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Having fun at Esperanto events

| 40 comments | Category: particular languages

esperanto

This week I’m taking a break from my Czech studies and spending 7 days with 400 Esperanto speakers in the north of the Czech Republic, in Liberec.

What is Esperanto?

Esperanto is a constructed language with the purpose of connecting people from across many cultures who each natively speak different languages, without giving an unfair bias to any particular country/speaker as, for example, English currently does. Esperanto is also a very easy language to learn! I started learning it a year ago at the Summer Esperanto Study programme and I celebrated the New Year in Germany at the Internacia Seminario (click links to see videos I made about each event). Between both week-long events I’ve already reached a very good level of the language thanks to its similarities with other European languages and extremely easy grammar.

This is the third time that I’m meeting up with Esperantists; the events always cost very little money, with all accommodation and food included (vegetarian friendly if required), and there are options for self-catering and you can even camp here to reduce the price if you wanted to. The organisers prepare discussions, classes, cultural exchanges, concerts, nights-out and day trips etc. All of it in Esperanto. The event I’m currently at is the largest gathering of young Esperanto speakers (sometimes reaching up to 1000 people), and there are people from all over the world here. In the evenings there is a bar to hang out in, a chill-out area for non-drinkers and a disco to dance in.

Why would you want to learn a language that no country speaks?

There are actually Esperanto speakers in almost every country, and there are plenty of events like this all around the world during the year. I will be talking about the practical reasons to learn it another time (for example, even if you don’t care about the language itself, it can still seriously help you learn another language), but for me the most important reason to learn it has been to participate in these events! I am really enjoying this week and have already met some very interesting people my age who have very similar interests (some vegetarians, Linux users, language lovers, well-travelled and of course, fellow polyglots!) It’s also costing me very little money.

Have you ever heard of Esperanto before? When I mention it, some people seem to get defensive about learning a “non natural” language. Esperanto was “invented”, but after over a 100 years of usage, it has evolved into a “natural” language that quite a lot of people use very regularly. There are even native Esperanto speakers (always bilingual with one or more languages) usually due to their parents meeting at an event like this…

Its international spirit is fantastic, and if it’s really easy to learn, then why not? :) Does anyone here have any familiarity with this language? Do share it in the comments!

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  • http://otevotnyelv.blog.hu/ balint

    I’ve heard that over 2 million people speak Esperanto, and I’ve also heard about these excellent meetings :D That’s why I’m planning to learn Esperanto as one of the five languages that I want to speak in five years. And also because it is easy, and my Spanish could give me a solid basis to start off. :D

    They say that one has to be a bit crazy to learn Esperanto since it is, as you have put it, a no-country language – the most important part is missing: the culture. Benny, you could write about these things too. :D
    .-= balint´s last blog ..Hatékony szótanulás =-.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Glad to hear you are interested in it!! It really is very easy to learn and can be quite practical if you enjoy these meetings. Speaking Spanish will make it much easier to learn! You’ll already have a huge amount of vocabulary and the accent (second-last syllable stress etc.) is somewhat similar.

      Esperanto doesn’t have a country, but it does kind of have a culture. The international mixture of cultures create a new sub-culture. I’m still getting to know people from the Esperanto movement, but I can see that they share a lot of values. Hopefully you’ll see soon! Good luck with your Esperanto studies!! Lernu.net is a good site to start of learning and taking online courses. I’ll be likely making a video about learning Esperanto soon like I did with Italian ;)

  • http://otevotnyelv.blog.hu balint

    I’ve heard that over 2 million people speak Esperanto, and I’ve also heard about these excellent meetings :D That’s why I’m planning to learn Esperanto as one of the five languages that I want to speak in five years. And also because it is easy, and my Spanish could give me a solid basis to start off. :D

    They say that one has to be a bit crazy to learn Esperanto since it is, as you have put it, a no-country language – the most important part is missing: the culture. Benny, you could write about these things too. :D
    .-= balint´s last blog ..Hatékony szótanulás =-.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Glad to hear you are interested in it!! It really is very easy to learn and can be quite practical if you enjoy these meetings. Speaking Spanish will make it much easier to learn! You’ll already have a huge amount of vocabulary and the accent (second-last syllable stress etc.) is somewhat similar.

