Why I Won't Learn Esperanto

Why I Won't Learn Esperanto

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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.

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Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Icelandic

COMMENTS

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Rye

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

That is a beautiful sentence.
And as Esperanto is fun to me, adds another reason to learn it.
Ties are a burden.

Great writeup ! Combines many thoughts I had sofar ontopic aswell.

Abdel Majid

I tried to learn Esperanto, but halfway there I realized that it is easy but useless.

Perhaps later the American culture will be hated and there will be a need to learn a language other than English. I really hate english.

Robert

Esperanto is THE MOSTLY WIDELY SPOKEN 2ND LANGUAGE. Fact. Period. But you ARE right about one thing, you ARE trying to shoot down aspiring Esperanto speakers. I'm wondering who the REAL intolerant radical is.

Lincoln Disbrow

As a student in Esperanto I respectfully disagree that learning Esperanto is a waste of time. For some people like me, it feels more like a stepping stone to other Latin alphabet based languages. I have always had difficulties learning a second language due to my Autism and Esperanto is working well for me. I cannot speak for others with developmental disorders.

As for the original Esperanto community, they were very far left and had dangerously ideological views. Purely as a language I am cool with it. The original political intentions I do not like it.

Ernst

It's fun how Esperanto is perceived as a perverse threat to all cultures but the omnipresence of English, alongside the inherent advantage of its native speakers over the rest of the world must be regarded as a blessing for all the (English) culture it supposedly brings unto us. We, non native English speakers have to endure learning it, and we will always be second class speakers of English no matter how much money and time we throw into it. I learnt English because I had to, not because I chose to. So if there's ever a more neutral language I can learn, I'll be happy to do it. I'd love Esperanto or a similar language to become the lingua franca and put us all on equal footing. A dominant language will always have an impact on a less powerful one. We've already seen the negative impact of English over now near extinct native languages. Esperanto hasn't done anything like that yet, so don't try to scare us with that fairytale. We'll take care of that when the time comes, if it ever does. There are people here who accuse esperantists of being fanatics but the strength and zeal those accusers use to attack Esperanto are not less fanatical, so perhaps there are people who should think again about their own motivations and feelings.

Kirstyn Todd

That last point about the lingua franca was so good and I agree--I disagree with the idea of a one-world language. I don't know who else here believes in the King James Bible 100 percent, but I do, and in Genesis it explains how the world's languages came from what many within the Christian circles would describe as "The Curse of Babel." Well, I don't think of Babel as a curse, I think it was a blessing, because in my opinion speaking would be quite dull without all the different languages we have today. Many view division as a curse, but I view it as a blessing, so long as it's not taken to the point of violence. If we broke down the language barrier, culture would die with it--we would all influence each other on higher and higher levels until everyone had the same customs, and the world becomes one giant city. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't like that idea--I'd rather forget the language my best friend and I had in common and have to work to speak to her than have everybody speak a common language.
I enjoyed the post and I see your point--I was interested in Esperanto because it's probably one of the most well-known conlangs out there, but if I can't find a group of reasonable people to learn it with, I don't think it would be worth it.

Matthew

The common argument for learning Esperanto: it's a far superior lingua franca to English. Look up "list of constructed languages" on Wikipedia; you'll see a very extensive number of potential lingua francas. These could include fictional languages such as Game of Thrones' "High Valyrian" - a language option almost as popular as Arabic on Duo Lingo - or for more relevance, the international auxiliary languages (IALs) such as Esperanto.

Esperanto was neither the first IAL, nor has it been the last. Language construction simply isn't revolutionary. Esperanto is a relatively aged IAL, and quite far off from being the most inclusive compromise of worldwide languages. An IAL called "Lingwa de planeta" (Lidepla for short) was more recently developed. It's far more inclusive of vocabulary from the dominant Asian languages. I'd be tempted to learn it.

However, how do I know this IAL will become the next English-tier lingua franca? How can Esperanto fanatics possibly imagine that their language, an even less inclusive IAL, will be more successful?

A good analogy I think are all the crypto-currencies on the market, with the most dominant one being Bitcoin. Bitcoin is a relatively dated, primitive crypto-currency compared to others, yet ironically remains the most popular. It is the most popular crypto-currency for a rather irrational reason: its first-mover advantage.

