Esperanto as a solution for anything but here are my blunt words in response too: A childish rant that confuses a language with a political movement, and culture that it denies exists.

    So to clarify:

    1) By all means, don’t learn it. Heck don’t learn Klingon either. Or Swahili. Who really cares? And who, do you need to inform about the grand decision not to learn something? Just curious.

    2) I can guess at answers to 1, and they suggest soapboxing in response to a lamentable culture behind Esperanto, the thing in point 3 you deny exists. Phewey, it has one, and yep it’s full of extremists and nutters and it sucks. Just get your message clear. But you don’t like it and are railing against it. Fair enough. That says nothing about learning the language, and is like saying I won’t read that danged bible because Christians are all nutters … a fair comment and not one I’m inherently critical of, just unrelated issues is all. Who really cares? Read it or don’t, but you might choose to read because Christians are nutters …

    3) Point 5 is just wrong. Ill conceived and foolish and not at all what experience suggest what research suggests. You seem literally to be unaware of the fact that you can speak this language (and any constructed language) with what, two weeks invested effort. If you think you can’t you haven’t really tried. In fact when I discovered a strong interest in language and wanted to learn one, I had Spanish or French or Chinese or Japanese in mind, and someone told me about Esperanto, promised in 10 lessons I could read with a a little help form a pocket dictionary for vocab and rapidly be consulting it less and less so that withing 2 months you could mostly do without it. 5 hours invested effort? I though, heck, if I can’t do that, I’m gonna drown in French … so I gave it a shot. And it delivered. So, now I can speak Esperanto? Do I use it, not much, hardly ever. Do I care? Not much. Do I socialise with it? Not much, I mean as you observed the culture is dominated by oddballs and extremists. But was it a waste of time? Get real? The ignorance of that claim is so deep it grates. All you judgments are fine, but this is just plain wrong.

    There is simply a lot to be said for learning to crawl before you work and I would seriously recommend any constructed language to anyone as a second language to help them let go of monolingualism, exercise new grammar and vocab all in context without exceptions, idioms, centuries of nuancal rhetorical meaning layers and soon. The reward is fast, rapid and you learn that you can learn, and discover that communication can work in weird and wonderful ways after and it’s not possible. Most flounder and fail at any natural second language, drowning in the complexity. If you don’t kudos to you, but then you’re probably be speaking Esperanto in a week if you pulled your head out of your … and tried, but hey I am not attached and I don’t care if someone chose to learn Klingon, as long as they a) try, b) get reward and c) have a community of people to exchange with (without some practice you won’t learn it at all, that is the way the human body and mind work).

    And that said, the culture seems to be shifting with the internet as most are, and I suspect as the old guard slowly die off and the new enter it becomes a little less aberrant, more “ordinary” people learn it and in total opposition to your faulty conclusion in 6 – again nonsense, not an opinion or judgment a claim and the claim is utter nonsense because any language with speakers has a use. Which brings us to one of the dominant uses of Esperanto. Seriously explain to me how you can give my children this:

    A few months casual lessons and exercises, watching some videos, and then pen pals in Japan, China, Russia, Brazil, France, wherever with whom you can exchange in a language that you are peers at? Not yours.

    This is one of its greatest gifts to English speakers. I bummed around Japan for two months in my 20s visiting among many people Esperanto speakers, and these were among my most valued relationships, because I spoke with peers, we both struggled with a a simpel toy language gifted to us, that cost us very little and neither of us owned or mastered,. With this I could and di stay with a Japanese family help them harvest their rice, played Go with Grandad, and I stayed in a monastery and wend mountain climbing and all with people who I had no access to with English and if I did, I was always the mentor, not the peer. And that distinctly changes our relationship.

    And the same was true in China, and in Russia … and and and …

    There is no better language to learn for a world vagabond as I was, that comes as cheaply, and opens as many doors, in ans many nations, as does Esperanto.

    But if you’re not a globetrotting young vagabond, who cares? I mean I don’t preach it in the street, in fact rarely if ever mention to anyone socially that I can speak Esperanto. Why not? Because unless I see some reason they may be interested, why would I raise it? And I see only two real plusses at present maybe three:

    1) Want to see the world and a globetrotting vagabond? Hitchhike and speak Esperanto. No two things will open as many genuine friendly doors for you as those, nope not even couchsurfing.com. These two things will offer far more spontaneous and genuine relationships I promise you, having done just that for a decade.

    2) If you want to learn a second language, try Esperanto first. We’ll manage a simple conversation in a few days and you’ll be able to browse and understand websites in a week or two. You can of course potter around like any language and not get there, and not be progressing with it, but I promise you this, if that’s the case, you probably would not be different with another natural language only slower, and more frustrated. But crack this nut and feel the reward, and learn above all, about your learning skills and passion.

    3) If you’re socially isolated, a tad eccentric, believe in world peace and the unity of mankind, well, there’s probably a local club that will take you in and entertain you for a weekly or monthly meet …

    Unless though I think you’re yearning for one of tose three things, you will probably never learn (form me) that I speak Esperanto.

    Which is what takes me back to your motivations. Namely the lack of grace. An almost childish tantrum against a pile of eccentrics you don’t like, confusing that with a language.

    But each to their own. You had your rant, and no I mine ;-).

    And likewise, no disrespect intended at all! I totally get where you’re coming from and have felt similar and much of it resonates with my personal experience of the Esperanto world. Just in places you are plain wrong is all.

    Reply
    1. See, this kind of crap really pisses me off.
      I would stake my life that not a single word of your globetrotting adventures is true. Not one.
      I live in Japan and the people that are actually interested in Esperanto are so far and few between as to essentially be non-existent. One of the major exceptions is a fringe Shinto-based cult that sees the language’s founder as some sort of prophet. And you’ve apparently met a whole monastery full of speakers? They had no access to English despite it being a mandatory subject all through basic education? Look, if you’re so confident in the worthwhile nature of Esperanto, why do you have to make up stuff like this? It seems like a sad attempt at tugging at people’s heartstrings to win them over to your side – AKA propaganda.

      English alone gives you far more access to people in all the countries you listed, and also ensures you’re more likely to meet people who aren’t fringe weirdos. It’s a far better tool for globetrotting than Esperanto could ever hope to be, because people are naturally attracted to a real language that lets you express all the intricacies or your feelings, and not just your most basic thoughts. It would be a better use of time learning International Sign.

      Reply
  39. Alternate title: “Here are my widespread anti-Semitic generalizations based on my own cherry-picking logic about the people speaking this language and how I hate them and how English is a such better language there’s no point.”

    Reply
    1. He likes Arabic too. You know Arabic is a Semitic language, yes? No?

      Reply
    2. Alternet comment: OH VEY!

      Reply
  40. First of all thank you Mr. Nagel for your comment. The beauty of that world is that we, for many of us, still have the right and the liberty to express our opinions !

    Also, I’m begging your pardon for all the mistakes I’ll may do. You’ll understand here that English is not my native language.

    That said, let me explain :

    Why I Learned Esperanto !

    1- I’m using Esperanto just because there are people around the world who doesn’t care about politic bounds to any ideology or anything else. There are people out there who sees Esperanto as a tool. NO MORE, NO LESS.
    And that’s fine ! 🙂 Besides that, I’m a fervent capitalist, I’m an atheist, and … WHO CARES ! It’s only related to my native culture ! Nothing to do with the fact I use Esperanto ! So, what’s the matter with the politic !

