Please tell me, WHY?
One Chinese Esperantist described Esperanto as a linguistic handshake.
When two people shake hands they both reach out halfway. When two
people speak Esperanto they have both made the effort to learn a
relatively easy, neutral language instead of one person making the huge
effort to learn the other person's difficult national language and the
other person making no effort at all except to correct his/her
If you would like additional information, please feel free to contact
me, or you can e-mail the Esperanto League for North America at
I hope no one was offended by my question as I was not trying to offend-
I was simply shocked to find a group of people conversing in a language
which I had previously believed to be a long forgotten pipe dream. You
see, I've only heard of esperanto once or twice in my entire life.
I received a lot of email replies to my posting. All of them were
polite, tried to educate me about esperanto and didn't get defensive or
offensive. The responders seemed to recognize my ignorance of esperanto,
I suppose they're used to that, and responded with intelligence and
reason. I find that very refreshing, given the childish nature of what
goes on in other news-groups. The people in this NG seem very
intelligent, but I shouldn't be surprised, any group of people that
spend time to learn an obscure(sorry!) language for the sole purpose of
creating the oportunity to converse with others in a way that *requires*
both parties to invest equal effort into the comunication and puts
neither party at a disadvantage, can't be all bad. They are, at the very
least, an interesting group of people!
One statement, common to almost all responses, was that esperanto is an
easy language to learn. Is this really true? Reletive to what? And in
what way is it easier? Also, how many people in the world can effectivly
converse in esperanto?
There are obviously some latin roots to the language, but not
everywhere. It reminds me of spanish or italian, with a large portion of
the words ending in vowels, but then there are words like
'Kaj', 'kvankam', and 'kiel' that I have no clue what they mean and
other words like 'versxajnan', 'vidpunktoj', and 'mangxis' that I can't
even begin to pronounce. Very strange, why is there such a variance in
the language's origins? Was it designed that way to allow poeple of many
different tongues to recognize something of their own language in
"One statement, common to almost all responses, was that esperanto is
an easy language to learn. Is this really true? Reletive to what? And
in what way is it easier? Also, how many people in the world can
effectivly converse in esperanto?"
Esperanto is easier to learn than other languages because there are no
exceptions to any of the rules, there are almost no idiomatic
expressions, the language is completely phonetic, morphemes (little
words) can be freely combined to make new words as long as they make
sense etc. The vocabulary is 75% of Latin derivation, 20% of Germanic
derivation and 5% Greek, Slavic and others. "Kaj" means "and" and comes
from ancient Greek. The word "mangxi" means "to eat". There is no "x"
in the language but a number of letters have a circumflex accent over
them (^). "G" without the accent is always pronounced like the "g" in
"great" and "g" with the accent is always pronounced like "g" in
"George". In the internet we cannot write the letter with the accent.
Most of us use an "x" to indicate that there is an accent on the
I learned the language in about four months of intensive self-study.
After that time I was able to correspond with Esperantists in Asia,
Africa, Europe and South America, communicating anything I could have
in my native language, English. After exchanging a few letters I was
able to read letters without a dictionary. I still had to use a
dictionary to write letters. Of course, literary works in the language
can be challenging, depending on the style used.
Nobody knows how many people can effectively converse in the language.
A reasonable estimate is a few hundred thousand. We do know that about
2500 Esperantists gather every year for the World Congress, a kind of a
week-long festival of Esperanto, and that Esperanto is the only
language used for the dozens of events that are connected with the
Congress. It is reasonable to suppose that for each person who attends
there are a large number of Esperantists who were not able or not
willing to go to the expense of travelling to the site of the Congress.
Unfortunately there is no way to take a census of a population that is
scattered throughout the world.
The language was designed to be easy to learn and use.
Here are a few of the rules:
Nouns end in "o".
Plurals end in "j". ("J" is pronounced as in German or like the English
Adjectives end in "a".
The verbal endings are:
--as (present tense)
--is (past tense)
--os (future tense)
--us (conditional mood)
There is only one conjugation that is used for all verbs.
As stated above, there are no exceptions to these rules.
I am happy that everyone replied in a courteous way. Sometimes
arguments over theoretical points of the language get pretty intense in
this newsgroup, although I don't remember seeing a whole lot of insults
like in some other groups.
(I should say that some purists will claim that there are exceptions to
the rules and that others will argue that they are incorrect. When I
say "There are no exceptions to the rules of Esperanto" I am speaking
in a normal everyday way from a practical point of view. I am not
making a scientific or philosophical claim.)
