NB: Se aperas frazoj en Esperanto malsupre tio signifas ke la traduko ne estas (fin)farita en la elektita lingvo.
(Por vidi la tekstojn en alia lingvo, uzu la supran falmenuon.)
Lingvo: English (en)
6. Frequently asked questions about Esperanto
In this section you'll find answers to some common questions about Esperanto.
6.1. How did Esperanto get its name?
At first the language was simply called Lingvo Internacia (International Language). When Zamenhof published the language, he used the pseudonym Doktoro Esperanto (which means "Doctor Hoping"). As a result, people sometimes talked about "Dr Esperanto's language". Later on, they just said "Esperanto", and that got adopted as the name of the language.
6.2. How many people speak Esperanto?
There's no clear way to count the number of Esperanto speakers, because not all of them are members of organizations. Besides, it depends how you define "speaking Esperanto": do you only count those people who regularly speak it to a high standard, or do you count anyone who has a basic knowledge of Esperanto, even if they hardly ever use it? Estimates of the number of Esperanto speakers in the world are therefore rather variable, from tens of thousands to several million. Whatever the true figure, there are enough Esperanto speakers in the world to form a lively international community.
6.3. Which languages does Esperanto most resemble?
Most of the word roots come from Europe, especially the Romance languages. But Esperanto's grammar has many features that are not typical of European languages, and these make it quite similar to such languages as Turkish, Swahili, or even Chinese.
6.4. Is Esperanto easy to learn?
Yes, compared with national languages. But, as always, a lot depends on the individual student and on how many other languages they've already learned. In our experience, learning a new language is always a challenge – it's never "very easy". This is also true for Esperanto, although it's much less awkward to master than a typical national or ethnic language. Even people who've never really managed to learn a foreign language can learn Esperanto! But of course you have to study and practise a lot if you want to speak the language fluently and correctly.
6.5. Why learn Esperanto?
People choose to learn Esperanto for various reasons. Language lovers are often curious about Esperanto's grammar and that's why they start studying the language. Other people become interested in Esperanto because, after failing to learn a particular foreign language, they want to try an easier one. Some have heard about the "inner idea", and so they learn Esperanto to help support a more peaceful and interconnected world. Young people are often interested in travelling to other countries to make new friends there, and Esperanto is a great option for doing this.
6.6. How do I learn Esperanto?
If you have a good Internet connection, we recommend starting at www.lernu.net, where you can find several interactive courses for beginners, in many languages. If you prefer a course in the form of a book, you can order one from an online bookshop. Section 7.3 has a list of online bookshops that sell Esperanto books, and a few recommendations of popular instructional texts in English.
If you'd prefer to learn Esperanto in person, you can contact your local or regional Esperanto association to find out when and where courses will be taking place. Sections 7.1 and 7.2 list some websites that you can visit to locate Esperanto clubs and courses near you.
Once you've learned a bit of Esperanto, it's fun to use the language with other people, either online or at an Esperanto event. Contact your local club!
6.7. Does Esperanto have a logo or symbol?
Yes, there are several. The green star is the oldest and most widely used: it appears on the Esperanto flag, among other places. The colour green stands for hope, and the five-pointed star represents the five continents. A more recent symbol is the so-called "jubilee logo", which was the winner of a contest held at the time of Esperanto's hundredth anniversary.
6.8. Why do some linguists say negative things about Esperanto?
Linguists are the people best placed to understand the complexities of language. And this may be exactly why so many of them – who are otherwise extremely competent – fail to believe that Esperanto can work as a fully fledged living language, and that it's worthy of any attention or research. Languages are such complex and delicate things that it seems amazingly unlikely that a genuinely rich, living language could have emerged from one young man's project. (Zamenhof was 27 when he published Esperanto, having spent more than ten years working on it.) So it's natural to be sceptical. But if you look into the reality of it, you'll see that Esperanto works incredibly well for global communication. It would be great if more linguists and researchers decided to study Esperanto and research its community in the future.
6.9. Can I learn Esperanto at school and university?
In some countries, yes. Many Esperantists argue that learning Esperanto in primary school makes it easier for people to learn other foreign languages later. Studying a relatively easy language gives students confidence in learning languages, and the fact that Esperanto's grammar is so regular adds to their understanding of grammatical structures and concepts. Several independent studies have reached this conclusion, and it would be interesting to see the results of further research into Esperanto's ability to help people learn languages.
6.10. Can you tell what country an Esperanto speaker comes from?
You can often guess this from a person's accent when they speak Esperanto, but not always. Some people have a "neutral" accent.
6.11. How many native Esperanto speakers are there?
There are something like a thousand people who have Esperanto as one of their mother tongues. Often this is because their parents come from different countries and met at an Esperanto event. The parents use Esperanto together at home, and when they then have a child, they want to go on speaking Esperanto together. Perhaps the most common situation is where one parent always speaks Esperanto to the child, while the other parent (the immigrant) uses their native language with them. In society, the child uses the local or national language. The child becomes natively trilingual.
6.12. Wouldn't it be better to create a new, even fairer language for global communication?
It's not easy to assemble a good basis for a language. Linguists – the people who know the most about languages – don't necessarily have the talent for creating a language themselves: their speciality is in analysing languages. Creation and analysis are two very different things. Several people have constructed new languages – even a group of linguists has had a go – but so far the results have been less successful than Esperanto. Think about Mozart and his music — people with genius like that don't come along very often! Zamenhof was rather similar. He had an extraordinary gift for creating languages, and he managed to prepare the basis of a language that's turned out to work much better than all other attempts. Besides, if the seed of a newly published language is to germinate, it needs a long period of widespread use in every conceivable situation. Languages that lack a basic ideology (like the one Zamenhof gave to Esperanto) have less chance of acquiring the community of speakers they need if they're to come alive. This process has already occurred in Esperanto, and the language is now ready. It's not perfect, but it's still an extremely suitable and fair way for people to communicate internationally.
6.13. Isn't English good enough for international communication?
English is very useful for communicating globally in many situations. But the fact remains that not everyone succeeds in becoming fluent in English, even after many years of study. It's a particularly difficult challenge for people whose native languages are very unlike English. (If you've ever been to Korea or Turkey, for example, you know what we're talking about.) Esperanto is easier to learn than ethnic languages, whether you're young or old. Furthermore, Esperanto is not tied to any specific national culture. This is an important advantage for a language that serves as a bridge between ethnic groups: they can use it to communicate on an equal footing.
6.14. But hasn't Esperanto already had its chance?
It's true that in the early 1920s, the League of Nations (a predecessor of the UN) almost adopted Esperanto as one of its working languages. It's also true that several politicians became interested in Esperanto in the thirties and forties. But today, very few politicians have any interest in it. Maybe Esperanto will never again have the chance to become a working language in a large international organization. But maybe the situation will change in the future: maybe Esperanto will become ever more popular among people interested in creating a new world community with closer, friendlier relationships between ethnic groups. We can't predict the future with any certainty. But we can hope... We Esperantists are good at that! (The word "Esperanto" means a person who hopes.)