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https://www.duolingo.com/Fantomius

Esperanto's attraction: What pulled you in, what kept you in?

Fantomius
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(I originally wrote most of this post as a reply to a thread titled "why exactly are you learning esperanto?" ( https://www.duolingo.com/comment/15285402 ), but then realized it would fit better in a separate. Anyway, here it is.)

I've noticed that many who begin learning Esperanto are attracted to it for one reason or another. But once we learn a fair amount, we sometimes leave, or continue learning. And if we continue learning, it's often for different reasons than those that attracted us in the first place.

So what first attracted you to Esperanto? And if you stayed with it, what keeps you attracted?

I'll go first:

(If this post is too long for you, I'm including a condensed version down below.)

Years ago, having "conquered" Italian and learned some Spanish, I was interested in learning a little about other languages, like French, Latin, German, Japanese, and even Esperanto. (I wasn't so interested in learning all about them, but curious enough to learn a few chapters from each.)

Esperanto was intriguing because it was supposed to not have any irregularities, and be easy to learn. Besides, I had given much thought on the idea of how I would create my own language, and I was eager to see how one had constructed the world's most popular artificial language.

What I found, though, was that Esperanto was not quite as easy as I had been led to believe. Yes, it had almost no exceptions to its rules (which I appreciated), but the vocabulary was daunting -- despite much of it being similar to English, Italian, and French -- and, to be honest, the vocabulary did seem to be rather contrived (somewhat cobbled together).

So I lost interest in it for several years. However, I still kind of admired it for being an international language that did succeed in breaking the language barrier for those who were persistent enough to learn it thoroughly. I've seen the attitude among my peers that "English is already the international language, so why should I learn another language? Just let people speak to me in English!" (An attitude I'm sure most of us have met at least once.)

Much later I stumbled across a post written in Toki Pona, a constructed language that I knew was created by an Esperantist. Toki Pona was designed to be an easy and small language, and in trying to decipher the messages written back in forth, I fell in love with it and learned it through several on-line tutorials.

Unfortunately, Toki Pona isn't as widespread as Esperanto, and while it can break language barriers to some degree (you can easily express that you're hungry or you want to go home, but it's not so easy when discussing philospphy or finances), it left me wanting more. In fact, it ended up giving me an appetite for learning Esperanto!

And like Toki Pona, I started (re-)learning Esperanto using an on-line tutorial, and soon I discovered that Duolingo had a free on-line Esperanto course. So I thought, why not?

I believe that learning a foreign language is easier the second time around, and Esperanto is no exception. (So don't feel bad if you took four years of a language in high school, and can't speak any of it now; it'll be much easier each time you go back.) So the second time, Esperanto was considerably easier for me (and more fun). Yes, some words still sound a bit contrived at times, but so what? The more Esperanto I learned, the more I realized that there was usually a good reason for a word being the way it is.

I short while ago I realized that, concerning all the conversations between two people ever spoken on the planet Earth, in 99% of them at least one person knows the other's mother tongue. This is true when a foreigner speaks to me in my native tongue of English. It's also true when I speak Italian to an Italian. And in the few cases I got to speak Italian to Japanese people, they also had knowledge of English!

But with Esperanto, if I find an Esperantist who happens to not have knowledge of English (or Italian), then I am having one of those rare conversations where we do not have the convenience of falling back on a native tongue. We have no knowledge of each other's native tongues, yet we are still communicating! Other than Esperanto, we have nothing in common!

Take that, language barrier!

To conclude, I'd like to say that I want everyone who wants to say something to me to be able to say it to me. Already knowing English is nice, but let's face it -- I shouldn't have to require everyone who wants to speak with me to learn English. So I'll meet everyone half-way: I'll learn Esperanto, and if they desire to speak with me, they can learn Esperanto as well. (Or they can choose English or Italian. But think about it -- if you lived in a county very far away, would it be easier to learn English, Italian, or Esperanto?

Since many English, Italian, Swedish, Chinese/Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean Esperantists agree that learning Esperanto is easier than learning any of the other languages mentioned in this sentence, then I'm happy to say that I support the wide-spread use of Esperanto!

2 years ago

37 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/salivanto
salivanto
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Why I started: Curiosity. I wanted to know what an "artificial" language was like. I wanted to know if it was as easy as they say. (All languages take work, but yes.)