      Esperanto doesn’t have a country, but it does kind of have a culture. The international mixture of cultures create a new sub-culture. I’m still getting to know people from the Esperanto movement, but I can see that they share a lot of values. Hopefully you’ll see soon! Good luck with your Esperanto studies!! Lernu.net is a good site to start of learning and taking online courses. I’ll be likely making a video about learning Esperanto soon like I did with Italian ;)

  • http://ttt.usono.net/ Scott

    I started learning it in September of 2005, studying it only maybe 10 or 15 minutes a day, on my own. By the end of October I was easily reading the Esperanto language news sites (mainly Ĝangalo, back then), and by April of 2006 I had started a blog in Esperanto (which now has over 200 posts).

    It really IS an easy language to learn. I don’t consider myself skilled at languages at all, and I had no trouble learning it.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Thanks for sharing Scott :) Great blog!!

  • http://ttt.usono.net Scott

    I started learning it in September of 2005, studying it only maybe 10 or 15 minutes a day, on my own. By the end of October I was easily reading the Esperanto language news sites (mainly Ĝangalo, back then), and by April of 2006 I had started a blog in Esperanto (which now has over 200 posts).

    It really IS an easy language to learn. I don’t consider myself skilled at languages at all, and I had no trouble learning it.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Thanks for sharing Scott :) Great blog!!

  • Jon Anderson

    I’ve been studying Esperanto for about two years. The problem is that I’ve never spoken it. I’ve read books, letters, made posts, held correspondence, blogged, and done just about everything else with the language, but never spoke it.
    Well, that changed this week. I happen to be working in a city where I was able to attend a meeting of the local club. I was absolutely STUNNED that, not only could everyone understand me, but I could understand about 90% of what THEY were saying. It was the most normal and natural language experience I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to attend a congress somewhere!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Excellent story!! It really shows how easy the language is :)
      Do a Google search to see if there are Esperanto groups in your city (or use sites such as meetup.com ) for smaller meetings for more practise and check out the Esperanto calendar to see if there is an international event that you may be able to visit! :)

  • Jon Anderson

    I’ve been studying Esperanto for about two years. The problem is that I’ve never spoken it. I’ve read books, letters, made posts, held correspondence, blogged, and done just about everything else with the language, but never spoke it.
    Well, that changed this week. I happen to be working in a city where I was able to attend a meeting of the local club. I was absolutely STUNNED that, not only could everyone understand me, but I could understand about 90% of what THEY were saying. It was the most normal and natural language experience I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to attend a congress somewhere!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Excellent story!! It really shows how easy the language is :)
      Do a Google search to see if there are Esperanto groups in your city (or use sites such as meetup.com ) for smaller meetings for more practise and check out the Esperanto calendar to see if there is an international event that you may be able to visit! :)

  • Dale

    Yes, I’ve been an Esperantist for quite a few years. I learned it out of curiosity and stayed because I had made some interesting friends.

    I’d say that there is a practical reason for learning Esperanto for someone who is currently monolingual that you hadn’t mentioned. Learning a second language makes learning a third one easier. There are obvious reasons involving learning languages that share cognates, and so forth. But more fundamentally, you learn some basic things when you learn a second language. You become more familiar with the underlying structure of language. You learn how you learn a language. If you do it right, you overcome some of your fear of making mistakes.

    If there is anyone reading your blog who hasn’t understood the value of losing the inhibition against making mistakes and just getting out there and trying to communicate, I’d be surprised. But knowing it intellectually and experiencing it are not the same. This is where Esperanto can help. It was designed to be easier to learn than natural languages. I believe it is. Two of the reasons are completely phonetic spelling and a vocabulary made up of a smaller number of root words with a bunch of prefixes and suffixes and compound words.

    One of the experiences that Esperantists notice when they are learning the language and then stop finding so remarkable after a while is that we make up words on the fly. Some of them can be found in dictionaries, many can’t. But we understand them just fine anyway. As an example, imagine that you are having a conversation and for whatever reason you can’t remember the Esperanto word for “pen”. (It’s “plumo” by the way.) Asking your friend if you can borrow a “skribilo” will be understood anyway. “Skribilo” is derived from “skribi” which means “to write” and the suffix “ilo” which means a tool for something. I can say with confidence that I can find a dictionary that lists “skribilo”.

    Moreover, Esperanto is a fine language in which to practice your language skills because Esperantists are a notoriously talkative bunch. Although we’ve learned Esperanto for a variety of reasons, we enjoy the opportunities we have to use it.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

      Excellent detailed comment!! Thanks Dale :D
      I intentionally didn’t mention that advantage of Esperanto because I would like to write an entire post about it soon ;) Despite already speaking several languages, Esperanto has hugely helped me with my Czech! More on that soon! Looking forward to your comment on that post :)

  • Dale

    Yes, I’ve been an Esperantist for quite a few years. I learned it out of curiosity and stayed because I had made some interesting friends.

