Why I am unlikely to learn Esperanto.

After my recent post about Esperanto, I received a number of comments, many from irate Esperanto enthusiasts, berating me for not considering Esperanto an important language to learn.

This has caused me to reflect on my motivation for learning languages. Remember, motivation is 70% of the battle in language learning. I am motivated mostly to discover a new culture and language and group of people . As soon as I get past the beginner texts, I dive into the following, using LingQ, and a variety of sources, books and audio books and material I can find on the web..

1) I enjoy histories of the country, which I read and listen to in the language. I have done this for all the languages I have learned, and most recently for Russian and Czech.

2) I read newspapers online and listen to radio programs and podcasts, with transcripts where possible,  to get a flavour of the contemporary scene, issues and concerns, in the country where the language is spoken.

3) I like literature, especially 19th century literature, for which audio and text is largely available free of charge for import into LingQ.

Once I have developed a sufficient level of familiarity with the language and the country, I want to go there and experience it first hand. This is my reward, and a dream like experience, as was recently the case in Russia and will be the case in October in Prague.

4) In many cases I have done business in the languages I have learned, which has enabled me to make friends, and to achieve a degree of success that would otherwise not be possible. It is also satisfying to use th language in this practical way.

Essentially none of this would be possible with Esperanto. I could read the literature, history or newspapers of no country. I could not travel and use the language unless I went to a dedicated meet up of Esperanto speakers, where I might find some of the people who have called me arrogant, nonsensical, illogical and prejudiced in commenting on my previous post here.

But then I would not travel just to meet up with non-native speakers of any other language, so I don’t think I would do so for Esperanto. But I accept that others would do so and enjoy it. I respect their interest in this undoubtedly intellectually satisfying activity. I respect their motives. I would hope that they would also respect and understand my reasons for not wanting to join them.

12 thoughts on “Why I am unlikely to learn Esperanto.

  1. We share the same opinion about esperanto. Some esperantists would like esperanto to become a language of culture when it is only a language of service. When advocating plurilingualism, we advocate culture languages. Being put at stake in our globalized word, they could disappear and lead to the loss of some important social values which are already made vulnerable. Our Facebook page : http://www.facebook.com/pages/European-Observatory-for-Plurilingualism/134934323274038

  2. I’m sorry that you feel you have not been treated well in this discussion – and I for one do respect your views.I speak Esperanto, but we have a lot in common, it seems to me. I also speak French, German and Welsh.Esperanto does offer you, for example, literature from Russia and Hungary and Finland in translation. Life is simply too short to learn every language on the face of the planet. Where I don’t speak the language of a country I am visiting or which is of great interest toi me, I use Esperanto. Simple as that. Esperanto is, indeed "a language of service", but it should be said that the translation of literature has sharpened Esperanto to become the useful tool it is today.Finally, please do not think that this planned language is used solely at "dedicated meet up of Esperanto speakers". It has much wider uses. Within half an hour of arriving in Prague some years ago, I was sitting out in the sun with a local beer and a group of local Esperanto speakers. Their local knowledge and insight added to the value of my trip.Enjoy Prague!

  3. Steve, for me the avalabilty situtation of languages is very different form yours. I also can surf the internet and listen to podcasts and watch videos but I am excluded of many activities which envolve having enough money. I see it as a privilege that I am able to take part in an Esperanto-meeting once a month because I can pay for a monthly ticket to a city which is 25 km away. Also I am lucky that my friend finances my participation in a yearly Esperanto-meeting in the Netherlands. So these circumstances make Esperanto availble for me. So therefore it has been a good descision of mine to learn this language for me. Other polyglots are travelling all around the world and living in other countries – but I can’t. I personally like all languages and see the value of all languages inclusive rare or endangerd languages. Why should other people should learn exactly the same languages as I do? Their life circumstances and motives may be very different. I would rather recommend Steve to learn Dutch or Danish – but you already speak Swedish, so you may at least understand written Danish. Esperanto is not a business language and it has a culture and the Esperanto-movement has a history but the language is not attached to a certain country. These facts should be clear and known, but choosing a language to learn is everybody’s very own descision. I appreciate that Esperanto is now availbale on LingQ as a b??ta-language so it’s possible to get a listening and reading impression of the language at lingQ.