Why I pushed on after the above curiosity was answered (6 months to two years as an Esperantist) - I found I got off on the feeling of making and hearing sounds that previously would have been nonsense to me -- and understanding them! I also started making friends through the language.

Why I took the plunge and made Esperanto our family language (2 - 10 years as an Esperantist). Curiosity again (can we do this?) and a conviction that knowing another language is a good thing. This took a LOT of work, but it was possible for us in a way that it was not so for other languages. It brought us some experiences and knowledge which we wouldn't have come by otherwise.

Why I am still involved now (10 to 20 years as an Esperantist) - friends, and the good feeling of seeing things planned and pulled off OK - whether this means answering questions here and seeing that be a benefit to others, or (especially) planning an event and having people not only want to come, but apparently having a good time there.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Fantomius
Fantomius
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(This is a condensed version of the above post.)

I started learning Esperanto because I was intrigued by the thought of an international language free of practically all exceptions: What would it look like? What would it sound like? How would its grammar behave?

And as for now...

I want everyone who wants to speak to me to be able to do so, and not be constrained by the language barrier. Already knowing English is nice, but let's face it -- I shouldn't have to require everyone who wants to speak with me to learn English.

So I'll meet everyone half-way: I'll learn Esperanto, and if you desire to speak with me, you can learn Esperanto as well.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/PotatoSanta
PotatoSanta
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After studying various languages and having different levels of ability in each I wanted to learn Esperanto because I wanted to know what being truly bilingual was like, and Esperanto seemed a faster way to do that.

What I would like to see one day is Esperanto taught to school children, showing that language study is not hard and doesn't take away from subjects considered more important. Then about two more languages by the time they finish highschool. After that it depends on one's own interest. This is how I think Esperanto can still help lead to world more understanding of other cultures and people.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/GrandaUrso

"What I would like to see one day is Esperanto taught to school children, showing that language study is not hard and doesn't take away from subjects considered more important."

Now that's an interesting idea and one I quite like. Maybe just one year of Esperanto and then after that allowing them to choose another language to learn if they'd like or not. I enjoy that idea thoroughly, it's a shame that you and I likely will not live to see something like that happen at least in American schools where I live. There's much politicization (Whew, my mouth) in learning languages here which is not a good thing.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/IsaacLaws1

I am actually toying with this idea for next school year. I started this January with having my students get a Duolingo account. Many are learning Spanish, but a 5-pack of girls are working on Italian, one boy is learning Portuguese, 3 are learning French, and a pair of kids are learning German. If I got my kids jacked up on learning a "secret" language that only our class would know, then I think I could get them learning Esperanto; especially if I have 180 days to do so. (Of course, the "politicization" comes in when peeps think they can force a population to do something against their will, or at the cost of others.) In this case, it would be couched (truly) as "enrichment." It's what I do. (And my current 5th graders, well, around 30 out of 35, are always happy to get time to work on Duolingo.) Peace!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/amuzulo
amuzulo
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You might find this interesting... a teacher in Slovenia has his students to learn Esperanto on Duolingo to perfect their English!

Instruado per Duolingo en Slovenio

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/IsaacLaws1

Interesting. (BTW, I think I saw one of your interview videos on Youtube. Is that you? I think it's Smith?) Well, I will certainly report back if anything becomes of this idea. Peace.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/amuzulo
amuzulo
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Yep, that's me. :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/v.ivanov
v.ivanov
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There were several tries in this direction. In my city there was an „Esperanto class“ in a school specialized in teaching French (every year a group of children learnt Esperanto first and then started French). It is not always easy because of bureaucracy in this field (not an obviously bad thing, I'd prefer educational system to be somewhat traditional and slow-changing).

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/amuzulo
amuzulo
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Such a program already exists in England: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gSAkUOElsg :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/nutinMikeHunt-69

My original reason for wanting to learn Esperanto was simple: I was fascinated with the idea of a language being so well put together and logical, due to it being created by someone. Although that's still a big part of the reason I'm interested, I also like the idea of Esperanto becoming the international language, and the fact that it also has a culture that's grown behind it is unheard of by me.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/2_K_
2_K_
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After learning several languages because I needed them, and being past my prime of language learning, what attracted me was its accessibility, the fact that I still have a chance to learn an additional language. I tried learning it, and it worked. After one year of lernu.net (no lessons, just the forums), I went to my first EO event and I could get through a week with barely speaking other languages, or needing to speak them. What keeps me in is that it's a part of my life now, and that I'm fascinated by the process of learning. And Esperantoland is full of learners.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ungewitig_Wiht

When I was eight I read about Esperanto in a "weird facts" book. It was stated as "a man made an easy to learn combination of English, French, Spanish and German to foster worldwide communication. It almost became an official language of the UN, but France shot it down to keep French relevant" or something like that. Eventually I came to Duolingo to get some German skills, preparing for a trip to Germany. When I finished my tree I decided to do more languages for lols. I scroll through the list and see Esperanto. I didn't remember consciously what esperanto was but something clicks in my mind, so I do it. I realise that it's a pretty fun language, and I finish the tree quick.

