Esperanto, the most important language to learn.

The Economist is running a poll on the most important language to learn. Esperanto is on top. More than anything this shows how skewed this kind of internet polling can be. If you asked 100 random people on the street I doubt if many would know what Esperanto is.

83 comments on “Esperanto, the most important language to learn.

Bill Chapman

I think you’re underestimating Esperanto, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, as it happens. When I tell people I speak Esperanto, I really meet the response "What’s that?" People know in vague terms, even if they can’t tell you specifics.

Any language that is so badly designed that it (1) has an entirely redundant accusative case and (2) requires adjecitves to agree for singular/plural and the aftorementioned nominative/accusative cases is never going to take off.

    Keith Bowes

    That explains how much more successful Ido and Interlingua, languages that don’t have those features, were than Esperanto. We should face the facts that the success of Esperanto has nothing to do with the language itself, but rather that people strive to learn the difficult language of the current empire rather than an easy neutral language (not to mention a lack of PR). After the fall of the American empire, the only thing that will change is that Americans probably won’t be able to afford being monolingual, but instead will have to learn the language of the next empire.

But nobody designed English and Chinese! Esperanto was designed by Zamenhof, who knew very well that some languages (notablly English and Chinese) manage without these unnecessary complications. If Esperanto were going to succeed, it would have done so 100 years ago.

Few people know that Esperanto has only 125 years, for a language that is very little, Esperanto already does its job very well today, a thousand people around the world use this language in their daily communications.

Tim Morley

What you say in your post is 100% true — the poll shows nothing more than that it’s easy to skew and internet poll, and that the vast majority of people know virtually nothing about Esperanto, if they even if know that it’s a language at all.However, it’s all a non-sequitur as far as the question at the Economist is concerned. Pointing out that it’s not very well known answers precisely none of the range of arguments put forward in favour of learning it.

"Virtually Majority of people know nothing about Esperanto"Therefore we, the international language Esperanto speakers, we strive to disseminate it to all corners of the world!


There are many more esperanto-speakers than some linguists believe. Yet some linguists tend to cling to old comfortable (for them) concepts and are scared when they see esperanto is clearly on the rise!

David Curtis

Why Esperanto is Not Widely KnownTeachers of modern languages in every country bear great responsibility for the spread of Esperanto. Unlike national languages, it has no country in which to be learnt from birth. But as a profession, teachers of modern languages are trained to despise constructed languages, such as Esperanto. Generally they know nothing about it, other than the following comment: "It is an artificial language, with no culture", which they repeat to anybody who asks for their professional opinion. That has been sufficient to halt the learning of Esperanto in schools worldwide. Despite such poor support in Britain, it was possible to take a GCSE in Esperanto until 1989, when the Education Minister asked the Associated Examining Board for a list of languages for the forthcoming National Curriculum. Leaders of language teachers cunningly provided a lis of 19 languages, running from Arabic to Urdu, but not mentioning Esperanto. When the Minister accepted the list, it was included in National Curriculum, published in 1990, after which it became illegal to teach Esperanto for examination purposes. The language was forgotten in schools, colleges and universities. Nowadays,even teachers of modern languages have hardly heard of Esperanto, except for the comment that it is not worth learning. Much the same has happened in all countries. The spread of Esperanto depends upon those who go out of their way to learn it on line, and use it by mixing with Esperantists abroad. One other serious factor has to be taken into account: Few Britons can see a need for learning a second language, because the wealth of America and the power of pop music have made English very desirable to foreigners. So in Britain, youngsters drop out of language-learning in their second secondary-school year, and in other countries, youngsters do their best to learn English, so as to be able to sing pop songs.

Psychological Reactions to EsperantoThe following paper by Claude Piron first appeared in the French-language series Documents sur l’espéranto in the mid-1980s. The present translation by William Auld was published in the English-language series in 1995.1. Differing Reactions2. Defence Mechanisms3. Underlying Anxiety4. Conclusion: The Function of Psychological Resistance5. References 1. Differing reactions To a psychologist investigating reactions to the word "Esperanto" two facts are immediately apparent: a high percentage of those invited to give their opinion have a great deal to say about it; and they regard as self-evident, and in many cases cite without prompting, various statements which are contrary to verifiable reality, for example: "no one has ever written a novel straight into Esperanto", "Esperanto is a language no one speaks", "there are no children who have it as the mother tongue", etc. Such convictions are well illustrated by a reader’s letter in Time magazine from Peter Wells of Singapore:Esperanto has no cultural history, no indigenous literature and no monolinguals or even first-language speakers. (Wells, 1987). In addition, many of those questioned display every sign of emotional involvement. Some react enthusiastically, fervently. But the majority are patronising towards Esperanto, as though it were obviously childish. The person concerned makes it clear that Esperanto is not to be taken seriously, and his tone is disdainful, ironic or humourously condescending towards the "simple souls" who take it up. If, in order to get a control reaction for comparison, the researcher asks the subject to give his or her opinion about Bulgarian or Indonesian in the same way, he gets quite a different response. The subject takes about a minute to recount in a perfectly neutral tone of voice everything he has to say about them, usually that he knows nothing. The contrast is astonishing. It is seen to be all the more remarkable when his knowledge is tested by precise questions about literature, geographical distribution, subtlety of expression, etc. At once it becomes apparent that the subject’s impressions about Esperanto are almost wholly erroneous, much more so than the tiny scraps of knowledge he can drag up concerning the control languages. Why is he aware of his incompetence in the one case and not in the other? Presumably languages such as Bulgarian and Indonesian are seen as belonging to the realm of facts, while Esperanto is felt to be a proposal. Facts are bowed down to. Faced with a proposal, it is felt necessary to give a yes or a no and then defend that point of view. But why is Esperanto not seen as belonging to the realm of facts? And why does the reaction, so frequently, become so emotional? This involvement of the emotional range is not restricted to individual conversations, as witness the following quotation taken from an article on the teaching of Latin, an article otherwise expressed in a neutral and informative tone:Gloire donc au latin, et à bas l’espéranto, mixture aux relents d’artifice et aux espérances déçues! (G.P., 1985).(Long live Latin, then, and down with Esperanto, that hotchpotch stinking of artificiality and hopes betrayed!) That sentence, unrelated to the remainder of the text, seems like an emotional eruption unexpectedly boiling up out of who knows what kind of depths. Why should this be?More in:

