is the world's most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language
. It is the only such language with a population of native speakers, of which there are perhaps several thousand.
Usage estimates are difficult, but two recent estimates put the number of active speakers at around 100,000.
Concentration of speakers is highest in Europe, East Asia and South America. The Universal Esperanto Association
has more than 5,500 members in 120 countries.
The language has also gained a noticeable presence on the internet in recent years
, as it became increasingly accessible on platforms such as Duolingo
Esperanto was created by Polish ophthalmologistL. L. Zamenhof
in 1887. It was intended to be a universal second language
for international communication. Zamenhof first described the language in Dr. Esperanto's International Language
, which he published in five languages under the pseudonym "Doktoro Esperanto". Zamenhof claimed that the grammar of the language could be learned in one hour, though this estimate assumed a learner with a background in European languages. The word esperanto
translates into English as "one who hopes";
Esperanto speakers are often called "Esperantists" (Esperantistoj
Although no country has adopted Esperanto officially, Esperantujo
("Esperanto-land") is the name given to the collection of places where it is spoken.
The first Esperanto book, by L. L. Zamenhof, published in 1887 in the Russian language
According to Zamenhof, he created the language to reduce the "time and labor we spend in learning foreign tongues" and to foster harmony between people from different countries: "Were there but an international language, all translations would be made into it alone […] and all nations would be united in a common brotherhood."
His feelings and the situation in Białystok may be gleaned from an extract from his letter to Nikolai Borovko:
"The place where I was born and spent my childhood gave direction to all my future struggles. In Białystok the inhabitants were divided into four distinct elements: Russians, Poles, Germans, and Jews; each of these spoke their own language and looked on all the others as enemies. In such a town a sensitive nature feels more acutely than elsewhere the misery caused by language division and sees at every step that the diversity of languages is the first, or at least the most influential, basis for the separation of the human family into groups of enemies. I was brought up as an idealist; I was taught that all people were brothers, while outside in the street at every step I felt that there were no people, only Russians, Poles, Germans, Jews, and so on. This was always a great torment to my infant mind, although many people may smile at such an 'anguish for the world' in a child. Since at that time I thought that 'grown-ups' were omnipotent, so I often said to myself that when I grew up I would certainly destroy this evil."
— L. L. Zamenhof, in a letter to Nikolai Borovko, c. 1895
"It was invented in 1887 and designed that anyone could learn it in a few short months. Dr. Zamenhof lived on Dzika Street, No.9, which was just around the corner from the street on which we lived. Brother Afrum was so impressed with that idea that he learned Esperanto in a very short time at home from a little book. He then bought many dozens of them and gave them out to relatives, friends, just anyone he could, to support that magnificent idea for he felt that this would be a common bond to promote relationships with fellow men in the world. A group of people had organized and sent letters to the government asking to change the name of the street where Dr. Zamenhof lived for many years when he invented Esperanto, from Dzika to Zamenhofa. They were told that a petition with a large number of signatures would be needed. That took time so they organized demonstrations carrying large posters encouraging people to learn the universal language and to sign the petitions... About the same time, in the middle of the block marched a huge demonstration of people holding posters reading "Learn Esperanto", "Support the Universal language", "Esperanto the language of hope and expectation", "Esperanto the bond for international communication" and so on, and many "Sign the petitions". I will never forget that rich-poor, sad-glad parade and among all these people stood two fiery red tramway cars waiting on their opposite lanes and also a few doroszkas with their horses squeezed in between. Such a sight it was. Later a few blocks were changed from Dzika Street to Dr. Zamenhofa Street and a nice monument was erected there with his name and his invention inscribed on it, to honor his memory.
— Autobiography of Tema Kipnis, Jewish refugee from Poland
Zamenhof's goal was to create an easy and flexible language that would serve as a universal second language
to foster world peace
and international understanding, and to build a "community of speakers".
His original title for the language was simply "the international language" (la lingvo internacia
), but early speakers grew fond of the name Esperanto
and began to use it as the name for the language just two years after its creation. The name quickly gained prominence and has been used as an official name ever since.
In 1905, Zamenhof published the Fundamento de Esperanto
as a definitive guide to the language. Later that year, French Esperantists organized with his participation the first World Esperanto Congress
, an ongoing annual conference, in Boulogne-sur-Mer
, France. Zamenhof also proposed to the first congress that an independent body of linguistic scholars should steward the future evolution of Esperanto, foreshadowing the founding of the Akademio de Esperanto
(in part modeled after the Académie française
), which was established soon thereafter. Since then world congresses have been held in different countries every year, except during the two World Wars and the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic
(when it was moved to an online-only event). Since the Second World War
, they have been attended by an average of more than 2,000 people and up to 6,000 people.
Zamenhof wrote that he wanted mankind to "learn and use [...] en masse [...] the proposed language as a living one".
The goal for Esperanto to become a global auxiliary language was not Zamenhof's only goal; he also wanted to "enable the learner to make direct use of his knowledge with persons of any nationality, whether the language be universally accepted or not; in other words, the language is to be directly a means of international communication."
After some ten years of development, which Zamenhof spent translating literature into Esperanto as well as writing original prose and verse, the first book of Esperanto grammar
was published in Warsaw on July 26, 1887. The number of speakers grew rapidly over the next few decades, at first primarily in the Russian Empire and Central Europe, then in other parts of Europe, the Americas, China, and Japan. In the early years before the world congreses, speakers of Esperanto kept in contact primarily through correspondence and periodicals.