I wouldn't invest in Bitcoin, nor would I invest my time learning the dated IAL known as Esperanto. A language is only as good as it is useful. It'll take some significant political initiative for a world to settle upon an agreed language, and with the size of Asia, there's little reason to believe it'll be Esperanto.

Pili

Don't take it bad, but I think you are completely delusional about English being successful as an international language. Maybe this is because you're Australian and have a bias because English is your native language, but once you start traveling a bit, you quickly realise that very, very few people actually know English. It's an extremely complicated language and it's common to meet people who studied it for 10 years and are still unable to have a conversation, and people who do speak it as a second language often have a hard time understanding each other because of its random pronunciation. Countries around the world spend billions trying to teach their citizen English since the US started to force it as an international standard, and the success rate is desperately low. Data shows that if they spent 10 times less money on teaching Esperanto than they do with English, we would probably be much closer to have a common language for humanity by now.

Esteban B.

Nice depth to your article. Just how easy is Esperanto for Hawaiian's with a 13 letter alphabet and unique pronunciations and the monster formal Mandarin alphabet and very unique pronunciations ? There are words for cultural ideas that cannot be translated or understood by outsiders, and creating a word representing these words would make no sense to others. No one language stands any hope of improving what already exists except in a localized area where there is already similarity in the present languages.

John I.

So I only just discovered that this language even existed, and your article came up as I was doing research about it. I know this is your personal blog and all, but I do have some things I'd like to say about your viewpoints. Please keep in mind that this is all my subjective opinion, and I am not in any way trying to change your stances on anything, but for reasons I'm about to explain, I have a very different stance than you do on this language, and your ideology as a whole.

To start off, I noticed that throughout this writing, you rely heavily on very generalized assumptions that your way of thinking is the status quo to which everyone else should measure up to. There is likely a reason why you tend to think this way - being Australian, your lineage probably descends from somewhere in Western Europe, not to mention you have a relatively common last name. So it's not exactly far-fetched why you would see absolutely no issue with English (***number of speakers notwithstanding***) being the no-brainer choice for an international language. And you might be right. With almost a billion speakers in the world, one could conclude that with statistics alone. But theoretically speaking, your points contradict each other; you say that English succeeded where Esperanto failed because of global colonialism, immediately after you are finished praising the beauty in the diversity of a language that is not only responsible for the eclipsing of several languages in it's original region of the British Isles (Gaelic, Cornish, Welsh, Ulster Scots, Angloronami) but many indigenous Native American languages (Navajo, Yupik, Sioux, Apache) and even Aboriginal Australian languages (Alyawarre, Anindilyakwa, Anmatyerre). You fail to acknowledge that anywhere in this piece. Being an English speaker comes with the burden of knowing that all of these other languages had to be cast aside in order to make room. Personally, I find it far more comforting knowing that a universal language which works with cultures instead of against them exists. A bit of a shame that it isn't more practical.

Now for my more personal reasoning behind why I am drawn to this language. You claim to know a whole ton about different cultures, but unless you were born into it, I don't think that you will ever truly understand what it's like to be from a family born from an obscure culture living in the western world. Especially, in my case, bearing a surname (which for privacy reasons I will not make public) so unorthodox that most people won't even bother to even try and pronounce correctly because it sounds so different. Because I have my own sense of pride in my cultural ethnic background, I will never anglicize it, but that means that feeling different is something I will always have to deal with. So for me, knowing that there is a language out there that tries to bring all people of different linguistic backgrounds together (even if it's not ALL of them) sounds incredibly pleasing.

Now I'd like to offer a rebuttal to your point about Esperanto being a culture-less language. I don't speak it or anything, but do you really think that a culture is built and developed within a single century? Most other languages have had thousands of years to develop. Trying to compare a 100 year-old language to a millennium-old one is like comparing the knowledge of an 18 year-old college freshmen to a 60 year-old professor. We're talking about a language that was created at an accelerated pace for the primary goal of trying to unify people of different backgrounds. I for one, actually find it liberating to know that there is a universal language that is is not only familiar and inclusive, but also void of any appropriation barrier. And coming from a dual-cultural American background, I can tell you, and I apologize if this might come off as a little offensive, but most white people rarely know culture. If you want to talk about artificial culture, look no further than neo-corporate America. From what I've seen, the Esperanto folks already seem to be more 'cultured' than most typical Americans, but of course, I'm going off of what I've only seen and read in the very short period of time that I've known about it. The cultural stuff will all come with time (so long as it's allowed to be). I might not be interested in going through the effort trying to learn Esperanto anytime soon. But I like what it's purpose is. I like what it stands for. And seriously, a language where people are encouraged to work towards changing and improving? An open-source language, who would have thought?

