What is Esperanto?

Esperanto is an international language which originally started out as a project by a man called Ludovic Zamenhof, which he first published in what’s now Poland in 1887. The aim of his project was to help international communication and understanding by creating a new language which was easy to learn and didn’t belong to any particular country, for people to use as a common second language when communicating with people from different countries.

After he published his project, people started learning the language, and today it’s a full living language spoken by a small but active and widespread speech community in more than 120 countries and on every continent. Most people find it significantly easier to learn than national languages like English, French or Chinese, as it’s more simple and regular.

For example, it has no irregular verbs or grammatical gender, completely regular spelling and a smaller vocabulary to memorise, as complex words are often constructed by combining simpler ones, for example malsanulejo meaning hospital (mal-san-ul-ej-o, literally “place for unhealthy people”).

Also, as it doesn’t belong to any particular country and it isn’t anyone’s main language, people find themselves to be on more equal terms when using it with people from different countries than when using a language that’s the main language of one person but not the other, such as when an English person speaks in French with a French person.

We use Esperanto to meet people from all over the world, both when travelling abroad and when in our own country. There are various common ways to meet people from other countries though speaking Esperanto.

One is by using Pasporta Servo, a service which allows you to stay in the homes of other Esperanto-speakers all over the world for free (the 2008 list of hosts has 1225 in 90 different countries). Another is by attending one of the many different international Esperanto-language events of diverse types and sizes organised all over the world each year by various different organisations.

The two largest are the annual Universala Kongreso de Esperanto (World Congress of Esperanto), with around 2,000 partipicants each year on average, and Internacia Junulara Kongreso (International Youth Congress), with around 300. Some people also meet people through local groups and societies like ours in Nottingham, while living abroad or in their own town.

Esperanto also has its own culture, with a significant amount of literature and publications, including novels, both original and translated (such as works by J.R.R. Tolkien and Jules Verne), poetry and magazines, as well as many different genres of music. The bookshop of the Esperanto Association of Britain has quite a large amount of products, and the record label Vinilkosmo sells a wide selection of CDs of music in Esperanto (with some songs downloadable for free here).

How Do I Go About Learning Esperanto?

If you’re interested in learning Esperanto, there are various ways to do so. People tend to find that Esperanto is easy enough to learn without specifically being taught by someone, so many people learn it on their own at home.

A very convenient and popular way to do so these days is through the internet. There’s a website called Lernu! which has an extensive amount of lessons and other learning materials available for free, and is an excellent way to learn the language.

Another good way is the computer programme Kurso de Esperanto which can downloaded for free and contains a well-structured series of lessons and a large amount of different exercises for reading, writing, listening and speaking. Some people also buy textbooks and other learning aids (such as CD audio books) for learning on their own at home in a more traditional way. The Esperanto Association of Britain (EAB) sells these.

However, some people prefer to learn Esperanto with a teacher, and this is also possible. EAB runs various residential courses with face-to-face teaching throughout the year. They also have a range of correspondence courses for learning at home while corresponding with a tutor.

Of course another good way to learn and practise speaking Esperanto is to come to our local meetings. We don’t run any officially organised lessons in Nottingham, but we may be able to offer that in the future.

You can find out more about Esperanto from the links on the right, and feel free to email us at notinghamo@googlemail.com if you have any questions that you’d like us to answer. Bonvenon!

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