Zamenhof's name for the language was simply Internacia Lingvo
Map of Esperanto groups in Europe in 1905
The autonomous territory of Neutral Moresnet
, between what is today Belgium and Germany, had a sizable proportion of Esperanto-speakers among its small and multi-ethnic population. There was a proposal to make Esperanto its official language.
However, neither Belgium nor Germany had ever surrendered its original claim to it. Around 1900, Germany, in particular, was taking a more aggressive stance towards the territory and was accused of sabotage and of obstructing the administrative process to force the issue. It was the First World War, however, that was the catalyst that brought about the end of neutrality. On August 4, 1914, Germany invaded Belgium, leaving Moresnet at first "an oasis in a desert of destruction".
In 1915, the territory was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia, without international recognition. Germany lost the war, Moresnet was returned to Belgium, and today it is the German-speaking Belgian municipality of Kelmis
After the Great War, a great opportunity seemed to arise for Esperanto when the Iranian delegation to the League of Nations
proposed that it be adopted for use in international relations, following a report by Nitobe Inazō
, a Japanese official delegate of the League of Nations during the 13th World Congress of Esperanto in Prague
Ten delegates accepted the proposal with only one voice against, the French delegate, Gabriel Hanotaux
. Hanotaux opposed all recognition of Esperanto at the League, from the first resolution on December 18, 1920 and subsequently through all efforts during the next three years.
Hanotaux did not approve of how the French language was losing its position as the international language and saw Esperanto as a threat, effectively wielding his veto power to block the decision. However, two years later, the League recommended that its member states include Esperanto in their educational curricula. The French government retaliated by banning all instruction in Esperanto in France's schools and universities.
The French Ministry of Public Instruction said that "French and English would perish and the literary standard of the world would be debased".
Nonetheless, many people see the 1920s as the heyday of the Esperanto movement. During this time, Anarchism
as a political movement was very supportive of both anationalism
and the Esperanto language.
was one of the chief promoters of Esperanto in the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia
. He was among the founders of the Croatian Prosvjetnoga saveza
(Educational Alliance), of which he was the first secretary, and organized Esperanto institutions in Zagreb
. Novljan collaborated with Esperanto newspapers and magazines, and was the author of the Esperanto textbook Internacia lingvo esperanto i Esperanto en tridek lecionoj
In 1920s Korea
, socialist thinkers pushed for the use of Esperanto through a series of columns in The Dong-a Ilbo
as resistance to both Japanese occupation
as well as a counter to the growing nationalist movement for Korean language standardization. This lasted until the Mukden Incident
in 1931, when changing colonial policy led to an outright ban on Esperanto education in Korea.
7th Esperanto congress, Antwerp
, August 1911
In Nazi Germany, there was a motivation to ban Esperanto because Zamenhof was Jewish, and due to the internationalist nature of Esperanto, which was perceived as "Bolshevist". In his work, Mein Kampf
, Adolf Hitler
specifically mentioned Esperanto as an example of a language that could be used by an international Jewish conspiracy once they achieved world domination. Esperantists
were killed during the Holocaust
, with Zamenhof's family in particular singled out to be killed.
The efforts of a minority of German Esperantists to expel their Jewish colleagues
and overtly align themselves with the Reich were futile, and Esperanto was legally forbidden in 1935. Esperantists in German concentration camps did, however, teach Esperanto to fellow prisoners, telling guards they were teaching Italian, the language of one of Germany's Axis allies
In Imperial Japan
, the left wing of the Japanese Esperanto movement was forbidden, but its leaders were careful enough not to give the impression to the government that the Esperantists were socialist revolutionaries, which proved a successful strategy.
After the October Revolution
of 1917, Esperanto was given a measure of government support by the new workers' states in the former Russian Empire
and later by the Soviet Union
government, with the Soviet Esperanto Association
being established as an officially recognized organization.
In his biography on Joseph Stalin
, Leon Trotsky
mentions that Stalin had studied Esperanto.
However, in 1937, at the height of the Great Purge
, Stalin completely reversed the Soviet government's policies on Esperanto; many Esperanto speakers were executed, exiled or held in captivity in the Gulag
labour camps. Quite often the accusation was: "You are an active member of an international spy organization which hides itself under the name of 'Association of Soviet Esperantists' on the territory of the Soviet Union." Until the end of the Stalin era, it was dangerous to use Esperanto in the Soviet Union, even though it was never officially forbidden to speak Esperanto.
allowed the use of Esperanto, finding its phonology similar to that of Italian and publishing some tourist material in the language.
The development of Esperanto has continued unabated into the 21st century. The advent of the Internet
has had a significant impact on the language, as learning it has become increasingly accessible on platforms such as Duolingo
, and as speakers have increasingly networked on platforms such as Amikumu
With up to two million speakers, it is the most widely spoken constructed language in the world.
Although no country has adopted Esperanto officially, Esperantujo
("Esperanto-land") is the name given to the collection of places where it is spoken.
Location of Moresnet
Esperanto has not been a secondary official language of any recognized country, but it entered the education systems of several countries, such as Hungary
There were plans at the beginning of the 20th century to establish Neutral Moresnet
, in central-western Europe, as the world's first Esperanto state. In addition, the self-proclaimed artificial island micronation
of Rose Island
, near Italy in the Adriatic Sea, used Esperanto as its official language in 1968, and another micronation, the extant Republic of Molossia
, near Dayton, Nevada
, uses Esperanto as an official language alongside English.