Neil Blonstein

Esperanto was very useful for me 10 years ago, before I used the internet when I corresponded with a dozen people living in a dozen countries monthly. Since I joined Facebook and Ipernity social networks with approximately 15,000 Esperanto speakers, I correspond with nearly a thousand people a month in group e-mail and perhaps a hundred a month in personal e-mails with people living in about one hundred countries. Both our numbers and the quality of our relationships (many of us hope to meet during future conferences) is beyond the comprehension of those preaching to English speakers to learn useless languages that will never be mastered. I am conversant in Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew and Arabic but could never meet as many people with all of these, as I have met with Esperanto.

Sinjro ENG

To Alan and others:All languages are constructed and made. Which language on earth was borne when the human beings were borne together ? If you all believe Darwin’s theory that human is from Ape, look at the apes and see whether they can write or they just sound.Discrimination is the worst ignorance.If Esperanto is a ‘bad’ language, why would UNESCO recognised it in 1954 and repeated urging the learning of Esperanto in 1985. Hope the specialists in the UNESCO are not stupids and idiots who are just paid for stamping.Read this research


RIO+20 (uncsd) invited the civil society to say "The future we want".I want a future with a neutral international communication tool as Esperanto, a second langugage for every one beside his mother longue.National languages identify groups and individuals, never all people. For that we need a neutral language. Always more persons understand this idea and the International language is growing every where because it is free of national cultures offering access to the whole world and all cultures.

Steve Kaufmann

I do not doubt that there are many people who think that Esperanto is important to learn, and they have their arguments. However, most people do not think it is important to learn Esperanto. Even among independent language learners it is well below the most commonly spoken languages and even American sign language in terms of popularity. Thus this poll is not at all indicative of how important most people consider Esperanto to be. It is an indication of how well organized the Esperanto community is.In this poll Esperanto had over 2000 votes whereas genuinely international languages spoken by over one hundred million native speakers, with long histories and fascination cultures, like Russian and German got few votes. Thus the poll is skewed in my view.


<font color="#000099"><font face="georgia, serif">Lieber Steve Kaufmann,</font></font><div><font color="#000099"><font face="georgia, serif"><br></font></font></div><div><font color="#000099"><font face="georgia, serif">danke fuer Ihren freundlichen Kommentar. Ihr Name Kaufmann ist deutsch, ich bin Berlinerin, verheiratet mit einem Italiener aus Turin, wir leben in Brasilia.</font></font></div> <div><font color="#000099"><font face="georgia, serif"> Ich nahme an, dass Sie deutsch verstehen, und nicht nur 'greeting fluency' haben, ein lustiger Ausdruck.</font></font></div><div><font color="#000099"><font face="georgia, serif">Aber meine Antwort koennen Sie per Goggle translator auf englisch und esperanto uebersetzen, gluecklicherweise!</font></font></div> <div><font color="#000099"><font face="georgia, serif">Selbstverstaendlich haben Sie Recht, was das Koncept von Muttersprachen angeht und die imanente Bedeutung der russischen, chinesischen, spanischen, portugiesischen usw. Sprachen. </font></font></div> <div><font color="#000099"><font face="georgia, serif"><br></font></font></div><div><font color="#000099"><font face="georgia, serif">Aber als Dolmetscher in Europa lernte ich das Drama der Sprachenvielfalt kennen, wo so manches Mal zwischen 2 Wissenschaftlern 8 Sprachen standen, jeder sprach 4, aber keiner die Sprache des anderen. Und Interpreter sind teuer! </font></font></div> <div><font color="#000099"><font face="georgia, serif">Da kam mir die Idee einer neutralen Sprache, asl Zweitsprache FUER ALLE, als hochfuturistisch und intelligent vor. Und ist es noch bis jetzt. Aber langugae is power und gegen Esperanto sprechen klare Fakten der Hegemonie.</font></font></div> <div><font color="#000099"><font face="georgia, serif">Selbstverstaendlich sollen die Menschen andre Sprachen lernen, ein Reichtum!</font></font></div><div><font color="#000099"><font face="georgia, serif">Aber heute haben wir die Kommunikationstechnologie zur Verfuegung und nur die Sprachenvielfalt hindert die Kommunikation.</font></font></div> <div><font color="#000099"><font face="georgia, serif"> Wie vorher Franzoesisch die Weltsprache war, ist es heute Englisch und morgen oder Chinesisch oder eine neutrale fuer alle.</font></font></div><div><font color="#000099"><font face="georgia, serif">Freundliche Gruesse,</font></font></div> <div><font color="#000099"><font face="georgia, serif">Ursula Grattapaglia</font></font></div>

Neil Blonstein

Steve, What is popular? French, a hundred years ago. German, up until World War II competed with English and French. But what happened? Two World Wars wiped out all the popularity of German. Please read your history. Wars have determined that English is the dominant "Second" language. I can personally only call it a "colonial" language but refrain from offending you. Are our politics so different? Do you know that half of Africa, colonized by British, French and Portugal wallow in illiteracy. That one third of former colonial india and more-so in Pakistan, live in under one dollar a day. You take take your "What is really popular" talk and do as you wish. Can we start talking morals and just compromise?

