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Flag of Esperanto.svg
The Esperanto flag
Created by L. L. Zamenhof
Date 1887
Setting and usage International auxiliary language
Users Native: 200 to 1,000  (1996)
L2 users: 10,000 to 2,000,000
Early forms:
  • Esperanto
Writing system Latin (Esperanto alphabet)
Sources Vocabulary from Romance and Germanic languages; phonology from Slavic languages
Official status
Regulated by Akademio de Esperanto
Language codes
ISO 639-1 eo
ISO 639-2 epo
ISO 639-3 epo
Linguist List epo
Linguasphere 51-AAB-da

Esperanto is a constructed language that was designed to make international communication easier, and to be easy to learn. It was created in the nineteenth century by Ludovic Lazarus Zamenhof, a Polish eye doctor.

At first, Zamenhof called the language "La Internacia Lingvo," which means "The International Language" in Esperanto. Soon, people began calling it the simpler name "Esperanto," which means "the hopeful person." That name comes from "Doktoro Esperanto" ("Doctor Hopeful"), which is what Zamenhof called himself in his first book about Esperanto.

A minority of people now speak Esperanto in many countries and in all the major continents. No one knows exactly how many people now speak Esperanto in the world. Most sources say that between several hundred thousand and two million Esperanto speakers. A few people are alive who grew up speaking Esperanto as their first language. There may be around 1000 of these people; that number is an estimate.

Esperanto culture[change | edit source]

A person who speaks Esperanto is often called an "Esperantist."

Many people use Esperanto to communicate by mail, email, blogs or chat rooms with Esperantists in other countries. Some travel to other countries to meet and talk in Esperanto with other Esperantists.

There are many annual meetings of Esperantists. The largest is the Universala Kongreso de Esperanto ("Universal Congress of Esperanto"), which held in a different country each year. In recent years it has had around 2000 people, from 60 or more countries.

There are books and magazines written in Esperanto. Much literature has been translated into Esperanto from other languages. includes Famous works, like the Bible and plays by Shakespeare, have been translated into Esperanto. Works that are less famous have also been translated into Esperanto, and some of these do not have English translations.

There are bands that sing in Esperanto, perform live concerts and sell recordings of their music.

Goals of the Esperanto movement[change | edit source]

Zamenhof wanted to make an easy language to increase international understanding. He wanted Esperanto to be a universal second language. In other words, although he did not want Esperanto to replace national languages, he wanted a majority of people around the world to speak Esperanto. Many Esperantists initially shared this goal. UNESCO recognized Esperanto in 1954. However, Esperanto was never chosen by the United Nations or other international organizations. Esperanto has not become a widely accepted second language.

Some Esperanto speakers appreciate Esperanto for reasons other than its use as a universal second language. Some like the Esperanto community. Some like the Esperanto culture (see above). Developing the Esperanto culture is a goal of some people. This may be why there are bands that perform in Esperanto.

People who care more about Esperanto's current value than about its potential for universal use are sometimes called raŭmistoj in Esperanto. The ideas of these people can together be called raŭmismo, or "Raumism." The names come from the name of the town of Rauma, in Finland. Rauma is where where the International Youth Congress of Esperanto met in 1980 and made a big statement. The Congress' statement said that making Esperanto a universal second language was not their main goal.

People who have goals for Esperanto more similar to Zamenhof's are sometimes called finvenkistoj in Esperanto. The name comes from fina venko, an Esperanto phrase which means "final victory." "Final victory" refers to a theoretical future in which nearly everyone on Earth speaks Esperanto as a second language.

The Prague Manifesto (1996) states the ideas of the ordinary people of the Esperanto movement and of its main organization, the World Esperanto Association (UEA).

The language[change | edit source]

Esperanto uses grammar and words from natural languages, such as Latin, Russian, and French.

The Esperanto alphabet has 28 letters. These letters are:

a b c ĉ d e f g ĝ h ĥ i j ĵ k l m n o p r s ŝ t u ŭ v z

A in Esperanto is like a in father, b is like b in book, c is like ts in lets, ĉ is like ch in chocolate, d is like d in dog, e is like e in met, f is like f in flower, g is like g in go, ĝ is like j and dg in judge, h is like h in honey, ĥ makes a sound that vibrates the throat (the sound does not exist in English; it is often written in English as kh or ch in foreign names and words, in Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Russian... ח خ χ х ), i is like ee in speed, j is like y in you, ĵ is like s in pleasure, k is like c and k in cook, l is like l in look, m is like m in moon, n is like n in can, o is like o in note, p is like p in pie, r is like r as in road but is rolled (trilled, as in Spanish, Italian, Arabic, Russian), s is like s in simple, ŝ is like sh in short, t is like t in tire, u is like oo in boot, ŭ is like w in cow, v is like v in cave, and z is like z in zipper.