As I said before, this is all from a personal viewpoint. And yes, I know that this is your personal blog and everything, but this IS one of the first results that comes up when you google 'Learn Esperanto', and it's quite an emotionally-loaded article with statements made which you seem to really believe as objective. I won't go into anything regarding your obvious political leanings, but this kind of reads like a Breitbart article (you even pulled a Ben Shapiro with the "facts don't care about your feelings" saying), so you can't really blame anyone for disagreeing with their own strong opinions. What goes around comes around. If you don't see many people who speak it who have the same ideologies as you do, maybe you could be the first. Write a book even. If you don't like the way things are, don't be afraid to try and change it. That's how this whole language got started in the first place. I think it's really cool what Esperanto is trying to do, and anyone who speaks it, more power to them.

That's about all I have to say on this. If you read this whole thing, I really appreciate it. Conflicting strong opinions will always lead to some friction, but hopefully we can agree to disagree.

Anyway, that's about it for me. Later!

mike jensen

wow.. you're passionately against esperanto, I'll give you that.. but you seem to be missing the bigger picture, and your vehemence itself to some extent cancels out the logic your argument does have. if it's really that easy to learn, that's a good thing, because then people can go ahead and learn it, and feel good about being able to speak another language that -does- actually have other speakers, and then use it as a branching off point for learning other languages. apparently elementary school children.. it works really great for them, then once they're functional in -something- they can then start to add to it, presumably branching out in all different directions, exploring all kinds of different languages and cultures.. :-) and no, I don't speak esperanto. I'm planing on learning it, I've been researching different languages, with my initial focus on elvish :-) turns out it's not a fully functional language, however :-(

M Wolf

I find the determined assertion that Esperanto has no culture totally at odds with the determined assertion that Esperanto is founded and permeated with a political ideal.
Personal politics, an individual's beliefs in how society should work and how individuals within a society should act, is one of the most fundamental levels of culture.
This rather ranty, evangelical article fails to recognise that those to whom Esperanto (and its philosophies) appeal are bound together by the culture of finding them appealing.
I also find it curious that Esperanto enthusiasts are accused of being Evangelical in their promotion of the language and by a fan of Arabic, a language that was forced upon a great many cultures on the edge of a sword with a fairly inflexible set of beliefs attached. I have nothing against Arabic, I think is a beautiful language which has been used to translate many of the cultural elements of the cultures that it has subsumed. Esperanto is also being used to translate the cultural elements of the cultures of the people that willingly come to it.
Now English... wow, as an English person I can testify to the cultural catastrophe that is Englishness, our language has been so successful, off the back of our imperial success, that we now don't even know what our own culture is. Lol.

Michael

Are you aussie?

Donovan Nagel

Yep.

Boujleba

I'm rather left wing and I agree with absolutely everything that you are saying about Esperanto and Esperantists (except I must admit that it seems that you are much more tolerant of them than I am!) So much for the tolerant left ;)

Antonio

I a bilingual and i been struggling if i want to learn esperanto or italian

mike

seems pretty clear -learn esperanto first, it'll go fast, then learn italian. follow peters second law! :-)

James Bridge

I can't tell if this article was written in sincerity to argue against Esperanto, or in jest as clickbait. Clearly, Poe's Law is in operation here, so I'm going to not waste my time explaining why the author of this essay seems to be possessed of a willful ignorance toward Esperanto.

Sophia

Hi! I am very late to reading this article, but I have to say it was a great read and I can understand why you hold those views towards Esperanto.

It also made me think about why I am so drawn to it. I realized it actually has something to do with the lack of culture in Esperanto unlike natural languages. As a mixed ethnicity/nationality person who also grew up in a third, completely different culture from my parents, I have had the opportunity to be immersed in different cultures.

However, as much as I found my place wherever I was, I never quite fit in anywhere or with any particular culture. I always stuck out both in looks (I have never been anywhere in the world where I am not asked where I am from, everyone automatically assuming I am foreign) and my own patchwork quilt invention of a culture. I'm drawn to Esperanto because I see it as liberation from this born attachment to culture and language that I've been trying to navigate my whole life (plus it's just a wonderfully simple and logical language that I find fun to learn!).

