Today, December 15th, is Esperanto Day, in honor of the birthday of the inventor of Esperanto, Dr. L. L. Zamenhof. In 1887, Zamenhof published a thin textbook with a basic grammar, dictionary, and sample sentences in his example language. Since then, Esperanto has become one of the most successful created languages, attracting enthusiasts from around the world.
People learn Esperanto for a variety of reasons – to travel, to meet people, to stretch their brains, to read new literature, to further some idealistic goals, to satisfy their curiosity about languages. I decided to learn Esperanto as a challenge to myself – I wanted to become fluent in a second language, and Esperanto was a fun choice.
It’s hard to find objective information about Esperanto. Almost everything written by non-speakers of Esperanto is wrong or overstated. Esperanto is a real language; it does have a literature and culture to itself; it isn’t a failed project. Similarly, almost everything written by speakers of Esperanto is overstated or exaggerated. Esperanto doesn’t have two million speakers; it has many failings, both linguistic and political; it isn’t going to become the world’s international second language.
But for many, including me, Esperanto has brought many benefits. I’ve learned more about the world, traveled to places I’d never thought I’d go, and met people both intriguing and bizarre. Learning and speaking Esperanto has been a great experience for me, and I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in languages, travel, or literature.
If you want to learn more about Esperanto, I’d recommend http://www.esperanto-usa.org, the homepage of Esperanto-USA, the national organization of US Esperanto-speakers. (I’m the vice president of this organization.) Lernu.net is also a good resource for starting to learn the language.