> Are you people really speaking esperanto?
> Please tell me, WHY?
Well, =some= of us are speaking it, but most of us are writing it, since
this is a text medium.
And we use Esperanto because it's the only language we all have in common.
-- __Q Stefano MAC:GREGOR Mi dankas al miaj bons`ancigaj steloj,
-- -`\<, (s-ro) \ma-GREG-ar\ ke mi ne estas superstic`ulo.
-- (*)/ (*) Fenikso, Arizono, Usono ==================================
--------------- <http://www.indirect.com/www/stevemac/ttt-hejmo.html> ---
> The estimate usually given is "10 times", though I've also seen "50
> times" once, and that's relative to learning some other foreign
I made it 12 times; I took two months learning Esperanto at the same rate
that I had studied German for two years to reach about the same level. The
difference was that I was more confident in Esperanto. I had learned German
first, though, and that may have speeded up my learning of Esperanto.
> >Also, how many people in the world can effectivly
> >converse in esperanto?
> As I've heard somewhere (?donh), this is a bit like asking how many
> people play chess. There are millions of people who can say "Hello",
> there are maybe half a dozen great poets (depending on how you define
> "great poet"). Somewhere between the two there is the number of
> "effective speakers", but even if you define the term, how are you
> going to count them?
> One figure I've heard quoted as being somewhat authoritative is two
> million, but I don't remember where it was supposed to be from.
Unfortunately, journalists like to have a definate figure, otherwise they can
get upset, so after telling them the chess bit, you have to make a figure up
and stick to it. I tell them it's a million.
| Ian Fantom EMail I...@mintex.demon.co.uk |
Kiel mi aliloke diris, la figuro de 2 milionoj da parolantoj fontas el la
esplorado de D-ro Sydney Culbert de la Universitato de Vasxintonio en
Seatlo (Usono). Dum pli ol 20 jaroj li esploris en dekoj da landoj per
strikte statistiksciencaj metodou, kaj konkludis, ke inter 1 miliono k 2
milionoj da homoj parolas E-on je (aux preter) la nivelo "3" laux la
skemo de la usona ministrejo de eksteraj rilatoj (U.S. State Department),
t.e. pronuncmaniero foje fremda sed cxiam komprenebla, bona regado de la
majxoritato de fundamentaj sintaksaj reguloj, cxiam sukcesas komprenigi
sin en suficxe malsimplaj frazoj, vortprovizo adekvata por
partoprenado en cxiaj gxeneralaj konversacioj kaj por profesiaj diskutoj
en aparta fako, malofte hezitas, cxiam scipovas dauxrigi la konversacion
per alternativaj esprimoj (se la gxustaj vortoj ne tuj venas en la
kapo), komprenas la plajparton de tio kion aliaj diras, povas sekvi
paroladojn, radioelsendojn, kaj konversacioj inter denaskaj parolantoj,
sed eble ne gxis la plej fundaj detaloj (Interagency Language Roundtable,
level 3 (Professional Proficiency)).
(Mi dankas al David Wolfe pro la anglalingva originalo de tiu difino de
Al Mike Urban: Cxu vi opinias, ke estus utile aldoni tian-cxi pli
ampleksan diskuton pri la afero al la "Oftaj Demandoj"- dosiero (FAQ)?)
George Partlow (fifama kiel "fonobo" t.e. "freneza norda barbulo")
Timeo danaos et "flat tax" ferentes...
>...de la Universitato de Vasxintonio en Seatlo (Usono)....
Ho! Jen aliiu, kiu ne literumas la nomojn de la urbo Va=FEintono kaj de
la usona =FEtato Va=FEintonio sen G, =E6ar la literparo NG en la angla nomo=
(Washington) portas nur unu sonon, similan al nuda N.=20
-- __Q Stefano MAC:GREGOR Mi dankas al miaj bon=FEancigaj stelo=
-- -`\<, (s-ro) \ma-GREG-ar\ ke mi ne estas supersti=E6ulo.
-- (*)/ (*) Fenikso, Arizono, Usono =3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=3D=
--------------- <http://www.indirect.com/www/stevemac/ttt-hejmo.html> --=
La demando estas, kiel tiu Seatlulo kolektis siajn datumojn. Li evidente
ne vojagxis tra la mondo, prenante specimenojn de cxiu kontinento, cxar
rilate al nia modesta nombro, li versxajne ne trovus solan Esperantiston
en iu ajn de li prenita specimeno. Do li supozeble devis demandi iun
alian taksi la nombron aw liveri datumojn. Tamen veraj datumoj en la
senco de censo aw galupo ne ekzistas, do mi konkludas, ke li nur povis
bazi sian takson sur takson de iu alia.