The Chinese government has used Esperanto since 2001 for daily news on china.org.cn. China also uses Esperanto in China Radio International
and for the internet magazine El Popola Ĉinio
The United States Army
has published military phrase books in Esperanto,
to be used from the 1950s until the 1970s in war games by mock enemy forces. A field reference manual, FM 30-101-1 Feb. 1962, contained the grammar, English-Esperanto-English dictionary, and common phrases.
Esperanto is the working language of several non-profit international organizations such as the Sennacieca Asocio Tutmonda
, a left-wing cultural association which had 724 members in over 85 countries in 2006.
There is also Education@Internet
, which has developed from an Esperanto organization; most others are specifically Esperanto organizations. The largest of these, the Universal Esperanto Association
, has an official consultative relationship with the United Nations and UNESCO
, which recognized Esperanto as a medium for international understanding in 1954.
The Universal Esperanto Association
collaborated in 2017 with UNESCO to deliver an Esperanto translation
of its magazine UNESCO Courier
(Unesko Kuriero en Esperanto
The League of Nations made attempts to promote teaching Esperanto in member countries, but the resolutions were defeated mainly by French delegates who did not feel there was a need for it.
In the summer of 1924, the American Radio Relay League
adopted Esperanto as its official international auxiliary language,
and hoped that the language would be used by radio amateurs in international communications, but its actual use for radio communications was negligible.
Esperanto and the Internet
is one of the most popular online learning platforms for Esperanto. Already in 2013, the "lernu.net" site reported 150,000 registered users and had between 150,000 and 200,000 visitors each month.
As of October 2018, Lernu had 320,000 registered users, who were able to view the site's interface in their choice of 24 languages – Catalan
, Esperanto, Finnish
; a further five languages — Bulgarian
— have at least 70 percent of the interface localized; nine additional languages – Dutch, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Polish, Thai, Turkish and Vietnamese – are in varying stages of completing the interface translation. About 50,000 lernu.net users possess at least a basic understanding of Esperanto.
With over 298,000 articles, Esperanto Wikipedia
(Vikipedio) is the 35th-largest Wikipedia, as measured by the number of articles,
and is the largest Wikipedia in a constructed language.
About 150,000 users consult the Vikipedio regularly, as attested by Wikipedia's automatically aggregated log-in data, which showed that in October 2019 the website has 117,366 unique individual visitors per month, plus 33,572 who view the site on a mobile device instead.
Online translation services
On May 28, 2015, the language learning platform Duolingo
launched a free Esperanto course for English speakers.
On March 25, 2016, when the first Duolingo Esperanto course completed its beta-testing phase, that course had 350,000 people registered to learn Esperanto through the medium of English. As of 27 May 2017, over one million users had begun learning Esperanto on Duolingo;
by July 2018 the number of learners had risen to 1.36 million. On July 20, 2018, Duolingo changed from recording users cumulatively to reporting only the number of "active learners" (i.e., those who are studying at the time and have not yet completed the course),
which as of March 2021 stands at 294,000 learners.
On October 26, 2016, a second Duolingo Esperanto course, for which the language of instruction is Spanish, appeared on the same platform
and which as of March 2021 has a further 244,000 students.
A third Esperanto course, taught in Brazilian Portuguese, began its beta-testing phase on May 14, 2018, and as of October 2019, 220,000 people
are using this course. A fourth Esperanto course, taught in French, began its beta-testing phase in July 2020,
and as of March 2021 has 72,500 students.
A fifth course, to be taught in Mandarin Chinese, is also in development.
Esperanto is now one of 36 courses that Duolingo teaches through English, one of ten courses taught through Spanish, one of six courses taught through Portuguese, and one of six courses taught through French.
, and semantics
are based on the Indo-European languages
spoken in Europe. The sound inventory
is essentially Slavic
, as is much of the semantics, whereas the vocabulary derives primarily from Romance languages
, with a lesser contribution from Germanic languages
and minor contributions from Slavic languages and Greek. Pragmatics
and other aspects of the language not specified by Zamenhof's original documents were influenced by the native languages of early authors, primarily Russian, Polish, German, and French. Paul Wexler
proposes that Esperanto is relexified Yiddish
, which he claims is in turn a relexified Slavic language,
though this model is not accepted by mainstream academics.
Esperanto typically has 22 to 24 consonants (depending on the phonemic analysis and individual speaker), five vowels, and two semivowels
that combine with the vowels to form six diphthongs
. (The consonant /j/ and semivowel /i̯/ are both written j
, and the uncommon consonant /dz/ is written with the digraph dz
which is the only consonant that doesn't have its own letter.) Tone
is not used to distinguish meanings of words. Stress
is always on the second-to-last vowel in proper Esperanto words, unless a final vowel o
is elided, which occurs mostly in poetry. For example, familio
"family" is [fa.mi.ˈli.o], with the stress on the second i
, but when the word is used without the final o (famili’),
the stress remains on the second i
The 23 consonants are:
There is some degree of allophony:
A large number of consonant clusters can occur, up to three in initial position (as in stranga
, "strange") and five in medial position (as in ekssklavo
, "former slave"). Final clusters are uncommon except in unassimilated names, poetic elision of final o,
and a very few basic words such as cent
"hundred" and post
There are also two semivowels, /i̯/ and /u̯/, which combine with the monophthongs to form six falling diphthongs
: aj, ej, oj, uj, aŭ,
Since there are only five vowels, a good deal of variation in pronunciation is tolerated. For instance, e
commonly ranges from [e] (French é
) to [ɛ] (French è
). These details often depend on the speaker's native language. A glottal stop
may occur between adjacent vowels in some people's speech, especially when the two vowels are the same, as in heroo
"hero" ([he.ˈro.o] or [he.ˈro.ʔo]) and praavo
"great-grandfather" ([pra.ˈa.vo] or [pra.ˈʔa.vo]).