Steve Kaufmann

Ursula, Danke für Ihren freundlchen Kommentar.Ich bin kein Deutscher aber ich spreche Deutsch (mit Fehler) und beim Lesen und Hören von Hör-Bücher in dieser Sprache habe immer viel Spass. Ich versuche immer Deutsch zu sprechen, wenn ich die Gelegenheit, Deutsch sprechenden Leuter zu treffen habe. Ich tue das gleiche in 10 anderen Sprachen. Meiner Meinung nach, darfen Wir die Sprachen lernen, die Wir interessant finden. Für mich ist dies nicht die Esperanto aber ich respektiere die Tatsache, dass andere in dieser Sprache viel Spass finden. Diese Leute sind, aber, eine kleine Minderheit.

Steve Kaufmann

Neil,The poll was about which languages people consider important to learn. I am assuming that people choose to learn languages that they consider important, and that is what makes them popular for people to learn. Esperanto is not high on that list. All the rest of your comments are just political venting.

The propaganda of Esperanto is still poor and unprofessional, so few people know. Little by little we will show that Esperanto is a language worthy of respect and because this very important to be learned.

@Steve Kaufmann: When you ask 100 people, if Esperanto is important to learn, and 70 out of them do not know what Esperanto is and 25 others have a similar restricted knowledge of Esperanto as Robert Butler, – do you think, that poll is _not_ skewed? Can there be a reliable poll, when people do not know about what they are voting?Yes, the poll indicates how well organised the Esperanto community is. That’s what I wanted to show, so I participated. Our participation came to some extent in response to Mr Butler’s article (published when the number of votes was around several hundreds). He wrote for instance "now there’s a fair chance that the dream may be killed off forever, thanks to the computer." How would you feel, if someone wrote "there’s a fair chance that linguistics may be killed off forever" …?I am not sure that in the world there are more users of American Sign Language (ASL) than persons who can speak Esperanto. and . Anyhow, ASL is not an international language and will be of nearly no use outside US and Canada. In contrast you may easily find Esperanto speakers in more than 100 countries of the world. It is foreign language number 16 in Lithuania and number 16 in Hungary as the population census in these two countries showed in 2001. It seems there is no reliable other census from other countries, but I suppose it has a similar ranking between the foreign languages in many countries. We do know it is one out of ten languages the Chinese government uses on .Mr Butler wrote about the perspectives of Esperanto. For that question it is worth having a look into history. It seems Mr. Butler didn’t understand the rise of Esperanto during the last 125 years. Esperanto had only about five speakers in 1887, so it probably had the smallest language community out of approximately 7000 languages then (or 15 000, it depends on the definition). Today Esperanto is on nearly every list of the 100 most used languages with any international significance. Seemingly no other language in human history made such a rise in only 125 years. That’s one of the many reasons I think Esperanto is a very good language to learn – the rise speaks for the quality of the language. (In fact it seems to me that today Esperanto is a very good third foreign language, but the question depends very much on the personal situation.)

The poll asked which is most important, not which was most well known among "the person on the street", therefore his 1st paragraph is illogical at best, and prejudiced. La voĉdonado demandis kio estas plej grava, ne kiu estis plej bone konata inter "la persono sur la strato", sekve lia 1 ª paragrafo estas nelogika en la plej bona, kaj deklivaj.

Steve Kaufmann

Why, esperanton, do you call people who disagree with you illogical and prejudiced. I do not call the Esperantists illogical and prejudiced. I just don’t happen to agree with them. Am I obliged to agree with you?Popular, in this context, means languages that people want to learn. People want to learn languages that are important to them. Esperanto, in my view, is important to very very few people. German and Russian, or Japanese, Thai or Indonesian, or Swahili, are important to many more people. I say this without having done a survey. You are entitled of course to disagree. That does not make either of us illogical or prejudiced.

@ Steve KaufmannVery arrogant indeed to allow people to disagree with you.I am not an Esperantist but I am an Esperanto speaker so I hope that you will not put my opinions down as a consequence of this.As far as Claude Piron is concerned he was a translator at the United Nations. His opinion, based on factual evidence, can be seen here

Steve Kaufmann

What is it with people who enjoy Esperanto. Enjoy your hobby! I respect you for your interest in that language. Why insult me for disagreeing on the relative importance of Esperanto compared to other languages?I did not "allow" (as you put it) anyone to disagree with me. I simply stated that people can have their opinions without calling those with different views illogical and prejudiced, or for that matter "arrogant".I understand the arguments in favour of Esperanto, including the ideas put forth by Piron. I do not agree that Esperanto is important. It has not been important and will never be important in my view. I think people should learn lots of languages, whichever language interests them, including Esperanto if that interests them.

@Steve KaufmanOf course Esperanto is not important to you. Hence the accusation that you are arrogant with regard to anyone who uses the language. Esperanto is a living language not just a "hobby"Therefore it is important to Google Translate, to China Televisision, and to British Telecom to not miss a trick. They use this language.Confirmation in the You Tube videos below.


I fnd it extremely irritating when armchair critics of Esperanto spew out nonsense about the language having no culture compared to Swahili or other minority languages — not only does it number among the most spoken languages out of the 7000+ that exist in the word, but it has an unparalleled literature for a langage of its size, with new books being published every few days. Most languages with under a million speakers are unlikely to have a writing system, nevertheless a flourishing literature and music industry with epic works comparable to those of Shakespeare, Tolstoy or other giants. Also, Esperanto was only created insofar as one man published a basic lexicon and a skeleton of its grammar. Since then it has bcome a living language like any other — the pragmatics, lexicon and range of registers were all fleshed out be the worldwide community of speakers, some of whom are native (even 3rd or 4th generation).