    I’d say that there is a practical reason for learning Esperanto for someone who is currently monolingual that you hadn’t mentioned. Learning a second language makes learning a third one easier. There are obvious reasons involving learning languages that share cognates, and so forth. But more fundamentally, you learn some basic things when you learn a second language. You become more familiar with the underlying structure of language. You learn how you learn a language. If you do it right, you overcome some of your fear of making mistakes.

    If there is anyone reading your blog who hasn’t understood the value of losing the inhibition against making mistakes and just getting out there and trying to communicate, I’d be surprised. But knowing it intellectually and experiencing it are not the same. This is where Esperanto can help. It was designed to be easier to learn than natural languages. I believe it is. Two of the reasons are completely phonetic spelling and a vocabulary made up of a smaller number of root words with a bunch of prefixes and suffixes and compound words.

    One of the experiences that Esperantists notice when they are learning the language and then stop finding so remarkable after a while is that we make up words on the fly. Some of them can be found in dictionaries, many can’t. But we understand them just fine anyway. As an example, imagine that you are having a conversation and for whatever reason you can’t remember the Esperanto word for “pen”. (It’s “plumo” by the way.) Asking your friend if you can borrow a “skribilo” will be understood anyway. “Skribilo” is derived from “skribi” which means “to write” and the suffix “ilo” which means a tool for something. I can say with confidence that I can find a dictionary that lists “skribilo”.

    Moreover, Esperanto is a fine language in which to practice your language skills because Esperantists are a notoriously talkative bunch. Although we’ve learned Esperanto for a variety of reasons, we enjoy the opportunities we have to use it.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

      Excellent detailed comment!! Thanks Dale :D
      I intentionally didn’t mention that advantage of Esperanto because I would like to write an entire post about it soon ;) Despite already speaking several languages, Esperanto has hugely helped me with my Czech! More on that soon! Looking forward to your comment on that post :)

  • John

    Ha, bonege! I came across a great blog post today: http://esperanto-usa.org/eo/node/1550

  • John

    Ha, bonege! I came across a great blog post today: http://esperanto-usa.org/eo/node/1550

  • http://fundamentaesperanto.blogspot.com/ Nissa Annakindt

    I first learned Esperanto in 1979 when I was a student. I did about four lessons of the textbook I was using— ‘teach yourself Esperanto’— and I could actually read stuff in Esperanto.

    I did attend two meetings of a local Esperanto group back years ago when I lived on the ‘left coast’ of the USA. Since moving back to the US heartland, some years I use Esperanto and some years I don’t. When I do use it, as in one of my blogs where I do post in Esperanto, it’s easier than writing in German which I formally studied for many years in college.

    Of course the main reason for learning Esperanto is that when the evil alien robots conquer Earth, we’ll all have to learn Esperanto anyway and I’ll be ahead of the game.
    .-= Nissa Annakindt´s last blog ..Learning Languages with Free BYKI software =-.

    • http://ttt.usono.net/ Scott

      Heh. I always (jokingly, of course) say that I’ve learned Esperanto so that after the revolution I won’t be sent to the re-education camps. But your reason is just as good! :-)

  • http://fundamentaesperanto.blogspot.com/ Nissa Annakindt

    I first learned Esperanto in 1979 when I was a student. I did about four lessons of the textbook I was using— ‘teach yourself Esperanto’— and I could actually read stuff in Esperanto.

    I did attend two meetings of a local Esperanto group back years ago when I lived on the ‘left coast’ of the USA. Since moving back to the US heartland, some years I use Esperanto and some years I don’t. When I do use it, as in one of my blogs where I do post in Esperanto, it’s easier than writing in German which I formally studied for many years in college.

    Of course the main reason for learning Esperanto is that when the evil alien robots conquer Earth, we’ll all have to learn Esperanto anyway and I’ll be ahead of the game.
    .-= Nissa Annakindt´s last blog ..Learning Languages with Free BYKI software =-.