    2- I’m using Esperanto as a vehicule in order to become more open-minded towards other cultures in order to improve and increase my knowledge of the other cultures. Just for that, it wins my favor. Openness is one of the key for improving our intelligence (Just a little research on the web concerning FFM (Five factor model) and OCEAN (Openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism) should convince you of the benefits of it 😉 )

    3- I’m using Esperanto for its CULTURE. (I won’t debate anything here, you have excellent comments about it on your own blog… I read them all)

    4- I’m using Esperanto to counterbalance the fanatical English Evangelists who try to convince us, non-native English speakers that : “Hey just accept it as a truth. English win. It’s everywhere”
    Wrong !

    First thing first : It is NOT everywhere.
    If you traveled a little bit, you will admit that outside the hotels and outside the highly touristic sites, you’ will find no one to help you in English. And those who will help, will do with a barely understandable English !

    Second, the vast majority of the people who use English as a working language will :
    Have a decent to poor vocabulary in English. Often it’s just enough to do the job but nothing more. I know what I’m talking about, I classify myself in that category. Actually it requires from me an effort to write this comment ! Thanks to my programmers job, otherwise I would probably not writing this comment.

    5- I’m using Esperanto because it help me learn other languages. Surprisingly, learning Esperanto opened doors for me to access other languages resources : the Esperantists native languages. Exchanging with them allow me to learn their language and in return I have the opportunity to help the other learn my language. And all the exchange is done with the bridge that represent Esperanto.

    6. Finally, I use Esperanto because it gave me tools I didn’t have before. I use it for all the reasons mentioned above and the most important thing, I use it because I don’t feel that I have to make excuses in advance for the possible mistakes I may do when I speak or write to someone else just because I’m pretty aware that my interlocutor is by far more agile with the language used. I feeling that I don’t get when I speak to someone in Esperanto !

    Reply
    1. An error in my final sentence, it should have been :

      “A feeling that I don’t get when I speak to someone in Esperanto !”

      Reply
  41. Donovan, are you a Brit by any chance? I have noticed that Brits have a tendency to falsely present themselves as experts and pontificate endlessly on subjects they know nothing about. This is what you have done here. At best, you are describing Esperanto as it was more than a hundred years ago and has no relevance at all to the very different Esperanto world of today. The language is far different today too and has effectively become a natural language complete with native speakers and evolving according to the laws of natural languages.

    Zamenhof spent his whole life starting from puberty developing his international language project, a total of perhaps 15 years. He had a strong knowledge of linguistics and would have been delighted to become a professor of philology in a university but such an aspiration was impossible for a Polish Jew born in Czarist Russia and he had to make do with becoming an eye doctor to earn his living. He originally developed a complicated language with a big vocabulary and an elaborate grammar but came to realize that no one man could create a whole language by himself. He spent many years stripping down his language to the bare bones, creating the sketchy, schematic version he published as the “International Language Project of one Doctor Esperanto. He decided not to create a whole language but instead a sturdy framework that the users of the new language could use to construct a full language on. This is roughly what happened but it was a long and often stormy road. The Esperanto that Zamenhof used 30 years later at the end of his life was far more elegant and polished than the early version he published in the First Book. Since the beginning, it took more than a century to fully develop Esperanto and create the living language of today, a language you know nothing about.

    But you Sir, know effectively nothing about the real Esperanto. You basically accuse it of not being a national language, which Esperanto was never intended to be so you are belaboring at great length a complete irrelevancy. I am amazed that you feel qualified to pontificate at length on a subject you are so obviously abysmally ignorant of, but that seems to be a thing Brits do nowadays. The same point holds true of Justin B. Rye’s silly rant.

    I am sorry to have to confront you with this Donovan but ignorance does not constitute knowledge and never will. You are no expert on Esperanto and your ill-informed opinion has no relevancy and substance. You seem to regard English as the great solution to International communication. I have a Master of Arts in Applied English Linguistics. I spent 7 years teaching English as a Second Language in the United States, Taiwan, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. Based on my experience, if we try to base the International Language on English, it will be some debased kind of pidgin English. Such a language is already forming and is called “Globish”. It is an awful travesty of the noble English language, the language of Shakespeare, Shelly and Hemingway. I fear it will eventually contaminate the English of native speakers if it gets too widespread. The fact is, English was never designed to be an international language and it is too difficult for the great majority, with the exception of native speakers of Germanic languages. To master English requires studying it or practicing the language for several hours a day for ten full years and you need to live at least a couple of years in an English speaking country. This is well beyond the means of most people. The result is that English is and will doubtless remain the ;language of big business, finance and diplomacy, the language of a privileged and much envied elite but will remain inaccessible to the great majority.

    Esperanto was designed from the ground up to be an international language and it works brilliantly for this purpose. It is the international SOCIAL language, the language of those who want to make friends across language barriers and enjoy the culture of others. It is the language of the rest of us, those who are not of the elite.

    Another useful purpose for Esperanto I think would be to help stabilize and define English. Esperanto fully has the precision and logical rigor of the Classical languages and is well suited for this purpose. Latin used to be used for this purpose, but it is so intractably difficult that hardly any ordinary student gains any real mastery of the subject and it has been abandoned for the most part. An English speaker who has never learned another language is as unaware of the soft mushy walls of the English language as a fish in an aquarium is aware of the water it swims in. If you study Esperanto seriously on the other hand, you become vividly aware of the foggy, ambiguous nature of the English language, It will force him to recognize the need for rules and discipline to give English the clarity it needs to be effective. I learned long ago when I read Esperanto to stop trying to translate it into English. I run all the time into words and expressions that have no equivalent in English although I understand them perfectly well. Translating from English, I am forced to work out the precise intended meaning that I need to express in the much clearer and more precise Esperanto. This sort of exercise would be of great value in teaching native speaking English students to use English with the clarity and precision it needs to be effective.

    I find it interesting that you harp so much on culture, though in a way that is illogical and entirely inappropriate. An international culture is beginning to develop, especially in Europe. This culture reaches its fullest development in the Esperanto community. Note that it is an INTERNATIONAL culture, not an Esperanto one, as is perfectly fitting to the fundamental purpose of Esperanto. The Esperanto community is the only genuine multinational, multicultural community because it is the only one that has a common language to bind them. You think you can give an informed opinion on Esperanto culture based on knowing little to nothing about it. Such a thing cannot be. All that results is you show the deceitful sophistry of a lawyer arguing a case in court. It is not a way of reaching truth or genuine insights. I notice how much you do this in your arguments both in the original essay and your responses to others.

