Esperanto video and how useful the language can be: Interview with a Buddhist monk and tour of monastery

Fun video to share with you today… in Esperanto!

Click “CC” to activate subtitles in English (as well as original Esperanto), or if you’re in China (and not using VPN software to circumnavigate the “Great Firewall of China” as I’m clearly doing to be able to use Youtube) then check it out on Youku.

I made it to Xi’an, and after checking out some typical sites, thanks to a contact in the Esperanto community I got to meet Miaohui at his monastery, which is a bit outside of Xi’an along the Silk Road (China’s “Route 66″). He’s a Buddhist monk who also happens to be an active Esperanto speaker. Since I like to use my languages to share cultural insights, it only seemed right to make a video with him about the monastery and Buddhism in general.

First he gives me a tour of the most important halls and statues, with appropriate historic context, and then I sit down with him to ask him some questions. I hope you enjoy the video!

Esperanto as a useful language when travelling

As with several other videos I’ve made in Esperanto, the purpose is never actually talking about the language itself or how it works. I use it to socialise and experience other cultures, in much the same way as I have with my other languages.

As mentioned before, I don’t consider myself a passionate language learner, and dislike the learning process, so it’s very unlikely you’ll see me take on a language learning project without some real practical day-to-day uses for it, such as Latin or Ancient Greek (well… OK maybe there has been one or two brief exceptions). It would seem like Esperanto is the exception to this; surely I can only speak it with other “language nerds”?

Actually, people may be surprised to hear that I’ve spent an entire 7 weeks of my life just communicating in Esperanto. Both at Esperanto events, and from directly meeting up with other speakers and hanging out with them during my own travels, such as my day with Miaohui.

I always encourage people to spend just two weeks learning Esperanto, for the purely pragmatic reason of it giving them a boost in their main focus language. There was a great recent TEDx talk specifically about this idea of using Esperanto as a springboard to learning other languages. But moving on from that, those you can use Esperanto with make it all the more worthwhile to learn.

At Esperanto events, I’ve made some fantastic open minded friends, and sang, laughed, argued, flirted (and more…), played, explored and eaten with them there. And while travelling, I’ve met up with other speakers who I know will share the philosophies of the community of open mindedness and friendliness, while being modern and forward thinking.

One way you can meet Esperanto speakers in many cities is via Pasporta Servo, which is kind of like Couchsurfing, only it started many decades before. I also simply use Couchsurfing itself and search for speakers of the language and Google info about the local city’s community. It turns out every city in China has an active Esperanto community, and I’ve met up with several speakers in this trip already!

Of course many of them are into language learning and travel, but we tend to talk about whatever else comes up. In many situations, the structure of the language actually lets you be more expressive than non-constructed languages.

Esperanto is bigger than you think!

It turns out that Esperanto is pretty big online! There are actually more articles in the Esperanto Wikipedia than there are in the Arabic version!

On my way to meet Miaohui, I wanted to read up on Buddhism, so I took out my Amazon Kindle 3G, and simply accessed articles (from the bus) in Esperanto about Buddhism. You’d be surprised how many articles that you typically read have an Esperanto translation linked on the left!

There are plenty of Esperanto materials online, like news sites, lots of dictionaries, radio and podcasts, and an excellent multilingual site that acts as a free means to learn the language, active forum, chatroom, dictionary and much more at For those of you in the states, you may be interested in attending an upcoming Esperanto learning course in Texas in June. I started learning the language at a similar event in Europe, SES.

And plenty of software interfaces can be changed to Esperanto (especially if they are open source), with spell-checks, and even including entire operating systems! Of course, Google Translate added Esperanto to their list of languages recently too.

To add to the mix of Esperanto stuff to read, the multilingual copy of my Language Hacking Guide will soon be updated to include this language ;)

Contrary to what you may think, there are indeed many native Esperanto speakers, and while the numbers of speakers are hard to give precisely, many estimate it to be several million worldwide. Whether it becomes the international second language that some dream it should be, or not, doesn’t interest me as much as the fact that right now there are plenty of ways to use it and to make some cool friends via Esperanto. I hope today’s video demonstrates one such example!

Let me know your thoughts on this language and the video in the comments below!



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  • belgium88

    Seems like a pretty amazing guy! I like the contrast between your ‘Bloggers are sexy’ t-shirt and his traditional monk’s robes. 

    • Benny Lewis

      Haha, thanks :D

  • acutia

    Interesting video. It’s strange to me how much his Esperanto sounds like Italian with a strong German accent. The subs in some parts are suffering from some Text encoding problem. It especially doesn’t like your “Sh” as in “Shakyamuni” or your apostrophe/tick mark “don’t”. I’m no expert but maybe the original text file should be UTF-8.

    • Benny Lewis


  • Kevin Post

    I found this video and article to be incredibly interesting and truly what fi3m is about. I’m surprised that more people haven’t commented on this. 

  •!/30HomeGames 30HomeGames

    The more conversations I see the more I’d like to listen to a Benny podcast. Of course as you mention sometimes its hard to have a deeper conversation when you’re a novice speaker but as long as you can keep up understanding all you’d need would be a few sentences to nudge the conversation along. 

    I guess you’d have to open up as well to create the right environment. Great stuff, you’re living the dream for all those people out there who love getting to know people.

    • Benny Lewis

      Podcasts in foreign languages can’t let you add subtitles, or if there was text accompanying it, it wouldn’t be the same ;) I’ll stick to video for now!

  • Benny Lewis

    I’ve got the translation back and am having it proofread! :) I’ll be adding a new component to the LHG (just in English) based on feedback everyone gave me and new things I’ve learned in the last 2 years, and when that’s ready I’ll also send out the Esperanto book in the update!

    You’ll get an email when it’s ready!

  • Jo Haazen

    Koran dankon pro viaj radio-elsendoj kiujn mi atente auskultis. Chu vi povus sciigi al mi kiel mi povus viziti vin kaj vian monahejon, ne kiel turisto sed por praktiki kun vi la Budhisman vivon dum kelkaj semajnoj au monatoj. Krom Esperanto mi iomete povas paroli la Chinan (Mandarinan) lingvon. Chu la Mandarina estas konata en via regiono au chu la enloghantoj parolas alian lingvon au dialekton? Koran dankon pro via respondo. Jen mia retadreso:

  • Charlie Terrell

    Mi lernis esperanton 23 jaroj antaŭe, kaj mem trovis nur du aliajn parolantojn dum la jaroj. Sed ĉi tiun intervjuon mi komprenis bone. Tute ne devis traduki ĝin. Eble mi serĉus aliajn en proksimaj urboj…

  • Benny Lewis

    I just realized that I’ve been referring to that study for ages and never replied to you. Could I possibly get in touch with your dad?? :)