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.

80 thoughts on “Esperanto, the most important language to learn.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. @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

  5. @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.

  6. 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.??is–Gary

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. Brian k aliaj: estas klarvideble, ke Steve havas fortajn anta??ju??ojn pri esperanto kaj ties parolantaro pro tio ke ??ia baza vortprovizo kaj gramatiko estis arte-faritaj. Jen li plendas pri manko de literaturo enradiki??inta en naciaj historio kaj tradicio, kaj krome pri magraj okazoj ekzerci sin pri la lingvo, jen li deklaras ke oni prefere lernu kanadindi??enajn lingvojn kies uzantoj e?? ne praktikas etnolingvan verkadon kaj kies komunumoj koncentri??as en ununura mondoparto. Li neniam lernos esperanton a?? konsideros, ke temas pri pli ol simpla ??atokupo. Nenia verdpapumado konvinkos lin – bv. plimildigi viajn mesa??ojn por ke li entute ??esu verki rindinda??ojn pri ni. E-istoj ne bezonas aprobon de aliuloj por fieri pri sialingvaj kulturaj atingoj, ??u?

  10. Benjameno, gratulojn por viaj lastaj konsideroj "plimildigi viajn mesa??ojn……"Kiel vi eble vidis, mi skribis en la germana, evidente favore al E. kaj Steve K.i ege ??entile 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 ??ion rilate nian lingvon, sen koni ??in. Vera ne??rozo, sed….ni ne devus defendi nin, ??ar kiel vi diras, ni ne bezonas aprobon de aliuloj!!! Se ni restas ne??tralaj pri la gustoj de la aliuloj rilate lingvojn, neniu atakus nin.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. Dankon,Steve, sie sind eben ein guter Fechter und ich schrieb in esperanto um die fanatiker zu bitten, logischer zu streiten.Danke f??r den fehlerlosen Satz in meiner Lirblingssprache! Google translate ist faszinierend, isn’t it? Bleiben sie k??hl cool und gelassen gegen??ber proselyten hunters… welche sprache sie sprechen oder andere ist eben pers??nliche Pr??ferenz.Esperanto ist noch in seiner Anfangsphase und damit erkl??ren sich gewisse Ausschreitungen. Aber unterdessen ist die Esperantowelt voller interessanter Menschentypen aus allen L??ndern, nat??rlcih kein Otto Normalverbraucher….

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. @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.

  17. 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

  18. 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.

  19. 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 (?????????????? ?????????????? ??????????????????)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

  20. 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.

  21. 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?

  22. 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.)

  23. 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

  24. Guten Abend, Steve Kaufmann! Lange nichts mehr geh??rt, aber eben sehe ich, dass man bei Ihnen nun sogar auch Esperanto lernen kann.Mehr als grossz??gig, 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 Pr??requisit mit 12 Sprachen. Nun aber erst mal Chechisch und dann wohl Polnisch.Herzlichen Gruss aus Brasilia, Ursula

  25. 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.

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