The Esperanto alphabet is based on the Latin script
, using a one-sound-one-letter principle, with the exception of [d͡z]. It includes six letters
(with a circumflex
), and ŭ
(with a breve
). The alphabet does not include the letters q, w, x,
, which are only used when writing unassimilated terms or proper names.
The 28-letter alphabet is:
All unaccented letters are pronounced approximately as their respective IPA
symbols, with the exception of c
are used in a way familiar to speakers of German
and many Slavic languages
, but unfamiliar to most English speakers: j
has a y
sound [j~i̯], as in yellow
has a ts
sound [t͡s], as in hits
or the zz
. In addition, Esperanto g
is always hard, as in give
, and Esperanto vowels are pronounced as in Spanish.
The accented letters are:
- Ĉ is pronounced like English ch in chatting
- Ĝ is pronounced like English g in gem
- Ĥ is pronounced like the ch in German Bach or in the Scottish Gaelic, Scots and Scottish Standard English loch. It is also found sometimes in Scouse as the 'k' in book and 'ck' in chicken.
- Ĵ is pronounced like the s in English fusion or the J in French Jacques
- Ŝ is pronounced like English sh
- Ŭ is pronounced like English w and is primarily used after vowels (e.g. antaŭ)
Even with the widespread adoption of Unicode
, the letters with diacritics (found in the "Latin-Extended A" section of the Unicode Standard
) can cause problems with printing and computing, because they are not found on most physical keyboards and are left out of certain fonts.
There are two principal workarounds to this problem, which substitute digraphs
for the accented letters. Zamenhof, the inventor of Esperanto, created an "h-convention", which replaces ĉ, ĝ, ĥ, ĵ, ŝ,
with ch, gh, hh, jh, sh,
If used in a database, a program in principle could not determine whether to render, for example, ch
followed by h
or as ĉ
, and would fail to render, for example, the word senchava
properly, unless its component parts were intentionally separated, as in e.g. senc·hava
. A more recent "x-convention
" has gained ground since the advent of computing. This system replaces each diacritic with an x
(not part of the Esperanto alphabet) after the letter, producing the six digraphs cx, gx, hx, jx, sx,
Criticisms are levied against the letters with circumflex diacritics, which some find odd or cumbersome, along with their being invented specifically for Esperanto rather than borrowed from existing languages. Additionally, some of them are arguably unnecessary — for example, the use of ĥ
instead of x
instead of w
However, Zamenhof did not choose these letters arbitrarily: In fact, they were inspired by Czech letters with the caron
diacritic, but replaced the caron with a circumflex for the ease of those who had access to a French typewriter (with a circumflex dead-key
). The Czech letter ž
was replaced with ĵ
to match the French letter j
with the same sound. The letter ŭ
on the other hand comes from the u-breve
used in Latin prosody
, and is also speculated to be inspired by the Belarusian Cyrillic
; French typewriters can render it approximately as the French letter ù
Esperanto words are mostly derived
by stringing together roots
, grammatical endings, and at times prefixes
. This process is regular so that people can create new words as they speak and be understood. Compound
words are formed with a modifier-first, head-final
order, as in English (compare "birdsong" and "songbird," and likewise, birdokanto
). Speakers may optionally insert an o
between the words in a compound noun if placing them together directly without the o
would make the resulting word hard to say or understand.
The different parts of speech
are marked by their own suffixes: all common nouns
end in -o
, all adjectives
, all derived adverbs in -e
, and all verbs
except the jussive
) end in -s
, specifically in one of six tense
suffixes, such as the present tense -as
; the jussive mood, which is tenseless, ends in -u
. Nouns and adjectives have two cases: nominative
for grammatical subjects and in general, and accusative
for direct objects and (after a preposition) to indicate direction of movement.
nouns used as grammatical subjects
end in -o
subject nouns in -oj
(pronounced [oi̯] like English "oy"). Singular direct object
forms end in -on
, and plural direct objects with the combination -ojn
([oi̯n]; rhymes with "coin"): -o
indicates that the word is a noun, -j
indicates the plural, and -n
indicates the accusative
(direct object) case. Adjectives agree
with their nouns; their endings are singular subject -a
([a]; rhymes with "ha!"), plural subject -aj
([ai̯], pronounced "eye"), singular object -an
, and plural object -ajn
([ai̯n]; rhymes with "fine").
The suffix -n, besides indicating the direct object, is used to indicate movement and a few other things as well.
Word order is comparatively free. Adjectives may precede or follow nouns; subjects, verbs and objects may occur in any order. However, the article la
such as tiu
"that" and prepositions
(such as ĉe
"at") must come before their related nouns. Similarly, the negative ne
"not" and conjunctions
such as kaj
"and" and ke
"that" must precede the phrase
that they introduce. In copular
(A = B) clauses, word order is just as important as in English: "people are animals" is distinguished from "animals are people".
The core vocabulary of Esperanto was defined by Lingvo internacia
, published by Zamenhof in 1887. This book listed 900 roots; these could be expanded into tens of thousands of words using prefixes, suffixes, and compounding. In 1894, Zamenhof published the first Esperanto dictionary
, Universala Vortaro
, which had a larger set of roots. The rules of the language allowed speakers to borrow new roots as needed; it was recommended, however, that speakers use most international forms and then derive related meanings from these.