Steve Kaufmann

I am not getting used to the idea that many proponents of Esperanto are irritated when people do not share their enthusiasm, and are quite intolerant of different points of view.To most people it does not rate anywhere near the top of the list of important languages to learn. Its literature is neither known nor popular, and if there are writers of the scope and depth of Shakespeare wiring in Esperanto, no one outside the relatively small group of Esperanto enthusiasts has heard of that person. That is not nonsense, but just plain fact.


The relative popularity of Esperantist culture is not in discussion – you are of course right. Very few non-speakers are aware of the richness of Esperanto’s cultural artifacts, ask there is no political or economic attraction to them as of yet. How could there be, without a military/economic superpower to back it?But that says nothing of its cultural *value*, or the profound feelings of identification that many fluent speakers experience. Because Esperanto is so easy to learn, a larger than average proportion of L2 speakers master it as if it were their second or third mother tongue. Understandably then, they sometimes get annoyed when they read articles by reasonably influential non-speakers disparaging their cultural patrimony, or even reducing it to a "hobby", which for many it is not, so much as the common language with their friends/partner and children, of highly regarded poets such as William Auld, whose magnum opus "La Infana Raso" was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature, or even just the adhesive element in a unique cultural phenomenon that has resulted in unprecedented cultural achievements over a very short span of time, despite the genocidal efforts of numerous infamous dictators that we all know and hate.In my opinion, it’s no different than sneering at Tamil or Tagalog.But I agree – it shouldn’t win the poll. Probably will though.

@Diego SouzaIf Steve Kaufmann wishes do denigrate Esperanto in way he would not denigrate other minority languages I am sure he will not wish to look at any factual information about it. Unfortunately.

Karaj geamikoj, bedaŭrinde ĉi tiu lingvistiko estas nur alia homo kiu scias nenion pri nia lingvo.Trankviliĝu, Esperanto estas pli ol simpla lingvo, tio estas fakto.Pacon kaj Bonon!Lauro Mattesson


Karaj verduloj, estas ne oportuna uzi esperanton en chi kunteksto, sed naciajn lingvojn. Ni fakte shajnas fanatikaj. Neniam ni devus tiel akre respondi al homoj. Cetere la argumento kontrau io, ke malmultaj okupighas pri tio au alia, estas inter la plej stultaj. Oni ne telefonas, char chiuj tion faras, sed char estas utila. Mi ne tenisludas char multaj faras ktp. Nia verda popolo devus lerni argumenti multe, multe pli "homrajta" kaj se iuj konsideras nian lingvon hobio, lasu ilin, char tiu estas la tutmonda opinio. Estas ni, kiuj devus shanghi ghin, sed ne per akraj defendpozicioj sed per serenaj konsideroj.

Again I asked myself, if a general poll about Esperanto does make a lot of sense. Esperanto is something new for a lot of people. I think it’s quite natural that new things don’t get a lot of votes – if the enthusiasts don’t participate more intensely than others… Think of cellphones – what would be the outcome of a poll about them, when only 1 % of the population had one? I doubt that more than something like 10 % would have seen any utility in them that time. However today approximately 90 % of the population use cellphones in industrialised countries. This shows that polls about new things don’t have a good prognostic value about the utility and general acceptance some time later. You may argue that Esperanto is 125 years old – so it should have been acquired more acceptance already. Yes, but languages grow slowly. It seems that at some time around the year 1900 there were about 100 people fluently speaking Esperanto while today there are about 100 000 at least. This means a thousand times more or an annual progression of around 7 %. Which seemingly is more than the progression of English was in the past. We also know that the number of Esperanto speaking people doubled in Hungary between 1990 and 2001, see ; that’s +7,4 % annually.There is interesting research about the "Diffusion of Innovations". This theory claims that new things have to be accepted and used at first by a rather small group before being acceptable for a second group and so on. If something could be of any use for 100 people probably not more than 2 people form the first group and about 10 people the second. (The 100 can be part of a general population of 200 people or 10 000 – this does not matter.) Today Esperanto has been learned by about 1 out of 1000 people having learned English as a foreign language. (Or 500 or 3000, difficult to have precise numbers and not the same in different countries.) This means that Esperanto is still in the first phase and that there is nearly no hope to convince more than 20 people out of 1000 speaking English as a foreign language about the advantages of Esperanto and to have them learn Esperanto. We Esperanto speakers can argue as much as we want – we won’t convince the other 980 people to such a degree that they begin to learn our language. Even maybe they are not ready to admit the obvious advantages of Esperanto because they fear this may lead to the obligation to learn Esperanto. It seems that it is worth for us Esperanto speakers thinking about the idea to be more kind to those 980 people, because they just follow a general pattern. Seemingly no force on earth can change that pattern. They will begin to listen to our arguments after we succeeded in convincing the first 20 to use Esperanto on a regular basis – not before. So the 20 are the target group for our arguments, not the 980. We shouldn’t waste our time and energy.Maybe even people not that much convinced about Esperanto 🙂 may like to read about that theory, for instance on ; the subject is available in Esperanto as well.


Steven, We are both doing political/power venting. The difference is you don’t know what you are doing. You think you represent English speakers. English speakers are a bunch of blind followers who have not thought out what is good for humanity but rather what is good for yourself. Esperanto is good for humanity. English is good for yourself as a native speaker.