    You should know that relatively little information is available in English and it tends to be hopelessly antiquated anyway. Most of the information, especially contemporary information, especially about the modern language, is only available in Esperanto itself. Since somebody linguistically sophisticated like yourself could go through a beginning course (I highly recommend the 3rd Edition of “Teach Yourself Esperanto”) and acquire a basic reading knowledge of the language in about a month. With the aid of a good 2 way dictionary (I highly recommend the most current edition of Weil’s 2 way dictionary, it even includes some of the dirty words in the Esperanto part) you should be able to access this literature for yourself, a good part of which can be found on the Internet if you look hard.
    But to understand the current Esperanto community and it’s place in the world, you need to learn to actually speak the language and fluently. That takes about a year of consistent daily study. First, I would go to the learning materials on lernu.net (stay off the forums). No need to join up, just use it as a resource. Alternatively, try Facila Vento and SimplaVortaro. Afterwards, study Jordan’s excellent book, in English, called “Being Colloquial in the International Language Esperanto”. It details the many pitfalls English speakers stumble across in mastering correct Esperanto.
    These pitfalls are due to 2 reasons. One is the large number of “false friends” in the vocabulary of Esperanto for English speakers. The only other language with a comparable number of “false friends” is Brazillian Portuguese. The other problem is that Esperanto strongly reflects the shared contemporary usage patterns of the major languages of Western Europe and English does not, which creates significant problems for English speakers learning these languages. Anyway, Jordan’s book is an excellent and much needed learning resource. Afterwards, you should pay attention to developing speaking and listening abilities. Go to Vinilkosmo and listen to the samples of fine Esperanto music there and become familiar with some of the groups performing fine original Esperanto music. Vinilkosmo is the major source of Esperanto music CD’s and you can purchase them by credit card. For free music, go to YouTube and look up the same names you found on VinilKosmo for music videos of mostly their older music and listen to some every day. This will be great for attuning your ears to the sounds and rhythms of the authentic spoken language. There are 3 terrible accents to have in Esperanto; Russian, French and English. Make a real effort to get rid of your English accent, or at least keep your vowels pure, trill your R’s and dont overly aspirate voiceless stops. This will make your speech much more agreeable to other Esperantists’ ears.
    Finally, Take the Intermediate to Advanced Esperanto Course of Boris Kolker’s superb ” Vojaĝo En Esperanto-Lando”. This is a high quality completely professional language learning text lavishly illustrated in color. It takes months to work through it but it will really enhance and polish your Esperanto. An interesting point is that it presents many things from the point of view of the Russian Esperanto community. Eastern Europe has always been the homeland of Esperanto and the Russian community have played a core part. After all this, by all means go to an international meeting. I am not impressed by the ones I have seen in the U.S. and it is far more meaningful to communicate with Esperantists who cannot speak English. You will feel awkward for the first couple of hours but if you keep on speaking you will soon find yourself speaking Esperanto with an unselfconscious fluidity and ease you will probably never attain in any other language other than your native English.

    You know nothing of contemporary Esperanto culture so you think it doesn’t exist. Does it? Well you will have to find out for yourself. You won’t be able to do that if you can’t speak the language. ^,..,^

    Reply
    1. Since the re-design, Lernu doesn’t let you access the materials or even the dictionary without signing in :-(. But at least the account is completely free and doesn’t require any personal info besides your email address, and they never send you spam.

      Reply
      1. Why log in for Lernu.net?

        At present, robots can’t log in, so the login prevents someone from building a robot that steals all the content. That’s why there is nothing more to the account than registering for it.

        The Plena Ilustrita Vortaro also requires a log in,

        Reply
    2. P.S. I personally think a German accent in Esperanto sounds worse than a French one, but that’s just me.

      P.P.S Another great resource, if one has specific questions about Esperanto language and/or culture, is esperanto.stackexchange.com .

      Reply
  42. I thought you would write about how it’s a very Eurocentric idea of a “universal language”.

    Reply
  43. Newcomers to Esperanto (that’s not necessarily John) often find ways they think the language could be changed, not realizing that even though it is a constructed language, it is not under construction. Also, they often complain that it is too Eurocentric. They claim that it isn’t international, because it isn’t international among enough nations. Some, run out and try to improve Esperanto, paradoxically producing a Romance language, making it even more eurocentric. You know how widespread and popular Ido is.

    Zamenhof knew about but could not speak English, and the only Romance language he knew was French, though he admired the sound of Italian. (The opera is probably the only place he heard it.) Esperanto has tons of German words, a few from English (but not pronounced as in English), but most are from Latin and French. The prepositions are from Latin (modifying “in” to “en” to avoid a collision with the -in suffix taken from German), expressions of time are from German, but most of the vocabulary is Romance even though the first grammar of Esperanto was printed in Russian. Romance vocabulary is familiar to people who speak Germanic and Slavic languages, but the reverse is not true. Choosing mainly Romance words makes it more international. All those vowel endings mislead people into thinking it is a Romance language, but the phonology is Slavic.

    If you try to make a language that takes its vocabulary from all languages, in proportion to their size, and borrow grammatical features from all, you create a monstrosity that no one can speak. Someone already tried.

    The Kiwanis Club is international. It has chapters in the US and Canada. Esperanto is much. more international than the Kiwanis Club because includes more countries, but not all the nations of the world. Not even the United Nations includes all the nations of the world.

    Most people think that a language consists of a bunch of words. They see European words and say, “Ha! It’s a European language!” Try to learn French by reading a dictionary.

    Esperanto’s grammar is agglutinative, which is not how European languages work. It is how Asian languages work. The grammar is very familiar to Asians. Asian languages are generally not related to each other, so even if they learn the language down the street, they have to learn a whole new vocabulary. Esperanto’s grammar is easier, and the vocabulary is no harder than any other language. That’s why there are so many Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Esperantists, and why China Radio has an Esperanto section of their web site, including even recipes.

    Reply
    1. Agreed that Esperanto itself can’t be changed, but I see nothing wrong with using it to derive something new. Also disagreed about the Eurocentricness of Ido. I found myself more drawn to Ido because of the derivation that fit much better with the Japanese and Korean I already knew. Esperanto on the other hand, which I like well enough but not enough to ever use it, had a more ad-hoc derivation that turned me off a bit. I wasn’t able to find the nearly one-to-one correspondence with Japanese and Korean endings and Esperanto that I would have liked (e.g. in Korean you remove the -da at the end of a verb and replace it with -gi in the same way that in Ido -ar to -o denotes the action of a noun, but in Esperanto it could be a related object or something else), but found them in Ido. Here’s a comparison of Ido with Japanese and Korean I wrote nearly a decade ago:

      http://www.pagef30.com/2008/06/comparison-of-ido-japanese-korean-and.html

      Reply
  44. Of course it is true that it hasn’t been developed over time like other languages did. But just focusing on this fact will also not make it possible to create a culture.

    Esperanto will never be like other languages that grew over time. But it could have a good chance and we all don’t know how our brains would work if we would use Esperanto instead of english f. e.
    I don’t say it needs to be Esperanto, but it would be great to have a language that is simple to learn and use for everybody.

    I am also convinced that everybody can learn everything so it would take more time but you’ll learn it anyway if you want. Like everything. But wouldn’t it be maybe more effective…. we’ll never know because we just talk about why we shouldn’t learn. We would start seeing whats good on it after using it and stoping to look only on the negative parts.

    Reply
  45. I am not going to discuss a lot. You wrote: “The Internet is basically unusable without English too.”
    Very difficult to believe in this opinion… There are about 3 billion people who use the internet, but even the most optimistic estimations about the number of English speaking people do not exceed 2 billion (and not a lot of people believe in such estimations, at least not for the number of people being able to use English websites…)
    It seems to me that a lot of other assertions you make have the same level of truth…

    I came here, because on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i51ka9RDQ9w you spoke about “sources” here. Well, it seems we have a different understanding of the word “sources”… I would prefer scientific sources that back the assertions you are making. Do you know any? If so, please give them.

    Reply
  46. Ok then what solution do you give to have a neutral language? Why do I have to learn your language and not you mine? that’s the point. We need a solution, many times when I speak with English speakers that only speak one language (English) I think they are stupids or illiterate. Esperanto at the moment is the only solution more extended.