Of course there are plenty of other culturally diverse communities out there, but as someone who loves and appreciates language, I see the Esperanto community, a community built around this shared language, the very medium we use to convey our thoughts and feelings, as... a parallel to culture for me? (I don't know if I'm making any sense, sorry!)

Anyway, I was just scrolling through some comments and read lots of different reasons people are learning Esperanto and didn't see one that I related to very much, so there's mine :)

John I.

You make perfect sense to anyone who has ever experienced a sense of border-culture anxiety (myself included). I appreciate you telling your side of it!

Scout

That's really cool Sophia! thank you for sharing that story. Vi havas bonan tagon! 🙂

bert plante

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.

Mike Jones

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.”

Dino Snider

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!

Chris

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.

John Murray

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.

Donovan Nagel

> "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.

Ken

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.

Lisabela Zxywhiddm Marschild

IIH ahh naa wot yu meen. Aa woz bawn in nyucassel waay up nawth on tieensyde mann. Owa taakin is reet haard to say, an nee bodee sez pronowns.

My bilingual mother taught english to the children of a Spanish Royal duke and Duchess in the 1960s.

The children thought it funny when they asked her about the dialect spoken in her hometown and she put on a fairly good geordie accent for them.

They would later be educated in england and learn to pronounce queens english.
She always smiles at the thought of a royal duke saying 'why I mann' in reply to someone at some point in his life.

My point is I liked your post and wanted to say there is no English pronunciation as so-called proper english was scrapped decades ago in favour of recognising the diversity of dialects.

Even Donovan Nagel might agree that each language in every land has many dialects and many of them are naturally evolved because of ideological differences. Words get replaced for reasons which to some may seem political ideological such as for example my own use of the word subject. I will never use that word in a political context as I am a FREE individual and am a Citizen of the Earth, Though I was born in England I am a 'subject' of no-one esoecially not some person deluded enough to think they are superior to me because they were born in a palace and call themselves queen. Therefore i replace that word with the word slave when referring to her sickofans.

Language is an evolving medium including constructed ones and does and will include politics/ideology within its structures.

Again i say as this is a reply that i liked your comment and thus is not a critisism of anything you wrote.

I am new to this blog and esperanto
and have enjoyed many of the comments and replies posted.

I will post separately what I think of Donovan Nagels blog

Jason Smith

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?

Wàng

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 ? ? ?

Donovan Nagel

Interesting.

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

Wàng

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.

Phillip

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".

Ken

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.

Brandon

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.

Donovan Nagel

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.

Philip Leckenby

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.

someone

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.

Benson

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.

someone

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.

Dashakol

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.

someone

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.

Ken

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?

Andor

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.

someone

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.

somebody

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.

Edith Aint

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.

nobody

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.

chris

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

La Fia Malesperantisto

"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 :P

Michel Verrier

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 ...

Ken

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.

Donovan Nagel

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

Ken

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.

Donovan Nagel

> "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".

Ralph Long

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

Donovan Nagel

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

nobody

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.

Ken

Whatever.

Ken

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.

Donovan Nagel

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.

johannes

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.

Guille

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?

Johnny

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.

Lu Wunsch-Rolshoven

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.

Beno

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.

Johnny

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.

Guille

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.

Edith Aint

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?

La Espero

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.

Ed Robertson

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.

Scout

Great points, Ed!

Izaak

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.

Scout

Good point Izaak... His circus freak comment was one of the many ways he undermined his opinion. I'll never understand why people think that they're having an intelligent discussion when in reality they're just insulting others and pushing their own ideological viewpoint. It would be really interesting to hear your experiences growing up

Edith Aint

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. :)

Judith M

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.

Harry Dresden

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!

Edith Aint

I wish there was a "like" button for comments here. :)

Donovan Nagel

Completely agree with you, Harry. Spot on.

Daniel Francis

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.

Lu Wunsch-Rolshoven

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".

Daniel Francis

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

Mike Jones

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.

Mike Jones

Esperanto keeps outliving its obituary-writers.

Donovan Nagel

Never said it was dead.

Just unnecessary and overtly political.

Ken

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."

Donovan Nagel

Exactly!

Thank you. Finally someone who gets it.