Se mi do sobre pritraktas la aferon, lia takso estas neniel pli probabla
ol mia takso, ol via takso aw ol ies inter ni takso. Aparte de tio mi
atentigas, ke evidente ne estas reprezentiga esplorstrategio demandi
entuziasman Esperantiston pri la nombro da samgrade entuziasme
infektitoj. La fakto, ke li starigis suficxe detalan raportilon signifas
Do restas la demando - al kiu aw kiuj tiu esploristo demandis? Supozeble
ni ja mem diris al li, ke ni estas du milionoj. Kiel kulminon ni nun
tute kontentaj citas lian "science fonditan takson" al la vasta publiko.
Cxu iu povas forblovi miajn dubojn?
Ho ve, ho ve! Aw "entuziasmaj infektitoj", aw "entuziasme infektitaj"!
Mi pensas, ke Don HARLOW iam skribis en SCE pri la metodoj, kiujn
aplikis "tiu Seatlulo". Li ja voja^gadis. Se iu havas la detalojn,
eble oni metu en TTT-pa^gon, ^car oni konstante redemandas pri tio.
Evidente oni atingas pli bonan rezulton, se oni prenas ne unu
specimenon el la tuta lo^gantaro de la mondo (tiam necesus intervjui
plurcent mil homojn), sed multajn specimenojn el diversaj sekcioj
de la lo^gantoj, ekzemple el la membraro de Esperanto-asocio.
|> Se mi do sobre pritraktas la aferon, lia takso estas neniel pli probabla
|> ol mia takso,
Sed Don HARLOW ne sendis al SCE detalojn pri viaj esploroj, do mi
iomete pli fidas al "tiu Seatlulo", provizore. Eble vi mem sendu
plurmilvortan resumon al SCE!
Jen la faktoj. Mi invitas iun kopii ilin al WWW-pagxon, aux denove
WRT Dr. Culbert, I got some info from him several years back. Prof.
Culbert seems to use this as a form letter, since he apparently gets
many complaints that his figures are too low, too high, should only
cover *native* speakers, that Esperanto is not a language, etc etc.
| ...I have personally conducted an on-the-spot stratified sampling of
| populations in dozens of countries during a period of over twenty years,
| using hundreds of hours in attempting to trace down every person within
| the selected areas of the selected countries who meet my criteria of
| "speaker of Esperanto." In addition, I have the largest collection of
| items in and about Esperanto to be found in the Western Hemisphere -- a
| collection which has been thoroughly searched for any clues which could
| improve my estimate. In short, I know more about the topic under
| discussion than any other person...
| ...It is, however, annoying to go to elaborate, carefully-planned, and
| time-consuming efforts to obtain data nowhere else available, and then to
| have the results incompetently criticized by someone who bothers neither
| to read the material carefully nor check on the "facts" which he offers in
| (end quote)
I met him at a recent LK and he is actually a very nice person. :-)
I've also spoken to him by phone and I asked what his definition of
"speaks" is. He uses the State Dept. level 3 definition:
| Interagency Language Roundtable, level 3 (Professional Proficiency)
| Pronunciation: Sometimes foreign but always intelligible
| Grammar: Good control of most basic syntactic patterns;
| always conveys meaning accurately in reasonable
| complex sentences
| Vocabulary: Adequate for participation in all general conversation
| and for professional discussions in a special field
| Fluency: Rarely hesitant; always able to sustain conversation
| through circumlocution
| Comprehension: Understands most of what is said to him; can follow
| speeches, clear radio broadcasts, and most
| conversations between native speakers, but not in
| great detail.
I asked if he has published any papers describing his research in
detail, since a citation is always a Good Thing, but he hasn't. As I
recall, his methodology for Esperantists is something like this
(quoting a posting I did elsewhere):
| interviews people to see if they really speak the languages (more than
| "hello, please, goodbye"), and extrapolates the world total from
| carefully checked regions. For example, he spent some months in
| France checking every claimed Esperantist in a couple of areas and
| comparing the claims to the reality.
So, I think his figures are as real as any we'll see, and I feel
comfortable using them.