Neil, if I may interject – I think that in these types of discussions it is preferable to leave la internan ideon out of it, as much as it has animated the Esperanto movement in the past. I think it is more worth our while to address the pure errors of fact that Steve recurs to, such as:1. Esperanto not having an extensive literature, both original and translated.2. Esperanto not having a music industry or newspapers. (or magazines or comic books or literary almanacs, etc…)3. Esperanto not having radio, podcasts, or other resources for exposing oneself to the language of the "contemporary scene", to use his phrase.4. The focal point of large Esperanto meetings being practicing the language or proselytizing campaigns to preach the virtues of Esperanto to outsiders.5. It being difficult to locate Esperanto speakers, lack of awareness of the network that exists or the opportunities that the language would bring him that ethnic languages cannot.6. Believing that there is a distinction between native Esperanto speakers and fluent non-native speakers, having never come across a language where it is possible and even very probable for a non-native to speak it as well as his or her mother tongue with minimal investment in time. Most of these suppositions alone clearly indicate his total unfamiliarity with our history and culture, and are nearly impossible to refute as Steve does not seem willing to visit Esperanto websites or even to meet up with the Esperantists (some of them quite well known, i.e. Arono kaj Karlina) who live in Vancouver.I think one problem is that Steve does not seem to be able to conceive of a rich, fully developed, self-sustaining culture existing outside of a nation or ethnic group.


Oh, and I should add that I personally am indifferent to whether Steve learns Esperanto, but not to whether he spreads misinformation about or is derisive of our culture (by which I mean both concrete artifacts and less tangible traits — books, music, face-to-face meetings, slang, shared cultural knowledge, etc.)

Steve Kaufmann

No Neil, I am not making any political statement. I merely stated that most people do not consider Esperanto an important language to learn. I consider this to be true. I might add that I think that most non-native speakers of English, and for no political reasons, consider English very handy and useful. I have made no political statements.I am happy speaking 10 other languages and do not care if one of these becomes the new international language. How can you categorize all English speakers as a bunch of blind followers? How many languages do you speak?

Steve Kaufmann

Benjameno,I did not say that Esperanto does not have a rich literature. I just said that I am not interested in it because it is not related to a country that I can visit. I can read about life in Esperantoland in the 19th century, and then read the history of Esperantoland and listen to audio books about these subjects, which are the core of my motivation to learn other languages.I did not say that it does not have newspapers and media, but these, again, are not connected to any country or nation that I can visit, which has a history.I cannot vist Esperantoland and start using the language from the minute I arrive in the country. I cannot go to stores, restaurants, book stores etc, and feel myself in another linguistic environment. I cannot do business in Esperanto since I have never met a businessman that I deal with who speaks Esperanto.Is this so difficult to understand?

Steve Kaufmann

Benjameno, you have changed what I said. Read what I said and tell me where I am spreading misinformation. I am talking about what motivates me to learn languages. i am also expressing an opinion about how many people think that Esperanto is an important language to learn.


OK, Steve, so would it be fairly accurate to say that you are interested primarily in languages whose speakers have settled into permanent communities and provide opportunities for complete immersion for the mere price of a plane ticket? Fair enough. Esperanto just won’t do it for you. I understand you perfectly – I enjoy Italian and Chinese, my other languages, for precisely these reasons as well (among others, obviously). The Esperanto community, while present almost everywhere, is admittedly widely dispersed, and although its speakers are often uncommonly welcoming and will collect you from the airport and supply an immersion environment within their homes, associated businesses/ institutions where Esperantists seem to flourish (such as universities), Esperanto-speaking restaurants and bookstores exist only during the Universal Congress, International Youth Congress and sometimes during medium-sized events like the Pan-American Congress of Esperanto. I think your arguments about having to go out of your way and visit dedicated meetups are somewhat tenuous, as there are speakers in just about every major and medium sized city who will go out of their way to meet with you (as with any widely diffused minority language), but nevertheless I respect your position, seeing as Esperantujo (essentially ‘Esperantoland’, as you said) simply doesn’t have its centre in any one nation. My apologies for the misunderstanding, and the undeservedly harsh criticism you’ve been receiving.


And for the record I agree with you about Esperanto not being an important language to learn, although it has been the most worthwhile of my 3 target languages – but this reflects only my experience.

EsperantoLandSteve, you may come to the international meetings of EsperantoLand, . There you can "start using the language from the minute" you arrive in the EsperantoLand meeting. You can feel yourself "in another linguistic environment". It my be not perfect – but people can stay for one week without need to speak any other language than Esperanto. But, quite sure, I fully respect, if however you don’t want to participate such an experience. For me it’s just fascinating that it’s possible to create something so near to a real country, in a planned international language.

Steve, you stated that "most people do not consider Esperanto an important language to learn". Have you read my comment asking: "Can there be a reliable poll, when people do not know about what they are voting?"You speak ten languages. This is a very good base for learning Esperanto 🙂 Many Esperanto speakers speak even more than ten languages. It seems the more languages someone speaks the higher the probability he or she speaks also Esperanto. Maybe you would enjoy meeting them. In fact probably no linguistic community is so polyglot as the Esperanto community. By the way: Thank you very much for staying calm. I regret some comments made here. It seems to me that the commentators did not react only to what you wrote, but much more to things others wrote in other blogs and articles. – In German we say "Der Ton macht die Musik", it’s not what you say, but how you say it. Sometimes I ask myself, if in the Esperanto community we should offer webinars and other teaching about that.

Steve Kaufmann

I am sure that I would enjoy getting to know Esperantists, and would enjoy learning Esperanto. It is just finding the time and the motivation. It may come. As they say in French, L’appetit vient en mangeant.