    Reply
    1. There’s no such thing as a ‘neutral’ language.

      And one of the chief criticisms of Esperanto is that it’s heavily influenced by European languages which means that it’s still not an even playing field for speakers in other parts of the world anyway.

      Reply
      1. Yes, there is no ‘neutral’ language, just more or less neutral languages. English is less neutral, Esperanto much more.

        Reply
        1. I had more or less dropped Esperanto, partly on the grounds that it was “too European”.

          Some Asian esperantists (Japanese, Korean and Chinese) that I met by chance at the Olympic Games convinced that I was mistaken.

          They pointed out that the grammar isn’t particularly “European”.

          They agreed that the vocabulary roots could be described as very European, but also pointed out that Zamenhof had at least tried to create a more neutral vocabulary. (Zamenhof tried creating words by arbitrarily assigning meanings to mechanically generated, by-definition-neutral, tables of possible words — that turned out to be difficult to recall, even though he himself was assigning the meanings.) So Zamenhof resorted to the more naturalistic approach of finding, as far as possible, “common forms” of the words he needed, from the European (Germanic, Slavic and Romance, plus Latin and Greek where that failed).

          They went on to point out that this approach wouldn’t be nearly as workable with the Asian languages. “Good enough, all things considered”, they said, and (very politely) “besides, if *we” don’t find Esperanto “too European, maybe *you’re* just making excuses.”

          Not incidentally, though they all had many years formal English instruction, and only months (6 months to less than a couple of years) of informal/club Esperanto study, we got along quite well in Esperanto, and much better than in English.

          Reply
  47. I understand where you are coming from. It reminds me of a recent visit I had to a Unitarian Church. They were having a book sale and the workers were in full ideological ego mode calling Trump supporters fascists and everything under the sun. I just have a low tolerance for what I consider to be bad manners. I would have to really build up my aura to stay in an environment that is like that.
    I happen to like Esperanto as a language. Based on your experience, it makes me feel less motivated to attend a congress. I have spent time in an Ashram, and things can get very murky there with people going off on “spiritual” tangents. I guess some people are just looking for authentic connections, and maybe they are more sensitive and they tend to really feel overwhelmed in these environments where people’s egos are flaring.

    Reply
    1. Maybe just do not make plans to go to just one congress, but go to three of them. Maybe you’ll like people in one of them, but not in the others…

      Reply
  48. There is something I didn’t understand: On the one hand you wrote, “Esperantistan is an ideologically homogenous landscape”. On the other hand you quote someone: “There are some great people at NASK and a lot of people willing to argue without getting offended, but a whole bunch of extreme far leftists who are OF COURSE politically correct (…)”. So at least at NASK there are three groups, “some great people”, “people willing to argue without getting offended” and “a whole bunch of extreme far leftists”.

    I am sorry to say so, but this landscape does not seem to be “homogenous”.

    Furthermore I would like to draw your attention to the fact that one regular Esperanto meeting can’t be taken as a proof for a homogenous landscape in the Esperanto speaking language community. A regular meeting is a bit similar to a circle of friends, to a party – and such circles tend to be a bit more homogenous as society in general. If someone is a leftist, he or she can live with the fact that the guy next door is not. But an Esperanto meeting with about 50 participants with whom you share the whole day for some days or even a week or more is something different. You don’t want to hear a group there say that your political opinion is bullshit. If you hear this, you may not want to go there another time. So after some times every Esperanto meeting has a special character and a special group of people whose opinion is not very divergent – but this does not say that the Esperanto community as a whole would be so homogenous as you seem to think. You should read some discussions in great Facebook groups or in the comments of big news sites to understand this…

    By the way: There are a lot of different religious groups, catholic, protestant, atheists… Can you really imagine that a language community has at least half a dozen of religious groups, but is “ideologically homogenous”? How would you explain such a contrast?

    Reply
  49. Just to condense the arguments, here is what I posted in the group “Stop talking down Esperanto”:

    1) Donovan Nagel seems to think of Esperanto as a “movement”… Maybe he didn’t get the fact that it’s just a language everyone may use as he or she wants. There is a language community.
    It’s interesting to know what Zamenhof wanted – but everyone can use the language for any purpose. It’s free, as was stated in 1905 already.
    2) Esperantoland is less ideologically homogenous than some outsiders think. To see this, it’s enough just to have a look at all the ideas outsiders link with Esperanto; this is not homogenous. But, yes, for the moment being, the political landscape in Esperantoland is probably less wide than that of big language communities. Why should I feel sorry about this? No language can give you everything.
    3) No doubt the Esperanto culture is still developing. And every Esperanto speaker has his or her own culture. So, where is the problem?
    4) Yes, some Esperanto “evangelists” may overact. I am really sorry. But why should I stop speaking Esperanto because of them? Do I stop speaking English for some guys? Would I recommend to people _not_ to learn English because of this?
    “Most Esperantists however are self-appointed evangelists.” Is there any scientific study about this? Is the same true about “Esperanto speakers”?
    Or is it just that those who write in forums are those who are more convinced and more evangelistic.. How about getting a good sample?
    5) It seems Donovan didn’t read the publications about the effect of learning Esperanto before other languages. Helmar Frank and others published about this.
    6) When Donovan shows his enthusiasm for English as a world language, he goes a lot too far. He wrote: “The Internet is basically unusable without English too.” This obviously is wrong. The highest estimations about the number of English speakers is two billion people. More than three billion people are linked to the internet… What do they do there without English? 😀
    I do not speak Esperanto to make it the most spoken language on earth – I speak it to communicate, to enjoy it.
    But I would like outsiders to present the language and the language community as they are – not just as they think they are…

    Reply
  50. Esperanto keeps outliving its obituary-writers.

    Reply
    1. Never said it was dead.

      Just unnecessary and overtly political.

      Reply
      1. English, however, is. Its obituary was published in The Washington Post, on Sunday, September 19, 2010. The obit starts off, “The English language, which arose from humble Anglo-Saxon roots to become the lingua franca of 600 million people worldwide and the dominant lexicon of international discourse, is dead. It succumbed last month at the age of 1,617 after a long illness.”

        Reply
      2. The title of the post is “Why I Won’t Learn Esperanto.” I regret posting a reply to this before, because it is a personal disclosure that really isn’t up to debate. It’s a personal disclosure about a personal decision, and you are even entitled to make personal decisions.

        I do not like rhubarb. Just the sight of it makes me feel sick. I don’t have to badmouth rhubarb to those who like it, all I have to do is say, “no, thank you,” and pass it to the next person. All the discussion in the world about nutritional value of rhubarb might change my mind about its nutritional value, but it won’t change my preference.

        What you said, in effect, is, “no, thank you.” Everyone else should have said, “Oh, okay, If you don’t want to learn it, don’t learn it.”

        Reply
        1. Exactly!

          Thank you. Finally someone who gets it.

          Reply
          1. Not quite. If you said “I don’t like rhubarb because it has no nutritional value, it gives you such bad breath that people won’t want to be around you, and it causes cancer”, then it would be fine for people to correct you. That’s closer to what’s happening here.

            If then at the end you also said, “I also just don’t like the taste”, then sure, that would be purely subjective and fine for you to decide on your own.

  51. Esperanto scales. English does not. The scalability of Esperanto is why Esperanto will ultimately prevail as the international auxiliary language. The non-scalability of English is why there are various regional varieties of English: British English, American English, Indian English, and so on. Moreover, the non-scalability of English is not ‘fixable’, any more than the situation regarding entropy described by the second law of thermodynamics is ‘fixable’. Those who believe otherwise (trying to build perpetual motion machines) are just spitting into the wind.