    • http://ttt.usono.net Scott

      Heh. I always (jokingly, of course) say that I’ve learned Esperanto so that after the revolution I won’t be sent to the re-education camps. But your reason is just as good! :-)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

    Just finished the week at IJK and it was spectacular! I have so many wonderful memories and met amazing people!! I love the Esperanto community :D One of the bests weeks ever for me :) I’ll be making a video about it and posting it on this blog (although the purpose of showing the video will not actually be about Esperanto, you’ll understand why soon!) It will also be on my Esperanto blog sooner than when I post it here.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

    Just finished the week at IJK and it was spectacular! I have so many wonderful memories and met amazing people!! I love the Esperanto community :D One of the bests weeks ever for me :) I’ll be making a video about it and posting it on this blog (although the purpose of showing the video will not actually be about Esperanto, you’ll understand why soon!) It will also be on my Esperanto blog sooner than when I post it here.

  • Cainntear

    “without giving an unfair bias to any particular country/speaker as, for example, English currently does. [...] thanks to its similarities with other European languages and extremely easy grammar.”

    Esperanto gives an unfair bias to most of Europe — it’s still not truly international. There have been more internationally neutral languages constructed than Esperanto, but even Esperantists don’t study them….

  • Cainntear

    “without giving an unfair bias to any particular country/speaker as, for example, English currently does. [...] thanks to its similarities with other European languages and extremely easy grammar.”

    Esperanto gives an unfair bias to most of Europe — it’s still not truly international. There have been more internationally neutral languages constructed than Esperanto, but even Esperantists don’t study them….

  • Johano

    Ideologists might insist on a perfectly neutral language (like Solresol or Lojban), but the way I see it, it’s a lot harder for Westerners to learn those languages—as well as harder for non–IE language speakers. And Chinese learners of Esperanto won’t be able to use their vocabulary learnt from the IAL in learning English or another Western language.

         The main advantage in Esperanto is its flexibility and lack of restrictions regarding idioms. Although Romance-langage speakers may have an advantage as far as how quickly the language is obtained, there is no real advantage once the language is learnt. It’s the idioms that affect control over a language. Take French and Italian, for instance. Although they are closely related, a native French speaker will never feel as at home with Italian as a native Italian, except in the case of long total immersion—which would have the same results as being immersed in a less-closely related language, such as German.)

        Having a neutral language at the expense of just changing the vocabulary to equally unfamiliar roots does not make it any easier for the other nations. It only has a detrimental effect on the Westerners.

        In short, I feel Esperanto has enough advantages as a world language over English to counterbalance any neutrality issues. No constructed language that overcomes the Eurocentrism of Esperanto is either (1) viable in terms of speaker base or (2) easy enough for all parties involved. Lojban is neutral in being equally difficult for anyone—I prefer a nonneutral language that’s easier for everyone.

  • Johano

    Ideologists might insist on a perfectly neutral language (like Solresol or Lojban), but the way I see it, it’s a lot harder for Westerners to learn those languages—as well as harder for non–IE language speakers. And Chinese learners of Esperanto won’t be able to use their vocabulary learnt from the IAL in learning English or another Western language.

         The main advantage in Esperanto is its flexibility and lack of restrictions regarding idioms. Although Romance-langage speakers may have an advantage as far as how quickly the language is obtained, there is no real advantage once the language is learnt. It’s the idioms that affect control over a language. Take French and Italian, for instance. Although they are closely related, a native French speaker will never feel as at home with Italian as a native Italian, except in the case of long total immersion—which would have the same results as being immersed in a less-closely related language, such as German.)

        Having a neutral language at the expense of just changing the vocabulary to equally unfamiliar roots does not make it any easier for the other nations. It only has a detrimental effect on the Westerners.

        In short, I feel Esperanto has enough advantages as a world language over English to counterbalance any neutrality issues. No constructed language that overcomes the Eurocentrism of Esperanto is either (1) viable in terms of speaker base or (2) easy enough for all parties involved. Lojban is neutral in being equally difficult for anyone—I prefer a nonneutral language that’s easier for everyone.

  • http://www.cold-showers.com/ Brad

    Hi I just read through all the comments and figured I would introduce myself too. I just picked up David Richardson’s book “Learning and Using The International Language” a few days ago to start learning esperanto. I have taking a few years of Latin and Spanish but cannot use them actively, at all (especially Latin!).

    For some reason I typed in “Learn esperanto in one week” and this site came up. My primary reasons for learning it are for the community events, but I also want to see how it changes my thinking to have a natural command of another language.

    Johano, I came to the same conclusion on esperanto versus lojban. Better advantage some then disadvantage everyone. It’s mostly for fun anyway.

    Scott, do you know if many people read your esperanto blog? I am curious.
    .-= Brad´s last blog ..Alleviate Depression =-.