I have no interest in learning Esperanto. To me what I like about languages is the culture behind them. Using the ideas of Edgar Schein, languages are "cultural artifacts" that help people not only communicate but to pass on the unconscious beliefs and social norms of the group – similar to Philip Jackson’s "hidden curriculum" in schools. This is why, tough two countries can share a language, like the UK and Canada, or North Belgium and the Netherlands, the use of that language will differ as the underlying cultures are different.As such though Esperanto may have many books written in the language, it is my suspicion that these books only reflect the culture – the unconscious beliefs and social norms – of the author’s nationality.All of this leaves me asking, why not just learn the native language of the author and from that learn of his culture?

@MrScotchpieYour reply is completely isolationist. An international language is needed and the language imperialism of English will not solve that.The World Esperanto Association enjoys consultative relations with the United Nations and it is in use as well by the Council of Europe. Esperanto would protect the rights of minority languages by placing all languages on an equal footing.The use of Esperanto in the Council of Europe can be seen at

@MrScotchpieIt seems to me that books reflect more than only "the culture – the unconscious beliefs and social norms – of the author’s nationality". I have a lot of beliefs and social norms in common with people from other countries while I do not share them with a lot of german people. So I am able to understand and enjoy books written in Esperanto from people I like while there are german books I do not like. You asked "why not just learn the native language of the author and from that learn of his culture"? Well, I read books in 7 languages. Now I prefer to read translations or books in Esperanto from people with other mother tongues.

Steve: I think if you find the time to learn Esperanto you will change some of your views.Here is why I think so:1. All Esperantists are linguists by the definition you use. They have taken the time to learn a language to a communicative level, often just for the heck of it, but usually getting more out of it than they thought they would.2. While a few are only bilingual (Esperanto and English, for example), a vast majority know several other languages and are interested in languages generally.3. Most are very interested, from my experiences, in other cultures of the world and use the language to learn about those cultures, often directly from others in that culture and location.4. Esperantists tend to be cosmopolitan in philosophy which has often attracted them to an international language (rather than only regional languages), but that philosophy is probably shared by most people who are willing to engage with non-native speakers on a personal level.5. I think that learning Esperanto would both contribute to your own understanding of language learning (given both its unique and universal qualities) and you could share with others your experience given your learning and teaching experience of other languages. For example, learning Esperanto to a B1 or C1 level almost certainly takes less time. But can you learn it in 50% of the time, or 10% of the time (it is almost certainly between these two). I would be very interested in your thoughts after you have given it a try.I certainly understand the limits on time. I wish I had the time to study even more languages to some level of fluency. In fact, that is what first attracted me to the language and why for some it is the language "most worth learning" as you might be able to get somewhere if you have only limited time.And I think that if you find the time to reach a communicative level in the language that you just might adjust some of your opinions.Ĝis–Gary

Steve Kaufmann

Gary,I may enjoy meeting Esperantists. None of the other reasons you gave would incite me to learn Esperanto. There is no Esperanto country, no history going back hundreds of years. To me it is all artificial. To me it is a hobby. Nothing wrong with it, but it is just not something that I am inspired to do right now.

Steve Kaufmann

Brian, I dislike the ideology of Esperanto as an anti-dote to the Imperialism of English. I like all ideology surrounding language. People should just speak the languages they want to speak and which they find useful or interesting. Most world languages have been spread through expansionism and colonialism, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Turkish, Russian, Chinese, etc. Yet these languages are useful, and I expect they will become more useful as international languages become more regionalized, as Europe and the English speaking world becomes less important in the world. The European origin "international" language of Esperanto will also become less important, in my view. But that is just my opinion. In any case, ideology will not spread the language, since too few people are affected.I am much more motivated to learn Cree, a natural language with a long history, that has been spoken in Canada for thousands of years, than Esperanto. But that is just me, and I understand that Esperantists have a different perspective.


Brian k aliaj: estas klarvideble, ke Steve havas fortajn antaŭjuĝojn pri esperanto kaj ties parolantaro pro tio ke ĝia baza vortprovizo kaj gramatiko estis arte-faritaj. Jen li plendas pri manko de literaturo enradikiĝinta en naciaj historio kaj tradicio, kaj krome pri magraj okazoj ekzerci sin pri la lingvo, jen li deklaras ke oni prefere lernu kanadindiĝenajn lingvojn kies uzantoj eĉ ne praktikas etnolingvan verkadon kaj kies komunumoj koncentriĝas en ununura mondoparto. Li neniam lernos esperanton aŭ konsideros, ke temas pri pli ol simpla ŝatokupo. Nenia verdpapumado konvinkos lin – bv. plimildigi viajn mesaĝojn por ke li entute ĉesu verki rindindaĵojn pri ni. E-istoj ne bezonas aprobon de aliuloj por fieri pri sialingvaj kulturaj atingoj, ĉu?


Benjameno, gratulojn por viaj lastaj konsideroj "plimildigi viajn mesaĝojn……"Kiel vi eble vidis, mi skribis en la germana, evidente favore al E. kaj Steve K.i ege ĝentile respondis, same en la germana. La plej malfacila fakto en nia movado estas la fanatismo de kelkaj kiuj ne kapablas argumenti sobre kaj logike. Ni ja scias delonge ke homoj neas ĉion rilate nian lingvon, sen koni ĝin. Vera neŭrozo, sed….ni ne devus defendi nin, ĉar kiel vi diras, ni ne bezonas aprobon de aliuloj!!! Se ni restas neŭtralaj pri la gustoj de la aliuloj rilate lingvojn, neniu atakus nin.

Steve Kaufmann

Esperantist are increasingly annoying me with their intolerance. You post here in Esperanto. Why? You only want to hear the views of Esperantists?You say that I am prejudiced (courtesy of google translate). I am just stating my preference. Is it wrong to have preferences? Is it evil to not be interested in Esperanto?You say that I imply that people should study native Canadian languages even though these have no written literature. No, I say that it interests me, because I am Canadian and it is part of our history. Others may not be interested in these languages, I am. Must I learn Esperanto ahead of Cree? Why? You do not need or ask for my approval for your interest in Esperanto and that is as it should be. You talk about the great literature in Esperanto. Name on famous writer who is known by any but the dedicated Esperanto community. If I ask 1000 people on the street to name an Esperanto writer, how many will be able to answer?Enjoy your interest in Esperanto but please have the common sense to respect the interests of others.