  4. Being an Esperanto speaker for 39 years myself, I’ve had my share of experiences that could make anyone think that learning Esperanto is inane. As a Dane I find English easy to learn, and I have ample opportunity to practice it. What makes me go on with Esperanto, then?1) I enjoy its history, which I read and listen to in the language. Even more I have enjoyed researching Esperanto history and writing about it. (I’ve made an English translation of one at <http://www.ipernity.com/blog/jens_s_larsen/242660&gt😉. 2) I read journals online and listen to radio programs and podcasts to get a flavour of the contemporary scene, issues and concerns among people the world over. English could do the same, but I’m specifically interested in what people with some language awareness have to say. 3) I like literature, and a lot of Esperanto literature is available free of charge on the net. I would like to read more if I had the time (and an e-reader; I don’t have space for more books than I already have). 4) A few times I have done business in Esperanto, which, however, I never needed to do to make friends. It is satisfying to use Esperanto in a practical way, but it’s the feeling of successful idealism that makes one go on with it.So, you see, the motives for learning Esperanto or any other language outside the school curriculum don’t need to be very different. You can even use Esperanto as a tool to access more speakers of more languages in a shorter time, if being a polyglot is something you enjoy being. Esperantists can be strange, but hardly any of them look down on language-learning, quite the opposite.

  5. Dear Mr. Steve Kaufmann on the arguments presented, I must disagree with some.???2) I read newspapers online and listen to radio programs and podcasts, with transcripts where possible, to get a flavor of the contemporary scene, issues and concerns, in the country where the language is spoken.??????Essentially none of this would be possible with Esperanto. I could read the literature, history or newspapers of no country. I could not travel and use the language unless I went to a dedicated meet up of Esperanto speakers, where I might find some of the people who have called me arrogant, nonsensical, illogical and prejudiced in commenting on my previous post here.???This is an easy argument to overthrow:There are some radios in Esperanto, which transmit some even their total programming using Esperanto, can give the example of radio Muzaiko: (www.muzaiko.info), about podcast, newspapers and other media, you’re wrong, because we have it all in Esperanto. I could give you several examples, a good example is the newspaper Le Monde Diplomatique (http://eo.mondediplo.com/), example of a podcast of a polish radio (http://www.podkasto.net/). As for being educated or not, be nice or not, this is a people problem, not of the language, as a linguist and writer, as you may already know that, right?Esperanto is a language, since its creation it has its own culture, and this is undeniable, if one day you want to know more about this culture, I’m sure your idea and concept about Esperanto will change.

  6. Lauro, my view of Esperanto will not change. It is possible that I will want to learn it in the future, although unlikely. However, it remains for me a language without a country or a people. i do not see this view changing.

  7. Lauro, I do not expect you to agree with my opinions, but if you do not find meaning in them your mind is simply closed by your ideology, as seems to be the case with most of the Esperantists commenting here. I wonder if this is representative of what I would find at an Esperanto conference. I wonder if you all think that your intolerance of other opinions and inability to discuss Esperanto rationally can actually persuade people to join you. It does not work with me.

  8. I don’t agree with you, but I’m glad you’re respectful of the Esperanto fans. I can see your point, but I don’t see culture and history as an imperative, in my opinion. Does that mean you have no interest in other Conlangs or Artlangs? Just curious.

  9. It should be noted, that Esperanto, does in fact have a university, in San Marino. All theses are written in Esperanto as well as the students’ mother tongues. It is a wonderful language for the sciences, and I think many scientists could benefit from using this as an auxiliary language, rather than butchering English or French or German or Russian.I think esperanto is a cool language. I like the way it sounds, and I like the aims it has. It’s not for everybody, but the more people that know about it, the more people will learn it.Just some thoughts.

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