    So-called ‘international English’ will continue to diverge from the Queen’s English, and itself be made up of an increasing number of distinct regional varieties.

    Reply
  52. Here in Brazil, the Esperanto language has a religious end, more specifically a Spiritism end, because there are many material this religion made in Esperanto.
    This is the secret, you make material in this language that refute or persuade that ideia or thought.

    Reply
    1. It seems to me that Spiritism has a lot of material in Portuguese as well – so, is this a reason against Portuguese?

      Esperanto is a language. As a language it does not have another end than to serve as a communication tool. As the Boulogne Declaration said already in 1905: “All other ideals or hopes tied with Esperantism by any Esperantist is his or her purely private affair, for which Esperantism is not responsible.” Today we would say “Esperanto” instead of “Esperantism”.

      Reply
      1. Lu, I am not against Esperanto. I just made a note.

        Reply
  53. Hey Donovan,

    Something you didn’t touch on directly, but is implied is, that Esperanto is the single most boring language I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter.

    Now that’s just my personal opinion. And my experience, as someone who had to learn 3 Indo-European languages and one Niger-Congo language as a child is different from most (Let’s just say, I’m comfortable with complexity.)

    But real languages (and Esperanto is Not Real) develop an expressiveness that brings feelings of satisfaction as people play with grammar, simplify, introduce complexities, and develop the subtleties of expression that give users in the living community those little tingles of pleasure.

    Think about how the black community in the United States have developed an English accent and a style that reflects their shared experience and attitudes, or the fact that Scottish people still have an accent that reflects the pronunciation of Gaelic.

    I’ve heard Esperantists (great neolgism BTW) rail at the fact that English has diverged to the point where someone from Kentucky can barely understand someone from Edinburgh. That’s not even the worst. An Arabic speaker from Syria can barely understand what an Arabic speaker from Morocco is saying.

    But where’s where the E-cultists don’t “get” it. That’s feature, not a bug!

    Reply
    1. Completely agree with you, Harry. Spot on.

      Reply
    2. I wish there was a “like” button for comments here. 🙂

      Reply
  54. Hi. Thanks for a thought provoking article. I especially enjoyed the discussion it led to on how far Esperanto is a political movement. As a learner of Esperanto, however, my main concern is whether learning Esperanto helps with the learning of other languages.

    I took French and German for years at school and ended up with a great sense of failure as I felt that I would have great difficulty in carrying on a conversation in these difficult languages. Also, I have not had the opportunity to live where I get the chance to practise them and so improve.

    I am hoping that studying Esperanto will build up my confidence in learning foreign languages.

    I think your analogy with learning music was flawed. You said, I think, that, if someone wanted to play the violin, time spent learning to play the guitar first was not a good idea, as the time would have been better spent on the violin. But what about spending time on learning a simpler musical instrument first? What about the recorder – the block flute as it is called in some countries? Some schools start young children off on the recorder for that reason. And even if they do not go on to learn any other musical instrument they have the joy of being able to play one instrument.

    In the same way children who learn Esperanto will know they can learn a foreign language, one that I think is worth learning in its own right as well as being a confidence booster.

    Reply
  55. I’m one of those so-called circus freaks who learned the language as a child, So, thanks for that. It’s never been about ideology for me. It’s been about community. I could care less about the Final Victory or other out-moded nonsense.

    Reply
    1. What kind of community though? What do you eat? What music do you listen to? What news do you read or watch? Who do you vote for? Maybe you don’t identify with the labels of certain ideologies, but what if you’re still a rose by any other name? Glad to meet you. 🙂

      Reply
  56. You’ve got the wrong end of the stick, Donovan. Esperanto isn’t a project, or an ideology, and whatever Zamenhof might have thought, he died a hundred years ago, and is history. Esperanto isn’t the solution to war or racism, although a lot of its speakers, including me, aren’t too keen on that sort of stuff either.

    Esperanto is just a good idea. Learn all the other languages you want. I speak six languages fluently and can do basic touristy stuff in a dozen others. And at the end of the day, Esperanto is just another language, even if it’s ten times easier to learn than any other, but …

    You get a load of ordinary people from different countries and different language backgrounds together round a table and have them ALL participate as equals, as if there were no language barriers, then Esperanto is the ONLY way of doing it. And then maybe you’ll find that we are all different too. That’s what’s fun.

    Actually, it’s quite an amazing experience. Sorry if saying that comes across as breathless and culty, because, honestly, I’m the LAST person who would be taken in by anything like that.

    Reply
  57. It is sad that someone who know almost nothing of the history of Esperanto or the many cultural and philosophical strands that weave in an out of it, should choose so blithely to undermine it. I will answer only one of the attacks, which it seems for you, as a christian, to be central to your opposition.

    Your assertion that:

    “He also quite intolerantly spoke of free religious expression as a “barbarity”.
    It’s this ideological baggage and taint that’s attached to the language that turns me off it completely.”.

    is a completely incorrect characterisation of Zamenhof’s personal philosophy, expressed perhaps in its fullest form, and from a religious humanist perspective in his beautiful poem “Preĝo sub la verda standardo” (“Prayer under the green banner”). From the rarely cited verse 6:

    “Kuniĝu la fratoj, plektiĝu la manoj,
    antaŭen kun pacaj armiloj!
    Kristanoj, hebreoj aŭ mahometanoj
    ni ĉiuj de Di’ estas filoj.
    Ni ĉiam memoru pri bon’ de l’ homaro,
    kaj malgraŭ malhelpoj, sen halto kaj staro
    al frata la celo ni iru obstine
    antaŭen, senfine.”

    I have difficulty believing that anyone, save for a religious fundamentalist or a rabid nationalist, could find such sentiments objectionable.

    As Humphrey Tonkin put it

    “Ultimately [Zamenhof’s] language was and is more than a proposed solution to the language problem: it is an attempt to confront the spirit of inequality, of intolerance, of hatred that is tearing apart our world”

    If you are really interested in knowing more about the history and philosophies of Esperanto I would suggest both Peter Forster’s “The Esperanto Movement” and Esther Schor’s “Bridge of Words”.

    Coming from a land of a great deal of intolerance and hatred I find the Movement in its many forms and with its many debates both intellectually challenging and inspiring.

    In peace.

    Reply
  58. I completely agree with every single word that you’ve mentioned in this article. Esperanto had been a failed project since it started. calling it as “International language” & “language of humanity” without considering any eastern language system during of basing it. This Fake language Even does not have its own alphabet and uses latin ones instead. English is International language hands down. The big power of economy, Media & internet, science and so on is behind it.

    Reply
    1. English doesn’t incorporate any “eastern language system” and uses the Latin alphabet. And no one would disagree that English is predominant now. If you want to argue, find something to argue with.

      Reply
      1. At least English had no claims of being an international language from the first place. I have to admire that Esperanto grammar is so easy, however, English grammar is easier compared to any other European language. My dream is same like all Esperantists “to have an international language” but we have to invent a brand new language with a whole new alphabet, writing, and pronunciation system.

        Reply
        1. English has a very difficult pronunciation, it is impossible to learn without immersion with native speakers of the UK, that is discrimination by nationality (fascism) and paying for education is expensive (classism). Esperanto is easier than English and is also more neutral and fair, it allows to better protect cultural and linguistic diversity and save billions of public and private money from families.