Mi lernis esperanton dum nur 2 monatoj kaj estis 6 monatoj ekde mi uzis la duolingan esperantarbon sed mia Esperanto ankoraŭ bonegas. Mi recivis lernu-e bonvortarojn por mia bona skribaĵoj kaj skribstilo. Mi tute dankas Duolingon.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/v.ivanov
v.ivanov
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Multaj homoj ekscias pri Esperanto el tiaj fontoj, ne ĉiam eĉ favoraj (ofte la mencio estas en la stilo „iam esperanto ŝajnis bona ideo, sed nun evidente la angla venkis“). En Rusio estas ia mencio de Esperanto en populara lernolibro de la angla: ĉiujare dekkelk novaj personoj interesiĝas pro tiu mencio en lingva ekzerco :)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ungewitig_Wiht

Ĉio kion vi diris veras. Mi trovas ĝin mojoseta, ke Rusie oni povas aŭdi pri Esperanto kiam oni lernas la anglan :Þ

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/OnesimusUnbound

Why I study Esperanto? To communicate with other esperantist around the globe. I think esperantist tend to be more global.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/v.ivanov
v.ivanov
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Nu fakte la ĉefa „ekzist-kialo“ de Esperanto estas translima komunikado.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/IsaacLaws1

I share many of the sentiments of Fantomius. I was fascinated, and started imagining that I could do this! (I am level 6 on my other account and just plodding away.) I've ordered an Esperanto Bible and many books; I've downloaded apps and digital files, etc. What I would really LOVE to do is to travel to Europe and take advantage of the opportunity to stay with some of my fellow Esperanto learners, since that is apparently something that the Esperanto community around the world does. (And I would like to return the favor to visitors to Central California.) Anyway, I'm up WAY too late, so I gotta go. Peace! (One last thing: I am actually focused on learning Spanish, for work primarily, but then I got a little distracted by Esperanto--so I'm learning two languages right now, so I am a bit divided in my language-learning efforts.)

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/ThatOneDoge

I'm doing Esperanto and German, and sort of just switch around when I feel like it. How do you do it?

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/IsaacLaws1

Same. I am farther down the tree in Spanish (level 12), but two languages is hard IMO. I have 2-bars left on lots of skills. I will try to make significant progress this summer, so we'll see. Peace!

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/EEnrike

I live in Fremont, how far are you? I want to form a local group. Please post here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1192565994087060/

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/pennybinker

I wanted to see if it really is easier to learn once I finished the Italian tree. Plus once started it is fun.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Ron103257
Ron103257
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As a kid, I was fascinated by languages. When I went to church, I usually was bored by the lessons, but really perked up whenever anything about languages was mentioned. I knew many Greek, and Latin words long before I ever tried to learn a foreign language.

I first heard of Esperanto when I was in High School. I read about it in a Science Fiction novel by an author named “Mack Reynolds”. Esperanto was at least mentioned in every book by this author I remember reading. I didn’t know it was a real thing, I thought it was something he made up, because I had never heard of anything like a universal language before.

While in High School, I made my first real attempt to learn a foreign language (Spanish) and for reasons that I have discussed in other threads of this forum, so I won’t go into them here, I failed that class. For the next two decades I thought I had absolutely no facility for learning foreign languages, no matter my fascination for them. Then my daughter started taking High School Spanish. I would hear her and her mother practicing Spanish, and suddenly one day realized that I understood a lot of what was being said in Spanish. I couldn’t believe that I had retained that much of a foreign language after 20 years of not practicing it, especially when I had failed the course.

About that same time I ran across Esperanto on the internet and found out that it had not been something that Mack Reynolds made up for his fictional universe, but that it was a real thing started in the latter half of the 19th century. I found the Esperanto Hypercard course that had been translated to Hypertext and put on the internet, and started studying. One of the claims on the website was that it was the easiest language on earth to learn. I remember thinking that I would study it to see if I could really learn a foreign language.

