Esperanto is a constructed language. It was created in 1887 by a Polish-Jewish doctor L.L. Zamenhof as an easy language to learn. His goal was to foster harmony between people from different cultures and countries; a lingua franca for the world.
“The place where I was born … 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. … 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.”
– L.L. Zamenhof, in a letter to Nikolai Borovko, ca. 1895
Esperanto will likely not reach the lofty goal Zamenhof had to unite humanity, though you have to applaud anyone who tries. The current estimate is 2 million Esperanto speakers worldwide of varying capabilities. Surprisingly, there are around 1,000 households who speak Esperanto as their first language, even though it is not even an official secondary language in any country.
So why take the effort to study and learn Esperanto. Some say learning Esperanto helps train your brain for acquiring other more complicated languages, priming the pump so to speak. I’m not sure how much credence I give that theory, though it did refresh my grammar terms and helped me understand language construct.
I just find it interesting to study a fully constructed language. How would you construct a language from scratch? What rules do you make so it is easy to learn, easy to speak, and fits into an existing world?
Esperanto rules include: all conjugation is removed, so verbs do not change based on plurality, or gender. There is no gender grammar rules in Esperanto. You can easily follow these simple sentences. Pronouns have the suffix -i and the suffix -n is added for objects of a sentence.
Mi amas ŝin. I love her. Ŝi amas min. She loves me.
All nouns end with the suffix -o and follow the same rule with the suffix -n added if it is an object.
Li vidas gitaron. He plays a guitar. La gitaro estas granda. The guitar is big.
As you can see above, adjectives end with the suffix -a and you can notice all present tense verbs end in -as.
|English:||I am||He is||We are|
|Esperanto:||Mi estas||Li estas||Ni estas|
The vowel letters in the Esperanto alphabet are the same word as their sound. The letter “e” does not make the sound “eh”. The letter and sound are the same. I really noticed this as my daughters are learning to read, having to learn the name of the letter and the sound. The consonants are similar, the letters and sound are the same but letters include the -o suffix.
Two other suffix endings are -j for plurals, and -e for adverbs.
La aŭto estas rapida. The car is fast. La aŭtoj estas rapidaj. The cars are fast. Mi legas malrapide. I am reading slowly. Ŝi legas rapide. She is reading quickly.
You can see in the above example how the same word root (rapid) can be used in multiple different ways just by changing the prefix or suffix. Here are a few resources to learn more about Esperanto:
- Esperanto Grammar Rules – learn the 16 basic rules
- Lernu! is a language learning site dedicated to Esperanto
- Duolingo has an Esperanto course
- Vikipedio, Wikipedia in Esperanto has 240,000 articles
- Esperanto is an available language in Google translate
And if you really want a lofty goal, La Hobito, aŭ, Tien kaj Reen: The Hobbit in Esperanto.