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  5. What is Esperanto?


What is Esperanto?

Hey guys,

Madeline here, I just started Esperanto yesterday and I think it's really cool! There are just some questions I would like to ask about Esperanto, though.

1a. Is Esperanto a cross between Russian and Italian?

1b. What languages is it made up of?

  1. What country's main language is Esperanto?

  2. On average, how many people speak Esperanto in the world?

  3. Who developed Esperanto or where did it derive from?

Please comment below with the question number so I know which question you're answering. It would be awesome if lots of Esperanto speakers could share their knowledge on the course, not just for me, but for other peeps who start the course and want to know more about it. Also upvote and give lingots to this discussion if you like it! :D

May 31, 2015



Esperanto is a constructed language (unlike natural languages like English and French, which aren't "made up" by anyone but develop over time). It was developed near the end of the 19th century by L.L. Zamenhof.

It's not a cross between Russian and Italian, but it is based on Indo-European languages including those two.

There is no country that uses Esperanto as an official language. Speakers are spread out across the world, and it is estimated that between 160,000 and 300,000 people speak it.


I've seen figures closer to 2,000,000


Maybe 2,000,000 who tried speaking it, or learned some words, or learned the language and forgot it after. I think that sheldolina's figures are more accurate.


There are some interesting consequences of Esperanto being a constructed auxiliary language intended for international communication and the fact that there is no large community of native speakers using it exclusively for all of their daily activities.

1) Every Esperantist except possibly a few very young children whose parents speak it at home is at least bilingual. We all speak at least Esperanto and the native language we use where we live. Many Esperantists are multilingual. Esperanto and it's community are a bridge between languages and cultures.

2) The Esperanto community is also 100% literate, or incredibly close to it.

3) We're a rather talkative community. The whole point of learning another language is to be able to communicate with the people who speak it. Since Esperanto isn't a language you learn when you are moving to Esperantujo (Esperantoland) or for the most part in order to work at a company that conducts its business in Esperanto, your learning it for social communication. So you'll generally find that Esperantists will happily talk to you.


1a. No. 1b. Esperanto is based on romance languages. 1. Nowhere. The point of Esperanto is to have a politically neutral language. 2. Wikipedia puts it like this: 1,000 have Esperanto as their native language. 10,000 speak it fluently. 100,000 can use it actively. 1,000,000 understand a large amount passively. 10,000,000 have studied it to some extent at some time. 3. It was created by L. L. Zamenhof in 1887.

Hope this helps!


Esperanto is also based off of non-Romance languages.


True, but you can definitely see the influence of romance languages on Esperanto.


If you want a very well-written detailed look at Esperanto, I'd highly recommend the book Esperanto: A Language for the Global Village. You can read it in full here: http://www.esperanto.ie/en/zaft/zaft.html


1a. No

1b. Mix between indoeuropean languages mostly.

  1. None
  2. About 2 000 000
  3. L.L. Zamenhof

People who speak Esperanto probobly speaks english as well, but it is so fast to learn that it does not matter and it is really fun.


Because English is so widely used as a de facto international language, you may be right about the likelihood of Esperantists also speaking English. However, I'd bet that their fluency in English isn't as good on average as their fluency in Esperanto. And there are certainly plenty of Esperantists who don't speak English.


1a+1b- I have no idea if it has those languages, though it sounds a lot like Spanish a lot of the time. I only know it was a constructed language. 1- Based on my research, no, no country has Esperanto as their main language.
2-2 million, based on numberof.net 3-L.Zamenhof designed this because he wanted a neutral language and he was also a Jew at that time in Europe. This way their would be no controversy over language in different countries.


one reason why it sounds like Spanish is because it has only the same five vowels.


The "a" sound is actually pronounced a bit differently. Esperanto pronounces it like the one in "father" while Spanish pronounces it like the one in "cat". It also uses "j" and "ux" as weak vowels instead of "y", "i", and "u".


Zamenhof, the founder of Esperanto, did not speak Spanish but Esperanto has mainly vocabulary from Romance languages. He spoke French quite well.


If you want more complete information, the president of the Esperanto League for North America (now called Esperanto-USA) wrote several chapters for a book about Esperanto and it's history 20 years ago. He generously made it available on the web. While the site has the feel of an early website, the information is excellent. You can read it here:



Whoa, I remember reading that 12 years ago when I was a total beginner. I should read it again for posterity's sake! :)


12 years ago! That's a lot!

What's the person (alive of course) that first started speaking Esperanto? (Otherwise the answer would be Zamenhof)


I first started learning nearly 24 years ago, and I still occasionally exchange messages with the guy who tutored me in the free e-mail course. Amuzulo sped right past me.


24 years!!!

That's really a lot!


I even have some gray hair.


Oh dear. I started learning Esperanto in February 1981.

I know people who have spoken it even longer.


The first Esperanto speaker still alive? I don't think anyone can answer that. Some years ago Ino Kolbe, the oldest known native died.



But note:
It's not the same "the oldest esperanto speaker" than "the person who has been speaking Esperanto for most years and is still alive"

I know a 99-years-old man, who could learn Esperanto today and become the oldest Esperanto speaker.


But Ino Kolbe was a native.


Is there another link to this? For some reason the website isn't showing.


If someone's still looking, it should be that



1A. No. It's not a cross between Russian and Italian 1B. Esperanto is a cross between Swedish, Russian, German, Polish and English. 1. No country officially has Esperanto as a language. It is constructed. 2. Around 2,000,000 can speak Esperanto. 3.It was developed by L.L. Zamenhof in the 19th Century. Designed to foster peace between the countries of the world.

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