          Reply
          1. Out of genuine curiosity, as a native English speaker, what exactly about this language is so hard to pronounce? Is that really the problem? Out of everything I’ve typed, what would be the difficult bits for a non-native English speaker?

    2. Well, nearly no one considers Esperanto to be perfect. At least it has a system of stems which cannot change, just as Chinese has.

      English is certainly not better in this regard.

      The problem is, we are not living in a perfect world. So we have to take the best solution we find.

      It is said that Chinese people need five years for English and one year for Esperanto. This is a huge rationalization. Esperanto speaking people in China often have a basic knowledge in English and a much better knowledge in Esperanto.

      Reply
  59. When perfection does not exist. If the perfection is P and we use an option EN at a distance X of such perfection (P-EN = X). If a new EO option that is at a distance less than P (P-EO <P-EN) appears, is it smart to remain in the EN solution, which is not P, because EO is not P?

    Reply
  60. Espereranto is the most popular conlang, and you find most people learn it instead of learning French or Spanish, which are more difficult, thinking that it’s why to choose the most popular conlang if you are learning any conlang at all. In fact, learning the most popular conlang immediately puts you into a trend-following reality, and that’s what most of Esperanto is about: a trend.

    Instead, it would take more moxy to learn Interlingua, which has fewer speakers and is closer related to Spanish and Latin, making it instantly more useful with the large masses of Spanish speakers in the world today. Frankly, a lot of Russians speak Esperanto, and unless you want to talk to them and the wishy-washy Western European liberals, you are better off with Interlingua.

    Reply
  61. A lot of the reasons not to learn Esperanto have to do with what it used to be. It used to be a conlang invented by a Polish ophthalmologist with dreams of humanism and international harmony. However, a conlanger can think of lots of ways that he could have made it different, or even better. Zamenhof’s goal was not achieved. Esperanto as a conlang failed.

    However Esperanto has achieved that goal, not on the level of nations, but of common people. Esperanto hasn’t accomplished Zamenhof’s grandiose purpose. He designed his language to be a second language for everyone, and for most Esperanto speakers (note: speakers, not hobbyists), it is. However, it has developed native speakers, whom you can find on YouTube if its whacky search engine lets you. This is a development that Zamenhof did not want at all.

    The Vatican, China Radio, and Le Monde use Esperanto, and a science academy in San Marino uses it as their language of instruction. There is a music company in France that has only sold Esperanto music for the last 20 years. There is an Esperanto public that is large enough to support vlogs on YouTube that are completely in Esperanto.

    Most conlangs are small enough that all the proficient speakers can comfortably go out to dinner together. In some cases that would be a table for one. Esperanto, on the other hand, is the working language of an annual conference of up to 2,000. The last one was in Korea.

    Conlangers critique Esperanto as if it were still 1887, and if that were the case, their arguments stand up well. However, this is the 21st century, not the 19th. Esperanto is now a living language that originated as a conlang. It has not been under construction since 1905. It is in the public domain. Esperanto can only change by natural processes now.

    Most of the reasons for not learning Esperanto are not valid because conlangers evaluate it as if it were a conlang. I’ve read critiques about how Esperanto is hard for Asians, and I have read explanations by actual Asians in Esperanto that explain why it is not.

    If you don’t want to learn Esperanto, that’s your choice, but Esperanto doesn’t compete with conlangs any more. This isn’t 1887. Zamenhof is not a teenager tinkering with a Esperanto in his bedroom and trying it out on his school friends. It’s way past conlang status now.

    Reply
    1. The fact that it’s not the 1800’s anymore doesn’t mean that Esperanto is no longer a political instrument.

      Communism/Socialism is a 19th century idea too and there are fools everywhere still trying to make that work.

      Reply
  62. Good grief, you don’t know Esperanto very well. I encountered Esperanto in 1995, and the main web site I found was atheist and communist. It really turned me off, but I didn’t realize it was an outlier. Then Esperanto popped up in YouTube in 2016, and I discovered it is much more larger and more diverse community than I thought, and, in the aggregate, not ideological at all beyond being astonished “I can talk to people from other countries!” Your impression of Esperanto is a big puzzle to me. I have, for example, a quality paperback that is a translation of Sherlock Holmes into Esperanto, and an Esperanto Bible. I don’t think those are either communist or socialist. Maybe your exposure to the language is very limited.

    Reply
    1. Ever met a vocal Trump supporter at an Esperanto meetup? Genuinely curious.

      Reply
      1. Sorry, I didn’t know. From the viewpoint of a vocal Trump supporter, everything is on the left. (I’m hypothesizing, because I don’t know any vocal Trump supporters.) Esperanto is definitely not for you right now, but things will change.

        Reply
        1. > “From the viewpoint of a vocal Trump supporter, everything is on the left.”

          Never ceases to amaze me when Esperantists attack me for bigotry and then make an even more bigoted comment like that.

          You don’t know any Trump supporters because you’re surrounded by Marxist, Che Guevara fanboys.

          This is why you could never pay me enough to learn Esperanto or attend one of your cultish propaganda conferences. You’re actually guilty of the exact thing you just said – Esperantists are so far left on the political spectrum that anything else is considered “far-right”.

          Reply
          1. Whatever.

          2. I thank trump only for pulling the USA out of Trans Pacific Partnership. I really don’t like trade deals. Even libertarians were going to put us through that meat grinder. It’s a wonder the Democrats also would seek this goal of putting people through a meat grinder.

          3. Lol and this is as good a reason as any to dismiss anything that you ever write

          4. How will I ever sleep at night knowing that some guy named Ralph won’t read my blog?

  63. Wow !!!

    What a brilliant argumentary … from BOTH SIDES !

    I am an esperantist … I am not a ‘communist’ neither a ‘neo-nazi’

    I followed that thread because until now I saw good points from BOTH SIDES …

    but now it’s just too much … I’ll unsubscribe that thread …

    Sometimes people can do great things together, respecting the point of view of the others, sometimes human can demonstrate how ‘unpolish and rude’ they can be !!!

    Human beings are not always at their best I presume …

    Reply
  64. “4. Esperanto evangelists aren’t just passionate – they’re fanatical”

    Hahaha, I have to say I have two Samenhoff’s portraits and a Esperanto flag above my bed 😛

    Reply
  65. For me esperanto is only a language. There is no political goal behind.

    The only problem is that in real life I never meet someone speaking esperanto and not languages I speak. Example I meet a chinese who speak chiness and Korean and esperanto. I could talk with him with esperanto.

    The other point community philosophy etc… that does not interest me

    Reply
  66. I disliked Esperanto, because you could never get away from nationalism. Americans would speak Esperanto and say “America is great” and Russians would speak esperanto to say “Russia is great”, and like many liberal movements, patriotism is important, because through patriotism you seek to change your nation. For example, to change the USA and make it better, i.e. more palatable to Esperantists. In other words, being disaffected in your own nation is not tolerated overly much. They want you to vote, to be an activist, to support gay rights and feminism rather than be an eccentric who is not really taking part in his or her own nation. Their lack of neutrality ultimately is not interesting.

    Reply
  67. The native American language Choctaw is as easy as Esperanto and doesn’t connect you to European assholes. I personally promote Choctaw as a lingua franca. Historically, various native American groups even spoke pidgin Choctaw in order to trade with each, as Choctaw is an amusing language.