Since then, many words have been borrowed, primarily (but not solely) from the European languages. Not all proposed borrowings become widespread, but many do, especially technical
terms. Terms for everyday use, on the other hand, are more likely to be derived from existing roots; komputilo
"computer", for instance, is formed from the verb komputi
"compute" and the suffix -ilo
"tool". Words are also calqued
; that is, words acquire new meanings based on usage in other languages. For example, the word muso
"mouse" has acquired the meaning of a computer mouse
from its usage in many languages (English mouse
, French souris
, Dutch muis
, Spanish ratón
, etc.). Esperanto speakers often debate about whether a particular borrowing is justified or whether meaning can be expressed by deriving from or extending the meaning of existing words.
Some compounds and formed words in Esperanto are not entirely straightforward; for example, eldoni
, literally "give out", means "publish", paralleling the usage of certain European languages (such as German herausgeben
, Dutch uitgeven
, Russian издать izdat'
). In addition, the suffix -um-
has no defined meaning; words using the suffix must be learned separately (such as dekstren
"to the right" and dekstrumen
There are not many idiomatic or slang words in Esperanto, as these forms of speech tend to make international communication difficult—working against Esperanto's main goal.
Instead of derivations of Esperanto roots, new roots are taken from European languages in the endeavor to create an international language.
The following short extract gives an idea of the character of Esperanto.
(Pronunciation is covered above; the Esperanto letter j
is pronounced like English y
«En multaj lokoj de Ĉinio estis temploj de la drako-reĝo. Dum trosekeco oni preĝis en la temploj, ke la drako-reĝo donu pluvon al la homa mondo. Tiam drako estis simbolo de la supernatura estaĵo. Kaj pli poste, ĝi fariĝis prapatro de la plej altaj regantoj kaj simbolis la absolutan aŭtoritaton de la feŭda imperiestro. La imperiestro pretendis, ke li estas la filo de la drako. Ĉiuj liaj vivbezonaĵoj portis la nomon drako kaj estis ornamitaj per diversaj drakofiguroj. Nun ĉie en Ĉinio videblas drako-ornamentaĵoj, kaj cirkulas legendoj pri drakoj.»
In many places in China, there were temples of the dragon-king. During times of drought, people would pray in the temples that the dragon-king would give rain to the human world. At that time the dragon was a symbol of the supernatural creature. Later on, it became the ancestor of the highest rulers and symbolized the absolute authority of a feudal emperor. The emperor claimed to be the son of the dragon. All of his personal possessions carried the name "dragon" and were decorated with various dragon figures. Now dragon decorations can be seen everywhere in China and legends about dragons circulate.
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Below are listed some useful Esperanto words and phrases along with IPA
Esperanto speakers learn the language through self-directed study
, online tutorials, and correspondence courses taught by volunteers. More recently, free teaching websites like lernu!
have become available.
In the United States, Esperanto is notably offered as a weekly evening course at Stanford University's
Bechtel International Center. Conversational Esperanto, The International Language
, is a free drop-in class that is open to Stanford students and the general public on campus during the academic year.
With administrative permission, Stanford Students can take the class for two credits a quarter through the Linguistics Department. "Even four lessons are enough to get more than just the basics," the Esperanto at Stanford website reads.
suggests that Esperanto can be learned in anywhere from one quarter of the amount of time required for other languages.
Four primary schools in Britain, with 230 pupils, are currently[when?]
following a course in "propaedeutic Esperanto
"—that is, instruction in Esperanto to raise language awareness and accelerate subsequent learning of foreign languages—under the supervision of the University of Manchester
. As they put it,
Many schools used to teach children the recorder, not to produce a nation of recorder players, but as a preparation for learning other instruments. [We teach] Esperanto, not to produce a nation of Esperanto-speakers, but as a preparation for learning other languages.
Studies have been conducted in New Zealand,
the United States,
The results of these studies were favorable and demonstrated that studying Esperanto before another foreign language expedites the acquisition of the other, natural language. This appears to be because learning subsequent foreign languages is easier than learning one's first foreign language, whereas the use of a grammatically simple and culturally flexible auxiliary language like Esperanto lessens the first-language learning hurdle.
In one study,
a group of European secondary school students studied Esperanto for one year, then French for three years, and ended up with a significantly better command of French than a control group, who studied French for the entire four-year period.
Geography and demography
Countering a common criticism against Esperanto, the statistician Svend Nielsen has found no significant correlation between the number of Esperanto speakers and the similarity of a given national native language to Esperanto. He concludes that Esperanto tends to be more popular in rich countries with widespread Internet access and a tendency to contribute more to science and culture. Linguistic diversity within a country was found to have no, or perhaps a slightly reductive, correlation with Esperanto popularity.
Number of speakers
An estimate of the number of Esperanto speakers was made by Sidney S. Culbert
, a retired psychology
professor at the University of Washington
and a longtime Esperantist, who tracked down and tested Esperanto speakers in sample areas in dozens of countries over a period of twenty years. Culbert concluded that between one and two million people speak Esperanto at Foreign Service Level 3
, "professionally proficient" (able to communicate moderately complex ideas without hesitation, and to follow speeches, radio broadcasts, etc.).
Culbert's estimate was not made for Esperanto alone, but formed part of his listing of estimates for all languages of more than one million speakers, published annually in the World Almanac
and Book of Facts. Culbert's most detailed account of his methodology is found in a 1989 letter to David Wolff.
Since Culbert never published detailed intermediate results for particular countries and regions, it is difficult to independently gauge the accuracy of his results.