No, I code-switch for the same reasons that any other multilingual might — mostly in this case as an aside to other speakers. Also, though you might have caught this because of your strong grasp of numerous European languages, Google Translate failed to find an equivalent for ‘plimildigi’ and ‘verdpapumado’ — in the latter part of my message I was asking other posters to please tone down the fanaticism and to avoid assertions that sound preachy or overly dogmatic, and summed up with the conclusion that if we Esperantists think our culture is so great, then we are free to enjoy it without trying to recruit every critic who comes along. We are all entitled to our own views.I support your learning Cree and other indigenous languages. I agree that few non-speakers could name a prominent Esperanto author, although William Auld, as I mentioned earlier, was nominated several times for a Nobel Prize in Literature. The English-language Wikipedia article on Esperantist literature is also embarrassingly Spartan, and it is unfortunate that most information about our culture is published only in Esperanto. There is one really excellent reference to original Esperanto literature that recently came out and is available in English, and parts of it may be consulted for free on Google Books: is the "Concise Encyclopedia of the Original Literature of Esperanto", by Geoffrey Sutton, and although it is only a concise reference, it totals nearly 800 pages. Like I said, not bad at all for a language of Esperanto’s size, which has only existed since 1887.I completely respect your interests – all I wrote was that I do not believe that you will learn Esperanto because of your "preferences". I am glad that you find it gratifying to study and use national languages. So do I.


Dankon,Steve, sie sind eben ein guter Fechter und ich schrieb in esperanto um die fanatiker zu bitten, logischer zu streiten.Danke für den fehlerlosen Satz in meiner Lirblingssprache! Google translate ist faszinierend, isn’t it? Bleiben sie kühl cool und gelassen gegenüber proselyten hunters… welche sprache sie sprechen oder andere ist eben persönliche Präferenz.Esperanto ist noch in seiner Anfangsphase und damit erklären sich gewisse Ausschreitungen. Aber unterdessen ist die Esperantowelt voller interessanter Menschentypen aus allen Ländern, natürlcih kein Otto Normalverbraucher….

Anastácio Valente

I do not believe you’re wasting your time with this gentleman …Esperanto works, and that’s what matters, or am I wrong?Mister Kaufmann, in our small community use Esperanto and communicate well with the world.


Anastacio, I am not wasting my time – not at all.Thank you for recommending. Translate by google my participation and you will see – no waste.

@Steve:I doubt that the "European origin ‘international’ language of Esperanto will also become less important" in the years to come. It seems people in a lot of countries outside of Europe like Nepal or in Africa are quite happy with Esperanto; and the percentage of members of international Esperanto associations from overseas is rising. The Chinese government uses Esperanto on three websites. I get a lot of friendship requests on Facebook from Africa, South America, Asia…I don’t see why the rise of Esperanto should stop in the future. But I am quite sure that not 100 % of those who could use Esperanto will learn it now, but only about 2 %. Nearly no hope about the other 98 % – they may enjoy _not_ speaking Esperanto, as they wish. After that there will be another 10 % who may be interested in learning our language. It’s going to be a long way and a lot of pacience and staying calm is needed.

Steve K,I’m still interested in starting an Esperanto section on LingQ. I love how it works. In the meantime, since I’ve last asked about putting Esperanto on LingQ, you’ve learned Czech, putting me to shame – my wife of 20+ years is Czech and we visit or have visits from there, and I have still to really learn the language more than a little babbling. And none of the relatives have an interest in Esperanto (like the vast majority of people in the world who know about it!) – in fact a couple relatives even learned English pretty well in the meantime. My wife likes the idea of Esperanto, but hates learning it or hanging out with Esperanto speakers. So I totally and completely understand not wanting to get involved with it. I’ve spent hardly any time with it since my son’s birth in 1999. Hoping to get back to it a bit more, but even I’m not overly enthusiastic anymore.In any case, email me "ilingvo at google mail" about getting Esperanto on LingQ. I very much enjoy your LingQ YouTube blogs, as well, by the way.Steve B


Esperantists are unsuccessfully trying to capitalize on their crutch language bottled in 1887. The esperanto is a silly attempt to create a language from school latin course by the close-minded megalomaniac. Of course it had not get any credibility in more then a century, being an arbitrary, artificial, obsolete language, and its proponents being lying, slandering, dogmating, hateful cultists.I could bet there wes more hippies than esperantist clowns.