    Reply
    1. Really easy, huh? I might have to go learn my first Native American language now….

      I’m interested in Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Hindi.

      And now Choctaw.

      Still NOT Esperanto though.

      Reply
  68. You, Sir, are a hypocrite, perhaps not knowingly, but nevertheless.

    You, as a native English speaker must have noticed that your mother tongue happens to be the official language of two of the current economical and political superpowers. Rationally, nowadays, it makes little sense to invest time to anything but English for the first foreign language to learn, if we want to be succesfull outside of our country. (This might change to Russian or Chinese or who knows, maybe Hindi or Arabic, the core of my message remains the same.) Many people from young age are exposed to English in its original format, because who wants to learn English from a non-native if the real material is ready and already out there?

    American and British culture thus conquering the world piggybacking the language hegemony, making room for your ideologies and customs too, like your accusation based problem handling (see pictograms and messages on plastic bags and microwave ovens), your neotribalism, your political correctness to the point of being unable to talk about problems, your role models for communicating between age groups, being a teenager, courting someone you fancy, handling conflicts, just to mention the most obvious ones.

    Make no mistake, I would not change you guys for the Russians (being an old enough Hun I experienced their friendly hug too) or Chinese, or any other _nation_ for that matter – and I think that is my point.

    I don’t speak Esperanto (yet), but if I were religious I would pray every day to God to make English obscure again and rise Esperanto instead. Or Latin Sine Flexione, or Lingua Franca Nuova. Or a random dead language without a nationstate behind, for chrissake. Or perhaps even Choctaw…

    The current, de facto lingua franca, English, supports cultural imperialism, of which your nation currently hugely benefits from.

    You were pointing out Esperanto being a mean to a political end? Not good enough.

    Reply
    1. Choctaw is an excellent choice. Nahuatl is also very interesting, but the ease of reproducing Choctaw sounds and its very easy going sentence structure make it my personal favorite. As soon as you learn to make sentences in Choctaw, you keep going back to it. They are a very peaceful indigenous group from North America. Learn some Choctaw and you wont regret it. As a plus, I learned how to forage and eat wild plants for free like Lambsquarters, which they call “Tvnashi”. Free meals and good language.

      Reply
  69. This was so hateful that I couldn’t continue listening although I had quitted Esperanto before finding this blog. I quitted Esperanto simply because it was not that simple regular language I was hoping for. You know, all those accented letters like ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, ŝ or having j instead of y.

    But you know what? After reading your blog I’m kind of considering to continue learning Esperanto just as a way to meet these special community. I found that there’s an alternative way of writing those accented letters as ch, gh, or cx, gx, etc. I was learning it by Duolingo spending 10 minutes a day for the past couple of days which I don’t think would heart if I continue to do so for at least a month and then see what happens. I guess it worth the possibility of getting to know one of those people who are into this mindset of simplicity like myself.
    PS. You can see how desperately I’m in need of simplicity just by looking at those long sentences.

    Reply
    1. All *major* languages that use the Latin alphabet use letters with diacritics—except English.

      English doesn’t benefit from the lack of diacritics because it’s difficult to tell the pronunciation from the spelling, for example, woman/women. We change the second vowel in writing but the first vowel in pronunciation. We contract a disease and sign a contract, but we don’t write it contráct and cóntract, which would make sense. I had a friend in high school who have an oral report in which he said that Washington DC is on the Pott-a-mac river because the spelling gave him no clue.

      I suppose you will refuse to learn French until you find an alternate way to spell things like “Abientôt, Hélène.”

      Esperanto has a one-letter-per-sound and one-sound-per-letter system. Why do people moan and groan because Esperanto isn’t as difficult as English? have in English?

      Reply
    2. Yes, that diacritical markers are not very international. In fact, latin and germanic orientation of Esperanto doesnt strike one as being very peaceful . Historically, well Latin is from Roman empire. It’s an odd choice for a world peace language. Europeans like to point out that they are really old, like old as the hills with a long history, but often they leave out that most of it is imperialism, slavery, exploiting other cultures and lands. Their recent liberalism after WW2 isnt particularly impressive and the EU isnt particularly Democratic. I dont think they even got to vote about the EURO money. Then the rotten history of the U.N. They produce this language Esperanto and think its better than English, but really it’s just more of the same Eurocentric white supremacy.

      Reply
  70. Sorry, but I don’t find this very persuasive. Plenty of non-European languages have diacritics, and many have much more difficult writing systems…an alphabet with a few “special” letters might be annoying to type on a standard Western keyboard, but it’s not exactly “not international”.
    I’m also not convinced that Europe stands out in terms of brutality, in the grand scheme of world history, although it’s certainly been more successful in terms of colonization etc. in recent centuries (but if I had to guess, I’d say that was to do with better technology and natural resources, not because nobody else was trying).
    I’m also skeptical that an idealistic Russian Jew spent a decade creating a language for the purpose of promoting white supremacy.
    I might understand your comment better if you described what you think *would* make a good international language, though.

    Reply
    1. I certainly enjoy Spanish, but I wouldnt call it an international language. The idea is very obtuse. International for whom? While I am not attached to English, many of the Esperantists come from lands like Holland, Russia, Germany, Brazil, and obviously they merely don’t want to learn English but parade as if they were humanists. Really they are bitter about losing their empires to the USA. Many Esperantists from Europe appear not merely to dislike the American empire, but we know they had empires like Spain, where losing their world power came as a blow to the normal citizen, whose personal identity was attached to his nation’s empire. Esperanto generally appeals to these types. From the United States, often gringos who are too bourgeois to learn Spanish consider learning Esperanto. I’ve followed the movement a bit.

      I recently started development of an international language from various indigenous languages. To my thinking, what makes a good international language are good words, words that stand out in the mind, like the Choctaw word for dog is “ofi”. If you say “ofi” you immediately think of a dog. Also this word has no double consonants. “offi” would less easy to remember the spelling of. I prefer also the standard Subject-Object-Verb sentence structure of Muscogee languages like Choctaw. The ability to create random sentence structure with accusative ‘n’ of Esperanto leads to wacky phrases. A standard sentence structure is preferable to accusative n constructions. Stuff like this.

      Reply
  71. Here in fact is an international language I’ve been working on lately. It’s still in in its infancy, but the progress is good. I’m drawing words from even the most obscure indian tribes in Brazil, Colombia, and North America.

    Reply
  72. I find this article quite ironic and it gave me a good laugh. It talks about Esperanto as being a political tool, something I do not recognise at all about it, but the very stance you are taking against it is political. As a teacher I can attest to the fact it has many language learning benefits. It is an excellent way to introduce English first language speakers to a new language and it is not time wasted. Because, unlike in many other languages, English first language speakers must first learn grammar before they can really get to grips with another language because none is learnt in English. Tell a French teenager learning English that they are going to conjugate a verb they will know what you mean. An English student learning French would not. Esperanto is a good way to introduce grammar and gives students confidence because they learn the language quickly.

    Reply
  73. When you exclude culture, motivation, and ideology, Esperanto is arguably the best language altogether. It has 16 rules that are NEVER ever broken, and has a very simple word building syntax. 100 hours of study in Esperanto equates to 1000 hours of Spanish. Stop talking about the people who speak the language and start talking about the language itself. Don’t tell me it’s a bad language if you don’t even speak a word of it.

    Reply
    1. So your argument is that Esperanto has logical (constructed) grammar therefore it’s superior to all other languages?