In the Almanac, his estimates for numbers of language speakers were rounded to the nearest million, thus the number of Esperanto speakers is shown as two million. This latter figure appears in Ethnologue
. Assuming that this figure is accurate, that means that about 0.03% of the world's population speaks the language. Although it does not meet Zamenhof's goal of a universal language
, it still represents a level of popularity unmatched by any other constructed language.
Marcus Sikosek (now Ziko van Dijk
) has challenged this figure of 1.6 million as exaggerated. He estimated that even if Esperanto speakers were evenly distributed, assuming one million Esperanto speakers worldwide would lead one to expect about 180 in the city of Cologne
. Van Dijk finds only 30 fluent speakers in that city, and similarly smaller-than-expected figures in several other places thought to have a larger-than-average concentration of Esperanto speakers. He also notes that there are a total of about 20,000 members of the various Esperanto organizations (other estimates are higher). Though there are undoubtedly many Esperanto speakers who are not members of any Esperanto organization, he thinks it unlikely that there are fifty times more speakers than organization members.
Finnish linguist Jouko Lindstedt
, an expert on native-born Esperanto speakers, presented the following scheme
to show the overall proportions of language capabilities within the Esperanto community:
- 1,000 have Esperanto as their native family language.
- 10,000 speak it fluently.
- 100,000 can use it actively.
- One million understand a large amount passively.
- Ten million have studied it to some extent at some time.
In 2017, doctoral student Svend Nielsen estimated around 63,000 Esperanto speakers worldwide, taking into account association memberships, user-generated data from Esperanto websites and census statistics. This number, however, was disputed by statistician Sten Johansson, who questioned the reliability of the source data and highlighted a wide margin of error, the latter point with which Nielsen agrees. Both have stated, however, that this new number is likely more realistic than some earlier projections.
In the absence of Dr. Culbert's detailed sampling data, or any other census data, it is impossible to state the number of speakers with certainty. According to the website of the Universal Esperanto Association
Numbers of textbooks
sold and membership of local societies put "the number of people with some knowledge of the language in the hundreds of thousands and possibly millions".
Native Esperanto speakers, denaskuloj,
have learned the language from birth from Esperanto-speaking parents.
This usually happens when Esperanto is the chief or only common language in an international family, but sometimes occurs in a family of Esperanto speakers who often use the language.
The 15th edition of Ethnologue
cited estimates that there were 200 to 2,000 native speakers in 1996,
but these figures were removed from the 16th and 17th editions.
The 2019 online version of Ethnologue
gives "L1 users: 1,000 (Corsetti et al 2004)".
As of 1996, there were approximately 350 attested cases of families with native Esperanto speakers (which means there were around 700 Esperanto speaking natives in these families, not accounting for older native speakers).
Historically, much Esperanto music
, such as Kaj Tiel Plu
, has been in various folk traditions.
There is also a variety of classical and semi-classical choral music, both original and translated, as well as large ensemble music that includes voices singing Esperanto texts. Lou Harrison
, who incorporated styles and instruments from many world cultures in his music, used Esperanto titles and/or texts in several of his works, most notably La Koro-Sutro
(1973). David Gaines
used Esperanto poems as well as an excerpt from a speech by Dr. Zamenhof for his Symphony No. One (Esperanto)
for mezzo-soprano and orchestra (1994–98). He wrote original Esperanto text for his Povas plori mi ne plu
(I Can Cry No Longer
) for unaccompanied SATB
Detractors of Esperanto occasionally criticize it as "having no culture". Proponents, such as Prof. Humphrey Tonkin
of the University of Hartford
, observe that Esperanto is "culturally neutral by design, as it was intended to be a facilitator between cultures, not to be the carrier of any one national culture". The late Scottish Esperanto author William Auld
wrote extensively on the subject, arguing that Esperanto is "the expression of a common human culture
, unencumbered by national frontiers. Thus it is considered a culture on its own."
Several Esperanto associations also advance education in and about Esperanto and aim to preserve and promote the culture and heritage of Esperanto.
Poland added Esperanto to its list of intangible cultural heritage
Notable authors in Esperanto
Some authors of works in Esperanto are:
In the futuristic novel Lord of the World
by Robert Hugh Benson, Esperanto is presented as the predominant language of the world, much as Latin is the language of the Church.
A reference to Esperanto appears in the science-fiction story War with the Newts
by Karel Čapek, published in 1936. As part of a passage on what language the salamander-looking creatures with human cognitive ability should learn, it is noted that "...in the Reform schools, Esperanto was taught as the medium of communication." (P. 206). 
Esperanto has been used in many films and novels. Typically, this is done either to add the exotic flavour of a foreign language without representing any particular ethnicity, or to avoid going to the trouble of inventing a new language. The Charlie Chaplin
film The Great Dictator
(1940) showed Jewish ghetto
shop signs in Esperanto. Two full-length feature films have been produced with dialogue
entirely in Esperanto: Angoroj,
in 1964, and Incubus,
a 1965 B-movie
horror film which is also notable for starring William Shatner
shortly before he began working on Star Trek
. In Captain Fantastic
(2016) there is a dialogue in Esperanto. The 1994 film Street Fighter
contains Esperanto dialogue spoken by the character Sagat. Finally, Mexican film director Alfonso Cuarón
has publicly shown his fascination for Esperanto,
going as far as naming his film production company Esperanto Filmoj
Commerce and trade
Esperanto business groups have been active for many years. Research conducted in the 1920s by the French Chamber of Commerce and reported in The New York Times
suggested that Esperanto seemed to be the best business language.