Hi Steve,This post seems to confirm you initial idea about Esperanto expressed in your Youtube post, that’s why I am answering here.You have expressed your personal opinion and feelings about Esperanto, and no one can argue against your perceptions, my answer is to your arguments.You used "Esperanto", "Latin", "Ancian greek" and "Aboriginal languages" as the subject of your sentence for a single implicit conclusion.Aboriginal languages most of then have disapeared and the remaining are endengered. (Can we do anything about it? a whole entire debate)Ancient greek is a dead language, it is no more the native language of anyone and it is used in education for scientific and academic purposes.All these languages absolutely not comparable with Esperanto in the way you put it. Esperanto is a "living" language in expansion and there is a lot of Esperanto "native" speakers, does this mean anything…maybe not, but for sure refute your argument.The inventor of Esperanto is Ludwik Zamenhof (Лю́двик Ла́зарь За́менгоф)You have used these words to describe Zamenhof and Esperanto : "Idealistic", "some idealist intellectual", "arbitrarily"You are implicitly using (by the tone of your voice and gesture as well) the negative side of those words.Let me ask you : – Is "a visionary" an "idealist"? Is a "idealist" necessarily an "unrealistic" ? and is being an "idealist" a vice or a virtue? and when?- How other languages are made? Are they natural (not produced by human)? or artificial (produced by human skills)? It looks like you have definitive answer to those "eternal" and passionate debates and its already the premise of your point of view about Esperanto.By the way the most important aspect of Esperanto is the motivations behind it, I invite you to make minimum research about the subject. It looks to me like you are "arbitrarily" choosing your adjectives to describe Esperanto.Esperanto has never intended to replace any language, but to be used as independent, impartial and equitable communication tool between people who do not speak each other languages, wherever they are, until they decide "by themselves" to learn and to be interested in each other languages and cultures.Esperantists (OK, maybe not everyone) rely on argumentations and debates, not on the determinism of economic or military or culture hegemony of countries and civilizations throughout the history.In all of my life, in all the countries I have been to I have always met and spoke with Esperantists because I know how to find them. Come on Steve! Your experience what ever large is not the whole world. You bet we can find someone older than you, with the highest academic credentials from all horizons, who visited more countries that you, and who has always found Esperantists in almost any country?I would like to inform you that for example has over 100000 learners (,…) and "free of any charge". So I will not be surprised that the number of lernu users will increase and still no one asking for Esperanto at lingq. Is there any conclusion to infer from that?It is not hard to imagine that if Esperanto won the same poll in your blog or 100000 users asked for Esperanto at lingq, it would be your favorite language, will your opinion then be skewed? We are all subject to our illusions and disillusions and we find our own motivations to >>MAKE things happen<<.Hopefully my point of view will not be perceived as an intolerance.Respectfully yours,AJN

Steve Kaufmann

We have Esperanto at LingQ.I am not interested in Esperanto at the present. I am learning Czech and will move on to Korean after that, and have other languages in mind that I would like to learn.I do not condemn Esperanto. I am just not interested. Outside of the enthusiasts, Esperanto is not well known in the general public, and not widely spoken. I do not think it will grow as an international language, but that is just my opinion.When I travel, any one of the 12 languages I can speak is gong to be more useful to me than Esperanto. I am not telling people not to study Esperanto, I am just saying I do not consider it an interesting or useful language to learn, for me. Why is this position so difficult to understand?

Hello Steve,you may learn Esperanto or not, you may be interested or not – I fully accept this. But I would like to inform you:"Outside of the Czech Republic, Czech is not well known in the general public, and not widely spoken. I do not think it will grow as a language, but that is just my opinion."So, why should anyone learn Czech?!(As I already informed: The number of Esperanto speaking people doubled in Hungary between 1990 and 2001, see ; that’s +7,4 % annually. One of the many causes why I think Esperanto will continue to grow.)


Hi Steve,As I stated before, nothing wrong with your personal feelings, choices and preferences about what languages you like and motivated to learn. You don’t have even to justify your feeling about it, and no one can discuss them.The point is that you start from your personal preferences, which are relative to you and indisputable and you are building through deduction more general argumentation about the language and some of its related manifest and verifiable information.And you are jumping between your subjective personal feelings and objective arguments.We are part of this debate, and it is legitimate for us to insist and not agreeing with your >>arguments<<It is not about "difficulty of understanding".If it is done "respectfully" and without "personal attacks" then nothing wrong with that.There is no victim, no aggressor.You brought the subject publicly and because of your notoriety in the domain, the intensity of the debate is more than predictable.Yours,AJN

David Curtis

Bravo, AJN!Steve should get stuck in to learning Esperanto and using it, for that will convince him of its value. A lot of people like him condemn it without trial, and they don’t know what they’re missing.


Guten Abend, Steve Kaufmann! Lange nichts mehr gehört, aber eben sehe ich, dass man bei Ihnen nun sogar auch Esperanto lernen kann.Mehr als grosszügig, finde ich das sehr sportlich von Ihnen.Was macht Ihr Chechisch? Wenn Sie in Prag eine Adresse brauchen von einem guten Esperanto Sprecher – kann ich gern empfehlen, er spricht auch Englisch.Es ist interessant, dass ich kaum einen Esperanto Sprecher kenne, der weniger als 4 Sprache beherrscht, meistens mehr.Also haben Sie ein gutes, sehr gutes Prärequisit mit 12 Sprachen. Nun aber erst mal Chechisch und dann wohl Polnisch.Herzlichen Gruss aus Brasilia, Ursula

Neil Blonstein

Steve: How many languages do I speak? From my best to worst. I lived in Israel for 11 years and spoke mostly in Hebrew for most of those years i.a. to my wife. I spoke in Esperanto for 4 years to my daughter but discontinued to do so in the USA. I studied Spanish for 11 years and used for a decade at work in a public school. I have a degree in Arabic , which I completed in Israel with Jewish and Muslim native speakers of Arabic (I was the only non-native). About half the 3 year program was explained in Hebrew and half in Arabic. I lived in Brazil for 1 year and sing in Portuguese for a decade regularly practicing several songs. I read occasionally in French and German and perhaps speak a thousand words in these languages. My grandparents spoke in Yiddish and I regularly speak in Yiddish with my brother. Perhaps a quarter of Esperanto speakers are more multi-lingual than I. Most are already bilingual or trilingual–not counting Esperanto. Esperanto remains my favorite language.

I have spoken Esperanto in 20 countries, including China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Austria, Canada, USA, Mexico … I have spoken or chatting in Esperanto with people from more than one hundred countries. I have used Esperanto during the last 53 years.

20 Reasons to learn and use Esperanto


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