Saluton! Cu vi parolas Esperanton?

This is a post that’s been sitting around in my drafts for awhile while I mulled upon it.

I came across Esperanto while surfing online, and was intrigued by the concept of it, but I honestly still can’t wrap my head around it.

One thing I love, and hate, about travelling in foreign lands is the language barrier. It’s all well and good when you speak the language – I’m an English and Mandarin speaker, which means I can get by in many places. But there are lots of places still where English is not a native language, and it’s pretty impossible to even guess what the signs read – I was pretty quiet in Seoul and mostly relying on the kindness of help desks to point me to the less touristy places without any English signage.

So imagine a universal language that everyone speaks, one that transcends barriers and cultures such that we can talk to anyone, anywhere in the world? No need for hand waving and speaking louder in the hopes of making yourself understood!

That’s the reason Esperanto was created back in 1887 by L. L. Zamenhof, with the lofty goal of being “an easy-to-learn and politically neutral language that would foster peace and international understanding between people with different regional and/or national languages.”

Oddly enough, the only constructed language I could imagine are those from that of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, it has never occured to me that there are other ‘official’ constructed languages today!

Well anyway the biggest hurdle would be getting people to adopt and use the language, and surprisingly, there are at least 10,000-20,000 people around the world who speak this constructed language today, which is no mean feat in itself, though they’re still a pretty long way from their original goal.

And I personally think that language is intrisically linked to culture and its history, so while I gripe about not being able to get my message across in foreign countries, what’s the fun if we all spoke the same language? In Singapore, having 4 national languages and enforcing English as the main business language helped when we were a developing nation from all over the world to put us all on the same page. But one also bemoans the loss of our various dialects, and in turn our cultural heritage.

Here‘s an interesting short article on NatGeo about dwindling languages in the world today (and how it’s all depicted in LOTR)

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4 comments to Saluton! Cu vi parolas Esperanton?

  1. I think Bill Chapman is right to point out that Esperanto has become a living language. Lest anyone think Esperanto is something dead or historical, you might be interested to know of Esperanto’s current popularity – which is 125 years young in 2012.

    Their new online course has 125 000 hits per day and Esperanto Wikipedia enjoys 400 000 hits per day. That can’t be bad 🙂

  2. Hello from Wales. I’ve used Esperanto on my travels for many years, most recently in Argentina. There are more Esperanto speakers than you suggest – probably up to a couple of million. You’re right that it’s no mean feat for a planned language to have reached these numbers within 125 years. Of course, you may not bump into Esperanto speakers in Seoul or Buenos Aires or Beijing, but it is quite possible to find them.

    A good course is available free on

    You write, “what’s the fun if we all spoke the same language?” Of course the aim is for Esperanto to become a second language for us all. I find plenty of fun teasing people, and being teased by people from other countries. (We can have our serious moments too). I’m no less British because I speak Esperanto. You won’t forget your roots either.

    • Hi Bill,

      Thanks for your comment! I got my figures from Wikipedia, which may not be the most accurate, apologies about that. Personally i don’t know any Esperanto speakers and had never even heard of it before this, hence the idea of the subject was quite fascinating to me.

      I think that a lot of a country’s culture and history is steeped in language, which is why it would be a pity if everyone spoke the same language! But yes, a second common language that we all understand definitely is great =) To some extent, I feel that English is that language for me and a lot of travellers that I have met, who usually default to English as that common tongue when we speak to each other.


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