There is no Q, W, X, or Y in the Esperanto alphabet, although they do have names.

Grammar[change | edit source]

Grammar means the rules of a language. Esperanto's grammar is intended to be simple. Most rules in Esperanto never change and can always be applied in the same way.

Nouns and adjectives[change | edit source]

Nouns end in -o. For example, patro means father. To make a noun plural add -j. For example: patroj means fathers.

Adjectives end in -a, adverbs end in -e, for example rapide means fast, granda means big, bona means good, bone means well.

Pronouns[change | edit source]

The basic words are: mi - I, vi - you, li - he, ŝi - she, ĝi - it, la - the, jes - yes, ne - no.

Mia means my, via means your, lia means his. So, to say how old is somebody in Esperanto, just say:

  • Lia aĝo estas dudek = He is twenty (20) years old.

Verbs[change | edit source]

Verbs end in -as when they are in present tense. English uses I am, you are, he is. But in Esperanto, there is just one word for am, are, is - estas. Similarly, kuras can mean run or runs. Infinitives end in -i. For example, esti means to be, povi means can. It is easy to make past tense - always add -is ending. To make future tense, add -os For example:

  • kuri - to run
  • mi kuras - I run
  • vi kuras - you run
  • li kuris - he ran
  • ĝi kuros - it will run

Many words can be made opposite by adding mal at the beginning.

  • bona = good. malbona = bad
  • bone = well, malbone = poorly
  • granda = big, malgranda = small
  • peza = heavy, malpeza = light

Examples of sentences which show the rules:

  • Mi povas kuri rapide. = I can run fast.
  • Vi ne povas kuri rapide. = You cannot run fast.
  • Mi estas knabo. = I am a boy.
  • Mi estas malbona Esperantisto. = I am a bad Esperantist.

Yes/No questions[change | edit source]

To make a yes-or-no question, add Ĉu at the beginning. For example:

  • Ĉu vi parolas Esperanton? = Do you speak Esperanto?
  • Jes, mi parolas Esperanton tre bone. = Yes, I speak Esperanto very well.
  • Ne, mi estas komencanto. = No, I am a beginner.

Numbers[change | edit source]

The numbers are:

0 nul
1 unu
2 du
3 tri
4 kvar
5 kvin
6 ses
7 sep
8 ok
9 naŭ
10 dek
100 cent
1000 mil

Prefixes and suffixes[change | edit source]

Esperanto has over 20 special words which can change meaning of another word. Some of them are:

  • mal- (added before the word) makes the word opposite. Bona means good, and malbona means bad.
  • bo- (added before the word) makes the word "in-law". Patro means father, and bopatro means father-in-law.
  • -ej- (added after the word, but before the ending) means place. Lerni means to learn, and lernejo means school.
  • -in- (added after the word, but before the ending) changes the gender of a word into female. Patro means father, and patrino means mother.
  • -ar- (added after the word, but before the ending) means many things of the same kind. Arbo means tree, and arbaro means forest.
  • -ist- (added after the word, but before the ending) means somebody who does something (perhaps as a job). Baki means bake and bakisto means baker; scienco means science, and sciencisto means scientist. Esperantisto means Esperanto speaker.

These words combined can make a very long word, such as malmultekosta (cheap), vendredviandmanĝmalpermeso (that meat cannot be eaten on Friday).

Technical problems[change | edit source]

The letters ĉ ĝ ĥ ĵ ŝ ŭ have diacritics, or accent marks. Because of this, they are hard to type on most keyboards. Since x is not used in Esperanto, those letters can be written as: cx gx hx jx sx ux. Below is a sample of Esperanto that uses accented letters, and a sample with those letters replaced:

Normal sample: Ĉiuj homoj estas denaske liberaj kaj egalaj laŭ digno kaj rajtoj. Ili posedas racion kaj konsciencon, kaj devus konduti unu la alian en spirito de frateco.

Version without diacritics: Cxiuj homoj estas denaske liberaj kaj egalaj laux digno kaj rajtoj. Ili posedas racion kaj konsciencon, kaj devus konduti unu la alian en spirito de frateco.

(Simple English translation: All people are free and equal in dignity and rights. They are reasonable and moral, and should act kindly to each other.)

Other websites[change | edit source]