Goals of the movement
Zamenhof had three goals, as he wrote already in 1887: to create an easy language, to create a language ready to use "whether the language be universally accepted or not" and to find some means to get many people to learn the language.
So Zamenhof's intention was not only to create an easy-to-learn language to foster peace and international understanding as a general language, but also to create a language for immediate use by a (small) language community. Esperanto was to serve as an international auxiliary language, that is, as a universal second language, not to replace ethnic languages. This goal was shared by Zamenhof among Esperanto speakers at the beginning of the movement.
Later, Esperanto speakers began to see the language and the culture that had grown up around it as ends in themselves, even if Esperanto is never adopted by the United Nations or other international organizations.
Esperanto speakers who want to see Esperanto adopted officially or on a large scale worldwide are commonly called finvenkistoj
, from fina venko
, meaning "final victory". It has to be noted that there are two kinds of "finvenkismo"–"desubismo" and "desuprismo"; the first aims to spread Esperanto between ordinary people ("desube", from below) aiming to form a steadily growing community of Esperanto speakers. The second aims to act from above ("desupre"), beginning with politicians. Zamenhof considered the first way to have a better perspective, as "for such affairs as ours, governments come with their approval and help usually only, when everything is already finished".
Those who focus on the intrinsic value of the language are commonly called raŭmistoj
, from Rauma
, Finland, where a declaration on the short-term improbability of the fina venko
and the value of Esperanto culture was made at the International Youth Congress in 1980.
However the "Manifesto de Raŭmo" clearly mentions the intention to further spread the language: "We want to spread Esperanto to put into effect its positive values more and more, step by step".
In 1996 the Prague Manifesto
was adopted at the annual congress of the Universal Esperanto Association (UEA); it was subscribed by individual participants and later by other Esperanto speakers. More recently, language-learning apps like Duolingo
have helped to increase the amount of fluent speakers of Esperanto, and find others in their area to speak the language with.
Symbols and flags
The verda stelo
The earliest flag, and the one most commonly used today, features a green five-pointed star against a white canton
, upon a field of green. It was proposed to Zamenhof by Richard Geoghegan
, author of the first Esperanto textbook for English speakers, in 1887. The flag was approved in 1905 by delegates to the first conference of Esperantists at Boulogne-sur-Mer. A version with an "E
" superimposed over the green star is sometimes seen. Other variants include that for Christian Esperantists, with a white Christian cross
superimposed upon the green star, and that for Leftists, with the color of the field changed from green to red
In 1987, a second flag design was chosen in a contest organized by the UEA celebrating the first centennial of the language. It featured a white background with two stylised curved "E"s facing each other. Dubbed the "jubilea simbolo
" (jubilee symbol
it attracted criticism from some Esperantists, who dubbed it the "melono
" (melon) because of the design's elliptical shape. It is still in use, though to a lesser degree than the traditional symbol, known as the "verda stelo
" (green star).
Esperanto has been placed in many proposed political situations. The most popular of these is the Europe–Democracy–Esperanto
, which aims to establish Esperanto as the official language
of the European Union
. Grin's Report, published in 2005 by François Grin
, found that the use of English as the lingua franca
within the European Union costs billions annually and significantly benefits English-speaking countries financially.
The report considered a scenario where Esperanto would be the lingua franca, and found that it would have many advantages, particularly economically speaking, as well as ideologically.
religion encourages the use of Esperanto among its followers and includes Zamenhof as one of its deified spirits.
On February 12, 1913, `Abdu'l-Bahá gave a talk to the Paris Esperanto Society, stating:
Now, praise be to God that Dr. Zamenhof has invented the Esperanto language. It has all the potential qualities of becoming the international means of communication. All of us must be grateful and thankful to him for this noble effort; for in this way he has served his fellowmen well. With untiring effort and self-sacrifice on the part of its devotees Esperanto will become universal. Therefore every one of us must study this language and spread it as far as possible so that day by day it may receive a broader recognition, be accepted by all nations and governments of the world, and become a part of the curriculum in all the public schools. I hope that Esperanto will be adopted as the language of all the future international conferences and congresses, so that all people need acquire only two languages—one their own tongue and the other the international language. Then perfect union will be established between all the people of the world. Consider how difficult it is today to communicate with various nations. If one studies fifty languages one may yet travel through a country and not know the language. Therefore I hope that you will make the utmost effort, so that this language of Esperanto may be widely spread.
Today there exists an active sub-community of Baháʼí Esperantists and various volumes of Baháʼí literature
have been translated into Esperanto. In 1973, the Baháʼí Esperanto-League
for active Baháʼí supporters of Esperanto was founded.
In 1908, spiritist
Camilo Chaigneau wrote an article named "Spiritism and Esperanto" in the periodic La Vie d'Outre-Tombe
recommending the use of Esperanto in a "central magazine" for all spiritists and esperantists. Esperanto then became actively promoted by spiritists, at least in Brazil
, initially by Ismael Gomes Braga
and František Lorenz
; the latter is known in Brazil as Francisco Valdomiro Lorenz, and was a pioneer of both spiritist and Esperantist movements in this country.
The Brazilian Spiritist Federation publishes Esperanto coursebooks, translations of Spiritism's basic books
, and encourages Spiritists to become Esperantists.
The first translation of the Bible into Esperanto was a translation of the Tanakh
(or Old Testament) done by L. L. Zamenhof
. The translation was reviewed and compared with other languages' translations by a group of British clergy and scholars before its publication at the British and Foreign Bible Society
in 1910. In 1926 this was published along with a New Testament translation, in an edition commonly called the "Londona Biblio
". In the 1960s, the Internacia Asocio de Bibliistoj kaj Orientalistoj
tried to organize a new, ecumenical Esperanto Bible version.
