Esperanto for Everyone!

Esperanto is an intercontinental secondary language devised in 1887 by Dr. Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof, (1859-1917). A Jewish ophthalmologist, aka Doktoro Esperanto, he originally dubbed his linguistic brainchild “La Internacia Lingvo” (The International Language), but quickly became “Esperanto” meaning “one who hopes.”

Zamenhof was born in the Polish city of Bialystok, which at that time was a polyglot—a multiethnic fusion of Poles, Russians, Jews, Lithuanians and Germans. He was of the opinion that much of the distrust and misunderstanding amid the various ethnic groups was a product of language disparities. Thus, Zamenhof resolved to design a common language that would function as a middle-of-the-road lingua franca.

Zamenhof’s first effort in Esperanto, the “Unua Libro” (The First Book) was published in 1887. It was comprised of over 900 roots from which countless words could be fashioned. Unua Libro was to be used in conjunction with the “Fundamenta Gramatiko” (Fundamental Grammar), which encompassed 16 elementary grammatical rules. Zamenhof relinquished all rights to Esperanto and encouraged others’ comments, observations and suggestions as to the enhancement and expansion of the language.

 

From whence it came

The majority of Esperanto’s roots are Latin-based, though some vocabulary is borrowed from the contemporary Romance languages, as well as from English, German, Polish and Russian.  The roots are then joined with affixes to form new words, for instance:  lerni means to learn, lernejo is a school, lernanto is a student, lernejestro is a teacher. The affixes also form stand-alone words: ejo means place.

Spelling principles are similar to that of Polish, though Zamenhof devised a number of different letters for Esperanto: Ĉĉ, Ĝĝ, Ĥĥ, Ĵĵ, Ŝŝ, Ŭŭ. These new letters are exclusive to Esperanto, and often replaced with ch, gh, jh or cx, gx, jx , etc. Zamenhof was aware of this malfunction and chose to implement former method when the special letters were not available.

Esperanto is not ethnically linked to any language, but can best be described as a largely Romance language influenced by Russian, Polish, German and French. It was declared the official language of the Republic of Rose Island in 1968. This was erstwhile micro nation was situated on a manmade platform in the Adriatic Sea, nearly 12 km off the coast of Rimini, Italy. The island was named such

When evidence was presented that Esperanto may be a superior language, in general, and that some schools were teaching it as a primer for other foreign languages, Hitler and his comrades panicked. Since Zamenhof was Jewish, Esperanto was interpreted as a means by which the International Jewish Conspiracy could achieve world-domination, and was quickly repressed.  During the Holocaust, Esperantists were annihilated.  Zamenhof and his family were specifically targeted.

Stalin was of the same opinion: in 1937, Esperantists residing in the Soviet Union were either expatriated, or killed. To speak the language was prohibited until 1956.

 

The Culture of Esperanto

Today, Esperanto is the most widely used international secondary language and is quite popular in Eastern Europe and China. There is a plethora of Esperanto literature including books, magazines and poetry. Some of literature was originally penned in Esperanto while others were translated. There is also Esperanto music and a number of radio stations that air in Esperanto.

The Esperanto flag sports a green background with a white quadrangular in the upper left-hand corner, which contains a green star. The green portion symbolizes hope, while the white is symbolic of peace and objectivity. The pentagram is representative of the five continents. The Esperanto Club of Boulogne-sur-Mer, created it primarily for their personal use, but the first Universal Congress of Esperanto ratified it as the flag of the global Esperanto movement, in 1905.

The poem La Espero is the Esperanto anthem. It speaks toward the realization of world peace, based on an impartial language.

As well, there are cultural commonalities between Esperantists—a distinctive attribute of a cultural community. Zamenhof created Esperanto in hopes of fostering universal understanding, harmony and peace. Many Esperantists hold fast to these goals and most will at least acknowledge them. Additionally, many Esperantists use the language to broaden their horizons, to meet people from foreign countries on a level playing field, and for travel opportunities. There are also shared traditions, such as Zamenhof Day, which is celebrated on December 15, the man’s birthday. In observance, Esperantists will purchase an Esperanto book or attend a poetry reading of the most recent in Esperanto Literature.  Further, the Esperanto culture displays a shared pattern of behavior: avoiding the usage of one’s first language at Esperanto meetings. There is a special word in Esperanto for this: krokodili, meaning “to crocodile.”

Zamenhoff did indeed, have a beautiful dream.