  • http://www.cold-showers.com Brad

    Hi I just read through all the comments and figured I would introduce myself too. I just picked up David Richardson’s book “Learning and Using The International Language” a few days ago to start learning esperanto. I have taking a few years of Latin and Spanish but cannot use them actively, at all (especially Latin!).

    For some reason I typed in “Learn esperanto in one week” and this site came up. My primary reasons for learning it are for the community events, but I also want to see how it changes my thinking to have a natural command of another language.

    Johano, I came to the same conclusion on esperanto versus lojban. Better advantage some then disadvantage everyone. It’s mostly for fun anyway.

    Scott, do you know if many people read your esperanto blog? I am curious.
    .-= Brad´s last blog ..Alleviate Depression =-.

  • http://kunar.livejournal.com/ Kunar

    It might be interesting for you that most native speakers of Esperanto are not the result of an international relationship. If the parents have two different languages, they will most likely teach them first to their children. (Esperanto can be learned later, after all.) If the parent have the same native tongue, Esperanto is a much more obvious option. Source for this claim: FAQ of DENASK-L, the organization of families which use Esperanto at home, in particular Jouko Lindstedt.

  • http://kunar.livejournal.com Kunar

    It might be interesting for you that most native speakers of Esperanto are not the result of an international relationship. If the parents have two different languages, they will most likely teach them first to their children. (Esperanto can be learned later, after all.) If the parent have the same native tongue, Esperanto is a much more obvious option. Source for this claim: FAQ of DENASK-L, the organization of families which use Esperanto at home, in particular Jouko Lindstedt.

  • Wayne ILLES

    I learned Esperanto back in 1976 – WOW ! 12 hour experimental course in high school, and I had to beg my French teacher to let me participate. After taking the course I took an exam and won a free trip to Greece to the IJK and to the UK, and had a great time. Met a lot of good friends, some of whom I still communicate with on occasion, and there is a good international spirit. In 1984 I participated at SFSU in the Somera Esperanto-kurso, and learned a lot more. Again met some great people, and although I haven’t been that active in the “movado” I still try to use the language and am proud to tell people that I speak it! I was much more active in the 70s and 80s and founded JEK – Junularo Esperantista Kanada and worked with the UEA, but as you get older priorities change, but I still love the language and what it stands for.

  • Wayne ILLES

    I learned Esperanto back in 1976 – WOW ! 12 hour experimental course in high school, and I had to beg my French teacher to let me participate. After taking the course I took an exam and won a free trip to Greece to the IJK and to the UK, and had a great time. Met a lot of good friends, some of whom I still communicate with on occasion, and there is a good international spirit. In 1984 I participated at SFSU in the Somera Esperanto-kurso, and learned a lot more. Again met some great people, and although I haven’t been that active in the “movado” I still try to use the language and am proud to tell people that I speak it! I was much more active in the 70s and 80s and founded JEK – Junularo Esperantista Kanada and worked with the UEA, but as you get older priorities change, but I still love the language and what it stands for.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ benny

    Thanks for all the great comments everyone :) It was great inspiration reading your stories and thoughts!
    Some time later, I’ll write another post about how Esperanto can be really useful as a bridge to learning other languages. And for those curious, I’ll be going to the first JES event, in Zakopane Poland, for New Years ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com benny

    Thanks for all the great comments everyone :) It was great inspiration reading your stories and thoughts!
    Some time later, I’ll write another post about how Esperanto can be really useful as a bridge to learning other languages. And for those curious, I’ll be going to the first JES event, in Zakopane Poland, for New Years ;)

  • Forvill

    Saluton!
    Mi tre placxas al vi pro ke vi lernadis Esperanton! Kara, vi estas tre lerta. Mi estas brazilano kaj scias ke oni learnas lingvojn nur pere de parolado. Oni ne devas ververe studi tro multe gramatikojn, sed anstatauj tion kun demandojn!
    Gxis revido el Kuritiba, en Brazilo!

  • Forvill

    Saluton!
    Mi tre placxas al vi pro ke vi lernadis Esperanton! Kara, vi estas tre lerta. Mi estas brazilano kaj scias ke oni learnas lingvojn nur pere de parolado. Oni ne devas ververe studi tro multe gramatikojn, sed anstatauj tion kun demandojn!
    Gxis revido el Kuritiba, en Brazilo!

  • Sean Stevens

    Hello! I’m very excited about actually learning a new language but not quite sure were I would like to begin. I’ve narrowed it down to either or Esperanto and Latin. Any suggestions or feedback would be highly appreciated! Thank you!:)