Since then, the Dutch Remonstrant
pastor Gerrit Berveling has translated the Deuterocanonical
or apocryphal books, in addition to new translations of the Gospels, some of the New Testament epistles, and some books of the Tanakh. These have been published in various separate booklets, or serialized in Dia Regno
, but the Deuterocanonical
books have appeared in recent editions of the Londona Biblio
Mass in Esperanto during the 95th World Congress of Esperanto in Havana, 2010
Christian Esperanto organizations include two that were formed early in the history of Esperanto:
Individual churches using Esperanto include:
of Iran called on Muslims to learn Esperanto and praised its use as a medium for better understanding among peoples of different religious backgrounds. After he suggested that Esperanto replace English as an international lingua franca
, it began to be used in the seminaries of Qom
. An Esperanto translation of the Qur'an
was published by the state shortly thereafter.
Though Esperanto itself has changed little since the publication of Fundamento de Esperanto
(Foundation of Esperanto
a number of reform projects have been proposed over the years, starting with Zamenhof's proposals in 1894
in 1907. Several later constructed languages, such as Universal
, Saussure, Romániço, Internasia, Esperanto sen Fleksio, and Mundolingvo, were all based on Esperanto.
In modern times, conscious attempts have been made to eliminate perceived sexism in the language, such as Riism
. Many words with ĥ
now have alternative spellings with k
and occasionally h
, so that arĥitekto
may also be spelled arkitekto
; see Esperanto phonology
for further details of ĥ
replacement. Reforms aimed at altering country names have also resulted in a number of different options, either due to disputes over suffixes or Eurocentrism in naming various countries.
There have been numerous objections to Esperanto over the years. For example, there has been criticism that Esperanto is not neutral enough, but also that it should convey a specific culture, which would make it less neutral; that Esperanto does not draw on a wide enough selection of the world's languages, but also that it should be more narrowly European.
Esperantists often argue for Esperanto as a culturally neutral means of communication. However, it is often accused of being Eurocentric
This is most often noted in regard to the vocabulary
, but applies equally to the orthography
, and semantics
, all of which are thoroughly European
. The vocabulary, for example, draws about three-quarters from Romance languages
, and the remainder primarily from Greek
. The syntax
was inspired by Romance, and the phonology and semantics by Slavic
languages. The grammar
is arguably more European than not. Critics argue that a truly neutral language would draw its vocabulary from a much wider variety of languages, so as not to give an unfair advantage to speakers of any of them. Although a truly representative sampling of the world's thousands of languages would be unworkable, a derivation from, e.g. the Romance, Germanic, Semitic
, and Sino-Tibetan
language families would strike many as being fairer than Esperanto-like solutions, as these families cover about 60% of the world's population, compared to a quarter for Romance and Germanic.
Esperanto is frequently accused of being inherently sexist
, because the default form of some nouns is masculine while a derived form is used for the feminine, which is said to retain traces of the male-dominated society of late 19th-century Europe of which Esperanto is a product.
These nouns are primarily titles and kin terms, such as sinjoro
"Mr, sir" vs. sinjorino
"Ms, lady" and patro
"father" vs. patrino
"mother". In addition, nouns that denote persons and whose definitions are not explicitly male are often assumed to be male unless explicitly made female, such as doktoro,
a PhD doctor (male or unspecified) versus doktorino,
a female PhD. This is analogous to the situation with the English suffix -ess,
as in the words baron/baroness
, etc. Esperanto pronouns are similar. The pronoun li
"he" may be used generically, whereas ŝi
"she" is always female.
Case and number agreement
Speakers of languages without grammatical case
or adjectival agreement
frequently complain about these aspects of Esperanto. In addition, in the past some people found the Classical Greek
forms of the plural (nouns in -oj,
adjectives in -aj)
to be awkward, proposing instead that Italian -i
be used for nouns, and that no plural be used for adjectives. These suggestions were adopted by the Ido
Achievement of its creator's goals
One common criticism is that Esperanto has failed to live up to the hopes of its creator, who dreamed of it becoming a universal second language.
Because people were reluctant to learn a new language which hardly anyone spoke, Zamenhof asked people to sign a promise to start learning Esperanto once ten million people made the same promise. He "was disappointed to receive only a thousand responses."
However, Zamenhof had the goal to "enable the learner to make direct use of his knowledge with persons of any nationality, whether the language be universally accepted or not",
as he wrote in 1887. The language is currently[when?]
spoken by people living in more than 100 countries; there are about 2,000 native Esperanto speakers and probably up to 100,000 people who use the language regularly.
In this regard, Zamenhof was well aware that it might take much time for Esperanto to achieve his desired goals. In his speech at the 1907 World Esperanto Congress
he said, "we hope that earlier or later, maybe after many centuries, on a neutral language foundation, understanding one another, the nations will build […] a big family circle."
Continued modification of language
wrote in support of the language in a 1932 British Esperantist
article, but criticised those who sought to adapt
or "tinker" with the language, which, in his opinion, harmed unanimity and the goal of achieving wide acceptance.
Listen to this article (1 hour and 7 minutes)
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Sur neŭtrala lingva fundamento,
Komprenante unu la alian,
La popoloj faros en konsento
Unu grandan rondon familian." L. L. Zamenhof. Kongresaj paroladoj. Jekaterinburg (Ruslanda Esperantisto). 1995, pp. 23–24
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