Esperanto is probably the most popular constructed language in the world, with between 100,000 and 2 million speakers. The language was developed by L. L. Zamenhof in 1887, with the hope of uniting people from different countries and cultures. It is a simple and relatively standardised language, which remains expressive enough to communicate complicated ideas and concepts. It has grown a culture and style of its own, which builds on the idea of international unity, inclusion and communication, rather than any conceptions of nationalism or endemic prejudice.
Since its inception, Esperanto has spread throughout the world. Many books, films, music, poems, podcasts, articles and so on have been written in Esperanto. People continue to meet and communicate in the language, coming to a greater understanding of each other through a neutral medium. There are many conferences and even a service which allows people to ‘couchsurf’ with fellow Esperanto speakers around the world.
After having made an effort to learn Esperanto myself, I have discovered through conversation and observation that there is a prevalent perception of the language as being unnecessary and even dead. The reasons for this are multiple, but I believe the main causal factors are the increasing prevalence of English as the worldwide Lingua Franca, and the Esperanto community not fully utilising modern technology to foster growth.
The former is an undeniable trend, and the exponential growth of English as a second language worldwide cannot be ignored; this has led to the belief that a new universal and international language is unnecessary. However, it is indicative of English’s unsuitability as a universal language that people of countries with native languages much different from English have a lot of difficulty learning it.
It is true of English, and of any other natural language, that they are largely informed by the historical memetics of the culture the language has grown from. Those who have learned English and can speak it fluently may still never be able to understand all the semantic subtleties afforded to native speakers.
Indeed, it is interesting to note that China has rather a lot of Esperanto speakers. Its popularity results from the ease and speed of learning the language, along with its proven efficacy as an ‘intermediate’ language, which makes further language acquisition several orders of magnitude easier.
The need for an international language to bridge cultures and communities may seem redundant in modern times, but looking deeper into the World Wide Web we notice that between major language-groups there are almost completely disparate societies. For example, China and Russia have a Web which is almost completely separate from the Web that English-speakers know, with analogous websites for social networks and news sites such as Facebook, Twitter, the BBC etc.
It seems like a natural progression for the Internet, which stands as what is probably the greatest achievement of humanity, to continue and expand its role as a bridging force for humanity. Particularly, by bridging this gap of language, we can come to a greater understanding and acceptance of each other.
To consider how we might make Esperanto easier and more accessible for those wishing to learn it (and for those who don’t know they wish to learn it yet), one must consider some of the reasons that English is now so universal. Besides historical physical imperialism, we must look to modern cultural imperialism; it is easier to learn English because the world is saturated by English-language media.
Films, television, books, music, adverts, news, websites, educational material, programming language and more are all created in English. This gives prospective learners a lot of opportunity to immerse themselves in the language.
Furthermore, a growing international community of English-speakers means that there are more and better learning resources available. This large community also means that people have a lot of opportunity to practice.
so we have to make this for esperanto let’s work together woo