Why Learn Esperanto?
Unlike any other language, Esperanto has a mission. It's original purpose has always been to serve as a common second language for people around the world to facilitate communication. Esperantists don't want to replace any other language. In fact, most speakers of Esperanto are people interested in many languages, or who are at least interested in communicating with people from all over the world.
Rather than have businessmen, diplomats, scientists and tourists from every country learning all the major languages (and many others of the more than 6000 that exist in the world) that they want to learn or need to learn, Esperantists would have everyone just learn one second language - Esperanto. Then everyone could communicate with everyone, everywhere. The major 'national' languages could keep their special characteristics for anyone who wanted to learn them. This is the essence of the 'Esperanto Movement'.
In certain circles or businesses and in certain parts of the world, there is some prejudice or political baggage that can come with speaking some languages (like English, French or Chinese). Aside from the quite harmless 'Esperanto Movement', there is no political baggage that comes with speaking Esperanto.
Learning languages in general is a great benefit for young and old alike (see Why Learn Languages for a more in-depth list of the benefits of learning languages). But Esperanto in particular has a few extra positive points. You can learn Esperanto very quickly. Estimates range from four times faster to as much as ten times faster than other languages! It also acts as an introduction to the science (or art) of learning languages, and can help prepare you to learn other languages more effectively.
From Ivy Kellerman in the introduction to The Complete Grammar of Esperanto :
"... as an introduction to national tongues. A stepping-stone to both ancient and modern languages, Esperanto may render invaluable aid, and pave the way for surmounting the many difficulties confronting both student and teacher. Through Esperanto, the labor in the acquirement of these languages may be reduced in the same proportion in which the pleasure and thoroughness of such acquirement are increased."
Because Esperanto is very easy to learn, it helps to teach the process of learning languages. The new skills and techniques you learn by studying it can later be applied to the more complex and difficult 'national' or natural languages. Simply put - learning Esperanto is like a training ground for learning languages. A linguist or professional polyglot has no need for this training ground, and for them Esperanto is a quick study and a linguistic curiosity, but for the average person who aspires to be a polyglot, learning Esperanto can be a great boon.
"Perhaps to no one is Esperanto of more service than to the non-grammarian. It gives him for a minimum expenditure of time and money a valuable insight into the principles of grammar and the meaning of words,while enabling him, after only a few months of study, to get into communication with his fellow men in all parts of the world."
From the introduction to The Esperanto Teacher by Helen Fryer.
Both of these books are from the first few years of the 1900's, but those comments are just as relevant today. These books can also be
downloaded for free here.
There are bands all over the world who record cd's and perform in Esperanto. The number of translations of literature into Esperanto is large and growing faster all the time. There are also a growing number of original works in Esperanto, and even translations out of Esperanto into English, French, Spanish etc. No other constructed language has as large and varied a user base.
I have not kept up using Esperanto on a daily basis, yet I can still listen to an internet radio program and understand a good portion of it. I am also currently reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien in Esperanto. Reading it in Esperanto is almost as exciting as when I first read it when I was ten or eleven years old. This contrasts sharply with trying to read it in Spanish or French which is still a bit of a struggle. I have found Esperanto helpful for studying other languages, and I hope one day (soon) to be able to write original works in Esperanto. I heartily recommend to anyone to learn Esperanto either for its own sake or as a stepping-stone to other languages.
For more information and
resources on Esperanto click here.
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