      I’d rather spend 1000 hours learning Spanish than 100 hours learning a propaganda tool. BTW, you can’t isolate a language from the people who speak it.

      Reply
  74. I recently made a very bland comment on an Esperanto forum about me liking two languages, Ido and Interlingua. The first reaction was the moderator getting bent out of shape about the comment being on the forum (even though I was also mentioning Esperanto). Egos were flaring a bit. And to my astonishment, people were behaving like groupies to this moderator (as if they were lemmings) and piled on to give my comment a lot of dislikes. You would have thought my comment was asking for the assassination of the Pope, the President, and Jesus Christ! I’m frankly astonished. I love the language, but……’well thank God, I’m not a lemming”.

    Reply
    1. Esperanto is began as a conlang but it is not one now. It appeals to people who are not conlangers. They actually speak, read, and write the language, and in insulting their language, you were insulting them personally. They constantly run into a lot of clueless misinformation about Esperanto. Imagine hearing a linguist say that “no one speaks Esperanto” after coming home from an Esperanto convention with 400 speakers or watching Esperanto TV. Imagine how irritating and insulting it is to read stuff like this.

      Who cares if you don’t want to learn Esperanto? Just don’t learn it and leave us alone.

      Reply
  75. Hi Nagel.

    Thank you for the fantastic work you make on your youtube channel, your statement right above is the only point I do not totally agree.

    I know not to learn eo is a personnal decision which I respect a lot but I could not help raising some features which seems to me wrong.

    But juste one, you said :

    “Ever met a vocal Trump supporter at an Esperanto meetup? Genuinely curious.”

    I am a supporter of Trump and I know some others esperanto speakers in that case.

    So ? ? ?

    Reply
    1. Interesting.

      Do you discuss your pro-Trump politics with the other, far-left Esperantists (who are the overwhelming majority of speakers)?

      Reply
      1. Yes. It is barely a problem except with sectarian exceptions. Tbh leftists are more represented in the esperanto movement (far leftists are mainly in SAT, Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda) but I do never travel abroad and mostly know the Frence one, even here there are some of them ring wing, anti-maxists and catholics.

        And since I’m from a far-left country in which everyone is a fucking leftist, so I do not see the real difference with a normal French guy. I cannot discuss my political views with my IRL friends in France, nor in family, and I have to be very careful in my job, for example.

        It does not prevent me to encourage everyone who is aimed at learning French.

        But I can say that reading foreign esperantists on facebouc sometimes show me that they are less histerical and misinformed about international politics and economics than French people.

        As far I am concerned, I enjoy eo mainly for linguistic reasons and the feeling that true proficiency is at last accessible. And it has helped me to comprehend the way the languages work.

        Reply
  76. I’ve had the fortune (or mis-fortune) of being brought up in Australia where there’s little push in school to learn languages. I’d love to learn at least one additional language, if not more.

    After doing a bit of research, it turns out Esperanto can have a positive effect for people like myself. Obviously, learning any language helps learn additional languages. However, when Esperanto is taught as a second language, the effect is so profound that the time spent learning Esperanto is more valuable than time spent learning the language you actually want to learn.

    In one specific study (Williams, N. (1965) A language teaching experiment, Canadian Modern Language Review), 1 year of Esperanto and 3 years of French resulted in greater proficiency in French that 4 years of French. This is not the only study proving such a link.

    However, In point 5, you state that time spent learning Esperanto is time taken away from the language you want to learn. Given that this statement contradicts the many studies that have been performed on Esperanto, can you please provide a source that corroborates your opinion?

    Reply
  77. English, is of course, very easy to pronounce. For example:

    “The seventh statistician’s sixth statistical strength—his sixth strength—was how often otolaryngologists and ophthalmologists ate cottage cheese for lunch.”

    “Sixth strength” has the sequence “ksθstr” with no intervening vowels, and the most common (though perhaps not the most proper) pronunciation of R does not occur in other European languages.

    “Cottage cheese” has either “ʃtʃ ” or “d͡ʒtʃ in the middle, depending on the rapidity of speech and the speaker.

    And don’t even get started with Margaret’s margarine.

    Okay, so maybe English pronunciation isn’t so easy after all.

    Reply
  78. Whether you, Donovan Nagel, wish to learn or not learn Esperanto is a matter for yourself. However when you tell the world about your determination not to learn it and then show that you feel qualified to pontificate at length on a language, its history and background you do not know, you bring yourself and the internet as a medium into disrepute. You might read some of the books in English on the subject as recommended and be better informed, but unfortunately to know the mind of Zamenhof himself you need to read him in the original and similarly the more scholarly books on him and the language. As you declare you do not intend to learn the language or acquaint yourself with its literature you would be well advised to keep your uninformed views to yourself. However an anthology like ‘Star in a Night Sky’ edited by Paul Gubbins might have given you a jump start into its literature.

    Those who do know Esperanto well can judge how successful it is as a language. Those like you who declare they do not know it are not in a position to judge. However anyone can, like you, judge Esperanto externally as a phenomenon, a movement, call it what you wish. Esperanto has evidently very few adherents compared to English. It has no countries behind it, no businesses dependent on it, no language bureaucracies living off it. It is a small, impoverished, mostly self-selected, internationally minded speech community and seems likely to remain so for the present.

    Anyone who does not know English in the modern world has little choice but to learn it. Indeed as most non-English speaking countries start teaching English to their very young children in school , in practice the youngest generations have the choice made for them. Esperanto as a movement has little chance in that situation. It is a voluntary effort, in no way state-sponsored.

    Justin Rye’s rant is more entertaining and more challenging than yours. He has made continuing efforts to get to know the language.

    Reply
    1. > “is a matter for yourself.”

      Hence why I have a written post on my own blog about my own personal reasons.

      Did I come to your website trying to convince your readers to stop learning Esperanto? No.

      Reply
  79. You are writing about how “facts dont care about feelings” but to be honest you hardly wrote about more than your own feelings you want to be fact.

    You might for example try to google “propaedeutic value” to actually find out that studies suggest that 1 year esperanto and 3 years of french make you a better french speaker than 4 years of french.
    Don’t create anecdotal “facts” about the opposite being true in your head.
    Thats just self-deception.

    For me as a non native english speaker its also quite laughable how you brag about the importance of English.
    90% of all the people I know who were taught English for 10 years in school are so bad they could hardly ask for a sandwich in English.
    And guess what they are not only still included in the joke statistics about how many “English speakers” there are. They also get along around the internet quite fine.

    Reply
  80. Yup, pretty much what you said. I am treating it like a novelty. Other than lacking the le/les distinction of French, it has allowed me to learn various French language elements absent in English, but in a more controlled setting. Thank heaven the French vetoed learning it under the League of Nations! And yes, they are the worst zealots ever. With no good arguments. My roomie thought I had developed Tourette Syndrome when I was learning it, I swore so much!

    Reply
  81. You are giving too much importance to network effects. However, as Mark Fettes, the current President of the Universal Esperanto Association has said, “Esperanto has enormous potential as an educational tool, quite apart from its status as a global language.”

    Reply
  82. Regardless of who invented ——the—–???
    We should use wheels. The inventor is not important for something good, as time
    goes on.
    Esperanto, a universal smile, put into undestandable voice/throat/expressions.
    Billions of people who jump into a secondary communication, as needed.
    With the new learning electronic tools, it’s probbly going to happen.

    Reply
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