I also found out that I had a coworker (Den) who was fluent in Esperanto. He and I started having Esperanto lunches and he would explain things I didn’t understand, and encourage me to keep up the effort. He told me about ELNA (Esperanto League of North America - we now call it “Esperanto-USA”) and I found their website. From that website, I ordered “Teach Yourself Esperanto” and started studying that book daily and also found that there was a local Esperanto club that met about 20 miles from my house. Den and I began attending the club meetings. Den moved away not too long after that, but I’m still a member of the club, and attend the meetings monthly.

So, I began studying Esperanto just as an exercise to see if I could learn a foreign language, but I’ve kept with it because I like the language, the culture, and the people. I hope to use it to travel some day.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Larry_the_Zebra
Larry_the_Zebra
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I'm a language buff so I bought a book some years ago on Esperanto simply to see what it was about. Of course, I had heard some things about it (invented, 'easy' language) and had even seen some jokes made about it on the (old) Brit TV series "May to December". The dizzy blond secretary of the main character learns Esperanto to speak to foreigners believing that that's what all 'internationals' (i.e. non-Brits) speak. Of course, none of the French, Spanish or other nationalities she accosted with her Esperanto understood a word she was saying and thought she was simply some babbling crazy lady. The point: Esperanto is an 'international' language that no 'international' speaks. Pointless to learn, really. What has induced me to try to do the entire course? I am a language teacher and I HATE the cultural parts of teaching or learning a language. It's the language I'm interested in and not in inculcating the world as to the proper way to prepare and serve 4 o'clock tea. Language teaching/learning today is highly culture-based, which turns off many learners as they feel learning another language will 'turn them foreign'. With Esperanto, that's not there. There is no 'culture bit', thank god.. That's point one, point two: all learners are equal. There are (really) no native speakers, so nobody has a style or cultural advantage over the person s/he is talking to. Everybody's culture, everybody's way is just as valid as everybody else's. That's wonderfully unique and warms the heart. Learners are what we are -- in everything, not just languages. Esperanto highlights this. It's really other LEARNERS you learn from, not 'masters who have fallen from the sky' as the Germans say. Wow! Just like life.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/lilcal91

I started learning because I read about Esperanto in a book. A couple of years ago my grandmother gave me a book called "In the land of Invented Languages" by Arika Okrent. It caught my attention, especially the detail about it having speakers today. I looked for information about it online, and found a couple of sites with tutorials and lessons but none of them really worked for me. I was already using Duolingo for Spanish and German so when I found out that someone was working on a course for Esperanto I decided to give it a try when it was released.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JuanSer1
JuanSer1
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Once my dad told me about a created language (Esperanto) and how it would make the world a better place, but I didn't pay much attention at the time, to be honest. Years later I started learning French and I got really interested in languages and how they work and evolve so I was amazed when one day, starting a French course in Duolingo, I saw Esperanto in the languages list. Very recently I started learning it and I am at the very first stages of a conversational level (a very simple one). I fell in love with it so hard that I actually asked my girlfriend to study it; however, I must say that as a teenager there is not much of an attractiveness to it, and that is one of the biggest problems of the community.

I like it because I love languages and I am kind of a self-taught kind of guy, but there is not much out there to attract young people other than some YouTube channels and Pasaporta Servo. Most of my friends that have a vague idea of what the language is, think it's a failed language that nobody uses. I really think that the solution to the unpopularity of Esperanto is using social media to make it "cool" again. New, high-quality content, well designed websites for the Esperanto organizations, get rid of all the rustiness that covers the magnificence of the language and the community, something that says "Esperanto lives and it's here to stay". Something I'm sure most esperantists, including me, would be willing to help with; whether you are a designer, computer programmer, YouTuber or anything else.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KenCollins0

One time when I was in Europe, I was standing in line at a youth hostel. The way the room was arranged, I was essentially facing the guy in front of me. I felt awkward, so I said hello and a few other words. He said, "Speak English!" I said nothing, but I was angry! How dare he treat me like a trained dog! How dare he presume I speak English when this is not an English-speaking country! Only after I thought all those things, I realized that English is my native language. So I continued the conversation, but I was more polite than he was.

1 year ago

https://www.duolingo.com/mhop3223

What interested me originally was that my son and his cousin were kind of making up their own language for play and then around that time I saw the TED talk with Tim Morley and was like, "We are doing this!"... my son, who just turned 9 seems to be liking it as long as I keep it pretty casual. My progress has been slow slow slow though... but that is my fault. Anyhow, I stick with it to teach my son and I like the idea of a universal second language.

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/aleksescomu
aleksescomu
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Do you learn Esperanto through other methodes too? Check this one, it is fast http://learn.esperanto.com

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DaveRutan
DaveRutan
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I first discovered Esperanto while doing a high school research project on world languages, way back in the 198's. I was into the idea of constructing languages at the time and I was always interested in how you would say X in Esperanto. That's pretty much what attracts me to the language now. I enjoy seeing how things are translated into Esperanto, reading it, hearing it and speaking it (my biggest weak point).

2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JohnKing147785

My interest in auxlangs pulled me in. Although I have to admit, I think I like Interlingua and Lingua Franca Nova better than Esperanto. Unfortunately they aren't near as popular.

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KenCollins0

There are a lot of things that I think Zamenhof could have done differently, but I’m just an opinionated person.

My problem with Interlingua and especially Lingua Franca Nova Is that they just aren’t there yet, and they are just romance languages, which isn’t very international. Esperanto has a ton of Germanic roots, which brings in northern and central Europe as well as Britain, some Slavic roots and even Greek words here and there (such as kaj), it has an agglutinative grammar just like Asian languages, and it has a good track record among Asians and Africans. It has a broad phonology which allows it to adopt words from other languages without mutilating them. There are difficult parts, but the difficulties are in different places for different people, otherwise it is a very simple language. It has twice as many native speakers as Lingua Franca Nova has users. The inventor of Lingua Franca Nova is even younger than I am, which isn’t a bad thing, but it does mean that the language doesn’t have enough field testing behind it yet.

I heard a choir in china singing in Esperanto In a very professional production, but I’ve never heard anyone sing anything in LFN.

If I had been there when Zamenhof was experimenting with Esperanto in the 1880s, I’d ask him to do a few things differently. However, I wasn’t there, I have no way of knowing if my ideas would’ve been better, and I can’t really argue with his success. Neither IL nor LFN has anywhere near the huge volume of literature that Esperanto has, neither one has ever held an annual conference with 1,400 people in attendance, neither one has a rock group in Congo that sells its music through an Esperanto-only music publishing company in France, and neither one has Esperanto’s overwhelming presence on YouTube. Every day and in every way I never cease to be amazed at how big Esperanto is.

Esperanto is not perfect, but nothing is perfecter.

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/JohnKing147785

I've heard complaints that Esperanto isn't very international as well, since it mainly draws it's vocabulary from European languages. I can't argue with Esperanto's popularity though.

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KenCollins0

Most of those complaints seem to come from mostly monolingual people who have a European background, who think that a language is only a list of words, and who paradoxically prefer an artificial Romance language. They also complain about diacritics, which gives away their native language as English, since English is about the only European language that doesn't use them.

Grammar is the hardest part of learning a new language, not the alphabet (which you only have to learn once) or the vocabulary.

It is easier to learn vocabulary in Esperanto than in other languages, since it is small and largely agglutinative, thanks to the suffixes and prefixes.

Non-Europeans don't seem to be complaining as much.

Congo: https://youtu.be/PJkSDz5XIXo

China: http://esperanto.cri.cn

China: https://youtu.be/GVCzONYXZL0

Korea: https://youtu.be/6ejbz7GDKC4

If someone who speaks an Asian or African language wants to learn a different Asian or African language, they most often have to learn all new words anyway. The grammar is the main attraction. If you are a European, the grammar looks synthetic, like your language, but if you are Hungarian or Asian, it looks agglutinative, like your language. Esperanto grammar is double-jointed. A European can say "Mi iras per biciklo en la urbon" and an Asian can say "Mi biciklas urben" and they both understand each other as saying the same thing.

Esperanto has spontaneously developed a grammatical feature that is common in non-European languages: a class of verbs that indicate state, such as "viaj okuloj bluas" where "bluas" is a verb that means "are blue," or "ŝi feliĉas" where "feliĉas" means "is happy."

1 week ago

https://www.duolingo.com/KenCollins0

You might also want to take a look at this website: http://www.espero.com.cn

Spoiler: "cn" is the TLD for China.

1 week ago